KC Johnson

Presidential Tape Excerpts

All clips played in class over the course of the semester will be posted on this page.

3/11 class:

Nixon and White House aide Bob Haldeman discuss targeting the Brookings Institute.

President Nixon: We have to develop now a program, a program for leaking out information, for destroying these people in the papers. That’s one side of it, get after the conspiracy [against him].

The other side of it is the declassification. Declassification. And then leaking to, or giving up, to our friends the stories that they would like to have, such as the Cuban conflagration [Bay of Pigs?]. Do you get what I mean? Let’s have a little fun.

Let me tell you what the declassification of the previous years’ [events] that helps us [unclear], you know. It takes the eyes off of Vietnam. It gets them thinking about the past rather than our present problems. You get the point?

H.R. Haldeman: Yeah.

President Nixon: You’ve got to win some things in the press. These guys don’t understand. They have no understanding of politics. They have no understanding of public relations.

[Attorney General] John Mitchell’s that way. John Mitchell is always worried about: is it technically correct? Do you think, for Christ’s sakes, the New York Times is worrying about all the legal niceties? Those sons of bitches are killing me. Every minute [unclear] by leaking to the press.

This is what we’ve got to get—I want you to shake these sons of bitches up around here. Now, you do it! Shake them up! Get them off their goddamned dead asses and say, “Now, this is what we’re talking about. We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy, that are using any means. [Pounding the desk for emphasis.] We are going to use any means.” Is that clear?

Did they get the Brookings Institute [a liberal think-tank with which Daniel Ellsberg was affiliated] raided last night? No?

Haldeman: [Unclear.]

President Nixon: Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institute’s safe cleaned out.


Nixon and White House aides Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman discuss using the IRS against McGovern donors.

President Nixon: But, anyway, here we go. What in the name of God are we doing on this score? What are we doing about the financial contributors? Now, those lists are made there.

Are we looking over McGovern’s financial contributors? Are we looking over the financial contributors to the Democratic National Committee? Are we running their income tax returns? Is the Justice Department checking to see whether or not there is any anti-trust suits? Do we have anything going on any of these things?

H.R. Haldeman: Not as far as I know.

President Nixon: We better get the goddamn campaign right this time—not tomorrow, but now. That’s what concerns me. We have all this power and we aren’t using it. Now, what the Christ is the matter?

In other words, what I’m really saying is this: I think we’ve got to get it out.

Now, I’m just thinking about, for example, if there’s information on Larry O’Brien [regarding possible tax problems]. If there is, I wouldn’t wait. I’d worry the sons of bitches now, because after they select somebody else [as a running mate for McGovern], it is irrelevant, even though he’s still in the campaign. It’s much more relevant now, that then they drop him because . . . See what I mean?

John Ehrlichman: Yeah, well—

President Nixon: You’ve got the facts. Did they check the other side of the facts? What is being done, and who is doing this full-time? That’s what I’d like to know. Who is running the IRS? Who is running over at the Justice Department?

So, what I meant is, with all the agencies of government, what in the name of God are we doing about, my God, the McGovern contributors?

Ehrlichman: I think the short answer to your question is nothing, and . . .

President Nixon: There we are. Boy, they’re doing it to us.

Ehrlichman: No question; no question.

President Nixon: And it’s never happened that way before.

Ehrlichman: I can give you—

President Nixon: Johnson screwed everybody! Kennedy did. And when we were out, in ’52, the Truman people were kicking the hell out of me.

Ehrlichman: Sure.

President Nixon: In ’62 [when he ran for California governor], they kicked the hell out of me. In 1960, the bureaucracy bleached up on my visit to Khrushchev. Our bureaucracy—the guys in our bureaucracy.

A part of the problem is the bureaucracy. Part of the problem is our own goddamned fault. There must be something that we can do.

Ehrlichman: I don’t disagree with you at all—

President Nixon: Now, where’s [presidential aide Tom Charles] Huston? Is he around? Can we enlist him? Or anybody, to do this kind of work? I think the trouble is we’ve got too many nice guys around, who just want to do the right thing.


Nixon and White House aide Bob Haldeman discuss the cover-up after the burglary attempt.

Bob Haldeman: They’re trying to keep it all bottled up. They’ve done—

President Nixon: I was going to say—

Haldeman: Considering the explosive nature of what’s there, we’ve done a pretty good job. Now, the scenario on that, they all seem pretty well agreed on now, is that the only danger is [Nixon political aide Jeb] Magruder. He does have to go before the grand jury.

But [White House counsel John] Dean has gone over and over it with him, and Jeb is going to stay with his story [that there was no involvement of the Nixon campaign with the break-in] and stay with it solid. And they think there’s no problem, because—and that he will.

He will not be indicted (Magruder). They will come down with seven indictments—the five [Cubans] plus [CREEP aides E. Howard] Hunt and [G. Gordon] Liddy. [Break.] So John [Dean] sees no possibility of the case being brought before the election.


President Nixon: Are the Cubans going to plead not guilty? Or are they going to . . .?

Haldeman: I don’t know. But everybody’s satisfied. They’re all out of jail. They’ve all been taken care of. They’re now—

President Nixon: Yeah.

Haldeman: They’ve done a lot of discreet checking to be sure there’s no discontent in the ranks, and there isn’t any.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Haldeman: They’re all . . .

President Nixon: Out on bail.

Haldeman: [E. Howard] Hunt’s happy.

President Nixon: At considerable cost, I guess.

Haldeman: Yes.

President Nixon: It’s worth it.

Haldeman: It’s very expensive. It’s a costly—

President Nixon: That’s what the money’s for.

Haldeman: —exercise, but that’s better spent than . . .

President Nixon: Well, they took all the risk, and they have to be paid. That’s all there is to that.


Nixon and White House counsel John Dean; the “cancer on the presidency” clip:

President Nixon: And also, I told [John] Ehrlichman, I don’t see why our little boys can’t make something out of the fact that, God darn it, this is the only responsible decision you could possibly make. The FBI cannot turn over raw files. Has anybody made that point? I’ve tried.


President Nixon: Let’s make the point that the raw files cannot be turned over. Well, I think that point should be made.

John Dean: That, that—

President Nixon: We are standing for the rights of innocent individuals. The American Civil Liberties Union is against it. We’re against it.


Dean: I think that there’s no doubt about the seriousness of the problem we’ve got. We have a cancer within, close to the presidency, that’s growing. It’s growing daily. It’s compounding, it grows geometrically now because it compounds itself. That’ll be clear as I explain, you know, some of the details of why it is, and it basically it’s because (1) we’re being blackmailed; (2) people are going to start perjuring themselves very quickly that have not had to perjure themselves to protect other people and the like. And that is just—and there is no assurance—

President Nixon: That it won’t bust.

Dean: That that won’t bust.

President Nixon: True.


3/9 class:

Nixon and White House aide Henry Kissinger discussing then-California governor Ronald Reagan.

