Fifty years ago today,on October 21, 1964, Lyndon Johnson went to Akron and spoke about the Vietnam War. He said: “Sometimes our folks get a little impatient. Sometimes they rattle their rockets some, and they bluff about their bombs. But we are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”
President Johnson: I’ve been reading about all these coups out there, and all the problems of [South Vietnamese leader Nguyen] Khanh and everything. I was just wondering what’s happening to me. [Both chuckle.] I start out with a war.
Now, tell me, what’s your evaluation of the stuff we’re getting from [Ambassador Maxwell] Taylor tonight? I’m just reading it, and it doesn’t look very good.
McNamara: It doesn’t look good, Mr. President. It’s no different, you know, than what we’ve seen here and sensed here for some time. I think the odds are we can squeeze through between now and the next several weeks. But it certainly is a weak situation.
I’m going to meet tomorrow at 11:00 with Dean Rusk and Mac [Bundy] and others to reappraise it and see what we think can be done, if anything. I really don’t think there’s much we can do in the next several weeks to change the outlook. But neither do I think it’s going to completely collapse in that period.
Afterwards, though, after the election, we’ve got a real problem on our hands.