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LBJ Speaks on Vietnam at First Live Televised Press Conference

Feb. 29, 1964 - President Johnson today characterized as unjustified recent speculation that the U.S. either was losing the war in South Vietnam or that the Southeast Asian country could be neutralized under present conditions. Mr. Johnson admitted this country was confronted with an extremely serious situation in South Vietnam, but he said talk of defeat and neutralization did “our cause a great disservice.” The President’s remarks came at his first formal press conference on live television.

On the seemingly unsteady American-backed war effort against the Communist Viet Cong, the President said: “I do not think that the speculation that has been made that we should enter into a neutralization of that area, or that we are losing the fight in that area, or that things have gone to pot there, are at all justified.” Mr. Johnson’s comments came as an indirect rebuke to French President Charles de Gaulle’s recent assertions on the situation in Southeast Asia. Although de Gaulle was not mentioned by name, the French President has argued that the U.S. does not have the capacity to win the war in South Vietnam and that neutralization of the area is the only way out.

President Johnson seemed to knock down rumors that the war against the Red guerrillas might be expanded from South Vietnam to Communist North Vietnam. “The plans that have been discussed in the papers,” he declared, “are not plans that have come to my attention or that I have approved.” Mr. Johnson said he expected Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to bring back “very valuable information” from his trip to Saigon this week.

The President strongly endorsed U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge, who recently has been involved in domestic political dialogue as a possible Republican Presidential contender. “I am unaware of any political inclinations he may have,” stated Mr. Johnson. “I have seen nothing that he has done that has in any way interfered with his work out there. I think that he has properly assessed the situation himself by saying, since he is our Ambassador there, that he cannot personally get involved in the campaign plans that some of his friends may have for him.”


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