During the course of this three minute phone call at 9:52 PM, the Rev. Billy Graham∇ congratulates President Nixon on his speech to the nation and alerts the President to an upcoming op-ed of his own to appear in the New York Times. Graham lays the blame for Vietnam at the feet of President John F. Kennedy and Kennedy's decision to support the November 1963 coup against South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem∇.
This exchange occurred later in the same conversation in which LBJ had read to Eisenhower the statement trying to defuse press reports of a difference of opinion on Vietnam between Johnson and Eisenhower. Sympathizing with Johnson's unfavorable position regarding the war in Vietnam, Eisenhower reassured Johnson that criticism was an inevitable part of foreign policy.
That morning's Washington Post carried a front page story of several members of Congress critical of the Johnson administration's campaign to bomb the North Vietnamese supply lines in Laos. Interviewed for the radio and television program "Issues and Answers" (ABC), the new House Minority Leader, Gerald Ford∇ (R-MI) (who had recently replaced Charles Halleck), criticized the way in which the administration informed Congress of the Laos expansion as coming in a "piecemeal" fashion. "Now that it has been disclosed piecemeal," Ford said, "I think that the Administration has a responsibility to open up, have some discussion about it, perhaps hold some hearings in the House or Senate in order that we are all better informed as to what our course, what our policies are."
Senator Wayne Morse, Democrat of Oregon, was also critical, accusing the administration of following a "foreign policy of concealment in Southeast Asia." Morse claimed that neither he nor other Americans "know what the Administration is doing in Asia, to what it has committed us, what its objectives are, and how much it is risking to achieve them."
["U.S. Bombing in Laos Stirs Debate," Washington Post, January 19, 1965, p.A1.]
On May 1, 1964, the Baltimore Sun had reported that President Johnson "dressed down" Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (the Democratic floor leader on the Senate civil rights bill) for suggesting that President Johnson might be willing to accept amendments to the version of the bill passed by the House. The Sun indicated that upon hearing of Humphrey's comments, Johnson called the senator and gave him "unshirted hell." Following the call from the President, Humphrey issued a clarification in which he stated that the President "is for the House bill." Later in the day, however, Humphrey turned to the Senate press gallery, smiled, and pulled on the tops of his ears. Reporters who saw the gesture interpreted it as an imitation of a beagle being lifted by the President, a reference to a controversial incident in which Johnson had picked up his dogs by their ears at a recent White House event as well as an indication that Johnson had disciplined the civil rights floor leader for his earlier comments.
In this conversation, Johnson and Humphrey discuss the source of the "unshirted hell" story. Two passages are particularly noteworthy. First, Johnson observed that in contrast to Humphrey, he had little credibility with civil rights activists as a result of his southern background. Second, Johnson attempted to convince Humphrey that he was primarily concerned with developing the senator's status and reputation, rather than demeaning him. The comments reflected not only the crucial North-South divide in the battle over the civil rights legislation, but also the President’s effort to control a senator who was already a leading candidate for the vice presidential nomination.
In this conversation snippet, President Johnson speaks with National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy about various foreign policy matters, including press comment on Cuba and Vietnam.
Just prior to a discussion of a possible troop withdrawal from Vietnam, Kennedy and his advisers discuss media coverage of the war in Southeast Asia. The group is particularly concerned about New York Times reporter David Halberstam and UPI∇ correspondent Neil Sheehan. According to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, the two were "allowing an idealistic philosophy to color all their writing."
Following the Battle of Ap Bac in early January 1963, in which South Vietnamese troops and U.S. military advisers came under heavy attack, Army Chief of Staff General Earle G. Wheeler led a fact-finding mission to Vietnam to assess the situation. Three days after he returned to the United States, Wheeler briefed the president on the state of the press and the U.S. advisory mission in Vietnam. In the process, he gave President Kennedy a series of recommendations for improving South Vietnam's military capabilities in its war against the Communist-dominated National Liberation Front, or Vietcong.
The unscripted remarks by Vice President Spiro Agnew∇ were a recurring problem for President Richard Nixon∇. Nixon was particularly unimpressed with Agnew's habit of mixing socially with the press corps, complaining: "I know the press like him. They love to say, 'He's a nice fellow, by God, he'll drink with us.' And I know I'm considered to be very stiff with these bastards. And I will continue to be. I don't believe in getting too close to them. Never let them get too close.
When Nixon sat down for this discussion with Donald Rumsfeld∇, then a counselor to the president, he complained of recently published comments in which Agnew had unfavorably compared African-American leader to authoritarian African leaders--Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, and Joseph Mobutu of Congo.
This clip became the subject of public debate at the time of Rumsfeld's confirmation hearing in January 2001 for the position of Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush.
* Please note that this clip contains offensive language.
On April 5, 2005, Peter Jennings, the longtime ABC news anchor, announced on-air that he was suffering from lung cancer. His death four months later produced an outpouring of admiration for the 67-year-old former Canadian. Although he had little formal education, Jennings was hired as the ABC early evening anchor on Christmas Eve in 1964 at the age of 26 and would begin broadcasting in February 1965. Ironically, at the time that the young Jennings was breaking into one of the most coveted spots in television news, Edward R. Murrow, one of the pioneers of the genre, was slowly dying from what President Lyndon B. Johnson called "cancer of the lung." Murrow had left CBS news in 1961 to become director of the United States Information Agency and had thrived in the high-profile position until he was diagnosed with cancer in 1963, with surgeons removing one of his diseased lungs in October 1963. By January 1964, his health had deteriorated so much that he resigned his USIA post.