2. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann)1

President: Tom?

Mann: Yes, sir?

President: Are we going to call in these Latin American ambassadors for the Alliance for Progress meeting?

Mann: Yes sir, we have it tentatively scheduled for about the 15th.

President: About the 15th?

Mann: Of March.

President: That’s the American ambassadors in this Hemisphere.

Mann: Well, it’s a number of things. We thought we would have a ceremony at the Pan American Union, you would—

[Page 3]

President: Yeah, but I’m talking about, we’re inviting to come to Washington the American ambassadors in this Hemisphere.

Mann: Oh, yeah, the American. I thought we would do that at the same time.

President: That’s what I’m saying.

Mann: And combine that—we got a budgetary problem, but I think we can find the money—and get them all up here at that time and make a big shindig, and launch your Alliance program with a good speech.

President: All right. Now what is that? The anniversary of the Alliance?

Mann: It’s the third anniversary of Kennedy’s—

President: Announcement of it?

Mann: Yeah.

President: Third anniversary of Kennedy’s announcement of the Alliance.

Mann: And it’s also the occasion for creating the, launching this new CIAP, this inter-American thing with Santamaría.

President: It’s also the occasion for the launching of this CIAP

Mann: CIAP thing—

President: Santamaría’s the head of. Colombia. What do you call that? The Wise Men? Is that what they’re called?

Mann: No, that’s a different group. I would call this the Inter-American Alliance for Progress Committee.

President: The Inter-American Alliance for Progress Committee. That’s made up of five people?

Mann: It’s made up of seven people, counting Santamaría, the President.

President: Seven, counting Santamaría, the President. They raised hell about us not giving him enough attention here. I don’t know how much more we could give him. We had him in here, and we had him, had his picture made and everything else. I couldn’t put him on my knee and bounce him.2

Mann: I think he was happy and I hadn’t even heard of any criticism on that.

President: Well, I did. I saw the papers, said that we ignored him, and paid no attention to him and so forth, didn’t emphasize it enough. Your New York Times sources over there.

[Page 4]

Mann: Well, he had a little press conference, and I heard him, and after, as he came out of your office. It was all very complimentary to you personally and to the Alliance, and—

President: Have you talked to Admiral today? Has he sawed off any more pipe down there?3

Mann: [Laughter] I haven’t talked to him today.

President: Anything, is everything all right in Guantanamo?

Mann: Everything’s going fine.

President: Did you read your New York Times State Department on Cuba this morning? And how you screwed up things good?4

Mann: Well, I’ll give you some bright stories. I had an hour and a half yes—

President: The answer is “no,” I guess, to my question.

Mann: Sir?

President: I guess the answer is—

Mann: No. [Laughter]

President: All right. Read it on the second page this morning, ‘cause you have to know what they’re saying about you.

Mann: I read that. Let me give you some bright news.

President: All right.

Mann: Yesterday, I spent an hour and a half before the House Subcommittee on Latin American Affairs. I think that the Republicans were happy. This morning, I spent another hour, just at random in the Congress. We talked largely about Panama, and they asked for additional meetings, and it went very well. So we’re working hard on the Hill like you want us to, and I think we’re going to make a lot of progress up there. I don’t know what you can do with some of these left wing fellows and two or three newspapers. I think—

President: Why in the hell don’t you tell that guy that you all leak to over there all the time, the State Department—you got one named Szulc and one named Raymont, is it?

Mann: That’s right, and a guy named Kurzman.

President: —and—that you all work like a sieve to—why don’t you say: “Now you and Herbert Matthews5 didn’t handle this Cuban [Page 5] situation in such an excellent fashion yourself. Now for God’s sakes give me a little chance. I just been here two months. Let me, give me a little chance to retrieve some of the work you all did”?

Mann: [Laughter] I’ll try that line on them. Okay, sir.

President: I think that we got to get something to show that we got better feeling and more respect in the Hemisphere than ever before. So you better propagandize some folks along that line. And I guess that we can have a dinner for the ambassadors from America, the ambassadors from the Hemis—our ambassadors to the Hemisphere, their ambassadors to us, and probably the OAS ambassadors.

Mann: And the seven people in CIAP ought to all be there, I think, and maybe even the ten Wise Men, if we could.

President: Well, what would that be? 65? 70?

Mann: That would run you close to 70 or 80.

President: Well, but the wives, you see, 140. Can’t take care of 125. We’ll try to give a dinner like that for them.

Mann: All right. Wonderful. And I—

President: I want you to dance with some of those short, fat women again. Old Mennen Williams was the only guy that delivered for me last night. Salinger went home.6

Mann: [Laughter] I’m the worst dancer, but—

President: Larry O’Brien.

Mann: —I’ll even do that for you, Mr. President.

President: Well, all right. Anything else now on Panama?

Mann: No, everything’s quiet down there. The [unintelligible] aren’t going to do much until we get back from Los Angeles.7 I had a talk with Sánchez Gavito this morning and told him to keep everything buttoned down until we got back.

