325. Memorandum From the President’s Special Consultant (Bundy) to President Johnson 1


  • Bundy’s Return to Ford, and Related Subjects
It’s time for me to raise this question and give you a recommendation on it, because I think the worst of the immediate crisis is behind us, and also because I’ll be meeting my Board of Trustees this Wednesday evening and they’ll need to know when and how much to expect me back. (They have been very good about these three weeks, but they’re beginning to get nervous.)
As I see it, there has been a real need for an extra pair of White House hands these last few weeks, but I think the need for such full-time service will come to an end in another week or two. Already the pressure of special Middle East business is falling back from the level of late May and early June, and already—and properly—much of the day-to-day business is back in the direct channel from State to Walt Rostow, where it belongs. The crisis will continue, but not at the pace of the month since the Straits were closed.
There remains one major job which I think I can help to do—and that is to prepare a general policy paper for you and Dean to adopt or reject or modify and then give to about three people here and in State for general guidance until further notice. I suggest this because I think the old mold of Middle Eastern policy is broken forever, and I think we need new guidance. Even if you don’t want to adopt a new position formally (still less publicly) I think a written paper that had some informal standing would be helpful. Anyway I think it’s part of my job to give you that choice, and I hope to have the paper for you by the middle of next week.
Beyond that I am quite willing to be a part-time visitor over the next months if you and Dean want me, and I can always keep track of the cables by calling on Arthur in New York. But before you agree to that, you’ll want to know how to arrange the work after I leave.

Aside from the usual things a staff man does in a crisis, I think any special usefulness I may have had in the last weeks derives from two special aspects of the situation, and I think you will want me to speak frankly about them, because when I go back to New York—or to [Page 567] a part-time basis—I think you’ll want arrangements of some sort to deal with them.


Our Middle East policy almost always requires a special balancing weight against the normal bias of Arab-minded State Department regulars. Presidents usually put a value on the rights and hopes of Israel which is greater than the normal reactions of the State machinery. This is not centrally a matter of the Abe Feinbergs or even the Arthur Krims. It is a matter of the considered choice of Presidents, on wider grounds of national sympathy and interest. Unfortunately the Department has learned to mistrust this White House attitude (for reasons that go back to Truman’s recognition of Israel and have had occasional justification in the work of heavy-handed agents of the Jewish community like Mike Feldman) so that they often weight their advice to emphasize the considerations against any pro-Israel course. That makes a White House counter still more necessary. This is a job which Walt is too kind and busy a man to handle, and yet it is hard for any junior officer over here to deal with it, because Dean Rusk himself has always been mildly responsive to the standard Departmental bias. Dean’s capacity to weigh other points, when they have some standing with the President, is excellent. Thus on your five-point speech to the Educators, he was a first-rate critic of my drafting, and eliminated much that was not wise, but he would not have been the man to turn a Departmental draft into a position that was right for you.

So one conclusion I reach is that you’ll need a Middle East watcher here when I leave. I nominate McPherson, and I’ll suggest ways and means further on.

[15–1/2 lines of source text restricted on privacy grounds]

So I conclude that you need a different arrangement in the State Department. I think the right way is to give the day-to-day job back to Luke Battle, with direct accountability to Dean and Nick, both of whom should be fully informed and empowered to give policy advice to you. (I put Nick into it in this way because he has a more active policy mind than Dean, because he is a man with a full sense of the President’ s view, and finally because Nick is damned good at top-level Congressional work with liberals, which is critically important in this case.)

Let me say about Battle that I am really much impressed by his work on this crisis. It has been balanced and skillful at every stage I have seen. I know there has been criticism of him on the Hill, but I believe that he’ll do better there with some encouragement—and anyway I think our position there is now pretty solid, thanks to what you yourself have done and said.

This new arrangement can be set up, if you want, by reassigning both my present responsibilities and Gene Rostow’s, at the same time [Page 568] (about two weeks from now)—Rostow’s back to Battle, and mine to McPherson—both within the regular framework of White House and State Department business. I think you should discharge the Special Committee (though you can keep it on standby if you want). But I would empower Harry to deal with this one in the same way that Francis Bator deals with Europe, and of course you’d want him to keep the closest touch with Walt, as I have been doing, since Walt is the man who handles your in-and-out box on foreign affairs, and there should be only one. Then if you want to continue my appointment on a part-time basis as a consultant, you’d have insurance against any sudden flare-up that might lead to criticism because we had let up too soon on our special arrangements.
I want you to know that I have found these last weeks absolutely fascinating, and that I take it as a great honor to have been asked back for this period. If I think it is time to get back to Ford, it is not just because of my obligation there; it is also because in the long pull you’ll get better results from a more regular arrangement. This one is going to go on for a long, long time.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Office of the President File, McGeorge Bundy. No classification marking.