Johnson Tapes

Lyndon B. Johnson Tapes

LBJ and Gerald Ford

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford                  
Introduction:

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.]

Congratulations . . . and a Request

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford                  
Introduction:

President Johnson places a congratulatory phone call to Rep. Gerald Ford (R-MI), who had defeated Rep. Charles Halleck (R-IN) two weeks earlier for the position of House minority leader. In this snippet, Johnson solicits Ford's involvement in discussions about Vietnam, largely as a way to establish Republican support for Johnson's position. Ford, in turn, offers general support for Johnson's approach and the prospect of a collegial working relationship.

President Johnson Compares the War on Poverty to the Abolition of Slavery

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Joseph S. Clark                  
Introduction:

In this brief excerpt from a call the day after his victory in the 1964 presidential election, Lyndon Johnson outlines his agenda to Pennsylvania Senator Joseph S. Clark. In a moment of particularly sweeping ambition, the president compares his poverty program to the abolition of slavery.

We Won!

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey                  
Introduction:

In this call on election evening, Johnson talks with his running mate, Hubert Humphrey. By the time of this call, it was becoming clear that the Johnson-Humphrey ticket was going to win the election handily. Johnson tells Humphrey of the physical toll the campaign had taken on him. In a previous call with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Johnson described himself as "punch drunk."

Having campaigned late into the evening in Houston and Austin, Johnson had returned to his ranch near Johnson City. Early on election day he had cast his vote at the local court house and had then returned to the ranch to recuperate before his scheduled departure for the Driskill Hotel in nearby Austin later that evening to await the election returns.

My Head Hurts

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, McGeorge Bundy                  
Introduction:

In this call on election evening, Johnson gets an update from Washington on the situation in Vietnam from his national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy. In the process, Johnson tells Bundy of the physical toll the campaign had taken on him. In a subsequent call with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Johnson described himself as "punch drunk."

Having campaigned late into the evening in Houston and Austin, Johnson had returned to his ranch near Johnson City. Early on election day he had cast his vote at the local court house and had then returned to the ranch to recuperate before his scheduled departure for the Driskill Hotel in nearby Austin later that evening to await the election returns.

"I Thought We Were Going to Have CCC Camps"

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Bill Moyers                  
Introduction:

On August 7, 1964, one day before the final House vote on the Economic Opportunity Bill, Lyndon Johnson expressed his underlying discomfort with the anti-poverty legislation as written by his aides and with the form of the War on Poverty that would result. Speaking with Special Assistant Bill Moyers, Johnson contrasted his own initial conception of the anti-poverty program as an extension of New Deal work programs such as the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) and National Youth Administration (NYA) with its final character as an experiment in federally-sponsored social change. Johnson began the exchange by telling Moyers that "I'm going to re-write your poverty program."

"Good Lord"

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, James Rowe                  
Introduction:

While keeping tabs on an impending congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Southeast Asia, President Johnson also had to manage the flow of information about the events precipitating the resolution itself. In this conversation, Johnson asks long-time Democratic hand James Rowe to counsel Minnesota senator Hubert H. Humphrey--Johnson's pending running-mate in the upcoming November election--about Humphrey's recent verbal indiscretions.

LBJ and Porter Hardy on the Community Action Program

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Porter Hardy                  
Introduction:

In this conversation, President Johnson offered assured Virginia Congressman Porter Hardy (D) that the governors’ veto amendment to the Economic Opportunity Act would prevent the community action program from circumventing local governmental authority. For supporters of the community action principle, such circumvention had been the point of the program.

"As Far As We Can Tell"

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, General David Burchinal                  
Introduction:

As real-time information flowed in to the Pentagon from the Maddox and the Turner Joy, the story became more and more confused. Admiral U.S. Grant "Oley" Sharp, commander of the Pacific Fleet, fed reports to Washington as soon as he received them. In this phone call, Sharp briefed Air Force General David Burchinal, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the latest information. This telephone call was recorded at the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon.

Preparing a Response

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara                  
Introduction:

Roughly two days after a North Vietnamese attack on the U.S.S. Maddox off the Gulf of Tonkin, President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara consider their options for responding to a second such attack.

"These Covert Operations"

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara                  
Introduction:

Following an attack on the U.S.S. Maddox in the Tonkin Gulf, President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara strategize on how best to inform Congress of the circumstances surrounding the attack.

The War on Poverty and Racial Tension in the Urban North

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Francis "Frank" Smith                  
Introduction:

This conversation excerpt demonstrates how President Johnson viewed the War on Poverty as a direct solution to the problems and tensions that had begun to produce rebellions in inner cities across the urban north. After Philadelphia Democratic City Committee Chairman Francis "Frank" Smith recounts the story of a fatal police shooting of an unarmed African American teenager in the city, the President responds by urging Smith to lobby Republicans to support the War on Poverty legislation that would soon be voted on in the House of Representatives.

Note: the clip and transcript include two separate excerpts from the conversation.

LBJ Sells the War on Poverty

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, George Mahon                  
Introduction:

Throughout the period leading up to the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act, Lyndon Johnson frequently spoke of the War on Poverty in terms of improving the work habits of the poor and providing them with job and training opportunities. Conservatives were frequent targets of these appeals. This excerpt of a Johnson conversation with Texas Congressman George Mahon offers an example of such an effort to present the War on Poverty in terms of traditional goals and values.

Mayor Daley and the War on Poverty

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Richard Daley                   
Introduction:

In this conversation excerpt, President Johnson informs Mayor Daley that Chicago will be among the first cities to receive War on Poverty funds. The President's comments demonstrate his focus on the Job Corps as the core of the War on Poverty. In addition, it reflects an assumption by both men that the program will be controlled at the local level by the mayor's office. In practice, a provision in Title II of the Economic Opportunity Act that called for the "maximum feasible participation" of the poor in the War on Poverty's Community Action programs would lead activists to challenge such understandings in cities around the U.S.

LBJ and Sen. Richard Russell on Vietnam

Transcript+Audio Clip
Date: 
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Richard Russell                  
Introduction:

Though Johnson awoke on May 27 to the news that Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had died of a heart attack, the bulk of his day would be dominated by the problems of Southeast Asia.
Just prior to 11 a.m., the President placed a call to his friend, mentor, and sometime antagonist, Senator Richard Russell of Georgia. In this conversation, Johnson reveals his deeply conflicted thinking on Vietnam, a profound sense of anxiety absent from his public remarks on the subject. The exchange offers an intimate and revealing portrait of Johnson weighing perhaps the most difficult decision he ever had to make.

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