Thursday, July 2, 1964 - 11:55am - 12:04pm
Lyndon Johnson, Clinton Anderson

Protectionist legislation had originated in the Senate and been substituted into an old House bill on the importation of wildlife. The proposed legislation would restrict by about one third imports of beef, veal, mutton, and lamb so as to protect American producers. The administration opposed the proposed measure on the grounds that it would unduly harm relations with several key allies and would undermine efforts to coax concessions from the Common Market on similar issues then being negotiated. Consumer groups argued that it would increase meat prices. On 18 August 1964 the House and Senate both passed a compromise bill that diluted somewhat the original proposal. The State Department backed the compromise bill but was criticized for interfering with the debate.1

The operator connects the call.

President Johnson: Hello? Hello?

Clinton Anderson: Hello.

President Johnson: Yes?

Anderson: I think the finance committee did something foolish yesterday, Mr. President. They reported out that Curtis Amendment to the meat bill. Now, Mike Mansfield had an amendment, which was endorsed by 26 other people, most of them Democrats. It included support from Gale McGee and Moss and those boys that are in trouble out there in the West. But instead of that, Curtis offered his amendment and all the Democrats except Paul Douglas and me voted for it. Mike's amendment should've carried. The Curtis amendment should've never carried. I wanted to know if you object if I go ahead and raise a little hell about this, and suggest they hold up until they find out what the wishes of the administration might be between the two amendments. Curtis' move is purely political, I think, Mr. President. He hopes you'd veto it; then he can go to these Western states and say, "Johnson's against the cattleman." With the other amendment, you at least might have a chance to sign it; I think you could sign it. I know the [State] Department's opposed to it, but I mean you could sign that one. I don't think it'd hurt too much. And that would help Moss. It would help McGee, and, I think, help you. And I've talked to Mike this morning and he's a little sensitive about bringing up his own amendment again, but he said he would do it if he thought there was some hope of getting help on it.

President Johnson: Clint, I don't know the difference between the two and I would be guided a good deal by your judgement on the matter. I know you know it. I'm--asked him to call you yesterday or last night about Albert Mitchell, and I think the boy got sick and didn't get a chance to, but I'm going to name a couple of Republicans to this study group on prices, this investigaion we're making of producer- food chain store relationships. And I can't really name somebody from the chain store--from the...from the cattle industry, but he's retired and his boy's running it they tell me.

Anderson: Yeah.

President Johnson: And the Secretary of Agriculture will take him and--

Anderson: He's the . . . he's the Republican National Committee man, but he's your friend?

President Johnson: Well, what I want is a Republican--

Anderson: Yeah.

President Johnson: --that won't be . . . that'll try to help us find the real truth.

Anderson: He would.

President Johnson: And . . . so, that's what I'm going to do. Now, back to this amendment. I'm real interested in cattle and I've had the best people in our state in here; we [Texas] produce more than any state in the union. I've called in the Prime Minister of Australia and the Agriculture Minister of New Zealand. I've talked to the Ambassador from Ireland. And we realize that imports, this year and last year, were excessive. They're not the real problem, but their people believe they are so [unclear comment by Anderson], if they believe you are, why that's just as bad as being almost.

Anderson: [Unclear.]

President Johnson: [with Anderson acknowledging] But what--we jumped our supply from 92 million to 106 and until we eat up, why we just got that problem. But we got Australia. We took this amendment, told them that Mansfield was shoving it and it was very dangerous and very difficult for the President to, on all these cattle states. And we ship 24 billion dollars worth of stuff out of here every year, and we only bring in 18 billion. So, we can't raise too much hell about the people sending stuff in when we send it out ourselves and we got a 6 billion balance. So, we got them to agree voluntarily, Ireland and New Zealand and Australia, the principal importing groups, to reduce their imports [sic: exports]--Australia reduces hers 38 percent, New Zealand 23 percent--to where, by the end of this year, just what they're cutting back now from June until January, that we will import less this year than the five year average, which is what Mansfield's amendment covered. We would achieve the same result as Mansfield without being on record, right at the time when we're demanding to send agriculture products into Europe, of saying we won't accept them in our own country. And it just screws us up on our trade policies and our trade bill and anything else. So, we got them to voluntarily agree to it. Now--

Anderson: And it has worked?

