tv The Presidency President Lyndon B. Johnson Vietnam War Press Conference CSPAN November 12, 2017 8:00pm-8:41pm EST
accounts from vietnam war veterans. to join the conversation, like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. this is american history tv all weekend, every weekend, only on c-span3. >> next, president lyndon b. johnson explains and defends his vietnam war policies in a 1967 white house press conference in the east room, which was carried live via radio and television. this is just over half an hour.
be needed in the future? pres. l.b. johnson: we have previously considered and approved the recommendation of joint chiefs of staff for our force level. general west moreland -- general westmoreland discussed with me, and he anticipates no increase in that level. guest: we are getting close to the end of your fourth year in office. you are being subjected to a regular personal criticism, ranging from senator young -- a preacher in williamsburg. pres. l.b. johnson: it is not a surprise. i am aware of the 35 men who preceded me. no public official, certainly not one that has been in public life 35 years, as i have, would fail to expect criticism. there is a different type of criticism. there is a difference between constructive dissent and stormtrooper bullying and howling and taking the low-end of your own hands. i think the president must expect that those in the other party will frequently find it necessary to find fault and to
complain and to attempt to picture to the people that the president should be replaced. i think it is also true in all parties that there are divisions. we don't all think alike. if we did, one man would be doing all the thinking. so we have divisions in the parties. we have perhaps more than i share sometimes, but i am sure the republicans think that, too. so when you get into the political year with the help and and abetting that the press can do and the assistance , that the opposing party can do, because they tried to destroy you in order to have a place for themselves, and you take the divisions in your own party, and they concentrate.
then it does seem to mount up at times, and occupy a great deal of public attention. but i don't think it is unusual for a president to be criticized. that seems to be one of the things that go with the job. not many of us want to say i failed, or i made a mistake, or we should not have done that. this shouldn't have happened. it is always easier to say that someone over there is wrong and the president is more or less a lightning rod. at least, i have seen that in this country. one or two illustrations when president truman, very courageously and very wisely, went into korea. one of our pollsters went out
with a gallup, and that position was approved 81%. six months later, when sacrifices were evident and the problems again appeared, the same pollster, talking to the same people, saw the number go from 81% to 26%. those numbers have happened in all of our crises, economic, domestic, international. the president learns to expect them and learns to live with them. the important thing for every man who occupies this place is to search as best he can to get the right answer. try to find out what is right and then do it without regard to the polls or criticism. guest: a good many americans has
said that they stop to the bombing -- that a stop to the bombing would be worth trying just to see if north vietnam would respond. pres. l.b. johnson: north vietnam has responded. their statement this week was in the hanoi newspaper in response to my statements from the enterprise is very clear and compelling, and i think it should answer to any person in this country who has ever felt that stopping the bombings alone would bring us to the negotiating table. hanoi made it very clear in response that their position, in effect, was the same as it has always been, and the same as it was enunciated in ho chi minh's letter to me, which ho chi minh made public. there are some hopeful people and some naive people in this country, and there are some political people. but anyone that really wants to know what the position of north
vietnam is should read what the spokesman of north vietnam said. that is best summarized in mr. ho chi minh's letter to the president that he made public, on the record, that he has never changed. all these hopes and dreams and idealistic people that go around to mislead and confuse, they weaken our position. guest: do you have any evidence that the viet cong might be moving toward the position of wanting to negotiate separate from hanoi? if so, what would be your attitude toward negotiating with them? pres. l.b. johnson: i would prefer to handle my negotiations through our diplomatic channels with whomsoever we may negotiate. i don't think this is the place to do a negotiation. we are very anxious to find a solution that will bring an end to the war, and as we stated so
many times, we are ready to meet and discuss that with the officials of hanoi and the viet cong. they will have no problem in having their voice fully heard and considered, but i think it would be better if we would wait until the opportunity develops along that line and do it through our trained diplomats. guest: mr. president, you talked about the job of being president. this wednesday, you are going to complete four years in the office of president. i wonder if you could reflect for a moment on the presidency and what have been your greatest satisfactions and disappointments. pres. l.b. johnson: i think we had better do that a little later. i can't tell all the good things that have happened, or the bad ones either, in a 30 minute press conference. i would be charged with filibustering. i think that this -- we primarily want to think of the
future, not the past. it has been almost two centuries since our revolution, and since we won our freedom. we have come a long way during that period, but we have longer -- much farther to go in terms of education, health, city statistics farm statistics. , as long as there are poor people -- four people out of every 10 in the world who can't te dog, weor wri have much to do. from head start to adult education, men and women past 70 are learning to read and write for the first time. i am pleased that we have raised our contributions from the federal government to higher education from 16% to 24%. and the last four years, while
