We've compiled some new transcripts from the 1962 and 1966 mid-term elections.
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 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.
For Black History Month we have released some new transcripts of conversations between Dr. Martin Luther King and President Johnson from 1965.
On December 1, 2009, President Obama addressed the nation on the issue of troop levels for the war in Afghanistan, announcing that he was sending around 30,000 more troops Afghanistan, a move that amounts to a significant escalation of the U.S. military presence in the region.
Sending troops into harm's way is arguably the most difficult decision a president confronts. The White House tapes of presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon capture remarkably intimate and candid behind-the-scenes views of presidents agonizing over this decision in another war fought in distant lands for complex geo-political reasons.
"[G]oing to the moon is the top-priority project. . . . I do think we ought to get it, you know, really clear, that the policy ought to be that this is the top-priority program of the agency and one of the two—except for defense—the top priority of the United States Government."
"[W]e’ve spent half the expenditures, we’ve wrecked our budget on all these other domestic programs, and the only justification for it, in my opinion, to do it in the pell-mell fashion is because we hope to beat them [the Soviets] and demonstrate that starting behind it [them], as we did by a couple of years, by God, we passed them. I think it would be a helluva thing for us."
John F. Kennedy, November 21, 1962
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.
While discussing a new set of instructions for Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge∇ to help manage a deteriorating situation in South Vietnam, President Kennedy continues to ruminate on the public relations dimension of an American troop withdrawal. As he does in the meetings of October 2, Kennedy considers the prospects for troop reduction against the backdrop of the war effort.
Following a morning briefing by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor on their trip to Vietnam, the National Security Council meets to review their recommendations and to draft a statement on their report for public consumption. As in the earlier meeting, President Kennedy questions the wisdom of committing his administration publicly to an American troop withdrawal.
Having returned to Washington earlier that morning from their fact-finding mission to South Vietnam, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor brief President Kennedy on the status of the U.S. military advisory effort. On the table is a recommendation to begin the process of withdrawing American troops from Vietnam, some of which are to leave by the end of the year, with the bulk of U.S. forces to return home by the end of 1965.
Over the course of several meetings, from October 2 through October 5, 1963, President Kennedy and his advisers debated the merits of a plan to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from Vietnam by the end of 1965. Segments from two of those meetings, from the morning and evening of October 2, reveal Kennedy's concerns about that plan and the language with which it was to be explained to the American public.
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."
On September 15, 1963, four black girls were killed in a bombing at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church. Four days later, President Kennedy met with civil rights leaders at the White House. This tape segment begins with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. describing the situation confronting Birmingham's black residents and urging federal action to remedy their plight.
We have posted a collection of transcripts of conversations involving and directly related to the long Senate career of Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy. Drawing from the JFK, LBJ, and Nixon tapes, it includes calls between the newly elected Senator and his older brother, President John F. Kennedy; calls with President Johnson during the 1964 election campaign while bedridden recovering from a broken back suffered during a plane crash; and President Nixon's efforts to spy on Kennedy in the leadup to the 1972 election.
In this telephone call, the only two men to have ever beaten Richard Nixon∇ in elections compared notes. The call took place the day after the November 6, 1962, mid-term elections.
Pat Brown, a Democrat, had won re-election as Governor of California, beating Republican challenger and former Vice President, Richard M. Nixon. In publicly conceding on the morning of November 7, Nixon had blamed the press for his defeat, famously declaring to gathered reporters that "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." Political commentators regarded Nixon's political career over.
Note: The audio quality of this recording is poor. Frequent skipping of the Dictabelt needle has resulted in frequent repetition and difficulty in rendering a coherent transcript.
Following the "March on Washington" and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech earlier in the day, President Kennedy met with civil rights leaders at the White House. The topics under discussion were the event itself. the details of civil rights legislation then moving through Congress, and strategies for empowering black Americans. The NAACP's Roy Wilkens begins this segment, offering reasons for the march's success.