Saturday, August 15, 1964 - 12:45pm - 12:50pm
Lyndon Johnson, Dean Rusk

President Johnson was meeting with George Reedy and Horace Busby at the time of this call. President Johnson was on speakerphone.

Operators connect the call. 

Dean Rusk: Hello?

President Johnson: Mr. Secretary?

Rusk: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: How are you this morning?

Rusk: Well, I'm busy on the speech for the [Democratic Party] platform committee.

President Johnson: I thought it was pretty good. There are two or three suggestions Jack's [Valenti] got that I think I've heard in your oral speeches it might be good. But I've got this Australian Prime Minister's [Robert  Menzies] letter here.1

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: I wonder if you don't think that would be good for you to get into the hands of [Mike] Mansfield and [Hubert] Humphrey [John] McCormack and [Carl] Albert and just say, "Now, we ought to keep you informed if this thing is really going to get rough."

Rusk: George Ball has already done it for some of them. Let me find out the particular ones. I think he's already called this to the attention of the committee that's working on it.

President Johnson: Right. Well, what I would do if I were you--it'll have more effect--they don't pay much attention to an Under Secretary or Assistant Secretary.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: I'd at least tell the Speaker, say, "Mr. Speaker, we think you and the Leader, the Majority Leader, ought to know that you're torpedoing the Kennedy Round."2

Rusk: Right. All right, sir. Let me--

President Johnson: That's pretty blunt. And I don't know who you ought to tell that in the papers, but the [Washington] Post or the [New York] Times, one ought to have something about this because it's not going to be a secret document; he's going to let it out in Australia.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: And we ought to let them know that this, what it's going to do to other agriculture and what it's going to do to the country in an attempt to get a few votes from a few cowmen.3

Rusk: Right, all right so let me see what I can do.

President Johnson: All right.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: Say, Dean? Dean?

Rusk: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: I'm going to' have a press conference. You got any idea on anything I can say?

Rusk: Do you have that . . . You have that little announcement about your policy on international organizations?

President Johnson: Yes, but that's the most unpopular thing in all the polls, and I'm afraid to say it. It just talks about how much money we're spending, a third of a billion [dollars], and it's got to be revamped from the standpoint that we are going to put in some better people or more efficient thing and cut out how much we're spending, and that would just defeat me, that type of stuff.

Rusk: I see.

President Johnson: We read it and that's just what [Barry] Goldwater's saying. And we've got to go to saying things that appeal to people.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: I talked to my fellow last night on meat, and he said, "Oh, my God, well I'll just have to leave the country if you veto the meat bill." I said, "Why?" Well, he said, "Goddammit, haven't you got enough sense to know that Australia's not voting in this country? The voters here are the 25 states that are raising these folks." And I said, "Well, but we've got a lot of consumers and so forth." I think we've got to kind of watch what we say. I told George Reedy to take it and rewrite it and show how we're going to improve our personnel and be efficient and something like that, instead of how much money we're spending on it.

Rusk: Right. Right.

President Johnson: I read the polls last night [from] about six states. The number one thing that they're against is foreign aid.

Rusk: Uh huh. Uh huh.

President Johnson: And we've sure got to get Averell [Harriman] in hand on the Congo and be sure that we watch that, because these announcements about how many big planes we're sending in that the military gave out over there in [John] Stennis' speech and [Richard] Russell's feeling, and they're getting ready to say we are starting a new Vietnam. And it's getting to be a political thing if we're not awfully careful with it.

Rusk: Right. Now--

President Johnson: So I think you and [Robert] McNamara and Averell probably ought to figure what we can do and do as much as we can as quietly as we can.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: And we certainly ought to brief the people we can at Armed Services and Foreign Relations. Say, "Now, we don't want to sit by and let the Congo fall like we let China fall. And we're trying to do what we can about it, and we'll try to make others do it, but if they don't do it well we may have to have a choice." Of course, Russell and Stennis and all them are getting ready entire speeches on the ground. And if they let us send a plane in and we oughtn't to be blowing it up how many big ones we sending in. But--

Rusk: Yeah that was--

President Johnson: If we send one man they going to denounce us, according to them.

Rusk: Yes, I said yesterday that these fellows are only to provide the--they're guards for the planes themselves, but I'm afraid that didn't get very far. But I think that was a slip that we made so much fuss about these planes.

President Johnson: It was a bad thing, just bad.

Rusk: Right.

President Johnson: OK.

Rusk: Thank you.

  • 1. This letter was regarding the Mansfield Meat Imports Bill. From 1961-1963 the amount of beef imported from Australia and New Zealand increased by 106 percent, which had the effect of reducing demand for American-produced meat. Thomas W. Zeiler, American Trade and Power in the 1960's (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), p. 106.
  • 2. The State Department argued that the Meat Imports Bill was detrimental to the promotion of American trade interests at negotiations during the Kennedy Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Secretary Rusk's News Conference of 31 July, Department of State Bulletin, 17 August 1964.
  • 3. The National Cattleman's Association lobbied heavily in favor of the Meat Imports Quota, which would limit the amount of frozen beef and mutton exported to the United States. At the time, Australia and New Zealand were the top exporters to the United States.

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