Wednesday, October 5, 1966
Lyndon Johnson, Robert Anderson

Robert Anderson: How are you doing, Mr. President?

President Johnson: Fine, Bob.

Anderson: I got to thinking about this new department you're going to set up for transportation.

President Johnson: Well, I hope I can get it passed. I've got a good many hurdles yet to get over because the maritime people are fighting it very strongly, and we don't know whether we got--we didn't have the votes to get it in the House.

Anderson: Yeah. Well--

President Johnson: So, we are--

Anderson: I talked to you about that once before and, of course, if I can put an oar in, just let me know.

President Johnson: [with Anderson acknowledging] Well, we need to awfully bad. Right now, the Republicans are joined up with the Communist labor unions 100 percent to oppose [Dwight] Eisenhower's recommendation.1

Anderson: Yeah.

President Johnson: And, as you know, he was shocked. But the Senate didn't--[Everett] Dirksen didn't. But [Gerald] Ford did because anything he can beat us on, that's his theory. Now, I think it's very short-sighted, and I don't think it helps him, but he delivered a solid vote for Gus Hall.2

Anderson: Well, that's unbelievable.

President Johnson: Yeah, well, that's true. And what we've got is we've got 31 agencies that have no supervision. They go in all direction[s]. No President can hold them together. We would like to have one agency and one man bossing. But they told us yesterday that they want to kill it if they could. And they had the votes in the House the first time, so I'm fearful they might have [them] a second time. We're going to work on it and try.

Anderson: Maybe Eisenhower and I ought to join, go see our friends over in the House.

President Johnson: I think if he would write two sentences or--and you take it to him. If he'd just say, "I originally recommended [the] Transportation Department because I thought that we ought to have one Cabinet officer looking after 31 separate agenc[ies]."

Anderson: Yeah.

President Johnson: "President Johnson picked up my recommendation and passed it. And I hope, I hope that your Republicans would give it a chance to operate since both houses [of Congress] have already spoken." We passed it in both houses, but they say they're going to kill it now. All we know is that George Meany said yesterday that he could not handle [Paul] Hall. We know that Hall did deliver--3

Anderson: Yeah.

President Johnson: --all the Republicans after I talked to you here.

Anderson: Well, how can they--can they kill it in conference? Is that what you mean?

President Johnson: Oh, yeah. When you--see, when it come[s] back, it goes to conference.

Anderson: Yeah.

President Johnson: [with Anderson acknowledging] They come back [and] the vote will be up or down on the conference report. There are enough coast cities like New Orleans where you have Democratic delegations, Maryland, where you have Democratic delegations, New York City, Seattle, wherever the rest of them are, Portland. Wherever you have a water city then these folks--the Harry Bridges and [Paul] Hall group run these few places.4 Now, they're not over 12 or 15--but I can beat the Democrats. They usually represent those cities, but when you go to having a fellow from Nebraska and Iowa and downstate Illinois vote with them, I can't beat--I can't beat the--[Edward] Garmatz, who is head of it, and Javitz. I can't beat them when they go to getting [Representative] Howard Smith [D-VA] and all this group, you see. So, they get the Republicans then, why, they beat me, and that's what they did.

Anderson: Well, the real secret is to get Ike to talk to Gerry Ford, I think.

President Johnson: That's right. And--but the secret, first, is get him to know enough about it, because if I'm a congressman and you call me and you know more about the money thing than I do and more about the Federal Reserve than I do, you got a hell of a lot of weight with me.

Anderson: Yes.

President Johnson: But if you call me and you don't know what the hell you're talking about and you just say, "Lyndon Johnson asked me to call you," then it just makes me mad.

Anderson: Yeah, well, I'm--

President Johnson: But--

Anderson: I wouldn't say Lyndon Johnson asked me--

President Johnson: No, no, no. I mean this; I'm just illustrating. I say, if Eisenhower picks up the phone and calls Gerry Ford and says, "Listen--"

Anderson: I've [unclear].

President Johnson: "--some of my friends are interested in this and the President's recommended this. Bob Anderson's interested." And he don't give a damn, but if he picks up the phone and says, "You know, I feel very strongly about this Transportation Department because when I was President there were 31 agencies and nobody ran them. So, I said put them under one Cabinet officer and let's save some money, and let's be economical, and let's have a good administration. I recommended it. Johnson came along--I talked to him about it the first week he was President, and he's picked it up and recommended it. Now, I understand that these maritime workers are trying to get the Republicans to kill it. I hope you'd give it a chance to try it for a year to see how it works."

Anderson: I'll do it.

President Johnson: That'll do it.

Anderson: Now, let me tell you one thing. I just kept thinking about this. If it passes and if you do not already have somebody that you ought to--that you want to get to run it-- this might be a place where it would be worth your while to think of John Loeb.

President Johnson: Yeah.

Anderson: I'll tell you why. John is Jewish. There is not a Jewish Cabinet member at the moment. Also, he was an investment banker, and in these times when monetary things are so much a part of this world, if you have some fellow down there who has spent all of his life in this banking community and can talk to them on their level and who's supported the President's policy--and John does 100 percent--it might be worth a lot.

President Johnson: Well, we'll sure take a good look at it once we get close to it.

Anderson: He'll take something, perhaps, maybe some time if you ever get a vacancy in the Treasury or Commerce or somewhere in that place where John would be qualified. I think both the fact of having [unclear] there and the fact that he's got the ear of this financial community might be an asset and would be an asset particularly, you know, with the hard-nosed banker crowd.

President Johnson: Yeah.

Anderson: So, I didn't want to [unclear].

President Johnson: We'll take a good look at it, and I'll talk to you before we do anything.

Anderson: Now, let me tell you one other final thing. I have been working, trying to get them to pass this bill, or to get them to have a hearing; I don't care or give or damn whether they pass it or not, which would correct this airline situation because [George] Meany has been up to talk to [Harley] Staggers. Staggers just won't move. He won't even call a hearing and all we want is a hearing. And they've got $300 million foreign exchange involved in it, and they've got 162,000 jobs involved in it, and it passed the Senate unanimously. It goes into committee in--

President Johnson: What bill is it?

Anderson: Oh, it's the bill which says that all of the airlines that got hurt when the Japs and the British pick up passengers on both sides, that they give them relief so that they can at least, the airlines, can pick up passengers the same way and then use American airlines for the Japs or British. And it means $300 million to us. Now, Bob McNamara has gone into it thoroughly. Joe Fowler, Joe Barr, Joe [Califano]--well, there in your office, that you got from McNamara. But I just think Staggers has got to have somebody tell him, for Lord's sakes, don't close the Senate [unclear].

President Johnson: Let me talk to Califano, and I'll see and have him get in touch with you.

Anderson: OK, Mr. President.

President Johnson: Bye.

Anderson: Thank you.

  • 1. In his annual budget message to Congress on 16 January 1961, President Eisenhower had called for the creation of a Department of Transportation. Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Annual Budget Message to the Conrgess: Fiscal Year 1962," 16 January 1961, Public Papers of the President.
  • 2. Gus Hall was the secretary-general of the U.S. Communist Party.
  • 3. Paul Hall was president of the Seafarers International Union, a maritime labor union.
  • 4. Harry Bridges was the leader of the Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union.

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