Friday, April 19, 1968 - 10:21am - 10:32am
Lyndon Johnson, Richard Daley
LBJ Ranch

Johnson had recently returned from Honolulu where he had met with U.S. military commanders and South Korean President Chung Hee Park. On March 31, Johnson had called for two weeks of greatly reduced U.S. bombing of North Vietnam in order to encourage moves toward negotiations and had offered to meet the North Vietnamese "in any forum" in a "suitable place." Since then, the two sides had engaged in a series of mutual rejections of suggested meeting places such as Warsaw, India, Indonesia, Burma, and Laos.1

The Honolulu trip had originally been scheduled for April 5, but had been postponed due to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the subsequent civil unrest in major cities like Chicago, Washington, and Detroit. In this call, Johnson scolds Richard Daley for the delay in the Chicago mayor in calling for federal troops to help control the unrest on the streets of the city.

This recording suffers from poor sound quality.

President Johnson: Hello?

Richard Daley: Mr. President?

President Johnson: Yes, [unclear].

Daley: How are you? How are you feeling after your trip?

President Johnson: Well, pretty good. Pretty good. But these [unclear] always get me upset, but we'd had a good meeting and we're just having hell holding all of our allies together.  

Daley: Yeah, I hear that.

President Johnson: The communists are [sic] got the North Koreans trying to open a second front in Korea and got those people just frightened to death.

Daley: Hmm.

President Johnson: The sons-of-bitches in this country, the [J. William] Fulbrights and Bobby Kennedys and Teddy [Kennedy] and the rest of them are got the South Vietnamese government scared to death that we're going to sell them out and have a coalition and let the commies take over, and that means all them get killed. And it's just about like my saying I was going to agree with [Everett] Dirksen and we were sending troops in, and you and your wife would be assassinated. You know how you'd feel.

Daley: Yeah.

President Johnson: So we have to keep [unclear]. The Thailanders are getting ready to send me an extra division. And they're good and staunch. But everyday there are about six senators [that] denounce them. 

Daley: Yeah.

President Johnson: And, so they're scared to death. And I got the [South] Koreans back and got them to agree to give us 5,000 more men even though they're afraid they'll be invaded tomorrow, and got them to agree that they'd hold still and not raise hell, that they have enough confidence in me that . . . it's awfully hard to get somebody else to have confidence in you when wife hasn't. 

Daley: That's right.

President Johnson: And if Mrs. Daley doesn't think much of you, and your boys don't, it's awfully hard for me to get--for me to have much.

Daley: That's right.

President Johnson: So there are all these senators talking all the time, and [Richard] Nixon and the Republicans--these foreigners and actually get a little bit worried. And I'm in pretty strong with them; I think they believe in me, and I think they trust me.

Daley: Oh, I think [unclear]--

President Johnson: But they read all this stuff, and they get upset. In any event, it wound up that they will have their people sit around; we'll report to them every day when we're talking, and they will let--they will follow up pretty generally our guidelines without kicking over the milk bucket, and [unclear] we've presented 15 sites yesterday, and we've got 3 or 4 more in the bag that we haven't presented that we could. Even one or two communist sites that would be reasonable. We couldn't take Cambodia because they're housing the enemy right now and we couldn't get a message in or out of there, even to our Joint Chiefs of Staff for advice. We couldn't take Warsaw because they won't let--first they won't let any Jewish newspaper men go in.

Daley: Oh, I see.

President Johnson: The second thing: they got everything wired, and we would have no security whatever. The third thing: they won't let any of our allies come in, like South Vietnam's got 800,000 men in service, but they couldn't even be present--and Thailand and Korea. And we are afraid they're going to wind up trying to put us in Paris, where [Charles] De Gaulle would propagandize against us. Most people have forgotten what happened in Korea, but [Harry] Truman tried--well, I guess, let's see who it was. [Dwight] Eisenhower yesterday told me of a quotation that Napoleon [Bonaparte] said about the French, and said that the French they were hysterical in victory and [unclear]. And we're so panicky when we want peace that we're willing to do damn near anything, like [former British Prime Minister Neville] Chamberlain did, to get it.2  And that's the great danger among our people; they all become secretary of states. Now, in the Korean thing, Truman was a pretty tough little guy, but he agreed to meet with them at a communist site. And the first day they showed up our negotiator was placed in a little baby's high chair and theirs was put up on a pedestal like a king.

Daley: Hmm.

President Johnson: They took pictures like that and sent it all through the communist world, showing our midget and their great, powerful man.

Daley: [Unclear.]

President Johnson: The next meeting, they made them all hold white flags and our Admiral [C. Turner] Joy, who was doing our negotiations, had to go over with a white flag in his hand showing he was surrendering. And that wound up all over the communist world. So as a consequence, about a third of the world thought we'd surrendered for nearly two years.

Daley: I see.

President Johnson: And that's what happens when you go to one of these capitals.

Daley: Yeah.

President Johnson: So we've rocked them off balance a little bit with our proposal. I've taken two weeks of it. They've moved in between 20- and 30,000 men. I've got that many more to whip--it's kind of like you're having your problem in Chicago--

Daley: Yeah.

President Johnson: --and Martin Luther King [Jr.] moving 30,000 warriors in to fight you, and you haven't added anything to your police force.

Daley: Yeah.

President Johnson: They've moved about 30,000 in the last two weeks, while we're sitting here trying to get them to talk.