President Nixon:.. . we learned a lot from Mr. [Ronald] Reagan.

Henry Kissinger: Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, he started bleeding. He said that you have a real problem with the conservatives.

President Nixon: Oh, I know.

Kissinger: Which is no news to you. He says you’re going to wind up without any friends, because you can’t win the liberals anyway.

President Nixon: Jesus.

Kissinger: And the conservatives are just saying—

President Nixon: Henry, let me tell you part of his problem, of course, is that he’s in a very, very poor position in California, you know.


Kissinger: Well, I think he’s a—actually I think he’s a pretty decent guy.

President Nixon: Oh, decent, no question, but his brains?

Kissinger: Well, his brains, are negligible. I—

President Nixon: He’s really pretty shallow, Henry.

Kissinger: He’s shallow. He’s got no . . . He’s an actor. When he gets a line he does it very well. He said, “Hell, people are remembered not for what they do, but for what they say. Can’t you find a few good lines?” [Chuckles.] That’s really an actor’s approach to foreign policy—to substantive—

President Nixon: I’ve said a lot of good things, too, you know damn well.

Kissinger: Well, that too.


President Nixon: Can you think though, Henry, can you think, though, that Reagan with certain forces running in the direction could be sitting right here?

Kissinger: Inconceivable.

President Nixon: No, but it could have happened.

Kissinger: It could have happened.

President Nixon: It could have happened in ‘68. What would have happened—

Kissinger: If [Nelson] Rockefeller had stayed in—I mean if Rockefeller had gone in competently—

President Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: I don’t think he [Rockefeller] had a chance, but he might just have been able to [unclear].

President Nixon: [Unclear.] That right. Can you imagine? The fellow really is a decent guy, a decent guy. But there isn’t—there’s no, in other words, everything is . . .


President Nixon: Back to Reagan though. It shows you how a man of limited mental capacity simply doesn’t know what the Christ is going on in the foreign area.


Nixon and White House aide Alexander Haig discussing the leak of the Pentagon Papers.

President Nixon: Nothing else of interest in the world today?

Alexander Haig: Yes, sir, very significant, this goddamn New York Times exposé of the most highly classified documents of the [Vietnam] war.

President Nixon: Oh, that. I see.

Haig: That, that—

President Nixon: I didn’t read the story, but you mean that was leaked out of the Pentagon?

Haig: Sir, the whole study that was done for [former Defense Secretary Robert] McNamara and then carried on after McNamara left by [former Defense Secretary Clark] Clifford and the peaceniks over there. This is a devastating security breach of the greatest magnitude of anything I’ve ever seen.

President Nixon: Well, what’s being done about it, then? I mean, I didn’t—

Haig: Well, I called—

President Nixon: Did we know this was coming out?

Haig: No, we did not, sir.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Haig: There are just a few copies of this—

President Nixon: Well, what about the—

Haig: —12-volume report.

President Nixon: Well, what about the—Let me ask you this, though, what about the—what about [Defense Secretary Melvin] Laird? What’s he going to do about it? Is—

Haig: Well, I [unclear]—

President Nixon: Now, I’d just start right at the top and fire some people. I mean, whoever—whatever department it came out of, I’d fire the top guy.

Haig: Yes, sir. Well, I’m sure it came from Defense, and I’m sure it was stolen at the time of the turnover of the administration.

President Nixon: Oh, it’s two years old, then.

Haig: I’m sure it is, and they’ve been holding it for a juicy time, and I think they’ve thrown it out to affect Hatfield-McGovern [a Senate amendment to end funding for the Vietnam War]. That’s my own estimate. But it’s something that is a mixed bag. It’s a tough attack on [President John] Kennedy. It shows that the genesis of the war really occurred during the ‘61 period.

President Nixon: [laughing] Yeah. Yeah. That’s Clifford. I see.

Haig: And it’s brutal on President [Lyndon] Johnson. They’re going to end up in a massive gut fight in the Democratic Party on this thing.

President Nixon: Are they?

Haig: It’s a—there’s some very—

President Nixon: But also, massive against the war.

Haig: Against the war.

President Nixon: But it’s a Pentagon study, huh?


Nixon and White House aide Pat Buchanan, discussing how they could exploit the Detroit school busing case for political purposes.

President Nixon: Well, I’ve basically—we’ve got to say that it’s only the extent that it is required by law—

Pat Buchanan: Right.

President Nixon: By a court order, do I think busing should be used.

Buchanan: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: Don’t you think that’s really what you get down to?

Buchanan: Right. Right.

President Nixon: Because the line, actually, between my line and Muskie’s, is not as clear as—I mean, it’s just the way he said it. He starts at the other end. He says, “Well, I think busing is a legitimate tool—

Buchanan: Yeah.

President Nixon: And then, “but I’m against it.” I start at the other end. I say, “I’m against busing, but, if the law requires it, to the minimum extent necessary, I, of course, will not resist it.”

Buchanan: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: Right?

Buchanan: Right.

President Nixon: It’s purely a question of tone.

Buchanan: Well, we’ve got to push Muskie’s emphasis up in the headlines; that’s the problem.

President Nixon: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. It’s got to be—well, I think it probably is going to get some play in the South now—

Buchanan: I think, well, that’s something you could really move by various statements exaggerating his position, and then Muskie would come back sort of drawing it back and it raises—identifies him with it.

President Nixon: Yeah, the thing to do really is to praise him—have some civil rights people praise him for his defense of busing.

Buchanan: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: That’s the way to really get that, you know. It’s much the better way than to have people attack him for it—

Buchanan: Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: —is to praise him for his defense of busing, see?

Buchanan: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

President Nixon: And I don’t know if you’ve got any people that can do that or not. But I would think that would be very clever.

Buchanan: Mm-hmm. OK.


Nixon and White House aides John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman, discussing an All in the Family episode the President had considered to be pro-gay.

Bob Haldeman: That’s a regular show. It’s on every week. And usually it’s just set in the guy’s home. It’s usually just that guy, who’s a hardhat.

President Nixon: That’s right; he’s the hardhat.

Haldeman:  And he always just looks like a slob.

President Nixon: He looks like [the comedian] Jackie Gleason . . . Arch is the guy’s name. But the point is, you can’t imagine—for example, Arch is sitting here in his sloppy clothes, and here’s his hippie son-in-law, who’s married to a screwball-looking daughter, and you know . . .

Arch is sitting, and they said, well, Freddie or somebody is coming home or John is coming home. “Oh, you can’t let him,” Arch said. “I mean, you can’t let him come in here—he’s queer.” [unclear] “He’s a flower.” And the hippie son-in-law says, “Nah, he really isn’t.” I think the son-in-law, who apparently goes both ways, despite the daughter and the rest, so .. .


President Nixon: It [a TV show with such a theme] outrages me because I don’t want to see this country go that way.

John Ehrlichman: Well, you know there are—

President Nixon:  Look at other countries . . . You ever see what happened—you know what happened to the Greeks. Homosexuality destroyed ‘em. Sure, Aristotle was a homo, we all know that. So was Socrates.

