Friday, December 24, 1965 - 10:21am - 10:36am
Lyndon Johnson, Richard Daley
LBJ Ranch

President Johnson: Yes, Mayor.

Richard Daley: Hello, Mr. President?

President Johnson: How are you?

Daley: From the Daley home to the President and Mrs. Johnson and your family, a merry merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

President Johnson: Thank you, Mayor.

Daley: You're a great President and a great man. You're doing a wonderful thing for our country, and we're still saying a prayer for you at Christmas mass tonight.

President Johnson: Thank you, Mayor. I need it. I need it.

Daley: Well, we all do. But by God, you're doing a wonderful job. We're all praying for you, and the Lord will continue to guide you if you need help.

President Johnson: I wanted to call you, I was thinking about you yesterday and I thought I'd wait until maybe Christmas Day. I want to visit with you, and I wanted to ask your judgement on two, three things, get you to think about it. We're in a very difficult way with the budget. I don't know what to do. If we assume that we can get the war over this year, which nobody--

Daley: I doubt you can.

President Johnson: Which nobody knows, we can go in on one set of circumstances. If we don't, we'd have to go into another one. But most of my economists tell me if we keep the budget down under a 112 [billion dollars], that we get by without a tax increase.

Daley: Well, I don't--

President Johnson: On the other hand, there's a good many of them think that I'm going to have us a much bigger deficit that anybody's ever had. We'll take in [$] 98 billion or something this year, and . . . but if I don't ask for a tax increase, it'll be pretty inflationary. [unclear comment by Daley] What do you think about a tax increase in [an] election year?

Daley: Well, I think if you can avoid it, I would. I think a tax increase will always, you know, the opposition will jump on it and make all kinds of noise and sounds.

President Johnson: How much do you think I've got to shave these domestic programs?

Daley: Well, I wouldn't shave them too much, but I wouldn't increase them. And I think if you can keep your economy going the way you are, and you can keep--if we can only put more people on to the employment rolls, which you're trying with your poverty program, in my opinion that's the great number one. More jobs, more jobs. Then you increase your income. You increase your taxes. You also increase the income of the people and take them off the relief and welfare rolls, and in my opinion, this is what we should strive to do. If we could get our employment, which you've been doing so successfully, down and down percentage-wise, the more we get it down, the better it is for the entire fiscal operations of the country.

President Johnson: Mayor, I've got--

Daley: Yeah.

President Johnson: I've got it down to 4.3, and they estimate that this time next year I'll have it around 3.3, maybe 3.

Daley: You get it down there, look what that'd mean. The earning power, then the taxing for the government and every of those people that will go to work in that one or one half percent. And if we could get it down to that figure, I think you'd be in very good shape. And I think the whole country will be in shape. Because what we're doing here is putting the emphasis on jobs. We don't--But the other things are fine, education, training, but the help, the main emphasis is: get people jobs, get them working.

President Johnson: I got your poverty group from Syracuse down here giving me hell.

Daley: Oh, yeah?

President Johnson: Because the mayor turned them down, and they came over and they invaded my house yesterday and got arrested.

Daley: My God.

President Johnson: We got FBI says one of them is a strong Communist sympathizer.

Daley: Well, they're trying to pressure you, Mr. President, and [unclear] pressure you. They're trying to snatch control of this country, control of everything this, under this program. And if the fact is and the truth of the matter is that they've never had such a fine program in the history of our country. And what I keep saying is "Lord God, let's get together. Let's cooperate. We're [unclear]. What difference does it make who gets credit as long as we get jobs and get the people out of slums and plight, and get education. But many of these people throughout the country are not concerned with the solution. They're concerned with the agitation of the problem. And this is all over the country, and they've seen an opportunity to snatch at a popular issue but one that you and I know doesn't bear the right of logic, and that is: only the poor get control of these programs. Well, that's ridiculous! [Unclear.]

President Johnson: That's a good--

Daley: Because you have to have--it'd be the same thing as saying that your operation that only the soldier could control the army. That you are not entitled to generals, to scientists, to the great experts, to the fine educated and dedicated--

President Johnson: What shape would we be in [Sargent] Shriver got out of the program with a blast?

Daley: How do you mean "a blast"?

President Johnson: Well, he's unhappy because we're not giving him everything he wants.

Approximately four seconds excised by the National Archives and Records Administration under the terms of the Deed of Gift.

