President Johnson's notes on conversation with Secretary McNamara. June 21, 1965
Robert McNamara: Mr. President, two points. First I just received word the Senate Committee knocked out that Section 608 requiring we take capabilities to the Congress. They voted 10 to 3. Secondly, we did get distributed to all of the, uh, staff members and senior people associated with the Senate Armed Service Appropriations Committee the B-52 bomb damage assessment analysis this morning and got a special meeting with Mahon to de-brief by our defense intelligence agency people this afternoon.
President Johnson: That's good. Now I think that you ought to spend some time with your friend, Mr. Kennedy. I don't want this repeated to him but for your information I think you are the principle officer affected. I think that he is functioning in this Viet Nam field and Dominican field a little bit overtime, with he and some of his stooges very much against us. And I think his general feeling is that we should not have asked for the $700 million appropriation and by asking for it-saying that we have construed it is as support of our position-that he wanted to demonstrate his independence and while he wouldn't vote against it, that he would make the speech that he did and as a consequence he's touching up Javits a little bit and different ones around.
Certain Senators tell me they talked to him in the Cloak Room and they hear little snide remarks about the situation. I think it could very appropriately be said that the Defense Department took the position that we were, were spending more than we had appropriated that we had ample authority under the existing law to transfer that money. That's what we planned to do. We told them that, we told them that if they wanted to we could have asked for the money now or transfer it and ask for it later! After explaingin the pros and cons, all we wanted them to know was that we were digging into the account, it was going to be overdrawn, we'd have to come back, and be frank and candid with them, and Ford made the suggestion we ask for it now, an he thought that was the better way to do it and he had been fiscally responsible and worked with us in the House and Committee and we thought that given the opportunity if anybody wanted to, to debate it and discuss it and object to that, had a debate, New York Time's been advocating debates, so we sent it up there, and we don't object if what he said about it. But, uh, we do want him to know our reasons for doing it, and they were based upon an attempt to keep substantial support behind us in the Congress. Now each day, the New York Times, and I know he's conscious of it, and uh, they're going to be agitating in the-- Javits.
Bobby is going to be a great deal in the background because be operates a good deal that way -- but they are going to be asking for a new Congressional debate, and a new resolution of support. Tell him that we have been willing to ask for that and we don't think it would be wise, but that we have asked Fulbright if he thinks we ought to have a new resolution - - and we have asked Mansfield - and we have asked Dirksen and we have asked Russell. Now they are the men in this field in the Senate and you would like to ask him if he thinks a new resolution would be wise.
That is so much on that general feeling because that's in the columns and in the stories and the newspaper articles and so on and so forth, and of course when they talk to him they come running back and talk to us. I think there's another tack too. I think you ought to talk to him about the new pause that has been proposed. The New York Times proposes a pause - Mac has kind of had he feeling about a pause and understand he has talked to you about it - - now if we had any indication the pause would do any good, it would be fine. But we are afraid if we do pause -- we got hell knocked out of us while we did. I think the American people would be awfully critical of us."
RMC: No I don't think now is the time.
LBJ: Well I just think we ought to talk to him about it, because this is where most of our real trouble is coming from. It goes back, if you will remember, the real flare-up came on this statement, this $700 million. And my intelligence people tell me that that is the backbone of it and since it's your $700 million and since you heard the Ford thing and since you know we think it is all right for them to debate it -- we don't object to McGovern and Church and them if they want to say these things, say them! We don't agree with them, we don't think they help. But we have never asked one Senator not to speak and we haven't asked him.
And we'll put on a pause but say - what else he thinks ought to be done? I think that is a very potentially dangerous to our general cause on Vietnam. I think that in time it is going to be like the Yale professor said, that it is going to be difficult for us to very long prosecute effectively a war that far away from home with the divisions we have here and part the potential divisions.
