May 12, 1967. The President’s secretary recording the Daily Diary (probably Marie Fehmer) writes a beautifully detailed description of dinner conversation at LBJ’s table. Also present are Sen. Russell and aide Harry McPherson.
"At dinner, the President told Senator Russell that what he needed to talk to him about was Vietnam …The President outlined three choices open to him:
'1. I can move further in the North—but they tell me that moving further in the north with the bombing will result in only killing civilians and will not accomplish anything that we've not already accomplished. 2. I can concentrate completely on the DMZ. 3. I can concentrate on the areas between the seventeenth and twentieth parallels and make my planes make that a desert. Just destroy anything that moves.'
Senator Russell feels that dragging this out each day leans more toward getting us in a big war. ‘We’ve just got to finish it soon.’ said the Senator, ‘because time is working against you both here and there.’ The Senator suggested that his feeling was that the only way to end the war was to blockade the ports and stop their lines of supply…The President expressed sincere belief that this would get us into war sooner than anything. He also felt that number (1) above would get us into war. ‘The only thing left to take out up there,’ said the President, ‘is a power plant which is located 1/2 mile from Ho’s headquarters. Suppose we missed,’ said the President.
The President then asked the Senator about Lester Maddox. The President told him, ‘Well, I watched him on Face the Nation last Sunday, and just decided that he definitely was not Georgia quality.’ The Senator said that Gov. Maddox was a child of fortune, just lucky, and couldn’t have beaten any other man in the race except the one he did beat.
After his talk w/ Amb. Clark, the President affirmed his belief that he was a ‘Holt and Menzies man.’ Sen. Russell said that he hoped Holt was an LBJ man because he knew that he won eight seats at least as a result of the President’s visit there. The President said that when Holt was here he stood up and said, ‘All the Way with LBJ.’ The President appreciated that, but then took him aside, and said, ‘Now listen, I don’t want you to become a casualty. If you are lost, then I lose a good friend. They’ll murder you back home.’ ‘No, sir,’ replied the Prime Minister, ‘That’s the way it’s going to be.’ ‘And so it is,’ said the President.
The President then launched into a tirade against the newspaper reporters who follow him around at receptions. He explained to Senator Russell that Liz Carpenter’s procedure is to invite about 25 of them as guests to each reception type function and then allow a press pool to cover the whole thing. The President said that he can’t even swallow a mouthful of food without having one of them watch to see if he chewed it properly before swallowing. He said that all we’re doing is inviting 500 guests, standing them before the wall, and then making them be gracious to the 25 who come up to them and ask questions like, ’Are you happy here? Why are you here? Will you come next time? Are you a friend of the family? Isn’t the service worse here than it used to be? Isn’t the coffee weak?’ …
At midnight. Senator Russell stood up and said. ‘Mr. President, it’s midnight, and I have to go to bed because I’m an old man, and you have to go to bed because you’re President of the United States.’”
Top: Marie Fehmer; middle, l-r: Sen. Russell, Lester Maddox, Holt and LBJ; bottom, Liz Carpenter in her office.