General Foreign Policy

Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara Dies

Robert McNamara

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Strange McNamara passed away on July 6, 2009. He was one of the most frequently recorded participants in the Kennedy and Johnson tapes. Of particular note are discussions recorded during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam War. Below is a small sampling of the hundreds of recorded conversations that involved or discussed McNamara.

LBJ Reviews US Foreign Policy

Transcript+Audio Clip
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Walker Stone                  

A coup in South Vietnam two days earlier encouraged criticism of Johnson's foreign policy. Irritated by reports in the press that he had not spent enough time on foreign affairs, Johnson gave a long defense of his action to Scripps Howard editor in chief and old acquaintance Walker Stone. The President provided a spirited summary of the situations in Panama, Cyprus, Indonesia, and Vietnam. He also spoke intensely about his relations with the State Department and the press. Johnson emphasized his toughness and tried to rebut the idea that he was neglecting foreign policy, and he explained some of the rationale for his emphasis on frugality in the federal budget. "I don't claim to be a great liberal," he demurred, "but I do claim that you can do a little something for people if you stop enough of this goddamned military waste and other waste." In response, Stone agreed to "set up a backfire" in the press "anytime" Johnson needed it.

This was the third recorded call of the month between Johnson and Stone, with each of them following a similar pattern: Johnson unleashing a torrent of words to defend his actions and to promote his own vision of his presidency. The earlier calls, on January 6 and January 10, had covered Johnson's thinking about the budget, the Panama crisis, and press relations. In the segment below, the President summarized the dilemmas of sending peace-keeping troops to Cyprus, of reacting strongly to the shooting down of a U.S. jet in East German airspace, and in taking a tough stand in Vietnam.

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