Ehrlichman:  But he never had the influence that television had . . .

President Nixon:  And let’s look at the strong societies—the Russians. Goddamn it, they root ‘em out, they don’t let ‘em around at all. You know what I mean? I don’t know what they do with them.

Ehrlichman:  Yeah.

President Nixon:  Dope? Do you think the Russians allow dope? Hell, no! Not if they can catch it. They send ‘em up.

You see, homosexuality, dope, immorality in general: these are the enemies of strong societies. That’s why the Communists and the left-wingers are pushing the stuff.

Ehrlichman: Sure.

President Nixon:  They’re trying to destroy us.

[Break; the trio discusses what professions are appropriate for gays.]

President Nixon: Decorators. They’ve got to do something, the rest. But goddamn it, we don’t have to glorify it.

Ehrlichman: That’s right.

President Nixon: Isn’t that what it gets down to?

Ehrlichman: Yeah.

Haldeman: That’s—yeah—

President Nixon: Fashions! You know one of the reasons that fashions have made women look so terrible is because the goddamned designers hate women. Now that’s the truth. You watch.

Now, there might be getting around now—you know, some of those, they have the flat-chested thing, those horrible-looking styles they run. That was really the designers taking it out on women. I’m sure of that! And finally the women wouldn’t buy it, and now they’re trying to get in some more sexy things coming on again.

Ehrlichman:  Hot pants.

President Nixon:  Jesus Christ. [They all laugh.]


Nixon and White House aide Bob Haldeman, after the 1972 election, discussing whether the “hardhat” voters can be permanently wooed to the GOP.

Bob Haldeman:  And [Labor Secretary-designate Peter] Brennan has gotten the damndest press reaction, Mr. President, and the damndest fan mail . . .

President Nixon:  Is that right?

Haldeman: Oh, it’s incredible. You mean, letters—he brought in some of ‘em to me. There’s letters from people saying, “Well, we weren’t really sure—we voted for Nixon, we weren’t really sure. But now we are. He does believe in the working man, and he’s . . .” You know, I think this has really had a . . .

President Nixon:  You mean, the idea, they finally think–the appointment of a working man makes ‘em think we’re for the working man, isn’t that it?

Haldeman: Yeah. That’s precisely it.

President Nixon:  You talk about all the tokenism. We appoint blacks and they don’t think you’re for blacks.

Haldeman: No! Exactly.

President Nixon:   And [you appoint] Mexicans, they don’t think you’re for Mexicans. But a working man, by golly, that is really something.

Haldeman: Well, this kind of locks it up, you know. [Break.] So I don’t think—

President Nixon:  Great.

Haldeman: I really don’t care who the hell they—

President Nixon:  Yeah. Great.

Haldeman: —they put in as the [Democratic] party chairman, the fundamental dichotomy, or the fundamental cleavage, within the Democratic Party is such that, with what you’re doing to build the new majority, and what I hope to help you doing, I think we’re going to keep them split, and . . .

President Nixon:  Mm-hmm.

Haldeman: I’m awful bullish about what we can do in this country in terms of the basic philosophies, or the basic—

President Nixon:  Right.

Haldeman: —choices of the people. They may not ever become Republicans, but they’re Nixon’s.

President Nixon:  Yeah.

Haldeman: If there’s some way to perpetuate that, I don’t know.

President Nixon:  We could change the name of the party—

Haldeman: Great stuff.

President Nixon:  —Yeah.

Haldeman: Great stuff.

President Nixon:  Yeah.

3/4 class:

LBJ and Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen, discussing reports of Nixon operatives negotiating behind the scenes with the S. Vietnamese government to discourage a pre-election peace settlement.

President Johnson: Now, I’m reading their hand, Everett. I don’t want to get this in the campaign.

Everett Dirksen: That’s right.

President Johnson And they oughtn’t to be doing this. This is treason.

Dirksen: I know.


President Johnson: [with Dirksen assenting] Now, I can identify ‘em, because I know who’s doing this. I don’t want to identify it. I think it would shock America if a principal candidate was playing with a source like this on a matter this important.

I don’t want to do that. But if they’re going to put this kind of stuff out, they ought to know that we know what they’re doing. I know who they’re talking to, and I know what they’re saying.

Well, now, what do you think we ought to do about it?

Dirksen: I better get in touch with him, I think, and tell him about it.

President Johnson: I think you better tell him that his people are saying to these folks that they oughtn’t to go through with this meeting [in Paris]. Now, if they don’t go through with the meeting, it’s not going to be me that’s hurt. I think it’s going to be whoever’s elected.

Dirksen: That’s right.

President Johnson: It may be—my guess—him.

Dirksen: Yeah.

President Johnson: And I think they’re making a very serious mistake. And I don’t want to say this.

Dirksen: Yeah.

President Johnson: And you’re the only one I’m going to say it to.

Dirksen: Yeah.


President Johnson: Well, I don’t know who it is that’s with Nixon. It may be [Wisconsin congressman Mel] Laird. It may be [aide Bryce] Harlow. It may be [campaign manager John] Mitchell. I don’t know who it is.

I know this: that they’re contacting a foreign power in the middle of a war.

Dirksen: That’s a mistake!

President Johnson: And it’s a damn bad mistake.

Dirksen: Oh, it is.

President Johnson: [with Dirksen assenting] And I don’t want to say you, and you’re the only man that I have enough confidence in to tell ‘em. But you better tell ‘em they better quit playing with it. You just tell ‘em that their people are messing around in this thing, and if they don’t want it on the front pages, they better quit it.


LBJ and GOP nominee Richard Nixon, discussing the politics of foreign policy, late Aug. 1968.

Nixon: As a matter of fact, let me say this, that on this—that I don’t give a goddamn what the politics is, and I hope, I’m sure Hubert [Humphrey] will feel the same way. But . . . And I know how you feel about the whole peace issue. But we’ve got to stand very firm. And I won’t say a damn word that’s going to embarrass you. You can be sure of that . . .

Let me ask you this: can you keep—just talking very candidly—can you keep your Vice President and others to keep them firm in this thing? Because, you know, to hell with the goddamn election, we must all stand firm on this.

President Johnson: That’s right.

Nixon: You know, I don’t think we’re going to go to war, but we’ve got to stand firm.

President Johnson: Very frankly, I don’t know. That’s the honest answer. I just plain don’t know.

Nixon: OK.

President Johnson: I have—

Nixon: Well, I stand firm.

President Johnson: I have done it up to now. I think it would be the best thing for the country, and I have said to them [the Humphrey campaign] that. And I have furthermore said that, in my judgment, if they didn’t do it, that you would murder them with it. That you would say—

Nixon: I think that’s true.

