OCTOBER 22, 2003


DEBORAH LEFF:  Good evening and welcome. I'm Deborah Leff, Director of the John F. Kennedy Library Museum.  And on behalf of myself and John Shattuck, the CEO of the Kennedy Library Foundation, it is a pleasure to have you here.  I also want to recognize the supporters of the Kennedy Library Forum Series, Fleet, Boston Capital, the Lowell Institute, WBUR, the Boston Globe and

Three weeks before he was elected President, John F. Kennedy spoke at Wittenberg College in Springfield, Ohio about the qualities he would seek, and those who might serve in a Kennedy administration.  "Should I be elected President," Kennedy said, "it would be my intention to ask the ablest men in the country to make whatever sacrifice is required to bring to the government a ministry of the best talents available. Men with a single minded loyalty to the national interest.  Men who regard public office as a public trust.  For no government is better than the men who compose it. And I want the best. And we need the best, and we deserve the best."

President Kennedy got the best, the very best.  And it is a great pleasure to have two of them with us this evening.  Theodore Sorensen in the middle, served for 11 years as Policy Advisor, Legal Counsel and speechwriter to Senator and then President Kennedy. He was deeply involved in such matters as the struggle over Civil Rights, the race to the moon, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Mr. Sorensen has written numerous books on the presidency and on John F. Kennedy. He is an internationally known and respected attorney, a great friend of the John F. Kennedy Library, and he serves on the Board of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Century Foundation, and the Commission on White House Fellows.  It is also a great pleasure to have back at this library Robert S. McNamara. Following distinguished service in the air force in World War II, Mr. McNamara joined the Ford Motor Company in 1946 as Manager of Planning and Financial Analysis. 

He worked his way up through the ranks and is credited with the Ford Motor Company's expansion and great success in the post-war period. He was named President of the Ford Motor Company on November 9, 1960, the day after President Kennedy was elected President.  Mr. NcNamara didn't serve long. Just five weeks later he accepted President Kennedy's invitation to serve as Secretary of Defense, a position he held until 1968. He then took on the remarkable responsibilities of President of the World Bank and continued his work there until his retirement in 1981.

Both Mr. McNamara and Mr. Sorensen have agreed to reflect on their years of service to President Kennedy, and on President Kennedy's vision for our nation and its role in the world. Moderating their conversation today, we are honored to have with us Anthony Lewis who twice won the Pulitzer Prize for his extraordinary reporting. A leading writer on justice, human rights, and international affairs, Mr. Lewis worked at the New York Times for more than 40 years as its Supreme Court reporter, its London Bureau Chief, and author of the column "Abroad at Home."  Tony, I'll turn it over to you.

ANTHONY LEWIS:  I thought I might be formal and address these two gentlemen by their titles, but that would seem stiff to me.  So, Ted, maybe it's necessary to begin with a very generalized question.  Just to try to tell this audience and the prospective radio audience, many of whose members will be too young to have known President Kennedy, just what he was like, what was different about him. I know you could talk all evening about that, but if you could sum it up, I would like people who didn't know that presidency to know how it was different from what we see today and have seen in recent years.

THEODORE SORENSEN:  John F. Kennedy was totally different from what we see today. He was an extraordinary human being, but particularly for a politician and an office holder.  He had not only a brilliant mind, but an objective, inquiring mind that could analyze any kind of problem in such an objective way, looking for what was the best solution in the national interest.  To make a better country, a better world. He didn't let personal ambition or party politics or prejudices, even sentiment of any kind to interfere with his determination to find the right answer.  That's not what we see in politics very often.

Could I just add one word.  Deborah began by quoting from candidate Kennedy's speech at Wittenberg College in Ohio, and I remember it very well indeed.  Afterwards we called it "The ministry of talent" speech, because he truly was determined to get the best possible people for his administration. And Bob McNamara is proof that he did it.  

He had commented sometime later, between the speech and the election, that he had said in the speech, "I'm not going to appoint ambassadors on the basis of campaign contributions. Then he said, "Ever since I said that, I haven't gotten a single cent from my father."

ROBERT McNAMARA:  Well, I'm going to take the liberty of adding a thought here. First of all, I want to say that I was struck by the quotation in which the candidate Kennedy said at least twice, maybe three times, that he was going to look for the best men.  Couldn't say that anymore.

But then I was about to say, and you've really said it for me just now with your postscript, that one other characteristic of him was how funny he was. I remember once … 

MR. SORENSEN:  Wonderful sense of humor.  He had a wonderful sense of humor.  Well, I remember once at a presidential press conference which took place in the State Department auditorium. He came trying to talk about the situation in Laos; this was before the real … you know, before Vietnam was really a big issue. And he was ready for it with a map, a chart; I'm sure you were there. And then he began talking about the characters involved in the political interplay in Laos, Prince Souvanna Phouma, Prince 

...(inaudible).  And after a while he had gone on like this, and he just stopped and he sort of looked as if he was looking at himself and saying, "How absurd it is that I'm pretending to be an expert on all these strange Laotian names." And the room full of reporters just burst out laughing. He hadn't said anything, but the look was so self-skeptical.  Well, Bob, maybe we should give you a chance to talk about that personal recollection.

