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.

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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.]

  1. 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.
  2. The word “leaves” was crossed out and replaced with “takes.”
  3. General Earle Wheeler.