47. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Candidate for Ambassador to the Dominican Republic
In your absence, I have taken it upon myself to coordinate a recommendation on this subject. I have done this because of repeated and increasingly urgent pleas from both Tap Bennett and Ellsworth Bunker that we find a replacement for Bennett soon. Bennett is very near the end of his rope down there, and Bunker tells me that he asks about his reassignment every time Bunker goes back. Bunker himself thinks it urgent on both personal and political grounds that Bennett be reassigned.
There is general agreement on the right place for Bennett: Portugal. The Ambassador there is Admiral Anderson, who apparently never misses an opportunity to make snide remarks about our Administration, and we owe him nothing. (Indeed, some of us think that President Kennedy was too kind to him when he sent him there in the first place.) Lisbon is a most agreeable place to live, and is regarded in the Foreign Service as a major step up from Santo Domingo. Tom Mann and Ellsworth Bunker are convinced that the Bennetts will be pleased.
I have spoken to Senator Russell about this, and he tells me that he wants whatever Bennett wants. He also says that he thinks this is a good time to make the change from the point of view of public attitudes. I asked him what other Senators should be consulted, and he said that there was hardly one he would trust to keep his mouth shut, but after some discussion he agreed it would be safe and wise to check with Hickenlooper, and I have a call in to him.
After reviewing a large number of names, I have concurrences from Rusk, Ball, Mann, Crockett, Vaughn, Vance, and J. Edgar Hoover on the nomination of John Hugh Crimmins of the State Department to succeed Bennett. Moreover, this concurrence is warm and enthusiastic among those who know Crimmins best, regardless of political preferences. Tom Mann and I, for example, are equally sure that he is the man we now need.
We have looked at many other names. Some of us like Tony Freeman, but Mann and Dean Rusk are doubtful. We looked hard at a very able man from the Harvard School of Education (a Gardner and Keppel product), but most of us doubt that you should pick a man without previous diplomatic experience. Some of us would like to send Jack Vaughn, but Tom Mann insists that he is indispensable where he is. Over on the liberal side, people speak of Ralph Dungan, but Tom Mann thinks that this would be a disaster. Tom himself has mentioned one or two senior Foreign Service Officers like Parsons and Albert, but a number of the rest of us think that the older men from the Dulles age, without Latin American experience, would be at least as disastrous as Dungan. To put it another way, the problem is to find a man of tested judgment and balance who has the confidence of all hands.
Crimmins is such a man. From 1961–1963, he was the Director of the Caribbean Office and in that position, he had a lot to do with the Dominican Republic. But he did not get “burned” by any specific political decision. He knows the players and they know him, but he does not arouse violent feelings.
Since early 1963 Crimmins has been the Cuban Task Force Director. In this job he has won an outstanding reputation as a man who can get things done and who can make sound and effective policy recommendations. Most recently, he has been the organizer of our preparations for the new wave of Cuban refugees and he has deeply impressed us again.
In a separate memorandum, you will see that Buford Ellington reports he did a splendid job on his most recent trip to Florida.
I think the press both here and in the Dominican Republic will treat the appointment of Crimmins as a sound and strong professional decision. I think neither the far left nor the far right will be able to land any punches on him at the start. His reporting from Santo Domingo will be clear, and your Washington assistants will know the mind of the man they are hearing from. I do not think we can do better—or indeed nearly as well with anyone else.
I should add that Ellsworth Bunker is getting tired, and both Tom Mann and I are worried about him. He came back this week partly to have a bad ear treated, and we need to get Bennett’s replacement on the spot within the next month if we possibly can. Crimmins himself [Page 104] needs about three weeks to brush up on his Spanish and to collect his wits after a tough five-year stint in the Department. Bennett needs time to pack, and of course we need to get the necessary agreements from Lisbon and Santo Domingo. I enclose George Ball’s recommendation (Tab A) and J. Edgar Hoover’s security clearance (Tab B).2 Mr. Hoover has also told me on the phone that he hears very good things about Crimmins. Finally, John Macy has just reviewed his dossier and tells me that it looks good to him.
I will ask Jake Jacobsen to relay your judgment on this.3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President-McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 16. Confidential. The memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Tabs A and B are attached but not printed.
  3. Bennett was appointed Ambassador to Portugal on May 10, 1966, and Crimmins was appointed Ambassador to the Dominican Republic on June 27.