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I think the most remarkable development in the Johnson administration is that the president who won with the highest electoral majority in the history of the country in 1964 has since that time not only managed to well lose the confidence of the American people but it is in great danger of being the first Democrat in over 100 years to be defeated for re-election. I think in that loss of supporting allies a very interesting story. The voice you just heard was that of syndicated newspaper columnist Robert Novak. Our guest this week on the Yani our Washington forum a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. This week a program in which we reversed the role of this distinguished journalist and make him the subject of a press conference type questioning. Robert Novak is perhaps best known for his work as co-author of the syndicated column inside
report. A column in which he shares the byline with Rowland Evans. Mr. Novak is co-author of the bestselling book LBJ in the exercise of power. He is a frequent political analyst for a Washington D.C. television station and makes numerous personal appearances throughout the nation. Before launching his career as a syndicated commentator Mr. Novak worked for the Associated Press The Wall Street Journal and other publications. Questioning Robert Novak will be a group of advanced political science students from the American University's Washington semester program. These are students from many universities around the nation attending the special corps here in Washington. I'm Bill Greenwood. Public Affairs Director of the national educational radio network. I'll be acting soley as moderator for our first question here is a student from the Washington semester program of the American University
minor Amish Pat Kennedy and I'm from there now cause I didn't go now Iowa just this past weekend they had a very strong demonstration on the part of students MRO them against a Vietnam War in Washington and I was wondering do you feel that this coming station will have any attack and then Jackson's conduct of the war he thinks will change its policy to some extent and try and make it more they negotiated peace. Do you think though maintaining the status quo. No I don't think it will change his policy whatsoever. It's a great deal of speculation on whether the president is going to call for a bombing pause as we get closer to election time or soften the war and you can find people inside of the administration in the high reaches who have grown on both sides of the question I think he is stuck with a pretty hard policy but predicting President Johnson is
a very difficult business. However whether he goes softer or stays as hard as the years or even as skylights I don't think that the demonstration would have any effect in getting a softer policy. Quite the contrary. I think that the the war effort and the support for the war was losing a great deal of support for out the country not because they. The country disagrees with the objectives of the war because we're not winning the war and Americans are very anxious for court victories. However I think that the very unfavorable connotations of the result of the demonstration at the Pentagon will have at least a temporary effect of rebuilding support for the war rebuilding support for President Johnson's conduct of the war. So I think that as far as what it intended to do I think demonstration and all such demonstrations of extremely counterproductive.
Another question Mr. Novak. James Baxter from Carroll College in Waukesha Wisconsin keeping in mind these things that you mentioned as far as some of the policies of the present administration and the role that they've taken. And as far as the idea that Lyndon Johnson seems to be in great difficulty as far as the coming election is concerned also taking into consideration the fact that the Republican Party in 1964 seemed to pacify the conservative wing of the party. What effect do you feel that this will have on the up and up and coming nomination. Well I think it's very dangerous and very incorrect to compare. The situation in 68 anyway with the situation in 64 in 64 I doubt that any Republican could have defeated Johnson. He was not that he was that popular he was never a really popular president but there was a great go feeling about the Kennedy assassination. I think that they were. The country was in no mood to discontinue the
Democrats in office less than just about one year after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And so the Republicans although certainly the right wing of the party did a remarkable job in gaining control in the back of the minds of everybody who were at the Cow Palace. Everyone who was at the Cow Palace at the Republican Convention in San Francisco in 1964 they realized they were not nominating a president of the United States they knew they were nominating a loser somebody was going to lose to Lyndon Johnson. So even if Goldwater was nominated it didn't really make all that much difference. So all this business about getting the party machinery is a lot of fog wash you get you lose the party machinery the day you lose the presidential election it was as was very obvious in 1964 1968 we have a completely different situation. Lyndon Johnson is. It is in very bad shape and they feel they're going to be nominating a winner for