MR. McNAMARA:  There are a number of vivid memories that I hope to have an opportunity to talk about tonight. But I want to stress one of them, because it's such a contrast to what we've seen in recent presidents, both Republican and Democrat. He built tremendous respect for service in government. And Ted said the words, but they're imprinted on my mind from the inaugural, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

We all have an obligation to serve. And he believed that it was important for the citizen to serve.  He believed it was important for the government to ask this, as Ted and Tony have said, to draw on the best talent. He did draw on the best talent. The result was there was immense respect for the government. It hasn't been equal in my observations since he left the government. The best and the brightest wanted to serve.  They may not have agreed with everything he did, but they wanted to serve. It was respect for him, for the obligation and for the country. It was a tremendous contribution. 

And in recent years, both Republicans and Democrats, candidates for president, have denigrated the quality of our civil servants, and denigrated the obligation to serve. It's a remarkable contrast.  

MR. LEWIS:  Ted, I have a recollection of the very first days of the Kennedy Administration. There was, and I'm not speaking now of the President whom, of course, I didn't see except in an arena I've just mentioned. But people in the administration of being a really gung-ho spirit. And maybe in hindsight there was a little hubris in it, too. We can do things; there was a tremendous sense of we can really accomplish a lot.  Was it in those early days, hubris? And did it change with the Bay of Pigs?

MR. SORENSEN:  Yes, yes and yes.  The first 100 days of any new administration, in my opinion, are dangerous times. There was a very heady feeling in the White House. You've just won the presidency of a large, powerful leader of the free world.  You can do anything. You think you have the magic touch.  And that's a dangerous attitude to have when you have nuclear and other weapons at your disposal and all the powers of the president.  And the Bay of Pigs was a comeuppance for John F. Kennedy. He was accustomed to winning, and he suffered a terrible defeat. And when he and I took a long walk on the drive behind the White House the day after, he was cursing himself. He wasn't putting all the blame on the CIA and others who had frankly misled him about the basic premises of the plan. He said to me, "I got where I am by not trusting experts. But this time I put all my faith in the experts and look what happened."

So the next time we had a crisis in Cuba, a year and a half later, we took a very different approach and we had a very different result.

MR. McNAMARA:  Let me comment on the Bay of Pigs. It exemplified his character. Ted will remember. President before deciding what to do. This was an inherited plan. I don't want to absolve the President of the responsibility for the decisions and the actions, but it was inherent.  It occurred within 90 days of the inauguration. I didn't know how to spell Bay of Pigs; I didn't know a damn thing about it. Very few others advising him did. He didn't know much about it.   But he had to decide.  

This was a group of Cuban expatriates that had been trained in Central America. They wanted to go back and overthrow Castro. And there was an indication that if he didn't approve its support, they'd denounce him in the streets of Florida. I'm not suggesting that's what led him to do it.  But I want to stress two things. Number one, he brought together all of the civilian and military officials that should be associated with such a discussion in the Cabinet room.  A long discussion.  Then he went around the table, and he asked each individual what they would recommend. There wasn't one single member of the Executive Branch that recommended against it.  I don’t think Dean Rusk and I were enthusiastic, but we didn't say, "Don't do it," or, "Defer the decision until we know more about it."  The only person in the room that recommended against it was not a member of the Executive Branch; it was Bill Fulbright.

In any event, every member of the Executive Branch recommended it. It was a total debacle. I want to comment later on his attitude toward war. And this debacle illustrated it. But we'll come back to that later. But after it was over, he went on TV and took full and complete responsibility for it.

And I went to him and I said, "Look, Mr. President.  I was in the room when you made the decision. There wasn't one of your advisors that recommended against it. I want to say that."  He said, "Look Bob, it was my decision. I was responsible."  That's the way he was.  And it built tremendous respect among those who worked with him.

MR. SORENSEN:  It also astonished the country because nobody in Washington ever took responsibility for a failure before.  And, as a result, his poll ratings went up. He said, "Look at that, I have a total fiasco and my poll ratings go up."  He said, "What am I going to do to get them up further?"  Well, I should add that Bob, when he went around that room, he didn't know the people in that room very well. He didn't know those generals and intelligence officials that he had inherited. And when we met in the excom for the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of the following year, he gathered in that room only people whose judgment he wanted because he knew that he could trust their advice. 

MR. LEWIS:  And they didn't all agree at that time by any means. And it was his brother's judgment that perhaps was the most important?  Is that fair enough?

MR. SORENSEN:  Yes, that is very true, but there had been a few changes in the year and a half also.

MR. LEWIS:  I understand. That brings me, when the two of you talk about the shock of the first 100 days, the attitude of the first 100 days and the dangers of it, and then the shock of the Bay of Pigs and what President Kennedy learned from that, especially about experts, that just takes me to Vietnam. And I've often wondered, I think everybody has wondered, whether if he had lived, his experience at the Bay of Pigs and his experience as President would have made him face the gathering storm in Vietnam in a very different way. I'm not yet talking, I will … I'm not yet talking about specific plans, but in a very different way from the way that President Johnson did, a person who had not been through this shaping experience and who may well have had a greater respect for "experts" in quotes at that time. How do you feel about that, Ted?

MR. SORENSEN:  Well, I defer to Bob on Vietnam, but let me simply say that just look at the historical record. In his first year, twice in his first year, Kennedy sent out the team to take a look at Vietnam. They came back with recommendations that he forget about merely having Eisenhower's advisor regroup the instructors in Vietnam, that he send combat troop divisions in Vietnam. He didn't do it.

