KC Johnson

LBJ Tapes–SHAFR 2009

President Johnson and Jack Brooks, 20 Dec. 1963

President Johnson: You want to know honestly how I feel?

Jack Brooks: Yeah.

President Johnson: I’m really humiliated that I’m President, and I’ve got a friendly Speaker, and I’ve got a friendly Majority Leader, and I’ve got a friendly Albert Thomas, I’ve got a friendly Jack Brooks, and Otto Passman is king. I think that’s disgraceful in this country.

Because I want to tell you when I see you the next time—confidentially—

Brooks: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: —what we’re looking at in the world. And it’s a hell of a lot worse than it was last year. And you’re giving us 3 billion [dollars] to deal with, and you gave Kennedy 3.9 [billion dollars].

And I don’t think that’s fair, and I don’t think it’s right. I think it’s awful that a goddamned Cajun from the hills of Louisiana has got more power—

Brooks: He’s no Frenchman, though!

President Johnson: —has got more power than all of us. I just think that’s awful.

Brooks: Yes.

President Johnson: But that’s what you’ve got to do. And some day we’ll get our way, and if I ever walk up in the cold of night and a rattlesnake’s out there and about ready to get him, I ain’t going to pull him off—I’ll tell you that.

Brooks: No, I understand.

President Johnson: Now, you remember that.

Brooks: I want you to remember it. We’ve got some people from—

President Johnson: I remember it. Now, you just go and tell all these Texans that want to hit Russia that I want to put those sons of bitches in uniform.

Brooks: They ought to be.

President Johnson: Let them go fight the Communists for a while. They like to talk a big game—

Brooks: Yeah.

President Johnson: —but they don’t want to do a damn thing about it.

Brooks: I’m with you.

President Johnson: OK.

Brooks: Good night. Bless your heart.


President Johnson and Dean Rusk, 2 March 1964

President Johnson: Now, what I’d like to see is every damn—every, every . . . [Henry Cabot] Lodge is a long ways from here. And he’s thinking of New Hampshire [the primary], and he’s thinking of his defeats in the Republican Party, and he’s feeling sorry for himself. He’s naturally a martyr.

Dean Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: He’s expecting people to get his goat.

And every time he sends us a cable, I’d like to get one right back to him—

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: —complimenting him and agreeing with him, if it’s in the national interest, if it’s at all possible. I read one yesterday. I told [National Security Advisor] Mac [Bundy] I wanted to see the rest of those cables.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: But in this cable he says that he’s told them [the military] to clear out an area, and let’s have a victory.

I want to tell him right back, “Three cheers.”

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: “I think your suggestion is a good one.”

I think that we’ve got to build that [documentary] record. He says he wants a raise for the [South Vietnamese] army out there. If we can possibly get it, I think we ought to give it to him.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: They’re going to say the morale’s no damn good, and the soldiers won’t fight. And then Lodge is going to come up here before some [congressional] committee and say, “Well, I sent Rusk a wire here, and told him to please do this, and he said, ‘Well, wait till next month.’”

Rusk: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: “In the meantime, the thing caved in.”

Rusk: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: I think we’ve got to watch what that fellow says, just be Johnny-on-the-spot. Have a runner the moment his cable hits come right to you, and before it goes back, you write out a longhand one [response]. Check it and let’s get right back to him.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: So that he knows that he’s Mr. God, and we’re giving him maximum attention.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson and Dean Rusk, 6.50pm, 28 February 1965

Dean Rusk: [reading from proposed telegram for Averell Harriman to present to Prime Minister Eshkol] “Our deep concern about unification of Arab world behind Nasser with close working relationships with Soviet bloc is [the] greatest threat to Israel we can imagine. The fact that it would be deeply injurious to U.S. interests in Near East, including the security of Israel, seems to us to require that we and Israel would together to head it off. We agree to a private visit to Washington of [Shimon] Peres and [Yitzhak] Rabin. Must emphasize absence of publicity for such visit, as was accomplished on earlier occasions.” . . .

President Johnson: I had this feeling—I don’t know if it’s any good, but, God, I hate to transfer all those Jews into Washington, though, because I’m afraid that they’ll all move in at the slightest provocation. I wouldn’t be surprised if Golda’s [Meir] not on her way if we don’t watch.

But maybe not.

Do you think that we could say to Averell to strike out the “sympathetically,” and say, “We pledge to give you x tanks, and give ’em the x tanks, plus a little beyond the tanks—without any planes? It seems that the basis of his [Eshkol’s] objection is that [the U.S. saying] “we view sympathetically” doesn’t commit us.

Rusk: Uh-huh.

President Johnson: And that he wants a commitment.

It seems that we might, without great danger, raise the ante a little bit to what the Germans are giving ’em, and say if the Germans don’t complete it, we’ll complete it, plus 20 or something.

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