and they're very interested in nominating somebody who could win. Now the that does not necessarily mean that they are going to a Liberal candidate although Nelson Rockefeller right now is running better in the polls than anybody else against Johnson the most right wing of the candidates. Ronald Reagan the governor of California is considered by Republican politicians as an excellent candidate. I think he's an excellent candidate. And there's a lot of talk that he can actually accomplish which is what Goldwater tried and didn't accomplish that is Reagan's campaign would be anti intellectual anti government negro anti International and appealing to many of the moods which are not very far below the surface in America today. So if I think the mood of the Republican Party is to is to get a winner. After all if the only winner they can get is Rockefeller the get go for him but it very well may be they think that
someone who can do the Goldwater bit with much more skill and much more ability that Ronald Reagan will be nominated. It's entirely possible and certainly not to be sneered at or laughed at. You're listening to newspaper columnist Robert Novak. We have another question for. My name is David Keene from get a college you get as broad Pa. Mr. Novak lately we've heard a great deal about the credibility gap and we've found that many members of the press feel that Mr. Johnson distorts and conceals information. Could you tell us the real reason behind these accusations. Well the reason beyond the accusations is I think that by and large they are true. Mr. JOHNSON I've known Mr. Johnson for many years dating back to the time he was a Senate majority leader and as most good parliamentary leaders he worked my deviousness by concealment when his one of his great
legislative masterpieces the passage of the 1970 57 Civil Rights Act part of the his ability was that he created the impression in the early months of the fight over that bill that he was opposed to it and thereby gave himself a great deal of leverage. Now these tactics of concealment and. And in direction which were very effective for the legislative leader a less effective for the president who has a job as a leader and as a teacher of the people and also with the present which were rather sympathetic to him and in his days on Capitol Hill been quite critical. And in the White House the attention has been put on him more closely there was a no that was a joke that was current in the White House press room a few months ago that you can tell. You can tell whether one or Johnson is telling the truth or lying if he's tugging at his ear or rubbing his eyes he's
telling the truth but if he's moving his lips he's a line. And this is an exaggeration. But he is a man who does who likes to keep his secrets he likes to sometimes mislead intentionally. And I suppose after having said all that I want to give at least one example I could talk for a half hour on the examples but a typical example of a self-defeating use of this was when the special U.N. session General Assembly session on the Mideast crisis was going on we had all kinds of foreign diplomats in Washington in New York. And President Johnson was about to meet with President premier Cosequin of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Foreign Minister Paul to the White House he saw the president and asked him if he was going to see Seguin and the president says no not at all there is no plans for this. And not a half hour before the Italian foreign minister had been in conference with the Soviets and they discussed at length the meeting that was to be held in New Jersey.
So he for this this one foreign devil that of some stature was was rather nonplussed to find the president United States intentionally misleading him for no good purpose. And this goes on on an almost regular on a regular basis almost daily I would say we have another question. Richard Thomas Hiram College Hiram Ohio. Having read your column in The Washington Post this morning I noticed that you made some interesting comments on President Johnson's apparent lack of interest in pushing through his poverty program. Would you care to comment on perhaps this might be a concealment tactic in which he is working maybe to have it passed or whether he has lost interest or deems it unfeasible to push it at this time. I think that I don't think it's a concealment tactic for the president. Johnson is working behind the scenes for this and because these things come out you're not working with two or three people in the last six or seven months President
Johnson's attitude toward Capitol Hill legislation toward legislation has changed remarkably. Not just in contrast to his earlier years in the presidency but in contrast to his attitude throughout his political career he has been very passive toward the legislative end of the game and his record is going to be very poor this year he's not going to get his tax increase. The poverty Bill as we speak today is in great danger and the whole legislative session looks like it's going to wind up as a big flat zero. Now the question is why. I think there are three basic reasons. Which are somewhat contradictory perhaps but I think they're all equally true in the first place. He doesn't have much choice. He exploited his advantages so fast and without thought that there would be a tomorrow in his early days that he kind
