Miller Center

Dealing with Critics of the War

The extent of the Kennedy administration's advance knowledge or even participation in the November 1, 1963, coup in South Vietnam and assassination of Ngo Ding Diem has been a hotly debated political and historical issue for many years. In this conversation, President Johnson offers his own interpretation of those events to Senator Eugene McCarthy. McCarthy, along with Senator J. William Fulbright and columnist Walter Lippmann, had become increasingly vocal in his criticism of American involvement in Vietnam. In the days prior to this telephone call, McCarthy had been widely quoted in the press for his criticism of the administration's recent resumption of bombing. In this call, Johnson tried to convince McCarthy to tone down his criticism. The President had previously offered to provide the Senator with a special briefing from the General Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reasoning that, "I thought that if you had the information I had, that you might be assuaged somewhat, and relieved somewhat, and at least, maybe you could suggest a better alternative or something else."

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