408. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Robert Anderson 1

Anderson: Hello, Mr. President.

President: Say, looks like we are going to get this Panama agreement worked out.

Anderson: Yes.

President: And then we are going to have to negotiate—uh, resolve some problems we have between the two of us.

Anderson: Yes.

President: And we’ll have a full time ambassador and all the staff we need but we want you to be the top lawyer on negotiatin’ with them.

Anderson: I’ll do whatever you say, Mr. President.

President: Well, that’s what I want, and I’ll give you everything you need and I just want to—if we have to rewrite a treaty—well, we want to look at it carefully and I just want some fella that I have absolute confidence in. And I want to be measured by only one standard, and that’s what is right and just and fair. And I think if you do that, you could be very helpful. You could start ’em off and then come in from time to time, but just be kinda my advisor on it, and let me name you as my man.2

Anderson: All right, sir. Now, you know, of course, that I don’t really know much about—

President: I don’t care about that. Good thing you don’t.

Anderson: All right, sir.

President: You still got your law license, haven’t you?

Anderson: That is correct.

President: Good-bye. Bye.

Anderson: Okay, my friend.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Robert Anderson, Tape F64.22, Side B, PNO 2. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume. Robert Anderson was a lawyer and former Secretary of the Treasury under President Eisenhower.
  2. Shortly before this conversation, the President consulted Mann, who urged that Anderson be designated to head the team: “We need a tough guy now to get down to the hard negotiating and I would try to talk Bob into it.” (Telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, April 3, 12:06 p.m.; ibid., PNO 1)