Another group went out the following year. And Johnson, by the way, led one of those groups.  Max Taylor, who was a superb military man, led another one of those groups.  Came back, same recommendation, send combat troop divisions to Vietnam and bomb the north. He didn't do it. I don't think he ever would have done it because he knew … He found out that in the Bay of Pigs, Cuba, Berlin, and what are essentially political problems don't lend themselves to military solutions.

MR. McNAMARA:  I think it was even broader than that.  He brought into the presidency the knowledge of history that many presidents didn't have when they became president. And he brought into it a view of the primary responsibility of a president. And I think his view was that a primary responsibility … I'd rephrase it, the primary responsibility of the president is to keep the nation out of war if at all possible.

And as Ted said, in the Bay of Pigs, in the very, very serious but little known crisis over Berlin in September '61 … and I'll comment on Vietnam in a moment … all those cases he viewed through this prism of the responsibility of the president to keep the nation out of war. He could have prevented the debacle in the Bay of Pigs had he been willing to accept the advice of the chiefs and the CIA to bring to bear U.S. naval aircraft power which was nearby. They could have saved the whole thing. He did not want to lead the nation to war with Cuba.  He was determined to try to avoid war in connection with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Neither he nor others of us knew how dangerous that situation was. We knew it was dangerous, but we didn't know that at the time, at 4 p.m., on Saturday, October 26th, the critical hour of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the chiefs recommended unanimously to attack, nobody in the room knew that at that moment of time, when the CIA was estimating, there were no nuclear warheads on the soil of Cuba.  We had photographs of the missiles, but no nuclear warheads there.  It wasn't until 23 years later.  We learned there were 170 nuclear warheads there, roughly, whatever, 60 or 70 tactical missiles against an invading fleet, 90 or so to be used on the missiles targeted on 90 million Americans on the east coast. But he was so determined to keep the nation out of war, if at all possible, he avoided those risks. And that was a major, major foundation to his thinking.

Now, on Vietnam, he never told me what he'd do had he lived, but I'm certain I knew. On October 2, 1963, a few weeks before he died, it was a very important meeting of the National Security Council. And an issue was what to do about Vietnam? And after some discussion and considerable controversy, and particularly over the question of should the decision ...(inaudible), he authorized an announcement, and it was announced on October 2, 1963, that his plan was to remove the then 16,000 advisors in Vietnam by the end of 1965 and to take the first action of pulling out within the next 90 days.

Now that doesn't indicate what he might have done after Diem was killed a few weeks later, and after there was just a merry-go-round of governments in Vietnam. But I am a strong believer that we would never have had 500,000 men in Vietnam had Kennedy lived.  

MR. LEWIS:  There's a  ...(inaudible) in the current issue of the Boston Review by James Galbraith. Have you seen it?

MR. McNAMARA:  I haven't.

MR. LEWIS:  Have you, Ted?

MR. SORENSEN:  I haven't seen that, but I'm familiar with a piece that he wrote a few years ago which I assume is the same thesis, which essentially is -- and you should take a look at it, Bob, you'll be very interested in it -- that the military, not the civilian people in the Pentagon, the military actually changed some of Kennedy's orders regarding Vietnam. Is that what this new one says?

MR. LEWIS:  No, the thrust of this one … and it refers, I think, to the very meeting you've just mentioned, Bob.  The headline of the piece is "Exit Strategy in 1963, J.F.K. ordered a Complete Withdrawal from Vietnam."  It refers to the joint report of yourself and Maxwell Taylor. And it says that recommendation … it gives the number, so I'll say it, Section I-B of the McNamara Taylor report … recommendations read that a (inaudible) … complete withdrawal be completed by the end of 1965, and that the Defense Department should announce in the very near future, presently prepared plans to withdraw 1,000 out of 17,000 U.S. military personnel."

MR. SORENSEN:  That's absolutely correct.

MR. LEWIS:  And he says Kennedy adopted that recommendation.

MR. McNAMARA:  Now, there's a tape.  I didn't know there were tapes made by Kennedy at meetings; his taping was not comparable to Nixon's at all. But he did tape some meetings, unbeknownst to some of us who participated. He taped that meeting. And my recollection … I had a copy of the memo, I was writing my book In Retrospect, and when I got to the point in the story that that meeting was pertinent to, I wanted to be sure that my recollection of it was correct.  By that time I heard there were tapes. So I called the family and I got permission to come up.

The tapes are such poor quality it took me about five hours to be certain I understood a conversation of 30 or 20 minutes.  But there was not much controversy … this is the point I want to make … not by any means, unanimous view of his advisors. Many, many were opposed to approving a plan to remove all advisors and all military support within two years by the end of '65.   Many, many were opposed to withdrawing a thousand within 90 days. And then after that decision was made, many, many were opposed to announcing it.  And the proposal was made to announce it because those who favored the action knew enough about government to understand those who lost would live to fight another day unless they were put in concrete. The way they were put in concrete was to announce it. 

