President Johnson with Secretary of State Dean Rusk.
February 25, 1965, 10:25 a.m.

Dean Rusk: In thinking about this public information situation, I'm inclined now to have a press conference this afternoon around 4:30 to get our statement of our general position clear before the other kinds of news break later in the evening, and also then Bob McNamara can have his tomorrow morning.

President Johnson: I think that's good--

DR: And I'll bring over to you when I come to the cabinet meeting a little, uh…

LBJ: You might want to send George Ball to that, as I look over this agenda, I don't see anything that's -it's a lot of details on departmental administration, and I think if you could spend your time on this and talking to the United Nations people or any others you need, probably be a better use of your time than coming over there.

DR: I think I could use that time well to get ready for the press conference.

LBJ: I want to be very careful that we don't show that we are desperate and dramatic and we are changing our policy. All of TV now is trying to say that this is a great escalation, and that the B-57s yesterday are an entirely new policy. I've made clear to the people I've talked to--and McNamara heartily concurs. And I've talked to Bob Smith--that the congressional resolution, this is a time to close ranks, we want to be united. We asked the Congress in the light of the their stepped-up efforts to take some action, and the Congress took this action, and it says that we will reply to any attacks and we will deter any aggression and they approve our doing so!

DR: Right.

LBJ: Now, when we could deter it with helicopters, we did. When we could deter it with shots from the Vietnamese troops, we did. When we could prevent aggression with pathfinders and sending one of our planes in to lead their planes with their Air Force, we did.But as they stepped up, and as they mounted, and as they become more severe, and they tied down our Ranger Companies, we did not change our policy; we changed our equipment. Because they escalated, and they brought in the ships with all the guns, and they brought in a lot more people. The infiltration increased, and they had their staging areas, and we had Ranger Companies tied down there, and it's going to cost hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives.

DR: Right.

LBJ: So, at the request of the South Vietnamese government, we busted 'em up and released those people and saved their lives. With the B-57s. Now, it is true that this is probably the first time that B-57s have been used in South Vietnam. But the Congress authorized us and directed us to prevent aggression. We have not changed our policy. That is our policy! That resolution is our policy. That is our authority. And until it's repealed-and the last paragraph says you can repeal it-but until it is repealed, that's the policy of this government, and we're within it. And it's pretty broad policy and so forth.

DR: Right.

LBJ: And that what they're going to try to put in our lap is-- that we're the warmongers, that we're changing our policy, that we've got a brand new policy from day to day, that we've really got no policy at all, that we're drifting, that we. So on and so forth. Now that's the commentators' line, I think this is the answer to it: I'd keep those 502 Congressmen right chained to me all the time with that resolution. And look at your statement, I got the resolution out of some form, some bulletin from the State Department. And right preceding it was a statement by the Secretary of State. And I believe right upon it was a statement by the President. Anyway, both statements at that time spelled out our policy, namely, keep our agreements. Which they have not done. They've abandoned all of theirs. Uh, namely help these people help themselves, which Eisenhower spelled out. Namely if they'll leave their neighbors alone, we'll come home tomorrow offering peace, we've repeated that time and time again, and I think you might say in your press conference that the President said in every State of the Union that he'd go anywhere, he'd do anything, he'd see anybody if it contributed to an agreement, or to an understanding, or to peace, but we've had understandings in '54 and we've had understandings in '62, and these understandings are not being kept. These agreements that have already been negotiated-it's not a question of negotiation, they've already been negotiated-there's being violated. And if any country--we welcome and applaud any country in the world that can do anything to get these agreements kept, that have already been negotiated. I think that's something you ought to give some thought to.

DR: All right, that's fine, I'll bring over to you just before or just after the cabinet meeting what I would suggest as an opening statement.

LBJ: Okay.

DR: All right. Bye. Thank you.

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