President Johnson: That you would say, “There’s a time—here in a time of crisis, you goddamn fellows tried to suck up to these folks.” And when you look at the polls this morning, it’s 61 to 24—

Nixon: I—

President Johnson: —against stopping the bombing. And I look at my two son-in-laws out there [serving in the military in Vietnam], and I tell ‘em to lay down your plane, keep it grounded, we won’t let you use it, and they say, “OK, what are you going to take away from them [the North Vietnamese]?” And I said, “Nothing; we haven’t talked about that.”

Well, they’ll say, “Screw ya’.”

Nixon: That’s right.

President Johnson: And these boys are coming home someday.

I got 32 applauses in 41 minutes last night [in his Detroit speech]. And I had a standing ovation when we went in; I had a standing ovation about halfway through my speech. I had a standing ovation at the end. I had 31 applauses.

And, by God, there wasn’t a paper in the United States that mentioned it.

Nixon: Well, the bastards, you know, like the goddamn New York Times—they don’t print the truth. That’s all.

President Johnson: That’s right. That’s right.

Nixon: They don’t print the truth.


LBJ and UAW head Walter Reuther discussing the President’s confidence about obtaining renomination–10 days before LBJ pulled the plug on his campaign.

President Johnson: The cold hard facts are we do not have control [in Vietnam], and [Eugene] McCarthy doesn’t, and Bobby doesn’t, and no one else does at this stage, unless and until they [the North Vietnamese] see that this second wave of theirs—we have their documents; we know what their plans are—is not successful.

Now, I can’t get out and promise that they’re not going to . . . There is no question but that their attitude is harder. They just do not want to talk. And I guess it’s like you [the UAW] are when you are negotiating, and you’ve got the upper hand, and they’ve got to come to you—they can’t pee a drop without you. I think that’s the position they’re [the North Vietnamese] in.

They’re being well-supported. They’re not hurting. We’re not destroying anything they’ve got. We’re not invading ‘em. We’re not trying to capture them, we’re not taking their cities, we’re not killing their civilians. When we hit a target in North Vietnam—we’re hitting damn few. Last year, we had 6½ months that we had a complete pause at both Hanoi and Haiphong.

President Johnson: I can’t stress those things. Because when I do, I get every hawk in the country who thinks I’m not doing enough. And they want me to take out Haiphong immediately—and when I do, I take out a Russian ship, and I got a lot more problems.

Now, when you look at these plans, there’s not much [that] anybody’s got to do. They [McCarthy and Kennedy] say they don’t want withdrawal; they say they don’t want surrender. McCarthy said he wants negotiation. Well, goddamnit, we do, too!

Walter Reuther: Surely.

President Johnson: But we have the responsibility.

Now, you’ve got to be responsible, too. And I know your [union] board will give you hell; and I get hell from all of my people all the time. But this is a period and a time—these boys can’t get this nomination. They’re not going to get it. We’re going to take these states, and they’re not going to come close to it. They’ll win some primaries, because I don’t have much time to make calls like this.


LBJ and Chicago mayor Richard Daley discuss the prospects of a Robert Kennedy candidacy, Feb. 1968.

President Johnson: This Charleston, West Virginia paper [the Daily Mail] took a poll of all the delegates [to the Democratic National Convention], and it ran about 1400 for me and Humphrey, and about 49 for McCarthy, and about 39 for Bobby.

The 39 stragglers—all of you damn fellows [delegation chairs] will put on a son of a bitch, and when you’ve got 50 states and you only got 39 sons of bitches, that’s a pretty good average. We’ve got more than one bastard on our delegation, from Texas. [Daley chuckles.] But . . . I thought the poll came out pretty good.

But he [Kennedy] has got a few peaceniks up here in New York, and he’s got [historian Arthur] Schlesinger up at Harvard, and he has decided that it’s up to him to reclaim the Democratic Party.

Now, I’ll just tell you what will happen now: it just—beginning with me, and Hubert Humphrey, and [Texas governor] John Connally, and the rest of ‘em—if you ever thought that they had a goddamn revolution in the party, you never would see . . . These just have been little kindergarten, play Indians until this one came along.

Richard Daley: The only thing—you know, you never make any suggestions to the President. You never—

President Johnson: Hm.

Daley: The only thing I would say to you, as a friend: don’t let them get you too excited on this—

President Johnson: They wouldn’t—they wouldn’t at all! But I just thought—

Daley: I said to this fellow [RFK] in a telephone conversation, I says, “Robert, as an older man, and with great respect for the former President, don’t you do anything rash until I get a chance to talk to you.”

He said, “Well, what do you mean by that?”

I said, “Exactly what I said. Don’t be a goddamn fool. Because,” I said, “there’s a lot of people around you that just want you to stick your neck out, and want to push you out, because of their feelings against someone else.”

President Johnson: That’s right. How long ago was this?

Daley: This was last week.


3/2 class:

LBJ and Bill Moyers discuss the politics of poverty, in Dec. 1966.

President Johnson: [Anti-war protesters] said give the money to poverty, and not Vietnam. And I think that’s hurting poverty more than anything in the world, is that these Commies are parading . . . and these kids with long-hairs . . . saying, you know, that they want poverty more than Vietnam. And the Negroes. And I think that’s what people regard as the Great Society.


President Johnson: But in my judgment, the bigger request I make for poverty, the more danger it is being killed.

President Johnson: I don’t think they’re [Congress] just going to cut it; I think the same thing about [foreign] aid. I think if I ask for 2 billion or 3 billion for poverty, when I got 3 billion for jobs, and 24 billion [dollars] in other fields, I think they’d say, “Good God, it goes up: every time you get somebody a job, it costs more.”

I think if we increase it a reasonable amount, that we have a much better chance of fighting and holding it [the administration request]. But I think that those boys over there [Shriver’s aides], who don’t know anything about legislative procedure, and these kids that gives out these interviews—[Budget Director Charles] Schultze tells me that Shriver knows ‘em, but he doesn’t believe Shriver can control ‘em [his aides].

[Special Counsel] Harry [McPherson] tells me that he believes that other people in CAP [the Community Action Program] do this, and they override Shriver.


LBJ and former DCI John McCone discussing the administration’s response to the Watts riot.

President Johnson: We are on powder kegs in a dozen places.

John McCone: Is that right?

President Johnson: What we’re ultimately going to have to do . . . You just have no idea of the depth of the feeling of these people [African-Americans]. You see . . . I see some of the boys [that have] worked for me that have had 2000 years of persecution [Jews] and how they suffer from it.

But these groups, they got really absolutely nothing to live for. Forty percent of ‘em are unemployed. These youngsters—they live with rats, and they’ve got no place to sleep. They start—they are all from broken homes, and illegitimate families, and all the . . . Narcotics are circulating around ‘em. And we’ve [whites] isolated them, and they are all in one area, and when they move in, why, we move out.


President Johnson: We’ve just got to find a way to wipe out these ghettoes.

McCone: Yeah.

President Johnson: And find someplace [for] housing, and put ‘em to work. We trained 12,000 last month, and found jobs for ‘em.