That's really had me concerned for a month and I am very depressed about it because I see no program from either Defense or State that gives me much hope of doing anything except just praying and gasping to hold on during monsoon and hope they will quit. I do not believe they ever going to quit, and
I don't see how we have any way of either a plan for a victory militarily or diplomatically. And I think that is something you and Dean have to sit down and try to see if there are any people that we have in those departments that can give us any program or plan or hope.
If not, we've got to see if you need to go out there or have somebody else go out there and take one good look at it and say to these new people 'now you have changed the government about the last time.' And this is it -- call the Buddhists and the Catholics and the General and everyone together and say 'we are going to do our best' and be sure they are willing to let new troops come in and be sure they are not going to resent 'em. If not, ya'll can run over us and have a government of your own choosing, but we just cannot take these changes all the time.
That is the Russell plan. Russell thinks we ought to take one of these changes to get out of there. I do not think we can get out of there with our treaty like it is, with all we have said, and I think it would just lose us face in the world and I shudder to think what all of them would say --
But if we're going to keep getting AP pictures out of there, stories out of there like they are, and if our best friends who are supposed to be allies of ours are going to take the position, they going to foment it.
Javits says 'We face a big question in this country in stepping up this activity especially moving ground troops and which is now rumored to be division strength to undertake on the ground in North Vietnam possibly what we are doing in the air. Any such plan by this Administration must be thoroughly explored by the Congress.' He said 'Johnson does not speak for himself, but operates instead through the White House and Pentagon spokesmen' and 'people are not being informed he says about the Vietnam situation.'
Javits and three other Republicans spoke on the radio and he said that any large scale U.S. troop commitment would require quote 'a new Congressional debate and a new Congressional resolution of support' unquote, our Pres. Johnson.
So I think that is something you had better devote some of your attentions to and I think you'd better also talk to your military people when you are talking to Wheeler say - - 'now can we, President wants some kind of a plan that gives us some hope for victory' and I guess he will go back to the bombings. And talk to Dean.
I cannot see anything that they do but just laugh at us. Now, Ho Chi Minh and Chou En Lai have made statements on this Wilson mission-- telling him to go to hell.
RMC: Yep, that is right. There is no indication they want to talk now, that is clear.
LBJ: And I think Wilson will just screw up things more when he comes over here. We have to let him. But he will come over here and go everywhere else but never get in there. I think that somehow or other, we ought to condition his coming over here on acceptance that they'll see him over there, don't you?
RMC: I doubt you could do that.
LBJ: Well couldn't we say to Bruce, 'Now we're very anxious to work on this thing, if you have any chance of seeing him at all. But if you don't, please don't go over there and make a big speech dividing our country.' I don't see any good in talking to us. We have told him we are for it.
RMC: I don't think you can keep him out of here, and I don't think I'd try. I think I would try it when he is here, is have him avoid saying anything to divide the country. I think we can accomplish that. But I don't think you can keep him out of here, and I think it would be a mistake to try.
LBJ: Well if he is not going to get in there, what will it served by his coming here? Why shouldn't his mission cable the respective capitols for appointments before he undertakes them? He's got a blank check from us. We are willing to negotiate. He does not have to come here to find out."
RMC: He will probably be accepted in Moscow and probably not in Hanoi and Peking. It would be awfully difficult, I think to say well you cannot come here unless you are doing to be accepted in Hanoi and Peking."
LBJ: Well I don't ever think that we can say 'You can't come,' but I think we can say though, that we hope you have stressed the fact that they have not accepted and just hold that up for a few days for world inspection.
RMC: Well I think that is right. That we can do and when he is here, I think that we can assume or expect him to act in a way that won't cause controversy inside the country. I think it would be wrong, Mr. President, either to try to or give him any reason to believe that you tried to keep him out of here.
LBJ: Well , I think-Well, you cannot keep him out of here. Nobody wants to keep him out of here. I don't think that is the point I want to make. But I do think the point ought to be made to him that if his mission can't be successful, and he can't get the others here and he ought to make that point well and long and he ought to consider whether any good is going to be served by his traveling, in light of the fact they will not see him. Okay.