433. Notes of the President’s Weekly Luncheon Meeting1
- The President
- Secretary Rusk
- Secretary Clifford
- Walt Rostow
- Tom Johnson
Clark Clifford: George Ball called me. I saw him this morning.
He said he had “reached a decision.”
I listed the reasons he should continue in the job. Ball also said:
I cannot permit myself to remain quiet any longer about Nixon. He is a liar, dishonest, and a crook. This is my country. We would get poor leadership. He said, he must be free.
- —Speak out myself
- —Help Humphrey say what he should
- —Bring in people to help
He said he couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t work to defeat Nixon.
Secretary Rusk: He said the same things to me. He is misestimating the political situation. It would be interpreted as “break” with the Administration.[Page 934]
Clark Clifford: He said he does not intend to “break” with Administration.
Secretary Rusk: Ball quits 2 months after he takes2 office.
Clark Clifford: He has an excellent statement.
The President: The time when he should have decided this was when he agreed to serve.
The President: I talked to Dirksen yesterday.
Secretary Rusk: Bus3 might pass the word to Abrams to slip out these facts about
- —The 3rd offensive being blunted.
- —SVN strength improved.
Clark Clifford: Better press tone because of
- —General Sidle’s approach.
- —General Abrams’ doesn’t “sell” it.
- —Facts are on our side.
Secretary Rusk: Bunker would try to go along with anything, but he puts priority on GVN presence at table.
Secretary Rusk: To replace Ball, Cy Vance would be ideal.
Walt Rostow: I expect within 2 weeks to know what will happen in Paris. They are getting their military dispositions. Detailed messages on exactly what their strength is in the field.
The President: Ball’s going to Humphrey is part of movement to “dove” side—special sale number one. McCarthy is an admirer of Ball’s.
Clark Clifford: This may be a desperation move by HHH. They talked on the phone Monday.
[Omitted here is discussion of Spanish base negotiations.]
- Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson Notes of Meetings. Top Secret. A copy of the statement and transcript of the subsequent press conference in which Ball outlined the reasons for his resignation are in the Princeton University, Ball Papers, Speeches.↩
- The word “leaves” was crossed out and replaced with “takes.”↩
- General Earle Wheeler.↩