In 1942, during the early stages of U.S. involvement in World War II, the United States signed the Bracero Agreement with Mexico, granting Mexican farm workers the opportunity to work on U.S. farms. In 1951, the program fell under the framework of Public Law 78. Over the course of the program, perhaps 5 million Latino workers became part of the U.S. agricultural system. In California in 1963, 63,000 workers had been employed through the program. In late 1963, the program's renewal was the subject of controversy, and Congress agreed only to a one-year extension, expecting the program to end on December 31, 1964. One of the opponents of extension was James Farmer, who worried that it took jobs away from black workers. Farmer had registered his discontent two months earlier, but had restated his opinion a few days before Johnson's visit with Mexican president Adolfo Lupez Mateos. Farmer urged that discontinuing the Bracero arrangement was "in the interest of native farm laborers (many of them Negro) for whom poverty is a daily reality." During that visit, California officials announced that they were stopping their efforts to extend the arrangement.
The newspaper baron John Knight was a regular target of Johnson's lobbying efforts, which paid their reward in the fall, when all Knight Ridder papers endorsed Johnson's reelection.
Foreign policy dominated this call after Knight mentioned a column he had written about the situation in Panama, as the Panamanians had made impassioned charges that the United States had engaged in aggression in January and called for the Organization of American States (OAS∇) to investigate under the authority of the Rio Treaty. The two men then turned, at Johnson's request, to an even more challenging situation: Vietnam. Johnson offered Knight his assessment of his current options, none of which was good. This clip picks up at the beginning of the Vietnam discussion
Johnson had spent much of the day on the phone with Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corps Director. Despite Shriver's clear resistance, Johnson named him the director of the War on Poverty effort earlier today. In tone and substance, this final call of the day differed remarkably from the three earlier discussions. After having dispensed with the question of whether Shriver would accept the position as the new coordinator of a domestic War on Poverty, Johnson delved into several policy areas and even touched on the issue of Shriver being a potential running mate for the fall. Expectedly, they explored the poverty issue, but the President also reached out to him on matters involving Panama, Latin America, and Vietnam, implying at one point that Americans had been involved in the assassination of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem∇.
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.
Six hours earlier, Johnson had met with Minnesota senator Hubert Humphrey, a man widely perceived as a front-runner for the vice-presidential nomination who had emerged as the administration's most effective defender in the upper chamber. After that early afternoon meeting, Humphrey, the Senate majority whip, gave a rousing pro-Democratic statement to the press. Now, pleased with Humphrey's response to GOP attacks on the administration, Johnson phoned him, encouraging him to continue his rhetoric and told him to "every day . . . to say, 'The Democratic Party is the one party left for America, because the other fellows don't stand for anything.'"
This segment picks up two-and-a-half minutes into the call.
Late in the evening, the President recorded a lengthy call of over 22 minutes with his confidants on the Bobby Baker scandal, in which an insurance salesmen had testified that he had given Johnson a kickback-a hi-fi stereo set-in exchange for Johnson purchasing a life insurance policy from him. The full conversation offers a sense of Johnson's relationship with his closest advisers, some of the ways he arrived at decisions, and his administration's complicated relationship with the press. In this edited snippet, Johnson worried that making public statements on the matter was a mistake, a sentiment echoed by Ted Sorensen. A few days earlier, Johnson had made a statement in a press conference, then left. Several reporters claimed he fled the room to avoid further questions. In the following clip, Johnson explained that Sorensen thought they were "the biggest damned fools he's ever dealt with" and that Sorensen "told me tonight he just thought I was a big, fat, cigar-puffing, potbellied numskull by following the advice to get out here in front of the press."
One of President Johnson's priorities in filling vacancies in the federal government was to appoint more women and minorities, which he had championed as chairman of the President's Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity while vice president. In early January 1964, he had appointed two black judges to the federal bench. Here, he spoke with one of his closest black advisers--the civil rights leader and NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins about the feasibility of moving Carl Rowan from his ambassadorship in Finland to head up the United States Information Agency in Washington. This snippet displays some of Johnson's thinking about affirmative action. The specific issue is whether leaders of African nations would oppose the appointment of a black U.S. ambassador in their countries.
President Johnson and Richard Russell lament the adversarial attitude of the Panamanian public against the United States.