Daley: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: I don't know how much longer we can keep them doing that, so [for] that reason I asked [Dean] Rusk last night . . . I had this statement, I was figuring on making it, and then [Secretary of Defense] Clark Clifford and [former President Dwight D.] Eisenhower thought it would be better for the Secretary of State to make it, that the White House oughtn't to be too close to it. So, we got him to make the others, and then we went out to [President Muhammad] Ayub Khan, the president of Pakistan, and he was meeting with [Premier Alexey] Kosygin, and we asked the Russians to recommend any of these 15 sites.

Daley: Yeah.

President Johnson: If they didn't recommend them, recommend some that we could live with. We cannot--I cannot ask you to come and live with me if I won't let your wife and children come.

Daley: That's right.

President Johnson: You just can't afford to do it. I can't go to a place where they won't let my allies even show up.

Daley: Yeah.

President Johnson: And you can imagine what the New York Times and the Washington Post and Newsweek and these Jewish organizations would do--

Daley: [Unclear.]

President Johnson: --if they wouldn't let a Jew come in.

Daley: That's right.

President Johnson: It's just like going to Jackson, Mississippi, to have a convention in the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People].

Daley: [Laughs.]

President Johnson: So that's my problem, and we're working on it, and we think we're making some progress. And at least I'm getting a minimum of static from the candidates, and I'm--we've got a much freer hand.3 And I think if we can just hold things and not get too political in this country until August, then maybe we can wrap this thing up.

Daley: I see. Are you going to be able to come out to our meeting, or--?

President Johnson: Yes, I'm going to do anything you want me to do that I can.

Daley: Oh, that's wonderful. That'll be [April] 24. 

President Johnson: Yeah. That's April 24.

Daley: We'll make it a "Salute to Johnson" night.

President Johnson: All right, well, I'm going to stand with you as long as I've got breath in my body. When you're-- 

Daley: Well, you--

President Johnson: —right, somewhat reluctantly, and when you're wrong, enthusiastically.

Daley: Well, we're--

President Johnson: [Laughs]

Daley: Well, we're--I don't know if you agreed with what I said, but I think [unclear]--

President Johnson: [Unclear] . . . Goddammit, I don't know how we handle these things. But I know one thing: that we've got to handle them with muscle and with toughness. And we put troops in every place they asked me to, and we came after it [in] reasonably good shape.4.

Daley: But the thing is, is there's just so much of this destruction takes place before we're able to--that was my observation. We have all these things destroyed before we ever--

President Johnson: Well, that's right. Now, Mayor, if you want my judgment what's wrong, it's wrong with your not asking for it. 

Daley: I see.

President Johnson: Now, I told you that morning--

Daley: [Unclear: Yes, you did].

President Johnson: —because I look upon you like I look upon my wife. 

Daley: Well, you're.

President Johnson: She's the [unclear] because [unclear] lots of guts and brains and you're my kind of public [unclear: figure]. I thought you were going to have trouble. And I said, "Now, if you tell me"— 

Daley: Yeah.

President Johnson: —"because I want to give you the first call."

Daley: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: "And I'd start moving now." And you said you were going to check into it. But I didn't hear until--

Daley: Happens all the time, as you--as what happens with you--the General of the [National] Guard didn't want them.

President Johnson: That's right. Well, now, what you've got to do next time, though, to hell with these generals, we've got to--when you've got [unclear] and get the [unclear] manpower [unclear] move them in. 

Daley: Well, that's what I think--we have to have them closer, if we can.

President Johnson: Well, I don't know--you can't change their training bases, but you can give us--you see, if we had moved them that morning, they'd have been there by 4:00 [P.M.]. [Unclear.] And that's what we've got to do. I told them to send up all of our people. We've got them folks [unclear] sent for that purpose. [Unclear.]

Daley: Yeah.

President Johnson: So they've got some of them in Nevada and some of them in California and some in Oklahoma and Texas and [unclear], but we've got airplanes and we can move them. And what we ought to do is move them into these airports close by. And we don't have to deploy them until you need them. Then you can say "send them now" and they can be there in an hour.

Daley: That's right. Well, we had quite a delay off, though, of the National Guard in getting in. It took them about ten hours.

President Johnson: Well, we've got to move those. Now, we've got to get [unclear] somewhere. And what you do is you get you the man that can bark orders and do what you want him to do, and then you and I'll keep in touch, and when you're having problems, well, we'll just move them up--10, 15, 20,000, running out of our ears. I'd rather move them and not need them than need them and not have them. 

Daley: You're right. Well, thanks, and you'll be with us Wednesday.

President Johnson: Yes, sir. 

Daley: Will Mrs. [Lady Bird] Johnson come out too?

President Johnson: I don't know, but [unclear]. 

Daley: Oh, well wonderful.

President Johnson: [Unclear.] I'll let you know tonight.

Daley: Thanks, Mr. President.

President Johnson: OK.

  • 1. Max Frankel, "Johnson Appeals to Hanoi on Site; Arrives in Hawaii," New York Times, 16 April 1968.
  • 2. Johnson is referring to Chamberlain's appeasement of Adolph Hitler in 1938 in Munich that preceded the Second World War.
  • 3. Johnson is referring to the presidential candidates for the upcoming election.
  • 4. President Johnson is referring to recent riots in Chicago, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and other cities in the wake of the 4 April assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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