94. Editorial Note

During a telephone conversation between President Johnson and Walt Rostow that began at 5:39 p.m. on September 17, 1966, the following comments were made:

President: “I don’t want a human to know this, but what I’m trying to do, I’ve made arrangements some time ago, if it works out, for Nick [Katzenbach] to resign as Attorney General and go in Ball’s place and do most of the work up there testifying and just take on the committee. He’s the best I’ve seen in the government for the Congress, and he wants Gene [Rostow] over there to handle Europe and handle a lot of other things, and he’s the strongest man for him. I think that will relieve Rusk of a lot of the testifying, and I don’t think he does that as well as he does other things in my judgment. I think Nick’s the best we have in this government in that field. I don’t know what the hell I’ll do at Justice, but I’ve watched him handle these civil rights and I’ve watched him handle Jim Eastland and I’ve watched him handle Bill Fulbright and I’ve watched him handle all of them, and he’s the best man on the Hill that we’ve got in the Cabinet, and then I think that puts all of them on a pretty high level when a Cabinet officer leaves the Cabinet to come into the State Department.”

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Later in the same conversation:

President: “Well, am I wrong in your judgment? Do you know anybody better in this town to take on these people than Nick?”

Rostow: “No, I really don’t. He’s sat in on a lot of foreign policy. He’ll pick the issues up fast.”

President: “But what I’m talking about—yes, that too—but I think that the issues and things, I think Dean and Gene can work on those a whole lot. But I think all this hell-raising every day about clearing these damn treaties and about discussing these things with Thailand with Fulbright, that’s where our trouble’s coming from, Walt.”

Rostow: “Well, the one thing I’d say, sir, is that you mustn’t expect the best lawyer we can send up there to make Fulbright happy.”

President: “No, but I think that he can keep us out of trouble more than anybody—”

Rostow: “I think that’s right.”

President: “And I think they won’t regard him as a great big hawk.”

Rostow: “I think that’s right.”

President: “Mansfield told me he considered him one of the ablest men he’d ever talked to.”

Rostow: “That’s a good start. [inaudible] a new approach up there. I don’t despair of anyone up there, really.”

President: “Dean’s a scholar and able man, and he didn’t like to go up and waller around with those folks. Nick don’t mind it much. Nick told me, he said that ‘I just decided one thing, that they said I was a professor of international law, and I was a little sensitive about it. I just decided, by god, I wanted to show ’em I could get along with Jim Eastland.’”

Rostow: “That’s what you’ve gotta do.”

President: “That’s what he told me. He said, ‘I wanted to prove that I could do that to them.’ And I think that’s one of the important things about whether we save this situation or not, is whether we can keep those fellows on board a little bit. Don’t you?”

Rostow: “Oh you bet. There’s no doubt. And this is exactly, I think, all that Hanoi’s got going for it—the possibility that we [inaudible], so that this is not just normal politics. This is fightin’ war. So I just look forward to this.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of a Telephone Conversation between President Johnson and Walt Rostow, Tape 66.24, Side B, PNO 2) The portions of the conversation printed here were prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.