President Johnson: And--

Daley: Well, I--

President Johnson: He's got to give up one or the other of his programs: poverty or peace.

Daley: Yeah.

President Johnson: And I guess Bernie Bouten wouldn't be very imaginative, but he's a good administor and he'd be able, if Shriver got out of poverty and went to the Peace Corps, I think that, that, that we'd have a lot of agitation from the Adam Clayton Powells and Roy Wilkins and the damned professionals.1

Daley: And how long will the agitation be?

President Johnson: I don't know.

Daley: One day? For one week? For one month? Our concern, and I know yours is, I'm more concerned about the answer to the solution of the problem than I am whether this fellow's up on the platform, or that fellow. Because if we can show in another--we've done a fairly good job out here, Mr. President. Shriver says that himself, but he won't say it publicly. If we have the best poverty program in the country and this is the poverty program, aimed number one at jobs, number two at education, number three at training, and number four at health, and that's the emphasis we're putting--no fanfare on all these other things--that's fine. But I wouldn't think that, if we have the--First we have to have some guidelines, as you know. There's been no guidelines set out. There's been no direction, so that everyone has been floundering around. But I don't think they're being--The people still have great confidence in you. I know the people out here in the Middle West and in Chicago still feel very strongly that Johnson is a great president, a good president. He's a dedicated man. He's a devoted man. I don't know, maybe some of those guys in Washington don't think the same way. But we do. And anything you would do along this line wouldn't make any difference at all. What the hell? You're always going to have the Powells in your hair, anyhow. You're always going to have these other people. But if we're doing the job, if we're getting jobs, and if you're reducing that unemployment figure, if we're getting education--if we are--if we're getting Head Start. If we're getting the health program, we're going to start--we've made the application for a health program, which--probably the first of its kind--to give health advice and health assistance to 650,000 people in poverty. We know that we're going ahead because we sent people to follow them in up, see, and ask the reaction. Mr. President, [unclear].

President Johnson: Well, here's the problem the problem I got with him, though. I gave him $700 million the first year. He came in the second year, and I told him he could go to a billion, and he started a damn revolution and we just had hell and we fought around and finally compromised it out. He wanted two billion, and we got it--I agreed to a billion and half. Now, we gave him a billion and half this year. He went up on the Hill and the Congress recomm--authorized, we don't ever have to appropriate what they authorize. We usually appropriate less than they authorize, but they authorized a billion seven eighty. This year I gave him a billion and a half. Now, next year he comes in with his budget hearing the other day--and I told him all I want them to stay about what they had this year, because I had to go up about ten, twelve billion on Vietnam. And that increase had to go to Vietnam, because I'm losing, I lost ten planes last week--three million [dollars] a plane. And I just can't be short out there--

Daley: That's right.

President Johnson: And even with that, I'm going to have a budget a 112-[1]15 billion dollars, from 99 [billion]. And that's going to look like hell if I don't increase anything. Well, they say that they're going to increase and so forth. Now, he's going to resign from both jobs, and let me pick the one he resigns from. I--

Daley: No, I don't think that--what the hell is he doing that for? He's got [unclear]. It's got to be worked out I would think. I don't think he should put that on you. I mean, that after all, if he's on the team--

President Johnson: Well, he says he's ready--

Daley: [Unclear.]

President Johnson: He say--He says he'll--

Daley: I mean, after a meeting with the President as you usually do, then he comes out and announced that he asked the President to be assigned to the Peace Corps. Did he realize, or whatever it was, that these, this, two operations, he tried to do it during an emergency, but now that he's doing a great job, blah, blah, blah, that he has asked you for one of the assignments. I don't think that it'd be fair to you to do it this way.

President Johnson: It's not, but uh, Bobby [Kennedy] and that group are not very fair to us, Mayor.

Daley: Well [unclear]--

President Johnson: I see Ted--I see Bobby and Teddy [Kennedy] both gave out interviews--Teddy did--yesterday, that we've got to consult more with the Congress on Vietnam. Well, Goddamn, I've had every member of Congress in three times this year.

