341. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson in Texas1

CAP 67454. Ed Ritchie called and discussed at length the problem raised in U.S.-Canadian relations by the press leaks; Parliamentary discussion of your views; etc.

He said he is deeply disturbed because literally in the next days the closest and most confident collaboration between the President and the Prime Minister might make the difference between war and peace in the Middle East.

He is anxious to find a way for you to indicate that the incident is past and you are ready to do normal business with the Prime Minister.

He later decided to put his side of the conversation in a personal and confidential letter to me, which follows.

[Page 720]

Personal and Confidential

May 27, 1967


Here is a recap of my side of our telephone conversation this morning in case it may be of any use to you:

Neither of them can really afford to leave things where they now are. It would be a pity to lose any of the value of the good talk which they had at Harrington Lake.2 It would be a tragedy if anything were to stand in the way of fully effective collaboration between them. There may not be much time to try to set things straight.
  • —The press is beginning to detect some difference between them as evidenced by stories in the paper this morning.
  • —The President and the Prime Minister may have to collaborate very soon, even before this weekend is out.
So far as the record is concerned
We were not the ones who made the visit so rushed that some loose ends were inevitably left which could give rise to misunderstanding. The unavoidable rushed nature of the visit also meant that press arrangements were less than ideal and in particular that there was little time to prepare any joint communiqué.3
On the night before the visit
  • —The first leak did not come from us. (Apart from anything else we knew nothing of the helicopters mentioned in that first story.)
  • —When a story appeared which you thought should be qualified by some indication from us that the visit was not definite
  • —We got in touch with UPI and other bureaus. This was not without considerable embarrassment for us since the press were bound to think the next day that we had misled them when they were summoned hastily to get to the airport.
  • —During the night we got a message back to the White House Situation Room for you and the President.
After the visit, when the first troublesome story came out about the President’s alleged intention to propose a Quadripartite meeting, the Prime Minister’s office issued a denial which, I understand, was checked out with the White House press office. (Even the first stories out of Ottawa emphasized that no decisions had been made.)
In the Prime Minister’s statement to the House4 he answered questions and he seemed to me to confine himself pretty well to either [Page 721] what the President had said publicly a few days before (right of innocent passage) or what seemed most natural in the Middle East situation (U.N. aspect). (When the Prime Minister spoke about “agreement” he seems pretty clearly to have meant simply agreement of views and not of course any formal agreement.)
It might be hoped that in view of all that’s involved the President might find that after reading the actual text of the exchange in the House of Commons things now look rather different.

Ed Ritchie

Since the Canadians may be key at both the UN and in the maritime business,5 you may wish to consider a call to him at some stage, simply asking his views on what’s going on in New York—or whatever.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Canada, Vol. 5. Confidential. Received at the LBJ Ranch at 4:50 p.m.
  2. See Document 340.
  3. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 576-577.
  4. May 25.
  5. Apparent reference to the Johnson administration’s plan to place the Maritime Administration in the newly-created Department of Transportation. The move was defeated by Congress on August 30.