the states have remained static, we have made revolutionary strides in education and health, and conservation, where we are probably taking in as much land in the public domain for the first time in years as we are letting out. we feel that we have brought a degree of stability in our international relations to this hemisphere, through the alliance for progress with our meetings with gillespie. we think that we have, working with other nations, made material advances and helping underdeveloped nations. helping underdeveloped nations in africa. we are very pleased with what has come out of our meetings with the germans and the british in connection to our trilateral talks. what has come out of our kennedy round of meetings. the several treaties we have negotiated with the soviet union, and the one we are working on so hard now, the
nonproliferation treaty. we are happy that there are 9 million more people with good paying jobs today than when i came into this office. but these are things in the past, and we should accept that and we want to preserve them, but the important problems are ahead. what is the next century going to be like? century goingird to be like? are ancienthere enemies around the world, and illiteracy, ignorance, disease, poverty, and war, there is much for government to do. we are working on that now and will be talking more to you about that in the months ahead. mr. president, we know of your talks this week with general westmoreland and others. what is your sense of the progress in vietnam? pres. l.b. johnson: i will
repeat their assessment because they are the ones in the best position to judge things locally. i will give my evaluation of what they have said. first i think every american heart should swell with pride at the competence and capacity of our leadership in vietnam. i believe, and our allies believe, we have superior leadership. i think it is the best that the united states of america can experience, judgment, training, and general competence. i have had three meetings with general westmoreland. our american people like when we get in a contest of any time whether it is in a war or an , election or a football game, they want it decided quickly, and get in or get out.
and they like for the opposition to go down like this. that is not the kind of war we are fighting in vietnam. we have made our statement to the world of what we would do if we had communist aggression in that part of the world in 1954. we said we would stand with those people in the face of common danger, and the time came when we had to put up or shut up, and we put up. and we are there. and we don't march out and have a big battle each day in a guerrilla war. it is a new kind of war, so it doesn't move that fast. summarizing and trying to be fully responsive to your question in the time allotted, i think we are moving more like this. and i think they are moving more like this.
instead of straight up and straight down. we are making progress. we are pleased with the results we are getting. we are inflicting greater losses than we are taking. we are very pleased amidst the horrors of war, and more people have been killed trying to vote in south vietnam than by bombs in north vietnam, according to north vietnam's own figures. but in the midst of all the horrors of war and guerrilla fighting in south vietnam, we have had five elections in a period of a little over 14 months. there was great doubt whether we could have any. it took us from 1776, 1789 -- not 13 months, but 13 years to get a constitution with our anglo-saxon background and all the training we had. to think that here in the midst
of war, when the grenades are popping like firecrackers all 2/3 or 3/4 ofhat the people that register and go vote and have five elections and 13 months, and through the democratic process, select people at the local level, a senate, president, vice president, that is encouraging. the fact that the population under free control has constantly risen, and that under communist control has constantly gone down, there is a very encouraging sign. the improvement made by the south vietnamese themselves, putting in reforms and announcing other programs, and improving their own army, it is a matter of great satisfaction to ambassador bunker and general westmoreland. we have a lot to do, a great many mistakes have been made.
we take two steps forward and slip back one. it is not all perfect by any means. there have been many days where we get a c minus instead of an a plus. but overall, we are making progress. we are satisfied with our progress. our allies are pleased with that progress and every country i , know in that area that is familiar with what is happening thinks it is absolutely essential that uncle sam keep her word and stay there until we can find an honorable peace. if they have any doubts about it, mr. ho chi minh, who reads our papers and listens to our radio and looks at our television, if he has any doubts, i want to disillusion him this morning. we keep our commitments. our people are going to support the men there, and the men there are going to bring us an honorable peace. hanoi may president,
be interpreting the current public opinion polls to indicate that you will be replaced next year. how could this affect the campaign in this country? pres. l.b. johnson: i don't know how it will affect the campaign in this country. i think that whatever interpretation hanoi might make that would lead them to believe that uncle sam, whoever may be president, is going to pull out, and it will be easier for them to make an inside deal with another president, they will make a serious misjudgment. guest: are you going to run next year? pres. l.b. johnson: i will cross that bridge when i get to it as i've told you so many times. guest: mr. president, there are increasing statements from capitol hill that say your tax bill is dead for this session of congress. are there any plans on the part of your administration to try to revive this before congress leaves, and if not, what plans might you have next year to avert this inflationary trend we
have been told will be coming? pres. l.b. johnson: we want very much to have a tax bill just as quickly as we can get it. we think the sound, prudent fiscal policy requires it. we will do everything that the president and administration can do to get that tax bill. i would be less than frank if i didn't tell you i have no indication that mr. mills or mr. burns of the ways and means committee is likely to report the tax bill before they adjourn. i feel that one of our favors in the administration has been a high inability to convince congress of the wisdom of fiscal responsibility and the necessity of passing a tax bill, not only for the effect it will have on the inflationary developments, but the effect it will have on the huge deficit that we are running.
