KC Johnson

LBJ & Larry O’Brien, 2 Aug. 1964

After the President eliminated AG Robert Kennedy (and the rest of the cabinet) from consideration for the v-p nod, he fumed to campaign strategist Larry O’Brien about press coverage of the question.

President Johnson: Now, I’m getting a barrage of unnecessary heckling and harassing today from [the Kennedy compound in] Hyannisport. [Reads a newspaper article.] “Attorney General Kennedy received a barrage of telephone calls and messages from supporters angered at the manner”—at the manner—“in which the President eliminated him as a Democratic candidate. Informed sources said the callers, backers of the Attorney General and the late President Kennedy, asked the Attorney General what their next move should be.”

Larry O’Brien: That’s Hyannisport dateline?

President Johnson: Yes, sir.

O’Brien: My God!

President Johnson: And there ain’t nobody that knows about the “barrage of calls” without his [Kennedy’s] knowing it.

O’Brien: I’ll have to agree there.

President Johnson: Now, will you talk to Ken [O’Donnell] about that? Because what I’m going to do, if they just keep on, I’m going to sock him right in the puss, and I don’t want to do that.

[Break.]

President Johnson: And, number two, this business about people calling—hell, I can tell him how many called me! And I can also say that I talked to about 50 delegations, and there’s only four of ‘em that mentioned it!

[Break.]

President Johnson: Here’s two things about this that I think it’s bad. Number one: that he, or his friends at Hyannisport, are putting out criticism of the manner in which the President acted.

O’Brien: Yeah.

President Johnson: That’s bad enough for our opponents—not for our cabinet.

O’Brien: Yeah.

President Johnson: To be talking about the President’s “manner,” unquote.

The second thing is that the Attorney General is refusing to be a part of the campaign which he suggested himself for, before he tells me.

O’Brien: Yeah.

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