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Lodge Mum on Presidential Campaign

Feb. 23, 1964 - Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge said today in Saigon that his diplomatic position prevented him from making any statements, public or private, on the unofficial campaign to make him the Republican nominee for President. He declined to discuss the content of a telephone conversation with Governor Nelson Rockefeller that was held yesterday morning. He has also, in private conversations in recent weeks, side-stepped specific questions about the campaign in the New Hampshire Presidential primary being conducted on his behalf. Mr. Rockefeller recently suggested that Mr. Lodge should either take responsibility for U.S. policy in Vietnam or resign his post and come home to tell what is wrong.

Sources said Mr. Lodge has expressed no intention of leaving Saigon and, on the contrary, has given every indication he would stay at least until the present critical period in the South Vietnamese war effort was over. Observers noted that Mr. Lodge had nothing to gain by making any statement at this time affecting a campaign he has specifically disowned. Moreover, any published speculations that seem to indicate the Ambassador is pursuing American political activities would be likely to impair his effectiveness in Vietnam.

In related news, Governor Rockefeller intensified today his criticism of the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations for “conflicting statements about Southeast Asia.” Mr. Rockefeller asserted that failure to defeat the Communist guerrilla movement in Vietnam “can lead to the extension of Communism throughout Southeast Asia.” This could convince the developing countries, he said, “that Communism is the wave of the future,” and prove to our allies “that our leadership is ineffective — that we have neither the power nor the will to back up our word.”

Mr. Rockefeller posed several questions to the Johnson Administration. Among them were:

— What are the facts on the war?

— What American commitment is necessary to win it?

— Why were 1,000 U.S. troops withdrawn last December?

— Does the U.S. still intend to withdraw its military forces from Vietnam by 1966?

In Washington today, House Republican whip Leslie Arends of Illinois said the Administration should decide soon what to do about Vietnam. “A decision is going to have to be made one way or another,” he said. “Either we’re going to have to go in there and try to do a job, or get out and come home.”



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