and i think one of the great mistakes that the congress will make, that mr. ford and mr. mills have taken this position -- i think they will live to rue the day they made that decision. because it is a dangerous and unwise decision. i think the people of america -- none of whom want to pay taxes. any pollster who asks if you want to pay more taxes, of course you would say i don't. if they ask, do you want inflation, to have prices increased by 6% do you want a , deficit of $35 billion? $35 billionto spend in, ihan you are taking think the average citizen would
say no. at the height of our prosperity, when our gross national product is $850 billion, when we look at the precedents of what we've done in past wars in korea, when , president truman asked for a tax increase, the people supported him. this request has been before the congress since last january. i finished most of the appropriation bills. it looks like out of $145 billion they roughly cut $1 billion. but they have cut several billion dollars from revenue, because of in action. because people don't like to stand up and do the unpopular thing of assuming responsibility that the men in public life are required to do sometimes. i know it doesn't have to be
your poll or your popularity. we have to have traditional taxes to fight this war abroad and fight the problems in our cities at home, but i think we can do it with the gross national product we have. i think we should do it, and i think that when the american people and congress get the full story, they will do it. we have failed up until now to convince them, but we will continue to try in every way that is proper. guest: senator mccarthy says he is considering opposing you in the presidential primaries because he believes it would be a healthy thing to debate vietnam in the primaries for the party and most of the country. do you agree with him, and what effect do you think this will have on your candidacy? pres. l.b. johnson: i don't know how i will be after all this opposition develops as far as my state of health, but i am very healthy today, and i don't know whether this criticism will contribute to my health or not. i don't know what senator mccarthy is going to do. i'm not sure that he knows what he plans to do. i think we had better just wait and see until there is something there, and meet it when it is necessary.
why do you think there -- reporter: why do you think there is so much confusion and frustration and difference of opinion in this country about the war in vietnam? pres. l.b. johnson: i think there has always been confusion and frustration and difference of opinion when there is a war going on. i think the revolutionary war, only a third of the people thought that was a wise move, a third posted, and a third on the sidelines. not until andrew jackson and the results of new york came in. the next morning, they came and told the president they wanted to congratulate him, that he had been right all along. i think that is true in the next war when the congress overwhelmingly voted to go in and later passed the resolution that had grave doubts about it, and some of the most bitter
speeches were made they couldn't be published. they had to hold a publication for a hundred years. i don't need to remind you what happened in the civil war. people were in the white house begging lincoln to concede and work out a deal with the confederacy. when word came to him of his victories, they told him that pennsylvania was gone, that illinois had no chance. those pressures come to a president. i think you know what president roosevelt went through, president wilson in world war i. he had senators that gave him serious problems until victory was assured. i think now when you look back on it, there are a few people who would think that wilson or
roosevelt or truman were in error. we are going to have these criticisms, these differences. nobody likes were, all people love peace. but you can't have freedom without defending it. reporter: mr. president, the foreign aid authorization has been cut back nearly one third from what you requested. what is the impact of this economy? pres. l.b. johnson: i think that at a time when the richest nation in the world is going for more prosperity than it has ever had before, and when we carefully tailor our requests to the very minimum that we think is essential, the lowest request we have had in years, and then congress cuts it 33.3%, i think it is a mistake. i think it is a serious mistake. i think it is when you consider that billion dollars that we are attempting to save, out of the $850 billion we will produce,
that we ought to reconsider that decision, because what we are doing with that money not only can give great help to underdeveloped nations, but that in itself can prevent the things that cause war, where you are required to spend billions to win it. i would rather have a little preventative measures, and i think that every dollar we spend on our foreign assistance, trying to help poor people help themselves, is money well spent. i don't think we overdid it. i don't think we went to far -- went too far. but i think congress has in the reductions it has made. i cut out all these foreign expenditures, but when the trouble develops, the people are starving and the people that are ignorant and illiterate and disease, war has sprung up and we have to go in, we will spend much more than we would if we had taken an ounce of prevention.