And he went through those controversies and the tape is very clear on this.  First, the controversy over whether to establish the plan and have it as an official government policy. And second, the controversy over whether to put it in concrete by announcing it. He did both. And, as I say, believing as I do now and I think I understand it better now than I understood it then, that he believed the primary responsibility of a president was to keep the nation out of war if at all possible. I do not believe that he would have had 500,000 men in Vietnam.  

He believed in the domino theory. With hindsight, I think it was wrong. He believed that we would lose … If we were to lose South Vietnam, as Eisenhower said, we'd weaken the security of the west across the world.  Eisenhower believed it, Kennedy believed it, I believed it, we all believed in it; I think we were wrong.  

But despite that he would have withdrawn, because I think he felt -- and on this I think he was wiser than many others -- that even if the domino theory was correct, the security of the west would be weakened across the world if we lost Vietnam, he believed it was unlikely we could retain it by the application of external military power. And he was absolutely correct in that. The issue was never properly debated. But that was the reason why I think, had he lived, we would not have had 500,000 men there.

MR. LEWIS:  What do you think about that, Ted?

MR. SORENSEN:  I totally agree that he would never have put 500,000 men into Vietnam.  I would just add that to the word "withdraw," I think he would have looked for and persisted until he found a way to negotiate our way out.  There was no counterpart to the Viet Cong in those days to negotiate with, but I think he would have persisted, because he believed in negotiations as a way to solving conflicts.

MR. McNAMARA:  I agree he believed in negotiation. I doubt at that time it could have  ...(inaudible).  And the reason is I think he misunderstood the war.  We viewed it, in a sense, the war between Chinese communists and Soviet communists seeking to extend their hegemony across eastern, possibly South Asia; this was the foundation of the domino theory.  It wasn't that kind of a war.  We were wrong; it was a civil war.  And I don't think he could have negotiated what I'll call a satisfactory end of the civil war. We didn't understand that.  At least, I didn't understand it until we subsequently met some, whatever, 20 years later, with the leading figures in Ho Chi Minh's military and civilian government.

MR. LEWIS:  Ted, I find this fascinating, this look at this turning point and sense of … at least with a sense of … well, regret would be a grotesque understatement, but tragedy that wasn't followed. But suppose, let's be realistic, President Kennedy was a realist, not least about his own political status. Suppose that as a result of what Bob McNamara described, I believe a minute ago, as the chaos in the government of South Vietnam that ensued rather shortly thereafter, suppose in fact the government had fallen. It might have at that stage. Could and would President Kennedy have stuck to resolve not to get involved more deeply, militarily involved?

MR. SORENSEN:  I believe he would have because I believe that he wanted to do anything possible to avoid the risk of wider war. Indeed, that one of the reasons he ran for president was because he thought the Eisenhower massive retaliation strategy was going to lead us to a nuclear war, and he thought that was his principle obligation as President was to avoid that.

MR. McNAMARA:  I agree with that. But I don't think we should underestimate how difficult a decision that would have been. Let me go back one second to say that many of you are unfamiliar with events in 1963 in Vietnam.  We had penetrated the opposition there, and we also penetrated the South Vietnamese military.  And we were aware that there was a possibility of a coup by opponents to President Diem, by leading military figures.  And to some degree, we supported those who wished to undertake a coup. We could have stopped the coup. We were absolutely wrong. We had an opportunity -- he did, I did, others. We didn't stop the coup. The coup occurred. After it occurred it was a revolving door. I'd forgotten how many governments we had. I think we probably had five governments in 12 months. It was total chaos.  What would he have done?  I totally agree with Ted.  He would not have put in additional military personnel as we did, because he came with this fundamental belief that the primary responsibility of every president was to avoid war if at all possible. And he would have done that.

MR. LEWIS:  I just think I perhaps should remind or tell the audience a bit of the political context here.  A main Republican theme at the time, particularly in certain elements in the party, was that the Democrats had "lost China". That is, Mao Zhe Dong had overthrown the nationalist regime and the communists were in charge of China. And Democrats were very weary of being charged with having lost … you know, it's a bit of an oddity since it wasn't theirs in the first place … but, anyway, having lost another country. I think that makes this a very difficult situation for President Kennedy.

MR.  SORENSEN:  Actually,  ...(inaudible) China preceded Vietnam by a couple of decades.  But during Kennedy's time, the right wing maintained a steady drum beat that in terms of the nuclear competition with the Soviet Union, Kennedy was pursuing a no-win policy.  Well, semantically they were correct, because Kennedy didn't believe you could win a true nuclear war.  General LeMay thought you could. But Kennedy knew that a nuclear exchange would leave both countries so devastated that it wouldn't be worth calling a victory when you're left with nothing but smoke and ashes. He didn't want to win that kind of war. So maybe they were right, it was a nowin policy when he averted a nuclear war.

MR. McNAMARA:  I don't think today we properly understand the forces that were at work on both President Kennedy and President Johnson. We think of students in the street, the killing of students at Kent, we think of the mass demonstrations at Stanford and Harvard and other universities. The primary problem that Kennedy faced and that Johnson faced was not from the left. The problem was from the right, just as Ted said. And the war … this sounds perhaps difficult for you to believe, but I absolutely guarantee this view existed … there were those on the right who believed, as Ted implied a moment ago, that we were going to face a nuclear war with the Soviet Union at some point.  They were certain of that.  And they believed that we should carry out that war at the time when we had the greatest advantage. And in 1963, at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and during a period before the President died, in 1962 at the Cuban Missile Crisis and during 1963 before he died, we had a numerical advantage in nuclear warheads over the Soviets at something on the order of 17 to 1. And it was the belief of many, including General LeMay … General LeMay, by the way, I served alongside under and over, over a period of years in World War II and then in the Defense Department. He was the greatest combat commander I met in three years of any service in World War II.  I thought he was totally wrong on this point I'm making.  He believed we had to fight the Soviets in a nuclear war, and by God we ought to do it when we had an advantage of 17 to 1.