of used up his store of goodwill on Capitol Hill. And so the House and Senate particularly the House Democratic leaders and rank and file made it clear they don't want any international any presidential interference. They had quite enough of that 964 965 in the early part of 1966. And so it's partly a matter of the reason he doesn't foist on MSN go to the lengths and pushing pushing legislation is that it just wouldn't be as effective as it used to be. Secondly there is the preoccupation with Vietnam. Starting I would say in the beginning of 66 President Johnson increasingly lost interest in Great Society programs and concentrated on Vietnam not because he is a warmonger or any of thing of the sort not because he enjoys foreign affairs to be to the exclusion of domestic interests. Quite the contrary is the case because this became his greatest problem. And when as you know it's human nature when you get
involved in a problem of such magnitude you get wrapped up in it to become preoccupied even obsessed with it. Third and I give this I give these reasons I think in about the order of their importance and I include this went pretty far down the list. I think it's obvious that the administration President Johnson Vice President Humphrey his current campaign of running against Congress similar to Harry Truman's campaign against the so-called do nothing 80th Congress in 1948. Vice President made a speech the other day and I get the word from the inner sanctum of the White House that this they are going to run against Congress so it really doesn't make any much of any all that much difference in 1968 according to this theory if you don't pass these things cause Mr. Johnson will go on the campaign stump and the rate Congress and the coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats but not pass him. I don't I don't think it's a very good strategy and I don't think that region is nearly as important as the
first two. You have another question from a student participant in the American University's Washington semester break room. David Hood College Springfield Missouri we seem to know a greater division between the Northern and Southern wings of the Democratic Party. Will this become a third party in the 68 campaign. Will it play in the greater GOP strength or will it be unified by the time of the election. Well I think I don't see any particular greater division between the north and south the Democratic Party this is been going on since 1948 in Philadelphia when the Deep South delegations walked out of the convention and formed the Dixiecrat Party which carried four states for Thurmond. And there's been a gradual Well I wouldn't say it's gradual it's ups and downs of losses and gains of support by the Democrats in the south over the next 20 years. After nine hundred forty eight but the general trend has been for a loss of support. Now as far as
1968 concern is concerned I see no way that President Johnson can carry the Deep South states they will either be carried by the Deep South states I mean the five states in the south that Barry Goldwater could Mississippi Alabama Louisiana South Carolina and. I was to get what Jordan and I don't see any way that President Johnson can fill any of these states. They will either be carried by a conservative Republican such as Reagan or if he runs and I think he's going to buy George Wallace. Or if not if you have neither George Wallace or a conservative Republican by some independent electoral or the Johnson isn't going to get it now in the middle sized states in a head and head fight between Johnson and say a slightly conservative Republican like Nixon and certainly a definitely conservative Republican like Reagan or the Republican I think would be Johnson in the middle South Tennessee North Carolina
Virginia and although it's geographically not the middle south the ideologically it is Florida even had trouble in his home state. But if George Wallace gets in there as again I say he appears to be. I think he would take enough votes away from the Republican that President Johnson can win in those middle South states and possibly get enough electoral votes to reelect him. So that's why I say that George Wallace although there's no collusion certainly involved but George Wallace may turn out to be Lyndon Johnson's ace in the hole hole and that is indeed ironic. We have another question for an Aboriginal guy. Scott Van Battenburg Clark University was to Massachusetts. Mr. Novak what influence do you feel the anti-Vietnam sentiment will have upon the formulation of the Republican platform in 1988. Well the platform the way you put the question is it's difficult to answer because the platform is a curious Dr. document in the