Following the trend of several calls in early January, Johnson addressed the theme of African American progress with Whitney Young, the head of the National Urban League and one of the major civil rights leaders upon whom Johnson relied. In this instance, Johnson was deliberating about making a recess appointment of two Black Americans to the federal bench, Virginia civil rights attorney Spottswood Robinson to the U.S. District Court for Washington, D. C., and Philadelphia lawyer Leon Higginbotham to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. One of the concerns that Johnson explained to Young was that President Kennedy would get credit in the Black community for these appointments-instead of Johnson-because "somebody recommended him that was with Kennedy." Young assured him that such a thing "won't happen." Later in the day, Johnson made the appointments.
In this call to Walker Stone, editor in chief of Scripps-Howard newspapers, Johnson was still bubbling over positive coverage of German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard's visit to the LBJ ranch in December and was inspired by a letter received from J. Frank Dobie, a renowned Texas folklorist, University of Texas faculty member, and guest at the ranch during the visit of Chancellor Erhard. According to his secretaries, President Johnson would carry Dobie's letter "around in his pocket" for another week. Dobie's letter praised Johnson's "start" as one that combined "nobility with effectiveness" and recommended that Johnson seek the counsel of Walker Stone because "no other newspaper man I know knows as much and thinks as soundly." Here, Johnson asked Stone to spread another glowing report.
After exploring that issue, Stone asked Johnson to take things more slowly and not take health risks, to which the President complained about having his personal life restricted by the presidency. Then Johnson took the opportunity to prepare his old acquaintance for the upcoming State of the Union address. In a pithy section, Johnson defended his proposed poverty plans to this Oklahoma native by emphasizing that the programs would encourage work and improve productivity among poor African Americans, Mexicans, and Appalachians. After this call, Johnson followed up his concerns about Black Americans by taking a call from Whitney Young of the National Urban League.
The segment below is divided into two parts. The first covers the talk about Johnson's work pace. The second explores the state of the union address and the War on Poverty.
In mid-evening on New Year's Day, President Johnson's attention turned to one of his most valued advisers in the Senate and arguably the most influential southerner in Washington, D.C., save for Johnson himself. While visiting with several Texas friends, Johnson called up Georgia senator Richard Russell, a man considered by the President as his mentor and by the President's children as "Uncle Dick." The group revisited old times, discussed the whipping that the University of Texas's national champion football team had put on Roger Staubach and the Navy Midshipmen in the Cotton Bowl, and engaged in the rituals of ribbing and bragging associated with serious deer hunting. In between those moments, Johnson explored policy toward West Germany, wheat sales to the Soviet Union, aid to Indonesia, and the defense industry in Georgia.
The call lasts for over ten minutes. For this transcript and audio clip, there are three segments from that call, each offering a sampling of discussions between the President, Lady Bird, Senator Russell, and A.W. "Judge" Moursund about drinking, football, family, and deer hunting.
In this brief conversation excerpt, recorded a month after President Kennedy's assassination, President Johnson laid out some of his policy priorities. Johnson told Walter Reuther, the president of United Auto Workers, that that he planned to cut excess production in the nation's atomic bomb program and shift the money that would be saved to "human needs." The resulting social programs would soon become Johnson's War on Poverty. In this very early conception, the resulting anti-poverty program would be primarily about jobs and education.
Walter Heller, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers whom Johnson had inherited from President Kennedy, was in the middle of an extended public relations effort that encompassed televised interviews and frequent meetings with print journalists who covered the nation's economic policies. Designed to tout the new administration's progressive but frugal fiscal policy, Heller's effort-along with accompanying face-to-face diplomacy undertaken by the President-were also expected to help Johnson pass the pending tax cut legislation, then bottled up in Harry Byrd's senate Finance Committee. Preparing to meet at the LBJ ranch after Christmas to begin laying out plans for what would become the War on Poverty, Heller and Johnson also discuss that proposal.
LBJ was famous for his powers of persuasion, dispensing them with what became known as "the Johnson Treatment." He used his imposing physical size and intimidating personality to emphasize his point. In this call, LBJ is in full "Johnson Treatment" mode with Representative Albert Thomas (Democrat, Texas) on the receiving end.
In this call, with characteristic bluntness, President Johnson berates Representative Albert Thomas (Democrat, Texas) over a clause forcing the President to publicly report to Congress on wheat sales to the Soviet Union and argues that it would resonate poorly with the American public.
NB: This clips contains language that may not be suitable for children.
Having just launched an "economy drive," undertaken partly to redirect spending and to trim wasteful spending-particularly in the Department of Defense-and partly to convince senate conservatives to drop their opposition to the administration's pending tax cut proposal-introduced by President Kennedy in 1962-President Johnson underscores for Council of Economic Advisers chairman Walter Heller the philosophy behind his approach to that year's fiscal policy.