Saturday, November 10, 2007



Johnson had persuaded Arthur Goldberg to give up his seat on the Supreme Court and become U.S. ambassador to the UN by holding out hope that Goldberg could negotiate an end to the Vietnam War. But the President gave Goldberg little leeway to act; by late 1967, Goldberg indicated a desire to resign. Johnson scarcely objected—he considered Goldberg too prone to leaks.

Among the replacements that the President considered was Wyoming senator Gale McGee—one of the few Northern Democrats to support Johnson’s Vietnam policy. This clip provides a good example of the “Johnson treatment”—in this case, a penchant for flattery. McGee ultimately resisted; Johnson appointed George Ball to take Goldberg’s place instead.

President Johnson and Gale McGee, 9 Dec. 1967, 11.00am

WH6712.01 PNO 4, 12504-12505

President Johnson: I’m thinking about what’s best for the country.

Gale McGee: Well, that would be—

President Johnson: And I don’t know of a human that I think is as knowledgeable in this general field, that is not New York-oriented, that is as articulate, that I think makes as good impression on TV. And I’ve watched them all.

I think you have a little of the mold of a Wilson and a Lincoln combination. I think you have a little of the George Marshall and Sam Houston. I think you look a little bit frontier, and pioneer, and a fellow that’s pulled himself up by his bootstraps. But I think you have enough sophistication and articulation that you’re effective as hell.

Now, that’s my type of man. I don’t want one of these Adlai Stevensons. I liked him, but he’s not—to me, I always kind of felt like he had to squat to pee.

Goldberg, on the other hand, is the best negotiator I have ever known.

McGee: Yes.

President Johnson: He does just absolutely have hydrophobia.

McGee: Yes

President Johnson: And he talks a good deal when he ought to be listening.

McGee: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: Now, you’ve got the great problems of the Middle East—and that’s the most dangerous thing. Vietnam is just chickenfeed compared to what the Russians are doing over there, and what may happen there. You’ve got this Cyprus thing that’s rough and tough.

President Johnson: Now, I wouldn’t agree, and I wouldn’t imply, and I’d think of several people if something happened to Rusk as secretary of state.

McGee: Yes.

President Johnson: But I would say right in the beginning that one of the three names I would think of would be yours.

McGee: Oh, my.

President Johnson: And I know you never have thought in those terms—

McGee: No.

President Johnson: But that’s the way we think.

McGee: Yes.

President Johnson: I don’t want that to enter into it, and I don’t want it to be an implication, because I just very likely would appoint somebody else.

McGee: Yes.

President Johnson: But that’s what we think.

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