I believed, and I know President Kennedy believed, maybe we could avert a nuclear war with the Soviets.  Nobody could win a nuclear war. There were those that said, well, you say "win a nuclear war."  You ask them how to define winning. The side that ended up with more nuclear weapons after the exchange was over -- might have lost 20 or 30 million people, but if you add more nuclear weapons when it was over, you won.  That's perfectly absurd. It sounds today absurd to you, I'm sure. But you weren't in the Cold War position where you had faced pressure from the Soviets in Berlin, in the Cuban Missile Crisis, in East Asia and other parts of the world.

You lived the Cold War 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So the view that we're ultimately going to have to fight a nuclear war with them, it was totally wrong in my opinion, but it's not difficult to understand why some people believed it. And if you believed it, then it's not difficult to understand why they believed that we should fight that war at a time we had the greatest numerical advantage. Even though to fight it and win it in terms of ending up with more nuclear weapons than your opponent had would have cost 10, 20 million Americans dead, at least.  But those were the attitudes. And he fought against it, and he won.  We averted a nuclear war. We came that close, but we avoided it because of those attitudes.

MR. SORENSEN:  Seven, eight months after the Cuban Missile Crisis was peacefully, successfully resolved without the United States firing a shot, Kennedy who had had the courage to defy his critics  ...(inaudible) that crisis by actually communicating with the Soviet Union and in effect negotiating with them to end that crisis successfully, showed even more courage by giving a commencement address at American University where he called upon the American people to reexamine the Cold War. What was it all about? Why was it necessary? Reexamine our relations with the Soviet Union. Reexamine our meaning of peace.

And he said there … and this I think grows out of his own experiences in combat during World War II, bad experiences … he said there, "The world knows that we in the United States will never start a war. We've had enough of war."  I haven't heard that lately from Washington.

MR. McNAMARA:  Let me comment on this speech. Most of you, probably all of you have never read it, never heard it. Please read it. It's one of the great documents of the 20th century.  It's one of the greatest documents -- it's the American University speech June 10, 1963. The speech was largely written by Ted at the request of the President; it was the President's ideas. The President was traveling much of the time. And the final draft was edited by the President. 

I thought this might come up tonight, and therefore I took the opportunity to get a few lines in the speech.  Let me read them to you. He said, "I've chosen this time and place to discuss a topic on which too often ignorance abounds, and the truth is too rarely perceived. Yet, it's the most important topic on earth, world peace.  I speak of peace because of the new face of war. In an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied forces in the Second World War.  An age when deadly poisons produced by nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and sea to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn, I speak of peace therefore as the necessary rational interest of man."

And he went on to say, "Some say it's useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament – and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it.  But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude as individuals and as a nation -- for our attitude is as essential as theirs.”  I think that speech, which is, as I say … Ted I think wrote most of, at Kennedy's direction … I think that speech indicates what we could have expected in the second term.  And it also indicates the direction that our nation should proceed today and tomorrow and for decades to come.

MR. LEWIS:  I was going to ask about the American University speech.  I feel about it, have long felt about it just as you both do.  I think it tells us also how much development, human development had occurred in John F. Kennedy in his three years as President. He wasn't the same less than three years after his inaugural. He was a wiser person. And he was a more constrained person. He had a sense of the possible that was … and I'm talking, and I'm supposed to be asking questions, but I feel that rather strongly.

Now, another field I have to mention although a temptation to stay on world peace, Vietnam and so on, is very strong.  Something in which he came late to a very important issue was civil rights. My impression was at the time that he thought you couldn't get civil rights legislation passed through the Senate.  In any event, that it would be politically fruitless and self defeating to try. So he just wrote that off his agenda as a serious matter until the civil rights movement exploded in Birmingham and elsewhere. And his brother, who was Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, pressed him hard to take on that issue.  Is this, Ted, a correct appreciation of what happened? How did he come to that issue?

MR. SORENSEN:  Well, first of all, I wouldn't have used quite the same words as you did, though I agree that it was higher on his agenda in 1963 than it had been earlier. He had always favored civil rights, but had not made it a priority. He was told by the leaders of his party in the Congress that not only did civil rights legislation have no chance whatsoever of passing, but his merely sending it to Congress would turn all the southern Democrats against his legislative program, including those items in the legislative program such as increasing the minimum wage, aid to depressed areas, aid to public housing, aid to extending unemployment compensation, which were of most benefit to those at the bottom of the economic pyramid, and a large number of them were blacks. They would suffer if he sent legislation to Congress that would never be passed, they would never get any benefit from. But all the rest of his legislative program would be defeated.