LBJ and the First Lady, discussing his performance at a press conference.

Lady Bird Johnson: You want to listen for about one minute to—

President Johnson: Yes, ma’am.

Lady Bird Johnson: —my critique, or would you rather wait till tonight?

President Johnson: Yes, ma’am. I’m willing now.

Lady Bird Johnson: I thought that you looked strong, firm, and like a reliable guy. Your looks were splendid. The close-ups were much better than the distance ones.

President Johnson: Well, you can’t get ‘em [the TV producers] to do it  . . . the distance ones.

Lady Bird Johnson: Well, I would say this: there were more close-ups than there were distance ones.

During the statement, you were a little breathless and there was too much looking down and I think it was a little too fast. Not enough change of pace, a drop in voice at the end of sentence.

There was a considerable pick-up in drama and interest when the questioning began. Your voice was noticeably better, and your facial expressions noticeably better.


Lady Bird Johnson: When you’re going to have a prepared text, you need to have the opportunity to study it a little bit more, and to read it with a little more conviction, and interest, and change of pace. Because—

President Johnson: Well, the trouble is they [the White House media] criticize you for taking so much time. They want to use it all for questions. Then their questions don’t produce any news, and if you don’t give ‘em news, you catch hell.

So my problem was trying to get through before 10 minutes, and I still ran 10 minutes today.


Lady Bird Johnson: I believe if I’d had that choice, I would have said use 13 minutes, or 14, for the statement.

In general, I’d say it was a good B+. How do you feel about it?

President Johnson: [quickly] I thought it was much better than last week.

Lady Bird Johnson: [unconvinced] Well, I heard last week, [you] see, and didn’t see it. And didn’t hear all of it.


LBJ and Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell, discussing the progress of the administration’s education bill.

President Johnson: Hello?

Congressman Adam Clayton Powell: How’s my friend?

President Johnson: [stonily] Fine, Adam.

What the hell’s been happening to your [Education and Labor] Committee? I thought you told me two months ago that you were going to pass a [education] bill for me.

Powell: That’s right. Well, what happened: all hell’s broken loose, because—

President Johnson: Well, now, what the hell are you blackmailing me on a—

Powell: That’s not—

President Johnson: —four hundred . . . Well, hell, you didn’t—[because] you want a $400,000 appropriation for you, we couldn’t pass a billion, two hundred million [dollar funding bill] for the schoolkids.

Now, you know I’m for you, and you know that I’m going to help you any way I can. I’ve got nothing to do with what you’re doing in the House investigation [of Powell’s personal finances]. But you damn near defeated the best education bill I’ve got. And I hope you’re going to be proud of it.

Powell: No. Now, you know your Appalachia bill, that there is—

President Johnson: Well, now, Appalachia ain’t got a damn thing to do with you. If you handle your committee and let us handle the other one!

Powell: Yeah, but there’s a clause in there, Mr. President—

President Johnson: There’s a clause that’s been in there for a long time.

And if you’re going to let [Ohio congressman William] Ayres [the committee’s ranking Republican] and [Oregon congresswoman] Edith Green [a conservative Democrat] lead you off the reservation, well, then I ran for nothing last year—

Powell: No—

President Johnson: [continuing] With 15 million votes. If you’re going to tie up this Congress, and screw it up—which you’ve done for three weeks, by running off [to Bimini, in the Bahamas] till you got a 400,000 [dollar] appropriation—why, we never can get anywhere.

And you defeat this [bill], and you hold it up, and you delay it, and you get us in this kind of shape, why, we can’t pass anything.

And that’s all right. But I think you’ll beat a hell of a bunch of your liberal Democrats [in the 1966 midterm elections]. I’m going to be here—it’s not going to bother me. But I just sure thought I had better leadership on that committee than what I’ve got without even talking.

Powell: Well—

President Johnson: And I’m awfully disappointed. Just very disappointed.

Powell: Now, Mr. President, don’t you think I have an entitlement to—

President Johnson: [forcefully] No, I don’t think you’re entitled to a damn thing that you did.

I think you told me, and looked me straight in the eye—

Powell: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: [continuing] And said, “I’ll report this bill, and I’ll get it on the floor.” And you didn’t do it.

Powell: [By] March 1st.

President Johnson: And you did not do it.

Powell: It was [by] March 1st, because—

President Johnson: Well, Adam—

Powell: It was March—

President Johnson: [voice rising] No. Oh, hell no, you didn’t say till March 1st. you told me you were going to do it. And then you ran off for three weeks and they couldn’t even locate you . . . And your people [African-Americans] are being damn well taken care of in it [the bill].


President Johnson: Hey, listen: if you can’t trust me on Appalachia, you damn sure can’t trust an amendment, or the Secretary of Commerce, or anybody else.

Powell: Mm-hmm. Yeah—

President Johnson: If there’s anything that’s going to happen in Appalachia that’s anti-Negro, I won’t let it happen. Period.


2/25 class:

LBJ and NY Democratic Party chairman Eddie Weisl, on the legacy of the 1964 campaign.

President Johnson: Eddie, you’ve got to do this, and you’re the only one that can do it. You’re the one that can get things done, like this Walter [Jenkins] report. The rest of them just talk about it.

We don’t have any propaganda machine, and we don’t have anybody that can get out our stuff.

Now, Ray Moley [of Newsweek] started this story that they were just voting against Goldwater, and they didn’t like either one of us, and that Johnson didn’t have any rapport [with the people], and he didn’t have any style, and he was a buffoon, and he was full of corn, and . . .


President Johnson: So the Bobby Kennedy group—they kind of put out this stuff, and the little Kennedy folks around, that nobody loves Johnson.

They’re going to have it built up by January that I didn’t get any mandate at all, that I was just the lesser of two evils, and people didn’t care, and so on.


President Johnson: Somebody’s got to try to get the Times to give us a little approach. Because the first thing they’re going to do is they’re going to try and make a Warren Harding out of us on account of [Bobby] Baker and Jenkins—

Eddie Weisl: Yeah.

President Johnson: Second thing they’re going to do is say there’s no mandate.

Third thing they’re going to do is try and have the Southern coalition—they’re already working at it—to combine with the Republicans and not let us get anything.

If we don’t show that—even Roosevelt in ’36 never captured the number of people, and never had ‘em jumping in the air, and yelling, and giving the loyalty that we did.

In Iowa, I beat five of the six [Republican] congressmen! I had twice the crowd Eisenhower ever had. Now, they wrote about Eisenhower for eight years, but they’ve never written one word about us.

They’ve got to say something about the auditorium at Austin, Texas being filled at 2:30 in the morning, just waiting to see me—the people that knew me best. That they voted for me six and eight-to-one in my home boxes, that [William] Miller was losing. And the love, and the affection they had for 30 years.

Now, all they write about is not love and affection. They write, “Well, the lesser of two evils. Corn pone. Southern.”


LBJ and the First Lady, discussing the response to the Jenkins affair.

