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

[Omitted here is discussion of the negotiations to resume diplomatic relations with Panama.]

President: Please, let’s get it in shape so we can get some people named now. And let’s find some good top men. I am not at all happy with my Ambassador to Mexico. I want to get the greatest man in America. I had the greatest and I pulled him up here. He got me in Panama right after he got here.2 And now I want you to find me—I want a Marlin Sandlin. I want somebody that’s forty-five years old. You reckon he could get out of his business interests and give them up and go down there?

Mann: Well, you said you didn’t want another Texan there. Marlin would be. The trouble with Marlin is, he’s chairman of the board of Pan American Sulphur.

President: Well, couldn’t he get out of that and resign it and give up his interests?

Mann: He could, but he’d be attacked and so would you.

President: All right.

Mann: I think Marlin’s a great guy—

President: Well, let’s get—

Mann: —but it depends on your political judgment.

President: No, he would be. What else can we get?

Mann: Well, we can get him Colombia. You could move Freeman to Mexico.

President: I want to get some man I know in Mexico that’s my friend, that’s looking after me, that’s my manager, that’s damned able. [Page 733] And I want him to understand business and I want him to be young and attractive. I want him to be a Sargent Shriver type.

Mann: Well, why don’t you pick a good lawyer with good political sense? Somebody you know and have confidence in? We’ve got some Foreign Service people. I know that Friday,3 the Secretary and Ball thought that they were going to—the Secretary said he was going to recommend Freeman, who is your, probably one of the two best you’ve got in Latin America. The other one being in Brazil.

President: OK.

Mann: Mexico. We could fill Colombia. But if you want somebody you know personally, and you don’t know Freeman

President: No, I don’t.

Mann: —that would eliminate him. But he’s good and he would be loyal to you.

President: Well, don’t you know somebody that I know that’s good?

Mann: I can get on the phone.

President: Like Marlin?

Mann: Well, I really hesitate for you—

President: I’m not talking about Marlin. I’m talking about somebody of his same qualifications, that’s got his appearance.

Mann: Let me then try—I’ll talk to Marlin and see if we can’t cook up two or three names for you.

President: All right. Do that.

Mann: Probably be from Texas, but that wouldn’t bother you?

President: No, but I’d rather get some other state. California might be good.

Mann: I think a young lawyer with good political instincts is what you want.

President: What about a Mexican?

Mann: Well, I wouldn’t recommend that to you.

President: We got a helluva good Mexican out there that’s head of finance department, California.

Mann: Well, if you know him. He has a couple of strikes on him. The Mexicans don’t like what they call “pochos,” that means people—

President: All right. OK. All right. The Mexicans won’t take a white man. I don’t—God-damned if I can understand that.

Mann: Well, it’s a—

[Page 734]

President: OK. That’s all right. You go on and get me a good one. But get me one. I want to help them. We’ve been miserable to the Mexicans. I want you to get some in your Department. If you know any smart ones, you hire some. The Alliance for Progress. You don’t have to go to Puerto Rico.

Mann: I think we could hire him up here and that would be easy. If you’ve got a fellow you want hired up here—

President: Well, but hell, he gets more than you do. He gets $23,000 a year.

Mann: Well, everybody gets more than we do, but—

President: You find some Cornelli, or—What’s his name, George?

Reedy: Luevano

President: Cornevano? What?

Reedy: Luevano. Danny Luevano.

President: Luevano. Danny Luevano. He’s the head of finance in the state of California and they say he’s a damned-able citizen. He’s coming in next week and I’ll send him to see you.

Mann: All right. Fine.

President: OK.

Mann: Fine.4

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, Tape F64.07, Side B, PNO 3. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume. An informal memorandum of conversation, including discussion of Panama, is ibid., Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, January 4, 1964–April 30, 1965. According to the President’s Daily Diary (Johnson Library), Andrew Hatcher and George Reedy were in the Oval Office when Johnson called Mann.
  2. Mann was Ambassador to Mexico prior to his appointment in December 1963 as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. He began his new assignment on January 3, 6 days before student demonstrations led to the crisis in Panama.
  3. January 24.
  4. In a subsequent discussion with Mann on ambassadorial candidates, the President agreed to move Fulton “Tony” Freeman to Mexico, replacing him in Colombia with Covey Oliver. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, February 5, 1964, 10:35 a.m., Tape F64.10, Side B, PNO 4) On February 29 Johnson announced the appointment of Daniel M. Luevano to be Assistant Secretary of the Army.