Daley: Well, you see [unclear]--

President Johnson: Now, his brother, his brother was President three years--

Daley: Now, these fellows don't know how to play on a team, you know, Mr. President! They never had any teamwork. It's all right to, you know, be standing off a little by yourself, but  we know that this is a team operation. And at no time do we need more teamwork and cooperation than now, standing behind our President. They might go over and talk to you individually, but this stuff to be issuing statements, I just think they're killing themselves. I don't think they're bothering you. But this other fellow [Sargent Shriver], at anytime that you would want me to talk to him along any line after the holidays, I'll be glad to. Because I don't think it's fair to you as the President to do this--

President Johnson: What do you think our budget ought to be next year on poverty? Would you increase it over this year?

Daley: I think I'd hold it.

President Johnson: That's what I'm trying to do.

Daley: Yes. Or increase it very little, to show some increase, so that they couldn't say--Because I really think we could do a much better operation than we have been, and do it more effectively and more efficiently.

President Johnson: What we've done is this, now: [Robert] McNamara has taken 500,000 of these boys for training in the service. That's a half a million of them. [Willard] Wirtz is taking 100,000 and training them under manpower training.

Daley: Yes.

President Johnson: I've put through a college program taking care of another 100,000. 

Daley: That's right. So, it narrows it down to less than a million that he's got from over two million we started with.

Daley: That's right.

President Johnson: Now they ha--If I'm giving him, after the private industry has taken a hell of a group of them.

Daley: Oh, yes.

President Johnson: I've put 400 million [dollars] in war contracts in the Appalachia area, and it employing. I've reduced it from 4.3 to 3.2, and that's taken care of 6- to 700,000.

Daley: And every local government that's worth it's salt, has got a cooperative program in which they're taking some more of them on, in the way of jobs. And we'll have more of that in '66.

President Johnson: Mm-hmm.

Daley: But I'm sure that they, you can work it out. And I don't think there should be any conflict in this thing over poverty. I don't think that the director--and you've been very nice to him in both positions--should take any arbitrary action. I think it should be done and resolved sitting down and working it out and having him say what he would like, and then after the meeting, come out and say he's asked the President to be relieved of one or the other. Not to just resign [from] both of them. I think this is an unfair thing to do to any man, including the President of the United States. And regardless of what they're planning or what they're thinking, it isn't fair for him and anyone to put--You have to talk to him and then, then to explain it to him. He's interested in the future. He's very anxious, ambitious, as you know, politically. Well, for a fellow to do something like this, he wouldn't get very far, in my opinion.

President Johnson: My own thought is what we ought to do is, we ought to try to keep him as close to this year as we can. We ought to make him go up and get these appropriations through in January, February, March sometime and--

Daley: That's right.

President Johnson: We ought to put a man in the Peace Corps that can handle it, hold on. Just name him for awhile. And then when Shriver wants to change over after he gets this appropriation through and gets the election behind him, we put him back in the Peace Corps.

Daley: That's, that's--

President Johnson: And have a man trained for the poverty thing.

Daley: No, now that's the way to do it. That's a wonderful solution, Mr. President. Well, again, I would like to say very sincerely, just everything that's good to you and Mrs. Johnson and to your fine family.

President Johnson: Now, Mayor, you are responsible for most of it. You're one of the best men I've got and one of the ones I love the most and one of the ones that stayed with me when the going's tough in '60, and spring of '64. And I never forget it.

Daley: Well, I'll be there--

President Johnson: Say, I've got a problem and you've got to worry about. You've got your own problem more than this, but you know they wound up this election, and [Richard] Maguiree who'd been running the thing for Kennedy, he's left now.2

Daley: Yes.

President Johnson: And he's leaving that [Democratic National] Committee owing over three billion [sic: million] dollars.

Daley: Is that right?

President Johnson: Yeah.

Daley: Well, I think--

President Johnson: And we've got to do something about it next year and I've got to have you and about five others like Arthur Krim and some of these practical, hardheaded, able fellows, and they got to figure out what to do, and what I've got to do at a minimum. Maybe five or ten places, [unclear interjection by Daley] and then we've got to divide them and we got to put every Cabinet officer, every cop man, the President, the Vice President, and then we got to go in and give you-all a share, and we got to figure out some way to get rid of this. Cause I, I don't want to lay awake at night thinking about Maguire leaving a three million deficit.

Daley: We can do that, Mr. President. And we'd be glad to cooperate, you know that.

President Johnson: Give Mrs. Daley my love.

Daley: Fine. Good-bye, Mr. President.

President Johnson: Bye.

  • 1. Bernard Boutin was Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity.
  • 2. Richard Maguire had been treasurer of the Democratic National Committee through the 1964 campaign.

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