Lady Bird Johnson: I will try to be discreet, but it is my strong feeling that a gesture of support to Walter [Jenkins] on our part is best.

President Johnson: I’d make all the gestures I could, but I don’t think that I would put myself in the position of defending what we say in the public in a situation like this, because we just can’t win it.

The average farmer just can’t understand you’re knowing it [Jenkins’ behavior] and approving it, or condoning it—any more than he can [Dean] Acheson not turning his back [on Alger Hiss].

[Break; the First Lady suggests offering Jenkins a job at KTBC.]

President Johnson: I don’t think the job is the important thing. I think we can—the finances is the minimum thing, honey.

Lady Bird Johnson: I think a gesture of support on some of our part is necessary to hold our own forces together.

President Johnson: [wearily] Well, talk to Abe [Fortas] and Clark [Clifford] about it, and . . .

Lady Bird Johnson: My poor darling, my heart breaks for you, too.

President Johnson: Well, I know it, honey, and—

Lady Bird Johnson: And I suppose I’ll let you go now. But if I get questioned, what I’m going to say is that I cannot believe this picture that’s put before me.

[BreakThe First Lady passes along a report that Jenkins’ wife, Marjorie, is blaming the President for her husband’s downfall.]

President Johnson: I’ve got to go; they’re holding the plane with the mayor [of New York City] and everybody on it.

Lady Bird Johnson: All right.

President Johnson: We’re an hour late now.

Lady Bird Johnson: My love, my love, I pray for you, along with Walter. Good-bye.

President Johnson: [ignoring her] And I think I would get Abe, right quick, and Clark, and have Abe go see her [Mrs. Jenkins] go see her if he could—or have her priest go talk to her.

Lady Bird Johnson: All right. You’re a brave, good guy; and if you read where I said some things in Walter’s support, they’ll be along the line that I’ve just said to you—this man, who I’ve known all these years, and then you heard the adjectives I used.


LBJ and NY Liberal Party leader Alex Rose discussing how to demonize Goldwater, by insinuation, as a racist.

President Johnson: I’ve got a job that’s really going to be effective. It’s going to be more so than the Nixon telecast was on his dog [the Checkers speech] back there, when he was with Eisenhower.

But I’ve got to have somebody that’s smart to handle it, and can get it started. And I just wonder if you can’t give a little thought to it.


President Johnson: Now, Humphrey is speaking all the time, and he charges him [Goldwater] with this and that. But they’re too damn scholarly, and it’s not getting us votes.

Alex Rose: No.

President Johnson: The thing that gets you votes is when they get scared about a man that’s going to be a Klansman, or . . . You see the Jewish thing, what’s happening to Bobby [Kennedy, in the New York Senate race].


President Johnson: Now, on this Birchite thing—

Rose: You shouldn’t let it go—

President Johnson: If we could get the AP and the UP and the New York Post, if we could get our lady friend [publisher Dorothy Schiff] there; or if we could get [James] Wexler; or if could get somebody over at the Times to just hound him [Goldwater] to death every day, “Is he resigning? Will he quit it? Will he denounce it? Is it not true that’s he’s on it? Did he intend it to be against Eisenhower? What kind of a secret thing? Has he ever had any connection with the Klan?”


LBJ and Bill Moyers discuss the “frontlash” appeal, and how to woo economically moderate voters.

President Johnson: [The speech should stress that] we have a right to wish what we want to, think what we want to, worship where we want to, sleep where we want to. Everything like . . . the basic fundamentals that—that Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Constitution thing, wrapped up in one paragraph.

Do you remember the paragraph I’m talking about?

Bill Moyers: Yes, sir. I sure do.

President Johnson: But I want it elaborated on a little bit—“A mind to be trained, a child’s mind to be trained. A church to pray in. A home to sleep in. A job to work in.”

Moyers: All right.

President Johnson: Let’s get education, religion, free speech, free press—“read what he pleases”—that will round him out as a well-balanced, tolerant, understanding individual.

Moyers: All right.

President Johnson: Instead of one of these kooks.

Moyers: OK.

President Johnson: [chuckling] Do you follow me there, now?

Moyers: Gotcha.

President Johnson: I want that one paragraph so that I can have all the Johnson philosophy.

He [Reuther] said, “Now, you’ve got to speak some on poverty. You’ve got to speak some on education. You’ve got to speak some on Medicare.” Somebody’s told him it’s going to be a high level speech. And he wants it a party hack speech.

I said, “Well, I’m going to refer to all of them.” I want it in one paragraph—my philosophy. So that when you quote what I had in thatSouthwest Quarterly [article]—“I’m a free man, an American, and a senator, in that order, and so forth.” Do you remember?

Moyers: Right.

President Johnson: I want something that you can quote like this the rest of our lives. You can put it up in the preface of your book. “I see a . . . I have a vision . . . dash . . . a vision of a land where a child can [pauses for nine seconds] have a home to live in.”

[quickly] And then repeat what I just said to you.

Moyers: OK.

President Johnson: “Can read what he wants to, and can wishwhat he wants to, and can dream what he wants to.” Put in the words, “I have a vision.” Let’s get a little bit of this holy-rolly populist stuff. [voice rising] “I have a vision of a land where every child [pauses] can have training to fit his abilities, a home to protect him from the elements, a church to kneel in.”

Throw at least two biblical quotations in, that are very simple, that every one of them have heard—these working [men], these auto mechanics.

Moyers: All right.

President Johnson: It’s what you Baptists just pour to them all the time.

Moyers: [chuckling] All right.

President Johnson: Make it simple; don’t give me one of these long ones.

Moyers: Right.

President Johnson: Just go back and get me one of the commandments. These Baptists preachers—don’t get on that adultery one. Get some of these, “Thou shalt not [pauses] lie on thy brother.” [Chuckles.]

Moyers: All right. OK.

President Johnson: OK.


LBJ and Texas governor John Connally discuss RFK’s bid to be named vice president.

President Johnson: Now, I have about come to the conclusion, that it is just as positive as we’re sitting here that he [Kennedy] is going to force a roll call on his name for this place or the other place [the vice presidency].

John Connally: Hmm.

President Johnson: I think probably the vice presidency, at the moment.

He will have some people in every delegation that have been friendly, or some way or the other, and he’ll be in touch with ‘em. And they’re going to have an emotional thing with this film [about President Kennedy], and Mrs. Kennedy, and all of them. Then he’s going to really make the pitch.


President Johnson: Most of ‘em think that he is determined that he wants this job, and he’ll do anything in the world he can to get it; and if by causing a fight, he thinks that he can probably make me throw the election. And he’d like to see me a defeated man like [Adlai] Stevenson.

Connally: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: That’s one reason he’s not unhappy about what’s happening in the South.


Connally: And I don’t think there’s any question but what he’ll try—he would be delighted to see you defeated. Ain’t no question about that in my mind.