MR. McNAMARA:  I think he felt that way. But I think this was one of the … I'll call it weaknesses of the Kennedy administration. He came slowly and late, I think, to the understanding that prompt and forceful federal action dealing with racial inequities should have been a very, very high priority.  Many of you probably don't understand today, we came very close to burning the nation.  Washington burned, Detroit burned, Newark burned. This was several years after he died. But the problem was building up during the Kennedy administration.  And as Tony said, he began to act on it. And there were reasons why he hadn't acted early. But I don't think he or any of us really understood how volatile the situation was.

MR. LEWIS:  Let me just ask you, Ted, a word more about how you observed his changing, giving it a greater priority and then making it what I might call the Birmingham speech or the great speech he made. Say a bit about that, because it was an extraordinary speech. The other great speech along with American University.

MR. SORENSEN:  And interestingly enough, less than 24 hours later, or about 30 hours later. When John F. Kennedy was United States Senator from Massachusetts, to be frank about it, he had not had a lot of exposure to problems of civil rights and black discrimination in this country. He favored civil rights legislation, what little there was. You remember there was a bill in the 1950s while he was in the Senate.  But it was during his presidential campaign when he traveled in Harlem and in Chicago and in south Los Angeles and elsewhere, he began to see first hand what racial discrimination had forced upon the black population of this country that he began to appreciate how important an issue it was.  And, you know, his race for the presidency was in a very real sense a fight for equal treatment also.

No Catholic had ever been elected President. No Catholic had even been nominated for President for the previous 32 years or whatever. And even members of his own party were determined that no Catholic would be nominated for president. And many of them said … I remember when a leader of the party said, "Just take the vice presidency, then everything will be all right."  And Kennedy said, "Oh, I see, back of the bus for Catholics." So he began to understand equality/inequality during that campaign. And he began to speak about it. And even though he didn't send up comprehensive legislation, he did take some modest moves, not strong, not as far reaching as they should have been -- frustrating to me, I'd been involved in civil rights all my life -- until the fires began to burn around the country, particularly in the south. And in September, late September, early October, 1962, he was determined to carry out the court order that said that a black man named James Meredith should be admitted to the University of Mississippi despite the best efforts of the Governor of Mississippi and a mob on the University campus to keep him out. And we spent a long night with the President, the Attorney General and I, Brook Marshall, in the Cabinet room trying to get enough military support which turned out to be necessary to admit that one man. And then months later we prepared for another confrontation on the University of Alabama campus because George Wallace had declared he would stand in the doorway of any educational institution in Alabama that any black tried to cross.

And we were prepared this time, better prepared. And Bobby's deputy, Nick Katzenbach, was down there, and the National Guard had been alerted. And when Wallace stood in the doorway when two wonderful black applicants approached accompanied by Nick, and then Nick informed them that the President has just federalized the Alabama National Guard and he should stand aside before he was carried out of there. And the President turned around to me and said, "I think we better give that speech on civil rights this evening."  That was about two hours from the usual time that a President speaks to a country. He's talking about one of the most monumental speeches any president would ever give. And he was saying to me, have it ready in less than two hours.  Well, there're lots of stories about that, which we probably don't have time for right now.

MR. LEWIS:  Say more.  I'd always heard it was very rushed. I didn't know it was two hours.

MR. SORENSEN:  That evening Mac Bundy was having a dinner party, at Joe Alsops, in fact, and they said, "Let's tune in and hear the President's speech." And Mac said, "There won't be any speech. I just left the White House, and there wasn't a speech yet."

MR. LEWIS:  I was present at that dinner. And that's why I had a pretty clear sense that it was a rush job.

MR. SORENSEN:  Anyway, it was the first time in my years in the White House that, even though my office wasn't very far from his, it was the first time he walked into my office and said, "How is it coming?"  I said, "Don't worry, the third draft is coming out of my secretary's typewriter." That's what we used in those days, typewriters.  And he said, "Oh, I thought I was going to have to go on national television extemporaneously." 

And he actually had jotted down something on the back of an envelope and he used it. Analyze that speech carefully and you'll see there's kind of a change in the tempo or something at one point, and it returns again. And what he added to it was, of course, masterful.  But no president had ever gone to the country and said that all forms of legalized discrimination and segregation based on race in this country are to end. He said it's a constitutional issue, it's an economic issue, it's even an international issue. But it's also a moral issue. 

MR. LEWIS:  That's what I remember, the moral issue.

MR. McNAMARA:  I think his action on race illustrates a characteristic of JFK. Also a characteristic of Bobby and Ted. The Kennedys were rapid learners.  His attitude toward race evolved as Ted has implied.  Had he lived, I'm sure he would have ultimately gone all the way to force through the Congress the legislation that we needed, ultimately got to deal with the gross inequities that he became sensitive to. But it took some time to understand what was required.  But if you examine Bobby's career, he grew before my eyes. And the same thing is true with Ted.  It was a characteristic of all three of them.

MR. LEWIS:  You're talking about Ted Kennedy?

MR. McNAMARA:  Ted Kennedy, yes.  Ted came in fully grown.


MR. SORENSEN:  Could I just add this word because I think it's a useful standard for all presidents.  Kennedy just didn't give that speech.  He just didn't send the legislation to Congress, although it was unlike any previous legislation in its comprehensiveness.

