161. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara 1

[Prior to and following the exchanges below, the President and McNamara discussed the appointment of Robert Kintner to a position in the White House.]

President: We have this Bundy thing we’re going to have to face up to. I like Rostow, but I don’t want to get started off here and get everybody to thinking we’re going back to war and a hard-liner.

McNamara: I still like Moyers for that, Mr. President.

President: Well, that’s like liking Cy Vance to be General Counsel. [McNamara laughs.] You’d like to have him General Counsel of the Army, wouldn’t you?

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McNamara: Yeah, yeah. But I need him more where he is, and I would say you need Moyers more in the Bundy job now that you’ve got the other one bucked up a little bit.

President: Do you think so? I don’t know. My number one problem—I think you can do the Bundy job. You’d just raise hell and do the Bundy job yourself, if you have to, with Komer and the groups you got around there, just processing the papers. I doubt that these wolves, although there a hundred of them every day—I just think about how much time you’d take on correcting some mistake in the press. Doesn’t about half your time go to trying to clean up stuff that somebody—

McNamara: That’s right, and I don’t have a Moyers and hence I don’t get it done the way you do. So I realize the function’s important. It’s essential to you and I know it’s being done beautifully. I would think Moyers could spend a little time—25 or 30 percent of his time—on the press and the other 60 to 70 percent on the other, and have maybe Komer work for him or something like that.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of a Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Secretary McNamara, Tape 66.09, Side A, PNO 1. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.