He’s an arrogant, an egotistical, a selfish person that feels like he’s almost anointed. He is so power-mad that it’s unbelievable. And that’s the very reason you can’t take him on this ticket—because most people know it.


LBJ and National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy discuss Vietnam policy in light of Henry Cabot Lodge’s candidacy.

President Johnson: My judgment, Mac, is Lodge is coming back. He’ll probably be back in June.

McGeorge Bundy: Yeah, it looks that way to me—

President Johnson: He’s going to find some trouble; he’s going to fall out with us about something—

Bundy: He’s going to have differences with us, and it’s going to be on this area [escalating the U.S. military involvement], I’m sure. There’s no other.

President Johnson: And I’m not going to let him have any differences.

Bundy: Yeah.

President Johnson: So you just let—

Bundy: Well, then, we’ve got to get our plans; we’d better touch ‘em up a little, then—

President Johnson: All right.

Bundy: Because that’s what—we’ve got to be doing what he’s recommending.

President Johnson: You just better talk to Bill [Bundy] out there in Manila—

Bundy: Yeah. I will.

President Johnson: —and tell him that Johnson’s not going to have any differences with Lodge. He’s going to have to run and catch me before he does. [Bundy cackles.] I’m going to approve every damn thing he does.

Bundy: That’s it.

President Johnson: That’s my strategy.


LBJ and Texas governor John Connally survey the possible GOP presidential nominees, in Feb. 1964:

President Johnson: I don’t see that they [the Republicans] got anybody, though, that’s appealing to people much. Goldwater has gone crazy. He wanted to pour in the Marines [to Cuba] yesterday. He’s just nutty as a fruitcake.

John Connally: Yeah.

President Johnson: [New York governor Nelson] Rockefeller’s wife ain’t going to let him get off the ground.

Connally:  That’s right.

President Johnson: So I guess that Time magazine and the big ones that are really doing this job—I guess they’re going to have to go with [Pennsylvania governor William] Scranton. I don’t believe he’s appealing enough, or attractive enough, or . . . I don’t think they can make image of him enough. Get over all the—

Connally: No, I don’t either—

President Johnson: All he did was a 5 percent sales tax in Pennsylvania.

Connally: Mm. I don’t see that. I don’t know how they’re going to get off the ground. I think they’ll probably go back to Nixon. Nixon or Scranton. But I don’t think any one of them can do any good.


2/23 class:

Pres. Johnson and House minority leader Charlie Halleck debate the political effects of the civil rights bill.

President Johnson: You oughtn’t to hold up my poverty bill. That’s a good bill and there’s no reason why you ought to keep the majority from [considering] it. If you can beat it, go on and beat it. But you oughtn’t to hold it up. You ought to give me a fait shake and give me a chance to vote on it. I’ve got it in my budget. I’ve cut my budget a billion under last year—

Halleck: Wait a minute; let me talk to you just a minute. You want the civil rights bill through; you wanted the tax bill through. And I helped you do it. And god damn it, did I help you on civil rights?

President Johnson: Yeah, you sure did. You helped [President] Kennedy, you agreed with—

Halleck: Oh, for Christ’s sake, I helped Kennedy and I’ve helped you.

President Johnson: That’s right.

Halleck: Now wait just a minute, my friend . . .

President Johnson: And you helped yourself. Because y’all want civil rights as much as we do. I believe it’s a non-partisan bill. I don’t think it’s a Johnson bill.

Halleck: No, no, no. You’re going to get all the political advantage—

President Johnson: No, no—

Halleck: We aren’t going to get a goddamned thing—

President Johnson: No, no.

Halleck: Wait just a minute. Now, we got a lot of things in that bill, that I don’t know what the hell the Senate put in there. Maybe we ought to kind of take a little look at it.

President Johnson: Maybe you ought to, I’m not saying that you—

Halleck: Now, wait a minute, Mr. President. I’m just looking at it hard-boiled. And once in a while, I can get hard-boiled.

President Johnson: Well, you wouldn’t want to go to your convention without a civil rights bill, would you?

Halleck: You know as a matter of fact if you scratch me very deep, Mr. President . . .

President Johnson: I wouldn’t scratch you at all, because I want to pat you.

Halleck: Now, wait a minute. Wait just a minute. [Johnson chuckles.] If I had my way, I’d let you be fussing with that goddamned thing before your convention instead of ours. But I’m perfectly willing to give you the right to sign that thing on July 4.

Now, I think you’re taking advantage of an Independence Day thing that ain’t right, but that’s not for me to say.

President Johnson: I don’t know what you’re talking about.


Pres. Johnson and LA senator Allen Ellender discussing the need for a farm bill.

President Johnson: Now, you go on and get me some kind of a farm bill. I don’t want to know the detail—

Allen Ellender: I’m going to get you—

President Johnson: But you and [Agriculture Secretary] Orville Freeman get together; if you and Freeman can’t . . .

You see, this is an election year, and Democrats are up. If we don’t have a farm bill, they’re going to catch hell. Now, don’t—

Ellender: I’m going to get—

President Johnson: You and Freeman get—you and Freeman get together, and you-all agree on something, because he thinks you’re a good man—

Ellender: All right.

President Johnson: And you think he’s a good man—

Ellender: All right.

President Johnson: And damn it, you can agree. Both of you give a little bit—

Ellender: All right.

President Johnson: —and go on and get something!


Pres. Johnson and legislative liaison Larry O’Brien discuss the political effects of the farm bill.

President Johnson: And I think that we’ve just got to sit down with our Northerners and tell them, “Now, goddamnit, you’re going to have poverty [legislation], and you’ve had accelerated public works, and you’ve had slum clearance, and you’ve had urban renewal, and you’ve had these things that we helped you on, and we’ve have passed all the labor things you want—manpower retraining.” [For] the Negroes—we’ve spent a lot of time on civil rights, for your area/districts.

Now, for God’s sakes, let us get some votes in the South and Midwest, so we can have the control.

Larry O’Brien: Yeah.

President Johnson: Just let us control this Congress by getting some votes in the South and Midwest. Now, we don’t want to keep on electing Republican-Democrats from Florida, from Texas, and these other states, and we don’t want to elect all-Republican delegations from the Midwest.

Larry O’Brien: Yeah.


Pres. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. discuss the aftermath of the Birmingham church bombing.


Martin Luther King, Jr.:  Now, the real problem that we face is this: the Negro community is about to reach a breaking point. There is a great deal of frustration and despair and confusion in the Negro community, and there is this feeling of being alone and not protected.

If you walk the street, you aren’t safe. If you stay at home, you aren’t safe; there is the danger of a bomb. If you’re in church now, it isn’t safe. So that the Negro feels that everywhere he goes, if he remains stationary, he’s in danger of some physical violence.

Now, this presents a real problem for those of us who find ourselves in leadership positions. Because we are preaching, at every moment, the philosophy and the method of non-violence. And I think I can say, without fear of successful contradiction, that we have been consistent at standing up for nonviolence at every point, and even with Sunday’s [the church bombing] and Monday’s [allegations of police brutality against demonstrators] developments, we continue to be firm at this point.