reporter: mr. president, some people on the air and in print accuse you of trying to label all criticism of your vietnam policy as unpatriotic. would you tell us whether you have guidelines in which you are unable to separate conscientious dissent from irresponsible dissension? pres. l.b. johnson: no, i have not called anyone unpatriotic. i have not said anything that would indicate that. i think the wicked flee if when no one pursues. i think people are irresponsible and make untrue statements and ought to become should send careful when they are dealing with a problem involving their man at the front.
there is a great deal of difference, as i said a moment ago, between criticism and responsible dissent, all of which we insist on and protect. and stormtrooper bullying, throwing yourself down the road and smashing windows, every time a person attempts to speak, to try to drown him out. we believe very strongly in preserving the right to differ in this country and the right to dissent. if i have done a good job of anything since i have been president, it is to ensure that there are plenty of dissenters. [laughter] and not a person in this press corps can't write what he wants
to write. and most of them do. i say want. and i want to protect that. and i think congress wants to protected. but if i, by chance, should say -- i'm not sure that you saw all the cables on this, and you are exactly right. let me explain the other side of it. i would hope that you would not say i am lambasting my critics. or that i am assailing someone. what i am trying to do is preserve my right to give the other side. i don't think one side ought to dominate the whole picture. so what i would say is, let us realize that we are in the midst of a war. let's realize there are 500,000 of our boys out there giving their lives to win that war. let us ask ourselves what it is we can do to help, and if you think you can make a contribution to helping them by expressing your opinion and dissenting, then do it. but then if the secretary of state starts to explain his viewpoint, don't send out instructions all over the country and say when he starts
to talk, wrap your feet. then when he comes in to the senate, all of you do this, i'm -- all you do this. i'm amazed that the press in this country that insists on the right to live on the first amendment and be protected by, and doesn't insist that the storm trooper tactics protect the first amendment, too. i think the time has come when it would be good for all of us to take a new, fresh look at the -- at dissent, and we welcome responsible dissent, but there is a great deal of difference between responsible dissent and some of the things taking place in this country, which i consider to be extremely dangerous to our national interest, and i considered not very helpful to the men fighting the war for us. everyone must make that judgment for themselves. i never said anyone was unpatriotic. i don't question these people's motives. i do question their judgment.
i cannot say that this dissent has contributed much to any victories we have had. i cannot say these various proposals that range from a senator to a county commissioner to a mayor of a city have really changed general westmoreland's bunker's or ambassador approach. the papers are filled with it every day. i think you have to consider it for what you think it is worth and make your own judgment, and that is the theory of the first amendment. we do not stop the publication of any papers. we don't find anyone -- we don't fine anyone for something they say. we just appeal to them to remember they do not have the privilege for the moment of being out there fighting. please think before you say something that hurts instead of helps. we know most people's intentions are good. we do not question their motives. we have never said they are unpatriotic, although they say some pretty ugly things about us.
people that live in glass houses should not be too anxious to throw stones. reporter: mr. president, is your aim in vietnam to win the war or to seek a compromised negotiated solution? pres. l.b. johnson: our aims in vietnam have been very clear from the beginning and dealstent with seeking a with the atlantic charter where the many statements that we have made to the congress in connection, the secretary of state has made dozens of times, and i made enough that i thought all of the preachers in the country had heard about it. [laughter] that is namely to protect the security of the united states, and we think the security of the united states is definitely tied in with the security of southeast asia. second, to resist aggression. when we are a party to a treaty that says we will do it then we carry it out.
