18. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • Mr. Mann

The President called Mr. Mann and said that Bob Anderson had mentioned Covey Oliver as a possibility for a successor.2 Mr. Mann said that he was one of his very best friends, but that he thought he had been away from Latin America so long that he has a lot to learn about it. Mr. Mann said that we had a couple of good people up here and mentioned Mr. Solomon and said he was awfully good in economics but a little weak on politics. Mr. Mann said he thought one possibility might be to promote him and have Mr. Mann sort of look over his shoulder for a while to guide him. He said another possibility would be to bring Ambassador Gordon back from Brazil, but Mr. Mann felt that it is almost as important to keep him there as this job here is. He said another possibility would be for us to go outside and get somebody like Eddie Miller,3 if he is in good physical shape right now. Mr. Mann said he did not think that Covey Oliver could fill the bill.

The President said another thought was that Mr. Bundy4 could move over to his job and Mr. Mann could take Bundy’s. Mr. Mann said he thought this would be a disappointment to Mr. Bundy. He says he thinks Bundy is higher up the ladder over there. Mr. Mann said he thought we could find somebody here for the President, especially if Mr. Mann could sort of look out after him for three or four months. He said he thought we had a very good staff now.

The President asked Mr. Mann about ADELA and Mr. Mann explained what this was and said that Senator Javits and Pete Collado of Standard Oil had worked hard on this. Mr. Mann said that Pete Collado was a very able fellow too but the trouble is that he is identified with Standard Oil. Mr. Mann also mentioned Mr. Spaeth. He asked the President to give him an hour or two. The President said he would give him all day.

The President asked Mr. Mann if he had any idea who could be put in Alex Johnson’s spot. Mr. Mann said he was thinking that if the [Page 40]President wanted to move him, he could move him into that spot rather than Harriman’s. The President asked which spot was the biggest and Mr. Mann said the Harriman job is the biggest. Mr. Mann said that it would have to be worked out with the Secretary and Ball exactly what they would want Mr. Mann to do.

The President asked Mr. Mann what needed to be done to have a perfect Department and Mr. Mann said that he would be most useful in either the Johnson or Harriman job if he could get away from day to day things and spend a couple of months boning up on what is going on and trying to look at trends and policies and maybe talking with the Assistant Secretaries to get their views—not getting involved in the day to day operations. Mr. Mann said that he really believed that the reorganization or strengthening is not needed upstairs but rather at the Assistant Secretaries level. He explained that the Secretary does not have time to keep up with his Assistant Secretaries and their views and problems. Mr. Mann said he was convinced that the answer is finding people capable for the Assistant Secretaries and letting them run their Continents and only go to Secretary on necessary matters. The President asked if this was not what the Secretary was doing, and Mr. Mann said yes but that he thought this might be improved.

The President asked Mr. Mann what the Johnson job is and Mr. Mann said in the past it has been the principal point of contact with Defense and CIA and essentially he assists the Secretary for those two Departments. He said the Harriman job has varied very much with personalities and that Harriman is sort of an advisor. Mr. Mann said he thought this was something that the President should talk to the Secretary about, how this job can be most helpful. The President said he had a high regard for the Secretary and wanted to save him. Mr. Mann said he agreed completely with this.

Mr. Mann told the President that he thought he would have to find out how the Secretary and Ball feel about the number three slot and how they felt the person could be the most help.

Mr. Mann told the President about his belief that we must put a price tag on actions backed by foreign governments that lower the prestige of our country.

Mr. Mann told the President that he felt that a big problem might be lack of communication over here and suggested that it would be extremely useful if the President could sit down with the Assistant Secretaries and tell them his ideas and views.

The President asked Mr. Mann what we were going to have Harriman do and said he wanted to be an Ambassador At Large.

Mr. Mann said he had a high regard for Harriman and although he is garrulous and vain, he understands the Commies and he understands [Page 41]power and the importance of power. He said if the President could use him as a fellow to look around the world and come up with ideas he thought this would be useful. Mr. Mann said he would try to find something for Harriman if he were President, because Harriman could cause a lot of trouble on the outside. He said that was really the reason that he thought maybe he, Mr. Mann, could move into Johnson’s job rather than Harriman but that in that case Johnson’s job would have to be redefined.

The President said he would give thought to it and in the meantime would start a check on Eddie Miller. He asked Mr. Mann for Miller’s law firm and Mr. Mann said we would have to call the information over. The President asked that he give it to Mr. Valenti who is at the hospital.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Mann Papers, Telephone Conversations with LBJ. Eyes Only. Prepared by Patricia Saunders, Mann’s secretary.
  2. Mann’s successor as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs.
  3. Edward G. Miller. Jr., was Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs June 1949–December 1952.
  4. McGeorge Bundy.