But more and more, we are facing the problem of our people saying, “What’s the use?”


President Kennedy:  Now, it’s tough for the Negro community. On the other hand, what the Negro community is trying to do is a very important effort, which has implications all over the country. And I know that this bombing is particularly difficult.

But if you look at any—as you know—any of these struggles over a period across the world, it is a very dangerous effort. So everybody just has to keep their nerve. If the Negroes should begin to respond and shoot at whites, we lose.

I think [Alabama governor George] Wallace has lost. I heard a Southern senator with regards to civil rights say to me today, this is what I hear from him—that Wallace has made a bad mistake [in endorsing the brutal police response to the protests].

Now if you get . . . Wallace is in a bad position. And because you gentlemen and the community have conducted yourselves in the way you have, it’s with you. And of course when the police starts going for guns, they’ll shoot some innocent people, and they’ll be white, and then that will just wipe away all this support that’s built up.

There will be no—in the beginning, you can’t get anything. I can’t do very much. Congress can’t do very much unless we keep the support of the white community throughout the country—as a country. Once that goes, then we’re pretty much really down to a racial struggle, so that I think we’ve just got to tell the Negro community that this is a very hard price which they have to pay to get this job done.


Pres. Johnson and Indiana senator Vance Hartke discuss the 1964 tax bill.

President Johnson: Vance?

Vance Hartke: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: Can’t you help me on this excise tax thing? You’re going to wreck this damn bill. We’re not going to have any. They’re going to get together this afternoon and try to make a motion to keep all excise taxes in there, and we need your help.

Hartke: [searching for words] Well, I mean, I suppose that way started out—

President Johnson: I know it. And [New Mexico senator] Clint Anderson, though, they all got mad yesterday because you-all screwed up that oil vote. And they’re after the oil companies, and [Delaware senator John] Williams and everything else. Those big oil companies oughtn’t to be raising hell [for] 40 million. They got off with 400 million, and they ought to let you-all off the hook.

But now we’ve got it in a big screwed-up mess, and we—all of us are going down in defeat if we can’t operate any better than that. There’s no leadership in the committee.

So for God’s sake, get in there. Clint Anderson says he’ll change, and you change, and get two or three more and let’s . . .

Hartke: The one big thing in there, the one thing I wanted, was [to cut the tax on] musical instruments.

President Johnson: Oh, well—

Hartke: This is—

President Johnson: What’s important is the big credit to the Democratic Party, and let’s go on. The goddamned band and musical instruments—they won’t be talking about it next November.

Hartke: They will in Elkhart—

President Johnson: What they’re going to be judging us by is: they’re going to be judging us whether we passed the tax bill or not and whether we’ve got prosperity.


2/16 class:

President Kennedy and Air Force general Curtis LeMay, ExComm meeting discussing how to respond to Soviet missiles in Cuba, 19 Oct. 1962

Curtis LeMay: There’s one other factor that I didn’t mention that’s not quite in our field. But you invited us to comment on this at one time. And that is that we have had a talk about Cuba and the SAM [surface-to-air-missile] sites down there. And you have made some pretty strong statements about their being defensive, and that we would take action against offensive weapons.

I think that a blockade and political talk would be considered by a lot of our friends and neutrals as being a pretty weak response to this. And I’m sure a lot of our own citizens would feel that way, too.

In other words: you’re in a pretty bad fix at the present time.

President Kennedy: What did you say?

LeMay: You’re in a pretty bad fix.

President Kennedy: You’re in there with me. [Slight laughter.] Personally.


President Kennedy and California governor Pat Brown, 7 November 1962, discussing Brown’s defeat of Nixon in the 1962 CA gubernatorial race and Nixon’s infamous post-defeat press conference. The original of the tape frequently skips.

President Kennedy: . . . do it in 1960. Hell, I’d gotten them all in shape, so that . . . [Needle skips.] Huh?

Governor Pat Brown: Well, let me just tell you this—

President Kennedy: I’ll tell you this—you just reduced him to the nut house.

Brown: Listen: you gave me instructions and I follow your orders! [Unclear.]

President Kennedy: [chuckling] I understand. But God, that last farewell speech of his . . .

Brown: Wasn’t that terrible?

President Kennedy: Well, no, but it shows . . . [Needle skips.] What’s going to happen out there?

Brown: I don’t see how he can ever recover. [He lost] the leaders.

President Kennedy: Yeah.

Brown: [Former senator] Goodwin Knight walked out on him; [California conservative leader] Joe Shell told me he walked out on him.

This is a peculiar fellow. I really think he’s psychotic. He’s an able man, but he’s nuts.

President Kennedy: Yeah.

Brown: Like a lot of these paranoics. But . . .


President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., 19 Sept. 1963, in a meeting with other civil rights leaders, discussing the aftereffects of the Birmingham church bombing that killed four African-American children

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Now, the real problem that we face is this: the Negro community is about to reach a breaking point. There is a great deal of frustration and despair and confusion in the Negro community, and there is this feeling of being alone and not protected.

If you walk the street, you aren’t safe. If you stay at home, you aren’t safe; there is the danger of a bomb. If you’re in church now, it isn’t safe. So that the Negro feels that everywhere he goes, if he remains stationary, he’s in danger of some physical violence.

Now, this presents a real problem for those of us who find ourselves in leadership positions. Because we are preaching, at every moment, the philosophy and the method of non-violence. And I think I can say, without fear of successful contradiction, that we have been consistent at standing up for nonviolence at every point, and even with Sunday’s [the church bombing] and Monday’s [allegations of police brutality against demonstrators] developments, we continue to be firm at this point.

But more and more, we are facing the problem of our people saying, “What’s the use?”


President Kennedy: Now, it’s tough for the Negro community. On the other hand, what the Negro community is trying to do is a very important effort, which has implications all over the country. And I know that this bombing is particularly difficult.

But if you look at any—as you know—any of these struggles over a period across the world, it is a very dangerous effort. So everybody just has to keep their nerve. If the Negroes should begin to respond and shoot at whites, we lose.

I think [Alabama governor George] Wallace has lost. I heard a Southern senator with regards to civil rights say to me today, this is what I hear from him—that Wallace has made a bad mistake [in endorsing the brutal police response to the protests].

Now if you get . . . Wallace is in a bad position. And because you gentlemen and the community have conducted yourselves in the way you have, it’s with you. And of course when the police starts going for guns, they’ll shoot some innocent people, and they’ll be white, and then that will just wipe away all this support that’s built up.

There will be no—in the beginning, you can’t get anything. I can’t do very much. Congress can’t do very much unless we keep the support of the white community throughout the country—as a country. Once that goes, then we’re pretty much really down to a racial struggle, so that I think we’ve just got to tell the Negro community that this is a very hard price which they have to pay to get this job done.

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