American history anyway and it's particularly curious this year when the platform Sherman will be Senator Dirksen of Illinois that appears to be a fait accompli who appears to be more from President Johnson's Vietnam policy than President Johnson is either. And so it's quite difficult to see how what the Republicans are going to do in which they tie and gag Dirksen at the time they write the Vietnam flying to the platform which some of them say they will do for They're not going to give Johnson a blank check on Vietnam but for getting the platform and talking about the campaign itself I don't think there's any doubt. So this for a couple of years that in the final analysis the Republican nominee will promise peace in Vietnam how he's going to obx skewer that enough so he can attract both the Hawks and the dogs. He'll say we'll get peace one way or another either we'll win it or we'll get out which is a very popular thing to say doesn't make great deal sense but it's very popular
to say and so the Republicans who have scored their greatest victories in history with the banner of peace again will promise peace in Vietnam and leave the details a little bit to the imagination the Gallup Poll corps shows that roughly 38 percent of the American people prove a President Johnson's policy that means 62 percent disapprove. Some of them are as far as hawkish is Strom Thurman and some of them are his double issues Dr. Spock. But if you can get those disapprove yrs to go around some they piece batter as as the shrewder Republican politicians are trying to do. I think they may have something. Let me say that this is not entirely easy for example if Nixon is the nominee. Johnson can tie around his neck all the Vietnam statements he made giving him all sorts of forte. I think it would be easier with someone like Reagan who
who has given those winner get out line several times. But I think I can guarantee you I think it's a safe production to be at prediction be made that whoever is nominated will not support the Johnson policy and will hold out the promise of peace. Another question for Mr. Novak. Bruce Ferguson boy a college like Wisconsin there's been some speculation perhaps you'd call it wild that Johnson may attempt some spectacular moves in Vietnam in the summer of 1968 and they range from declaring war in the Vietnam North Vietnam to withdrawing a token amount of troops. Do you feel there is a general feeling in the washing community that he may try something like this. I think there's a great deal of anticipation of that yes. The problem with Vietnam is that although it's a very difficult war to win it's difficult to lose. It's very hard for Johnson to change what he's doing very much at the present time. What what would be the spectacular
there. He's almost at the top rung of the escalation bar. Two things nuclear attack which I guarantee you he's not going to do and secondly the invasion and furious invasion of North Vietnam love the DMZ which I think it's highly unlikely the kind of escalation of bombing and lying in the harbor of five long is not a spectacular because it would not end the war. I don't think it's going to bring the Chinese into the war but it's a kind of non-sequitur. The other hand as for the spectacular in the other direction ceasing the bombing. Withdrawal of some troops and mind you he still owes Westmoreland 50000 troops that he promised them and hasn't put in yet and I want more than that after that 50000. But something of this nature. Some people think the ministration think he will do it some people think he won't do it you can get well informed people will give you both sides of the coin and I don't know which is right the point is is that really a spectacular one a pause in the bombing in the war know
what a good doctor and troops and the war know and most important from a political standpoint will either of those things really solve President Johnson's political problems and I don't think they would. Do we have another question for Mr. Novak the girl alone in the middle here would you stand up to a microphone please ask her one more kiss in Hunter College New York City. There's been some report recently of an upcoming revolt among Democratic members of the House in terms of taking their support away from the present leadership. I was wondering if you would comment on this and make any of your predictions on the situation. You're information is quite badly poised. The the Democratic Party is it is a strange animal it can be fired relating itself and splitting apart like so many of the IBA up until election time and then suddenly it starts at hearing together again at least for the election. And I was talking just yesterday to two. Liberal House Democrats who were absolutely ripping Lyndon
Johnson from stem to stern a few weeks ago and now they're saying Well he's I feel sorry for him and he hasn't done such a bad job that we have to back him as the election comes up and the Democratic politicians the real politicians. And this is all but a very small segment up kind of new leftish congressman about 10 of them at most all the others are going to be with him they're going to be supporting him. The state chairman of Michigan Zoltan fair NC state Democratic chairman who did announced quite recently that he would not support the president's renomination is an exception I can think of very few other prominent politicians in the Democratic Party around the country who publicly will take that stand out. Senator Kennedy were two announced for to oppose President Johnson for a nomination which he will not I guarantee you it might be different. Senator McCarthy is toying with entering some primaries
