KC Johnson

LBJ and James Rowe, 30 July 1964

With RFK eliminated, Hubert Humphrey became the frontrunner for the vice-presidential nomination. LBJ reached out to Humphrey advisor James Rowe to lay down his terms for considering the Minnesota senator.

President Johnson: I want to be sure that they understand that there ain’t going to be nobody running against me for eight years, and going to be following my platform, and going to be supporting me, and going to be as loyal to me like I was to Kennedy.

James Rowe: I don’t think you’ll have a bit of problem on that one—

President Johnson: I want [him] to understand it; I want you to give it.

Rowe: To all three of them [Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, and Orville Freeman]?

President Johnson: [with Rowe assenting throughout] No, just start on [Humphrey]. Just tell him we’re going to be doing some exploring with other people, we’re going to be talking to [Robert] Wagner over this weekend, that I told you to go on and get a couple of leaks about his strength.

But that doesn’t mean a commitment, and that doesn’t mean that I’m a double-crosser if it doesn’t come through that way, although you know that I’m very friendly.

He’d better make up his mind, now, whether he’s ready to go with me all the way on my platform, on my views, on my policies. Now, I’m willing to always listen to him, and I’m always willing to consider what he’s got to say. But when I make up my mind, I don’t want to have to kiss the ass of a Vice President.

Rowe: That’s right.

President Johnson: And just see if he wants to be considered under those circumstances. I want him to know that if he goes, the first thing he better do is try to put a stop to this hell-raising [with the MFDP], so we don’t throw out 15 states that’ll defeat us.

Rowe: Mm-hmm. You’re damn right.

President Johnson: And he better get his [UAW head Walter] Reuthers and the rest of ‘em in here, and Joe Rauh, and make ‘em behave. That’s the first thing.

But I’ve got to see that he’s loyal. I’ve got to be sure he’s for me.

Rowe:Rowe: Yeah.

President Johnson: I’ve got to be sure he won’t be running against me four years from now.

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