President Johnson: [with Anderson acknowledging] And it's worked, and it's working now. And the price is up, and we're back, we're ahead yesterday. We got more for cattle than we did a year ago. So we moved it back, and it's going to get better all time. And furthermore, we are just getting ready to put on the damnedest exporting campaign you ever saw. Our first ship has already landed, and they're eating their meat like nobody's business. And we're going to--England and France, Germany are all short of beef--

Approximately 8 seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration as classified material.

So we're going to turn it around and instead of us importing here, we're going to export the hell out of it. And Australia and New Zealand are already diverting their shippers to the English market because it's--they get more for it there then they do here. And they could afford to voluntarily agree to it. Now, if we come along, and by legislation say, "we're going to cut out this," then they come along with legislation that says, "well, we'll cut off that much from America," and it just starts a damn gang war that we can achieve--we can get the same results without it. So that's what I hope. Now, they tell me Carl Albert, he's a big cattle man, got a cattle district down there on the Texas-Oklahoma border. He told me last night, said, "Now, I've held this thing up. I've done everything I can. They're trying to get an opponent for me. But I just see that it's suicidal for the United States to start legislating. We can't sell anything." He said, "hell, we won't be shipping it--they won't--people won't be buying a [unclear] or anything else." And he said, "what you've done is put that on as the amendment and I can't hold it over here. It's an amendment to a House bill."

Anderson: That's right.

President Johnson: And said, "Anyone could apply for a rule and Republicans will give them a rule. And when it votes, it'll be passed." And--

Anderson: That's why it shouldn't pass [unclear].

President Johnson: He said, "It's just as dangerous as it can be, and I wish you'd get a hold of him in the morning." So I thought I'd call him this morning to see what I could do about it, but I don't know--

Anderson: Well, he ought to hold it up in any event, shouldn't he?

President Johnson: I'd hold it up as long as I could, Clint.

Anderson: You authorize me to tell Mike [unclear] a while?

President Johnson: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Tell him that I just think it would be disastrous. Tell him you called me. Don't let him think I'm going around him.

Anderson: No, I did call you.

President Johnson: Tell him you called me and I said that we're achieving the same results. We can prove to him that we are. I'll send the Secretary of State and Secretary of Agriculture to show him, if they have any doubt about it. But if this hits the House, it'll just be a Republican move and they'll win the votes and it'll Gale McGee and hurt all of us.

Anderson: It'll hurt him bad, too.

President Johnson: And it'll hurt me, as a cow man, having to veto it.

Anderson: That's right.

President Johnson: And--

Anderson: All right, I'll tell him.

President Johnson: [Sam] Rayburn, one time, he didn't want--he wanted to vote for Taft-Hartley bill, but when [Harry] Truman told him he's going to veto it or [Franklin D.] Roosevelt, whoever it was, he said, as majority leader, he couldn't afford to be cross ways with his President. Now, that'd embarrass the hell out of me to veto something if my majority leader's for it, you see?

Anderson: Yeah. Well, I--

President Johnson: But I don't know what I'd do with the rest of the world.

Anderson: You'd have to veto the Curtis bill, Mr. President. You just couldn't do otherwise. It's got pressed meats and everything else in it that the Mansfield amendment didn't have. It has no growth factor. It cuts it below what you could expect otherwise. The way you worked it out now, the [unclear: Argentine and Brazilians] wouldn't be too much offended by the Mansfield amendment. They wouldn't like it, but--

President Johnson: They say it would break our agreement. They entered into an agreement.

Anderson: Oh, I think it would. I'll stand at the gun and fire this stuff as long as I can to stop it.

President Johnson: All right.

Anderson: But Paul [Douglas] and I cast the only two votes against it.

President Johnson: Well, get up there and just raise hell and tell them you're going to filibuster; you ain't going to let it pass.

Anderson: All right.

President Johnson: OK. Bye.


  • 1. "Meat Import Bill Sent to Johnson, " New York Times, 19 August 196; "Meat Bill Set for Conference," New York Times, 6 August 1964; "Action by Congress on Beef-Import Problem This Session Is Growing Increasingly Likely," 6 August 1964; "Canada-US Rift on Trade Looms," New York Times, 10 August 1964; "Compromise on Meat Imports Will Be Attempted by Conferees," 12 August 1964.

Original tape courtesy of LBJ Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.