31. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Discussion with Secretary Rusk at Breakfast—18 Mar 65

1. In a personal vein, Secretary Rusk indicated that he was thinking seriously of leaving his post. He said that he was tired and felt that perhaps a new and fresh look at the frightening problems which face this country might be good. He indicated that he was encountering some difficulties in working with the President, seemed to feel the President did not focus on issues of very great importance to the Department, and refused to receive foreign visitors except when subjected to great pressure. Rusk commented on his own personal financial difficulties and gave me the impression he was seriously considering asking to be relieved.2

2. I raised the question of his future, and when he indicated interest in academic life, I brought up the Presidency of the University of California. Rusk seemed interested but only after an extended period of rest and relaxation. I did not pursue this question very far; I intend to discuss it with the Regents of the University when I go West.

3. Rusk then raised the question of my successor and intimated there has been some discussion of General Taylor coming in for a short period. I explained to Rusk that this would be very bad indeed, and retraced some of the difficulties that Taylor has had in the past, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. I said that while I knew Taylor well and favorably, I thought the President could make no appointment that would be more harmful to the Agency than the appointment of Ambassador Taylor as DCI.

4. I then mentioned my discussion the evening before with Mac Bundy in which Mac raised the point of Max Taylor as an “out” for the President, stating that the President was in a difficult position with Max because “he could not get along with him or could not get along without [Page 70] him.” Rusk said this was not at all true, that Taylor had specified and had received an absolute commitment from the President that he would serve as Ambassador to Saigon for one year and one year only and that the President had absolutely no problem with Taylor.


5. I indicated my concern to Rusk over the qualifications of Assistant Secretary of State Vaughn to successfully handle Latin America. I based my views on my observations of Vaughn’s conduct in Panama and the extraordinary statement he made to the Chiefs of Station meeting at Isolation. I told Rusk I brought the subject up merely to alert him and warn that in my opinion much of the good work accomplished in the last year or year and a half would be undone by Vaughn unless he was given very strong supervision and guidance by Rusk, Ball and Mann. Rusk indicated he had nothing to do with the appointment, inferred, but not mentioned, that the appointment was made by the President.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Memos for Record, Job 80–B01285A. Single Copy; No Distribution. Dictated by McCone and transcribed in his office. The time of the meeting is from Rusk’s Appointment Book at the Johnson Library.
  2. In a New York Times column on March 21, James Reston praised Rusk for being “a superb witness on Capitol Hill” and “a good negotiator” but criticized him for “not running a planning agency but a fire brigade. He has little time for the over-all strategy of foreign policy, because he is dealing most of the time with the tactics and politics of whatever emergency some other country produces in Vietnam, the Congo or Indonesia. Meanwhile, Mr. Rusk has not mobilized the talents of his department. He is remote from many of his most creative associates, and has left them in doubt about what he wants and expects from them.”
  3. Secret; Eyes Only; Personal; No Distribution.