In the weeks that followed the speech, late one afternoon he gathered in, I think maybe the East Room of the White House, some large room in the White House, all the business leaders of America and told them it was their responsibility to cooperate in this new era of non-discrimination. The next evening he gathered all the labor leaders of America and said it was their responsibility. The next evening after that he gathered all the educational leaders and told them what a responsibility they had, and so on down the line.  He didn't just stop at speeches and legislation. He was living up to the President's obligation to educate the country and ask for the help of every leadership group in the United States.

MR. LEWIS:  Don't forget the lawyers, Ted.

MR. SORENSEN:  And the lawyers, absolutely.

MR. LEWIS:  Bobby called the lawyers in and that was a very effective thing because lawyers make a difference, I felt.

MR. SORENSEN:  And yet at that meeting … by chance, I happened to read the transcript of that meeting.  At that meeting there were lawyers who stood up from the south, and said, "Well, we're happy to cooperate with you any way we can, Mr. President and Mr. Attorney General.  But we need your help in putting down these agitators and these demonstrations. And it's not all one sided, you know."  And so on at some length.

MR. LEWIS:  Right.  Hard to remember those days.  I want to go back to Vietnam and ask  ...(inaudible) question of Bob McNamara.  You and General Taylor turned in that report which was the subject of the discussion at the meeting of October 2nd that you described and Professor Galbraith has written about. And you were certainly aware of the President's decision. You've heard it being made.   And then the President died, President Johnson came into office, and everything changed. And we started on the path toward 500,000 troops in Vietnam. 

How did that work with you? You were the Secretary of Defense, you saw a plan completely turned on its head.  Did you resist?  What happened?

MR. McNAMARA:  Well, Vietnam had turned on its head.  Because as I said earlier, after the decision of October 2, 1963, the decision to announce publicly that it was the government's intention to remove all of the American military personnel from Vietnam in two years and take the first thousand out in 90 days, it was a fundamental change in the Vietnam problem.  It occurred a few weeks before the President died, perhaps four or five.  As I said, President Diem was killed.

Essentially, the political structure in Vietnam collapsed.  President Kennedy didn't face that. What he would have done we can only speculate. I suspect that initially he would have deferred withdrawal until he had time to examine two fundamental propositions, which were never, before he died or after he died, never properly discussed, debated, examined by the senior people, military and civilian and the U.S. government. Not under the Kennedy administration, not under the Johnson administration, not under the Nixon administration.  The two fundamental propositions to examine: number one, was the domino theory correct?

The CIA estimates, the first estimates … well, the day before the President was inaugurated, there was a meeting between President Eisenhower and President Kennedy … related and announced, as I recall it. We're talking now about June of '61.  And he had announced, as I remember, several months earlier that if we lost South Vietnam, if we were facing the loss of South Vietnam, it’s necessary to be prevented, it would be in the interest of the U.S. to introduce U.S. military troops to prevent that. That was the domino theory. That was never fully debated in the Kennedy Administration or the Johnson Administration.  The CIA continued to put out intelligence estimates, national intelligence estimates, stating in effect the same conclusion that Eisenhower had, and that I believe Kennedy accepted and Johnson accepted. 

It wasn't until September of 1967 … and by the way, I didn't learn about what I'm about to tell you until I was writing my book In Retrospect, in 1994, whenever that would be, 17 years later … I didn't learn that in September 1967 Dick Helms, the Director of CIA, took to President Johnson a memorandum with a covering note that said, "We are not defeatists."  Now, why did he say that? He said it because behind that note was a study of about 25 or 30 pages that was a result of investigations that Dick Helms had directed his senior analyst to carry out on Vietnam, examining the merit of the domino theory.  And the last paragraph of that report, as I recall, said, "Yes, if we withdraw and defeat"-- as we would have, we would have withdrawn on September '67--"Yes, there will be questions about U.S. security guarantees from those to whom we've granted them. And yes, there would be some adverse effect on U.S. security and western security across the world. But there would be no fundamental change."

That report, to my knowledge, was never made public until I referred to it, what would have been 20 years later, in the book In Retrospect, that thesis that western security would be severely weakened if we lost South Vietnam was never properly debated. And the corollary thesis that if that thesis were true, that we would severely weaken western security if we withdrew on defeat, was never probably debated as to whether we could prevent that by U.S. military action.  

There's never been, as far as I know, a written report, a book, extensive report by senior military personnel examining a thesis, could we have prevented the domino theory by U.S. military action? The thing that comes closest to it is Chapter VII of my book Argument Without End, which was written by Colonel Chandler, the professor at U.S. Defense University, to whom I asked, "Was there ever a chance from January 21 of 1961" … I spoke of it as June; it was January 21, '61 … "Was there ever a chance we could have" … I'll call it won militarily, "from then until the end of the Johnson administration?"   Chandler examined it and said, "No.  Short of genocide. No, short of use of nuclear weapons."  There was never a chance of winning militarily.  That was never debated. Now, you say, well, why? Why weren't these two fundamental issues debated?  They weren't debated because it's human nature to avoid bringing to the table, to the surface, issues that would split an organization wide open.  And those two would have.

MR. LEWIS:  Ted, if I remember your comment earlier, you don't agree with Bob about what President Kennedy would likely have done in face of the chaos in the government of South Vietnam, because you said he would have stuck to the position.  Is that correct?

