10. Memorandum for Record1


  • Daily White House Staff Meeting, 20 April 1964

1. Mr. Bundy presided throughout the meeting.

[Omitted here is material on Laos, South Africa, and the reduction in fissionable material.]

5. National Policy Papers. Today Bundy’s staff had another of its periodic discussions on national policy papers,2 this one prompted by Rostow’s insistence that he will be able to get a China policy paper out [Page 16] which will be agreed and which will offend no one. Some people believe that if the paper can be agreed to, it will not say much, and thus hardly will be worth the effort. There are others who believe that if there is sharp disagreement over the paper, focusing on the issue of the Offshore Islands, the whole matter might become a campaign issue.

The government faces a basic dilemma with respect to the policy papers. If they can be used as campaign fodder, that is not good; and everyone feels they will be leaked if they have potential political value. On the other hand, it would be equally unwise for the White House to send the word out that no one is to do any thinking for the next year.

This dilemma was openly recognized at the meeting, and some discussion resulted on ways to deal with the matter. There was general agreement that it would be very useful, and indeed almost necessary, for the government to focus on policies and programs for use by the government in 1965. These papers would, of course, be useful to either the same or a new Administration. Cooper would handle this problem by setting small study groups to deal with particular problems. He was virtually the only one, however, who believed such work could be kept secret. Amory suggested that perhaps the groups like the Council of Foreign Relations could be useful. Bundy, who believed that the Council suffered essentially from the same inhibitions as the government in either getting a small group together or in keeping the discussion secret, preferred a more informal approach. He is thinking in terms of isolating some problem areas, e.g.—Cuba, East-West trade, perhaps China—for discussions among selected individuals. He wants problems that seem manageable and people that are knowledgeable. He asked the staff for any suggestions on either that they might have.

Brubeck made an interesting point when he said that what often starts out as a new look at an old policy often ends up with the people who support existing policy being provided another opportunity to get a restatement. Bundy added that not only was that true, but that for most high level people in government, you could tell what door they would come out of by watching which one they went in.

One other point worth mentioning came up. Forrestal and Bundy believe the Rostow paper on the consequences of a ChiCom nuclear capability3 have defused the issue too much. They believe such a development would have far greater political consequences than does Rostow, and they are probably right since they are in a key position to influence our reaction. In the discussion today, however, the only consequence was that it seems clear the matter will be looked at again.

  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Chairman’s Staff Group, Nov 63–Aug 64. Secret; Eyes Only. Taylor initialed the memorandum adjacent to the date.
  2. In his report on Bundy’s staff meeting on April 17, Chester Cooper stated that “there was a brief discussion of the National Policy Papers in general and the South African and Nationalist China papers in particular. Bundy and others on the Staff are just beginning to realize that the White House has a very considerable stake in the policies kicked around in this series.” (Memorandum to Cline, April 17; Central Intelligence Agency, DDI Files, Job 80–R01447R, White House Staff Meeting Memos, 1964)
  3. Undated but attached to an April 17 memorandum by Rostow. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, China, Vol. 1)