Friday, September 30, 1966 - 4:37pm - 4:45pm
Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara

The conversation has already begun when the recording starts.

President Johnson: [Unclear] I apologized. I--Emerson wires us from Japan. Have you seen his cable?

Robert McNamara: No, I haven't.

President Johnson: The net of it is that [Ferdinand] Marcos suggests--and I assume because of what he said about [Senator J. William] Fulbright-- that he's going to be crowded and it looks like that you won't have the facilities for handling these people and that you ought to have the meeting in the middle of November instead of the last [unclear] of October.

McNamara: Bill Bundy mentioned the problem to me this morning. I told him that I thought that we could supply facilities at Clark [Air Base] for newsmen and others that the Filipinos may not be able to care of, if that were desirable in order to hold a meeting in--around whatever you suggested--October 24. I think it's entirely a question of your preference. I think we can develop the physical facilities to support whatever decision you want.

President Johnson: Don't you think we'll look bad to go later--

McNamara: I--

President Johnson: --than we've announced?

McNamara: I think so. Cy [Vance] happened to be with me at the time I was talking about this and he--his reaction was stronger than mine. He thought it'd be a serious error to postpone it until mid-November. And I think it would be undesirable.

President Johnson: Listen to this. [reading and paraphrasing the cable] "I was able to talk separately with both Marcos and Ramos at the Press Club luncheon. Ramos sent a message [saying] he wished to see me urgently. When I met him, he said he wished the message transmitted to President Johnson from Marcos to the effect that in view of short time for preparation and lack of hotel space in Manila, Marcos proposed to postpone the conference until mid-November. I then told Ramos our proposal of October 24 to 26, but he said this would not be agreeable, noting they had been carried away by their enthusiasm to schedule a meeting so soon and without adequate preparation, especially in view of the extraordinarily large numbers of press and media representatives now expected to be in Manila at [the] time of [the] conference. Ramos showed me telegrams from Manila pointing out all the hotels fully booked for period originally intended. He then referred to criticisms appearing both in [the] Philippines and elsewhere for the next meeting [occurring before] the U.S. election, noting this is an additional reason for postponement until mid-November. Later I was able to talk privately to Marcos and give him the President's message directly. The repeated statements made by Ramos asked me to communicate to Washington his desire that [the] conference be rescheduled in November after [the] U.S. election. I said I would transmit this message. Marcos is reported to remain in Japan until Monday, October 3."

I think you better think about it and we'll try to decide it tomorrow afternoon--

McNamara: All right.

President Johnson: --before we leave here. Does 3:30 [P.M.] suit you?

McNamara: Perfect.

President Johnson: We get through the wedding--I've got to go the [Stanley] Wirtz wedding.1

Now, here's the tentative reply: [reading and paraphrasing] "Mr. Emerson has given me your message, [which] suggests the conference in the Philippines be postponed to mid-November. I understand he gave you at the same time my message suggesting October 24 and 26. From a policy standpoint I would be very concerned at a postponement until mid-November for several reasons but especially because of the South Vietnamese situation. As you know, the Constituent Assembly has convened and as deliberations proceed there there's a very strong chance that there will be significant conflict and friction between the assembly and the government headed by General Thieu and Prime Minister Ky. Ambassador Lodge has [unclear] me that such difficulties can be handled and should not, in any event, become serious before November. However, I think you'll readily see that a major meeting with Thieu and Ky while good difficulties exist could raise the most serious question of apparent intervention in South Vietnamese politics, which is one of the major concerns I've always had in considering a conference of this type. This is my principal reason for feeling that a postponement would not be wise nor in our common interest. But I should perhaps note, from my own personal standpoint, it'd be vastly preferable to have the meeting earlier because the pressing load of business that will confront me during November and December." I don't think that'll impress this country if that gets out, that he's talking about the United Nations. "I understand from Mr. Emerson that your major concern is the difficulty of adequate preparation and accommodation. In this respect, I would hope that my proposed postponement of a few days would give further time to make the necessary arrangements. But more basically, I wish to assure you that I'm prepared to make extensive military facilities in the Philippines available to accommodate whatever overflow may exist either in Manila or [unclear]. In the handling the substantial number of newspaper men and otherwise who will doubtless wish to be in the Philippines during the conference. I am today dispatching a senior from the [State] Department to work with our embassy in the Philippines and of course in close association with Ambassador [unclear] to ensure that all necessary facilities are provided in a timely and effective measure. Let me add one other important factor. As you know, both [New Zealand] Prime Minister [Keith] Holyoake has scheduled elections November 26. I'm not sure they can readily attend a conference in mid-November, and I'm certain that such attendance would significantly hamper their campaign. Moreover, I've been considering the possibility of a visit to these two countries after the conference, and in the mid-November period so close to their election this would run very serious risks of being interpreted as interference in elections. For this reason it might well not be possible. In the light of the major policy factors I've described I hope very much that you can reconsider and accept the suggested dates of October 24 to 26. Needless to say, I hope we can reach an early decision on the matter. I take this occasion to congratulate on your excellent statement to attend the conference which you made in Tokyo, which conveyed exactly the right picture of the conference [and] will be all the more effective in Japan. Sincerely."

McNamara: I think that's a terrific cable. I'd let it go tonight, Mr. President.

President Johnson: Well, I have this feeling, Bob, [that] we may be imposing on Australia and New Zealand to go in there the first of November. When we go out there--we're going there--

McNamara: Yeah.

President Johnson: --for their elections [on] November 26. We may--this fellow, if he's got cold feet and he's worried, we may let Fulbright pitch us as really trying to shove a conference down their throats. Now, in the light of what's been said, we might just--you and Dean [Rusk] and I think it over tomorrow and send it out tomorrow night or whatever we think, but I have--

McNamara: Oh, I suppose. Yeah, I supposed that's all right, to wait until tomorrow.

President Johnson: He--he's going to be there till Monday.

McNamara: Yeah.

President Johnson: And I would beg we might give thought to saying we take care of them, we could move it back to October 31 and November 1, Monday and Tuesday. That'd be a week later.

McNamara: Yeah.

President Johnson: We'll take care of all the guests. If you don't want to do that, then we'll be glad to wait until after the November elections there in--

McNamara: --in Australia.

President Johnson: --Australia.

McNamara: You're going to have to do that because [Australian Prime Minister Harold] Holt said that he didn't want it any closer to his election. I'm not even sure he'd be able to take October 31 and November. There was a cable in from him a week or so ago that--

President Johnson: [Unclear] can't we talk to [unclear: Tokyo] all right without sending a bunch of damn cables. I don't like  to have [unclear] anyway. 

McNamara: I think you can talk to them, sure.

President Johnson: OK. I'll talk to you tomorrow.

McNamara: Fine. Thanks.

  • 1. On 1 October, Stanley Wirtz, the son of Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz, married Margaret Anne Hickman at the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation in Washington, DC. The Johnson's attended the wedding. New York Times, 2 October 1966.

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