410. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

Mr. President:

You should know that we have a quite serious problem with Goldberg.

Nick2 spoke to him; but he is not appeased—perhaps unappeasable.

I was asked by Sisco and Ben Read to talk to Goldberg before he saw the Secretary General at lunch, which I did. His points are these.

He took his job on the assumption that in major matters involving his work, he would have a chance to express his views before decisions were made.
In this particular case3 some of the formulations put forward during the week did not fit what he had been empowered to say in the UN [Page 889] on the basis of our policy. He said he understood the situation was quite particular; but he was not consulted as to what language might have been offered which would have reconciled his position and that which we put forward.
He does not now believe his Asian trip is worth while. It will be taken as a peace mission no matter what we say. He is inclined to cancel it.

I tried to explain to him that we were counter-punching at odd hours of the day and night to issues posed directly to you by the Prime Minister;4 and that the fact that he was not called in in no way reflected a desire or a decision by you to forego his counsel.

He seemed quite dug in, saying several times that Stevenson had the same problem; implying that it was probably inevitable and he thought that the man in New York should be a professional rather than a public figure who would insist on having his views heard before decisions are made.

You should know that a part of the problem is that up at Harvard somebody shoved a microphone before him and asked him about the extension of the bombing pause beyond Tet, which he could not answer; and I gather the New York Post has an article or editorial suggesting that he was not consulted. Obviously all this cuts pretty deep.5

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Office of the President File, Arthur Goldberg. Confidential; Eyes Only.
  2. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Katzenbach.
  3. Reference is to the “Sunflower” peace initiative of winter 1966–1967. By early February the British Government was actively engaged in the effort to find an agreeable basis for a cease-fire in Vietnam. On February 8, during a bombing pause for the Tet holidays and while Prime Minister Wilson was holding discussions with Soviet Prime Minister Kosygin, President Johnson sent a message to North Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh offering to make the pause permanent in exchange for a guarantee that North Vietnamese infiltration of men and materials into the South would cease. On February 10 Ambassador Goldberg, in a speech at Howard University, stated that the United States was ready to halt the bombing on a permanent basis as soon as it had assurances from Hanoi that infiltration would cease. Meanwhile the White House communicated its views through Wilson to Kosygin for the North Vietnamese. Kosygin failed to provide the concrete guarantees Washington wanted from Hanoi within the time frame it insisted upon. On February 13, after the Wilson-Kosygin talks finished, the President ordered the bombing resumed. Documentation on the Sunflower initiative is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume V.
  4. Harold Wilson of Great Britain.
  5. A covering sheet attached to this memorandum reads: “Put on desk for mtg w Goldberg, LBJ/JJ/mf, 3–8–67, 11:05 a.” According to the President’s Daily Diary, March 8, Johnson and Goldberg met from 11:41 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. for a discussion that “included the Ambassador’s future plans.” Speaking to the press after the meeting, Goldberg stated that he had reported on his Far East trip. (Johnson Library)