397. Editorial Note

On March 10, 1964, the President talked on the telephone with Mc-George Bundy about the latest proposed language for an agreement on Panama. The President was concerned about reports from Panama and in the press that an agreement with Panama leading to resumption of relations and the prospect of negotiations for a new treaty was imminent. Johnson told Bundy: “We’re not goin’ to have prima facie evidence that we’re agreeing to a new treaty.” He did not want to be put in the position of being bullied by The New York Times and Washington Post into accepting an agreement that could be interpreted as U.S. acceptance of the Panamanian demand to negotiate a new treaty. Referring to some of their journalists, the President told Bundy: “I think they’re very dangerous characters, and I don’t think that we can allow them to get us boxed in here.” He continued: “Let’s don’t have Nixon and the rest of them saying we’re negotiatin’ a treaty.” (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and McGeorge Bundy, March 10, 10:57 a.m.; Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F64.17, Side A, PNO 1)

The President then called Mann and told him that he had spoken to Bundy and there were three things he opposed in the draft: the mention of “negotiations,” “Panama Canal,” and “international.” “Now, if I have to give,” he said, “I’d leave ‘Panama Canal’ in up in the first paragraph, although it’s desirable to take out, and I might even take ‘international.’ I’m not going to take ‘negotiations’, though.” He added:

“And I’d squeeze their nuts a little down there, anyway, if I were you. I’d tighten it a little bit and let them worry a little bit. I don’t think we need to come hat in hand. We’ve been fair, and we’re going to continue to be fair, but let’s don’t—just—I’m tired of these people that recede and concur every time the U.S. is attacked. I want to resist somebody somewhere, some time. I’m not a warmonger, and don’t want to go to war. But I don’t think we’re goin’.”

Mann said that he had “some other ideas that would protect us some.” The President then told Mann:

“You were just as right as you could be, my friend, on negotiations the first day—not that it means anything other than discussion, but to them it means a new treaty, and we might as well face this thing now. If we agree and get along then when we don’t have a new treaty, they’re going to say we made a commitment and couldn’t live up to it, and I don’t want to be in that position. I’d rather take the heat now.” (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, March 10, 11:11 a.m.; ibid., Tape F64.17, Side A, PNO 2) The portions of the conversations printed here were prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume. Another record of this conversation is in a March 10 memorandum of conversation; ibid., Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, January 14, [Page 844] 1964–April 30, 1965. The Mann record of the conversation indicates that it took place at 11:40 a.m.

According the President’s Daily Diary, Johnson met for lunch with Rusk, Mann, and McGeorge Bundy at 1:12 p.m., March 10, during which Panama was no doubt discussed. (Johnson Library) No other record of this meeting has been found.