The extent of the Kennedy administration's advance knowledge or even participation in the November 1, 1963, coup in South Vietnam and assassination of president Ngo Dinh Diem∇ has been a hotly debated political and historical issue for many years. In this conversation, Presidnet Johnson offers his own interpretation of events to Senator Eugene McCarthy
In the days prior to this telephone call, McCarthy had been widely quoted in the press for his criticism of the recent resumption of bombing. In this call, Johnson tried to convince McCarthy to tone down his criticism and had offered a special briefing from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor, reason that, "I thought that if you had the information I had, that you might be assuaged somewhat, and relieved somewhat, and at least, maybe you could suggest a better alternative or something else."
McCone, former Director of Central Intelligence, had been asked to chair a commission investigating the civil disorders in Los Angeles in August 1965.
King had called Johnson to discuss the voting rights bill. In the discussion, the President emphasized the importance of gaining Republican support, and then offered his assessment of the Grand Old Party's prospects for the future.
Earlier in the day, a car driven by the three missing civil rights workers--Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner--was found burned. Shortly before this phone call, President Johnson had received word that previous reports about the workers being inside of it were wrong. Here, he called Michael's Schwerner's mother to let her know. Three hours before the call, at 5:39 P.M., the President had met with Schwerner's father and Andrew Goodman's parents.
In mid-July, 1965, Associate Justice Arthur Goldberg∇ stepped down from the Supreme Court to take over as UN∇ Ambassador. President Johnson wanted Abe Fortas, his longtime attorney and confidant, to be the replacement. Fortas demurred, but Johnson was not deterred. While he considered several other candidates, including a number of Republicans, Johnson did not stop pressuring Fortas and eventually got his man.
President Johnson, like Kennedy before him, demonstrated impressive political savvy by including Eisenhower’s advice in determining policy. Johnson forged a strong bi-partisan relationship with his predecessor, appealing to Eisenhower both as a friend and a sage. Receptive to the Republican General’s counsel on foreign policy, Johnson often communicated with Eisenhower in person at the White House or over the telephone. While the two Presidents differed in war strategy, Johnson still sought Eisenhower’s opinions and benefited from the General’s reservoir of experience and wisdom. And with the Vietnam War becoming more and more difficult, Johnson could use all the good advice he could get.
On August 20, 1965, Jonathan Daniels and several other civil rights activists wanted to buy a coke after getting out of jail. A few minutes later, the 26-year-old Episcopal seminary student lay dead in Alabama, having stepped in front of a shotgun blast intended for a fellow activist, Ruby Sales.
LBJ and Robert Kennedy∇ discuss school integration in Alabama.
President Johnson and his national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, discuss the problems in South Vietnam.
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.
In this discussion with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara∇, President Johnson seemed to backtrack from both his public and private statements on Vietnam and to reconsider the wisdom of escalation. In the process, he displayed a level of assertiveness on an issue where heretofore he had deferred to his advisers or avoided discussing the broad outlines of policy. The major issue here was Johnson's criticism of the announced withdrawal of 1,000 troops from South Vietnam, a move that many commentators cite as evidence that President Kennedy would not have escalated the war in Southeast Asia.
On the evening of September 9, 1965, Hurricane Betsy came ashore near Grand Isle, Louisiana, as a Category 4 storm, with the National Weather Service reporting wind gusts near 160 mph. As the storm tracked inland, the city of New Orleans was hit with 110 mph winds, a storm surge around 10 feet, and heavy rain. Betsy devastated low-lying areas on the eastern side of the city and eventually led to the expansion of an already impressive levee system to protect a city that lay mostly below sea-level. After the storm passed, Louisiana Senator Russell Long, the son of the legendary Senator and Governor Huey Long, called President Johnson to get the President to tour the devastated areas. In Long’s unique style, he let the LBJ know that the Betsy had severely damaged his own home and had nearly killed his family.