against President Johnson that I can't possibly see that will get much support from the party regulars. Yes another question. My name is Rena gross field from Emory University in Atlanta Georgia. In view of the poor prospects for poverty program and also in view of the lack of positive action in the wake of the 967 riots in the cities what do you see as the role of the cities and specifically the role of the negro in the coming UP elections. Well the role of the cities in the election. Or do you mean I will I mean did to what extent do you think the the turmoil in the cities and the discontent is going to change or affect the election. Well that the negro the Negro vote is something a little bit different than what the impact of the riots will be the Negro vote is essentially a small vote small in that a a smaller percentage of registered Negro vote than any other ethnic or
economic group. There is more apathy or lack of interest in getting to the polls than any other. Group by any other standard in the country by the summer lay or not similarly almost contradicts that the Negroes who do vote in many areas are controlled vote. That is to say the very corrupt regular organization on the South Side of Chicago controls the Negro vote in the shop in the public housing centers and reform movements whether instituted through the reform wing of the Democratic Party or through the Republican Party who had very little success. So they need the Negro vote in many areas is a controlled vote and I would say it will go for Lyndon Johnson in a higher percentage than any other ethnic or racial group. However the real impact of the cities is not is not in the Negro vote. It is if there is another summer of rioting
on the same scale as last summer there will be the negro phobia the anti negro feeling which is. Broken out in this country is I think never before in its history particularly in the north. I think it will spread and extend and it will be highly beneficial to them too. Anyone who uses an anti need for a line or a implicitly I need Iran line and I'm speaking of Governor Reagan so that some politicians that's it's not very pleasant but be realistic feel that Governor Reagan's chances in the convention in an organized nineteen hundred sixty eight depend precisely on how many riots there have been in June and July particularly if there is any if there was riots elsewhere and no riots in California as that was the case this year where Governor Reagan promised a policy of rather relentless repression. I think that this would be those who are trying to use. I
think it's more than a white backlash now I think caught by its real name anti negro feeling as a political weapon with you very much. Back to Reagan 1968. And final question this in the rack before you comment on that. There was a loss of interest among House Democrats and general support in Congress recently at the Governor's Conference loudly intercepted a White House telegram on the Vietnam issue. Has this affected his standing with the governors and especially the Democratic governors. Well I don't think the Democratic governors were jumping up and clapping hands or bottom even before you intercepted the telegram however. I was on the the floating governor's conference I got your say on it rather than at it. And apart from the telegram incident which was more a matter to laugh at I think than anything else I thought I would
say that the governors who had not seen Reagan before and thought of him as some Hollywood figure who had been. I kind of hoped up and by PR experts were amazed at how well he handled himself. I may not agree with him but I think even the Democrats were quite in favorably impressed by by his toughness and his articulateness Mr. Novak I'm sorry to say but our time is up. We want to thank you for being our guest this week. That was syndicated newspaper columnist Robert Novak co-author of the widely read inside report and also co-author of the bestselling book LBJ the exercise of power by questioning Mr. Novak this week has been a group of advanced political science students participating in the American University's Washington semester program. This program was produced by W am you at them American University Radio in
Washington D.C. It is heard abroad over stations of the Armed Forces Radio Network. I'm an E.R. public affairs director Bill Greenwood inviting you to listen again next week for another edition of the U.N. We are Washington for a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. This is the national educational radio network.
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NER Washington forum
Columnist Robert Novak
Producing Organization
WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Columnist Robert Novak, about President Lyndon Johnson's decline in popularity.
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Discussion series featuring a prominent figure affecting federal government policy.
Public Affairs
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Host: Greenwood, Bill
Producing Organization: WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Speaker: Novak, Robert D.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-24-37 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:41
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