101. Memorandum of Conversation1

PRESIDENT’S MEETING WITH CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS

PARTICIPANTS

  • Senate
  • Senator Aiken
  • Senator Dirksen
  • Senator Kuchel
  • Senator Long
  • Senator Mansfield
  • Senator Saltonstall
  • Senator Smathers
  • House
  • Congressman Albert
  • Congressman Arends
  • Congressman Boggs
  • Congressman Ford
  • Congressman Laird
  • Speaker McCormack
  • Executive
  • Vice President Humphrey
  • Secretary of State Rusk
  • Secretary of Defense McNamara
  • CIA Director McCone
  • The President’s Staff
  • For Entire Meeting:
  • McGeorge Bundy
  • Lawrence O’Brien
  • For Part of Meeting:
  • Horace Busby
  • Douglass Carter
  • William Moyers
  • George Reedy
  • Jack Valenti

The President opened the conference with Congressional leaders by explaining why it had been called. He said that at the very beginning of the Congressional session he wanted to develop procedures which would make it possible for the Administration to think and plan with Congressional leaders. He was ready to be frank and candid in all matters but to do so the discussions must not get into the public domain. Real damage is done to the national interest when information such as that which will be given during the course of the morning meeting gets into the newspapers. The objective is to make possible an examination of our foreign policy and our defense structure by the Congressional leaders of both parties who are stewards of these policies. We do not separate Democrats and Republicans in Vietnam. He wanted to work with the legislative leaders in understanding, if not agreement, on both sides of the House and Senate. During the Eisenhower Administration the system of consulting Congressional leaders was [Page 215]the best he had ever known. The meetings were not many, perhaps 4 or 5, but President Eisenhower, who had been blunt and frank with Congressional leaders, had asked for their judgments on important problems.

The President said the Chairmen of the Armed Services Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee had not been invited to this morning’s meeting because he wished to limit this conference to very few persons. At a later date it will be possible to enlarge the number. Secretary Rusk had already briefed the Congressional committees on foreign policy. Secretary McNamara would be going to the Hill later to spell out our defense posture, part of which had already been made public in the Defense message sent to Congress.

The President said he was available for personal meetings with individual legislative leaders at any time.

[Here follows discussion unrelated to Indonesia-Malaysia.]

In addition to our problems with Nasser, the President continued, we are having trouble with Sukarno. Our Ambassador in Indonesia, who is one of our ablest, believes the only way to get Sukarno to turn away from his current policies, which are disastrous for the political and economic future of Indonesia, is to invite him to come here to meet with me. Ambassador Jones says we must appeal to the vanity of Sukarno in a final effort to halt him before it is too late. Ambassador Jones, in his cables, gives us a different picture of what is going on in Indonesia than appears in the newspapers.

[Here follows discussion unrelated to Indonesia-Malaysia.]

Secretary Rusk then discussed the situation in Indonesia. Sukarno is deep in domestic difficulties. His “confrontation” with Malaysia is possibly an attempt to divert attention from the serious local problems which he has not been able to solve. The United States is not going to take over the Malaysia problem because it is primarily a British problem. The British, already deeply committed, have sent substantial military force into the area. Sukarno will probably not push his “confrontation” policy to the point of undertaking major military actions. One new element is that knowledge of Sukarno’s illnesses has become widely known and the succession problem is being discussed publicly in Indonesia. Although the United States has investments amounting to one-half billion dollars in Indonesia, any attempt to blackmail us by threatening to confiscate these investments is not a possibility. Sukarno now obtains $125 million dollars annually in foreign exchange from these investments which he would be unable to do without. These foreign exchange resources would be lost if he moved in to take over the oil companies. The only U.S. aid we are now giving to Indonesia consists of funds to pay for military training. We feel such training is in our interest because it helps to tie us closer to Indonesian military [Page 216]leaders, who may well play a major role in the decision as to the future political orientation of the country.

The President interrupted to say that all U.S. military assistance going to Indonesia is being provided because it is in our national interest, not theirs. He hoped that those present would make this point clear.

Senator Dirksen asked why the Australians are so upset about developments in West New Guinea. Secretary Rusk replied that the situation in West New Guinea is quiet. The Australians are concerned because if the Malaysian problem becomes more serious, there may be difficulties for them in West New Guinea.

[Here follows discussion unrelated to Indonesia-Malaysia.]

Bromley Smith
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of McGeorge Bundy, Miscellaneous Meetings, Vol. I. Top Secret. Drafted by Bromley Smith. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House.