i think that if you saw a little child in this room that was trying to waddle across the floor and some bully came along and grabbed it by the hair and started stomping i think you , would do something about it. we thought we made a mistake when we saw hitler moving across the landscape of europe and the concessions that were made by the men carrying umbrellas at that time, and i think in retrospect we thought that was a mistake. in 1954 under the leadership of president eisenhower and secretary dallas cop -- ulles, we had the treaty and it was debated and considered and gone into very thoroughly for the senate. the man who presented that treaty then said, this is dangerous. we have to put up or shut up. we have to serve notice in asia
-- we have refused to serve notice in asia as we refused to serve notice in europe years ago, that we will resist aggression and we will stand against someone who seeks to little countries if those little countries call upon us for our help. that treaty, i did not vote for. senator kennedy did not vote for it, the late mr. president. but 82 senators did vote for it and they knew what was in that treaty. and the time came when we had to decide whether we meant what we said when we said our security was tied into their security, and that we would stand in unison in the face of common danger. now we are doing that. we are doing it against whoever combines out there to promote aggression. we are going to do whatever we think is necessary to protect the security of south vietnam, and let those people determine for themselves what kind of a
government they have. we think they are moving along very quickly in that direction to developing a democratic procedure. second, we are going to do whatever it is necessary to do to see that the aggressor does not succeed. and those are our purposes, those are our goals, and we are going to get a lot of advice to do this or do that, and we are going to consider it all. for years, west point has been turning out the best military men produced anywhere in the world. for years we have had in our foreign service trained special people, and we have in 110 capitals today the best brains we can select. under our constitutional reign, the president must look to the secretary of state, to his foreign policy, his ambassadors, to the views they expressed, to his leaders like the joint chiefs of staff, general westmoreland and others,
carefully consider everything they say and then do what he thinks is right. that is not going to please a county commissioner or a mayor or member of legislature. it never has in any war we have been in. the leaders on the military committees, the leaders in other posts, the speaker of the house opposed the draft and woodrow wilson's administration. the chairman of the foreign relations committee almost has always found a great deal wrong with the executive in the field of foreign policy. there is a division there, and there is some frustration. those men express it and they have a right to and they have a duty to do it, but it is also the president's duty to see what substance they have presented, how much they have thought out,
what implementation they have, how much knowledge they have received from general moreland or ambassador bunker or whoever it is, and whether you think you ought to follow their judgment or follow the judgment of other people. i do that every day and some days i have to say to our people, let's try this plan that senator x is suggesting, and we do. even though we may have some doubts about what may be accomplished, if it is a close question, we will bend to try to meet their views because we think that is important. we have tried the united nations before but we may try it again because they have hopes and they believe this is the answer. we will do everything we can to make it the answer. i do not want to hurt its chances by giving any predictions at this moment. but we will consider the views that everyone suggests.
reporter: thank you mr. president. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] the american war in vietnam raged 50 years ago. lbj's war, but it consumed presidents from john f. kennedy to gerald r ford. this veterans day weekend, american history tv looks back at this divisive war with 48 hours of live coverage, archival footage, and first-person accounts from vietnam war veterans and antiwar protesters. this is american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. announcer: monday night on "the
communicators," discuss legislation opposing online sex trafficking. missouri republican congresswoman ann wagner discusses her bill to fight online sex trafficking, and the council for net choice discusses why his group prefers a different approach than the house and senate bills. >> many different actors can be affected by the act, but what we are doing with my piece of legislation is to make sure we are very narrowly going in and amending section 230 to make sure the congressional intent is clear when it comes to the issue of sex trafficking. right now a lot of these online internet actors and providers, , and a whole host of have been blossoming, sadly, over the last handful of years, to make sure they cannot
hide behind the communications decency act and its immunity. >> when it comes to sex trafficking, we have been told a lot of this is encoded language, a lot harder to identify. one of the things we suggested is something of a clearinghouse where, if a website of civil side he identifies -- civil society identifies certain things that are known with sex traffickers, to put that in a central repository that online sites and services can scan against to better identify these coded languages. announcer: watch "the communicators" monday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span2. ago, on october 21, 19 67, an estimated 100,000 vietnam war protesters rallied in washington dc. more than 35,000 demonstrators marched to the pentagon in arlington, virginia, and many
remained there overnight. more than 600 protesters, including author norman baylor, where arrested. next, the vietnam peace commemoration committee hosts a conference on the historical context of the 1967 peace movement. we hear from many activists who were dissipated in the washington protest 50 years ago. this is about an hour and 15 minutes. you're the kid read. no one knows so you get to walk in with a balloonilank slate. at max, you go to class 16 hours a week, if you take four classes for four hours a week, you're in class 16 hours. college is a class management exercise. i can get prepared to be in class for 16 hours a week, because