164. Editorial Note

On the morning of March 31, 1966, Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs Francis Bator drafted a memorandum to Bill Moyers, the President’s Press Secretary, in which he outlined the points Moyers might want to make at a National Security Council staff meeting scheduled for noon that day, including the fact that “as long as [there was] no final appointment of new Special Assistant for National Security, Moyers will act in that capacity.” (Johnson Library, Bator Papers, Chron File) The meeting, however, was not held.

At a news conference that began at 12:30 p.m. March 31, the President announced that he was naming Walt W. Rostow, who had served since late 1961 as Counselor for the Department of State and Chairman of its Policy Planning Council, as Special Assistant to the President. The appointment became effective the next day. The President indicated that Rostow would “come to the White House to work principally, but not necessarily exclusively, in the field of foreign policy. I will especially look to him for the development of long-range plans in that field, as well as special coordination of Latin American development.” When asked by a reporter whether it could be said that Rostow would “take over all or many of the duties and assignments handled by McGeorge Bundy,” the President responded: “it could be, but that would be inaccurate. It would not be true. Most of the men play any position here. We hope—I hope Mr. Rostow can. Part of the work Mr. Bundy did we will say will now be done by Mr. Komer. Some of the work Mr. Bundy did is now being done by Jack Valenti and Bill Moyers.” For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, Book I, pages 384–392. Within 4 days of appointing Rostow, the President designated both him and Moyers as Bundy’s replacement on the National Security Council’s 303 Committee, which reviewed and approved covert actions (see Document 249 and footnote 4 thereto). However, Moyers attended only one 303 Committee meeting as a regular member, while Rostow attended regularly. (National Security Council, Special Group/303 Committee Files, Minutes)

In reporting Rostow’s appointment in its April 1 issue, The New York Times stated that the President seemed “reluctant to put in the hands of one man the kind of power within Government that Mr. Bundy had. In effect, Mr. Bundy created within the White House a little State Department that rode herd on many aspects of foreign policy. The President apparently intends to shift many of the policy-making aspects of the post back to the State Department, using a number of men inside the White House as personal advisers to him on foreign affairs.”