President: I don’t think we’re going to do anything until after that election down there.

Mann: I doubt it myself.

President: I wouldn’t encourage them much. I think we’re doing all right. Just let them have that problem: they did the invading and they did the aggression. And let’s see how they—I’m not one that believes that a fat Communist is better than a lean one.

Mann: No, I’m not. I think we’re going to have to have a lot of steady nerves on some of these problems.

[Page 6]

President: I sure would. And I would, though, have a planning group awful busy with the World Bank, and the Export-Import Bank, and the Alliance for Progress, and the health organizations, and the 480’s. And I see now we’re trying to figure out how to give Mexico some food. And I saw in one of the briefing papers that she wanted water, and we might not be able to give her water, but we could give her food. I don’t know. I don’t want to be giving away, but I’d damn sure have some things on my Santa Claus list, and coordinate them and then when I did something, I’d make them, I’d have a quid pro quo.

Mann: Well, that’s what we’ve been—

President: I think that you have turned a flop in Mexico. I think you’ve got them where instead of confiscating everything now, they’re trying to promote private enterprise, aren’t they?

Mann: That’s our hope, and they’re drifting in that direction. They do have a lot of problems, have to stay with this thing day by day, but I’m not pessimistic about Mexico. They’ve got a good President coming in, and—

President: What other places in the Hemisphere have you got problems? Argentina? Brazil?

Mann: Mr. President, this Hemisphere is in worse shape than I’ve seen it in 20 years. We’ve got problems in Bolivia right now. The cabinet—Paz is the only man there that can hold things together—and his whole cabinet is splintering in all directions because they want to be president four years from now.

President: Well, can we get in there and do something to help him before it goes to hell?

Mann: We’re working on that this morning, and we’re coming up with some ideas on that. We’ve got a possible revolt and military, against the military fellow in Honduras.

President: Yeah, Honduras.

Mann: We’re watching that. We got Peru and Argentina about to expropriate oil properties. Brazil is sick. Goulart is irresponsible. Nearly everywhere we look we have problems, but I’m sort of optimistic. I think what we did in Panama and Guantanamo is going to help us a lot in the Hemisphere. We need time, we need about—

President: Why don’t you try to sell this New York Times on the problem that you need help, and that this thing you picked up, pretty sick, and that you can’t do it just by being a floor mop and you’ve got to have a little steel in your spine. If you don’t they’ll shove you to death. They’ll be like a country dog. And see if you can’t get The Washington Post and New York Times to quit taking the line they are.

[Page 7]

Mann: I’m going to try it, but those fellows are basically hostile to everything you believe in, Mr. President.

President: OK.

Mann: The guys that write the stories are. You know I spent, I had lunch over with the whole staff of The Washington Post, and they, in essence, this same pitch. And I was told later that Mrs. Graham8 after the lunch said that they ought to give us time to see what we could do. What you have is a half a dozen very far left wing guys like Kurzman, who are pretty stupid people really. They don’t know anything about Latin America, they don’t speak the language, never been there, but they’re full of theories. And these guys are crusaders, and how you deal with a crusader is, I think, the toughest problem of all. But I think we’re going to have to work on Mrs. Graham.

President: Mrs. Graham doesn’t have any authority; she won’t exercise it. She claims she’s the best friend I got, and they murder me every day. That Friendly9 runs that paper.

Mann: Well, let me talk to Manning and see if we can’t plot something out. I’ll get together with him, and see if we, do the most effective thing we can.

President: I think you ought to lay the groundwork and say that now we, we need some help on American policy, and we don’t think that you’re doing your God-damned country a bit of good, and we wish you’d try to help us a little.

Mann: All right, sir.

President: OK. Bye.

Mann: Bye.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, Tape F64.13, Side B, PNO 4. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume. A memorandum of this telephone conversation, prepared in Mann’s office, is ibid., Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, January 4, 1964–April 30, 1965.
  2. Carlos Sanz de Santamaría arrived in Washington on February 3 for consultation with Department of State and AID officials. No evidence was found to indicate when Sanz visited the White House or to identify the newspaper that criticized his reception.
  3. Admiral John D. Bulkeley, commander of the Guantanamo Naval Base. For documentation on the Guantanamo water supply incident, see the compilation on Cuba in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXXII
  4. Reference is to an article by Max Frankel criticizing the administration’s decision to reduce assistance to 5 of the 19 countries that maintained trade with Cuba. Information on the decision is ibid.
  5. New York Times. The Washington Post.
  6. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Johnson held a White House reception, February 18, for members of the House of Representatives. (Johnson Library)
  7. Johnson and Mann were in Los Angeles February 20–23 for meetings with President López Mateos of Mexico.
  8. Katharine M. Graham, president of the Washington Post Company.
  9. Alfred Friendly, managing editor of The Washington Post.