MR. SORENSEN:  Stuck to his position of not sending in massive troops or a massive military effort and involvement. Let me simply say this.  It's pained me over the years to see people attack Bob McNamara over Vietnam because I happen to know that even under the Johnson administration, he was supplying Robert Kennedy with some of his basic arguments and information against the war in Vietnam.

My role in foreign affairs in the Kennedy Administration was limited, except when a speech was necessary or when there was a crisis meeting such as on Berlin or on Cuba.  Kennedy gave no speech on Vietnam, and had no crisis meetings on Vietnam, which is some indication of the fact that during the Kennedy years it remained a rather low level civil insurrection. And I don't want to say the President ignored it, perhaps he should have paid more attention to what was going on. But it never came to the kind of attention in the Kennedy White House that it did under Johnson.

MR. McNAMARA:  And may I go back, Tony. I'm not quite sure I understood exactly what you said. But I think you implied that I implied that had Kennedy lived through the chaos, political chaos of Vietnam that followed Diem’s death, that he would have reversed the October 2nd decision.  I don't think I implied it, and I don't believe he would have. I want to make this very clear. I do not believe he would have changed that decision. I do not believe that he would have believed that external military force could have effectively dealt with the political chaos that existed.

I think he would have continued to believe in the domino theory. I think he believed that we were facing Soviet pressure across the world. And I think he believed that the Soviets and the Chinese Communists were putting pressure on Vietnam to use it as a springboard to extend their hegemony across East Asia and possibly South Asia.

But I think he would have also believed it was very unlikely, if that were their objective, that we could have prevented them from achieving it by introducing external military force. He said over and over again the war in Vietnam, if it's to be won, must be won by the South Vietnamese. I think he believed it. He said it, and I believe would have acted on it despite the chaos that existed.

MR. LEWIS:  Perhaps we should end with a gentler question.  We were talking about this earlier, just chatting. And I think people nowadays might like to be reminded of the difference in the relationship of this country and its reputation, relationship to the world and its reputation in the world then and now.  To me it's a very striking difference, and I wonder if each of you would just say something about that subject.

MR. SORENSEN:  It's a frightening difference.  I think it's more disturbing to me than almost anything else today. In Kennedy's time, America was respected by the world for its values, for the very objectives that he was striving for, equality among the races, abundant opportunity for every American, peace throughout the world. As he said, "The world knows we'll never start a war."   Those were the values of not only the American President, but the values of the American people:  democracy and rights and liberties for all. America today is resented for its preponderance of the wealth and military might in the world. Well, we were wealthy and mighty then, too.  

Kennedy didn't have a foreign policy based on military.  He didn't have an economic policy based on dominating the economies of the world. And so that kind of respect and admiration world round, in effect, made all of us safer because people didn't hate us. They weren't recruiting suicide bombers to fly planes against our buildings or blow up our tourists or businessmen abroad. I think that America was a safer place because it was respected for those values and the President of the United States, who was a committed multilateralist, he believed in the United Nations, talked about it in his inaugural address. I think the world respected that, all parts of the world. In that inaugural address, three or four times he referred to the people who live in misery and starvation and illness around the world. He wasn't indifferent to that. He wanted to do something about it.  And he agreed with Thomas Jefferson that we should pay some attention to world opinion. He believed in paying attention to it.

MR. McNAMARA:  He increased respect for the U.S. among other nations enormously for the reason that Ted indicated.  He believed in the responsibility of the U.S. to lead. But he did not believe the U.S. had the right to act unilaterally.  He instead said he supported the U.N.  He established the Alliance for Progress.  He sent Dean Rusk to the OAS to present to them the problems we faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis, to permit them to debate the action he was considering and hopefully to obtain as he did their support for the quarantine, which was a controversial action at the time.  Today the quarantine seems a natural, rational action to take. At the time, at one particular meeting on the Sunday before the quarantine was announced by a narrow majority, the majority of his civilian and military advisors recommended against the quarantine in favor of an attack.  But he insisted that decision be overridden by his decision to start with a quarantine. And he sent Dean Rusk to the OAS, Organization of American States, to represent the problem to them, to let them debate it and, hopefully, to obtain their support as he did.  He sent emissaries in connection with the action he was planning to take in the Cuban Missile Crisis, to McMillan in Britain and to De Gaulle in France, to explain the action to them, to ask for their support, which he got. He was not a unilateralist.

MR. SORENSEN:  And to Adenauer in Germany.

MR. McNAMARA:  And to Adenauer, exactly. He was not a unilateralist.

MR. LEWIS:  I can't resist asking one more question.  What has happened to us? Why is it so different today?  Are we talking about leadership or about something in the American people or a trend in the world? What has happened?

MR. SORENSEN:  It's a well worded question.  I think there was a lot of wisdom, as there often is, in the Doonesbury comic strip in which it showed a couple of the Doonesbury characters at a bar. And one of them in the first panel is saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.  Remember all that stuff?”  Second panel, laughing laboriously.  Third panel, looking at each other, sadly, and one says, "My God, what's happened to us."

MR. LEWIS:  Say something, Bob.

MR. McNAMARA:  I've received as of yesterday, the last one I received yesterday, 67 requests come to me across the world, television and newspapers, magazines, to comment on Iraq and our action there. And I said, "I thought it would be irresponsible for an ex-Secretary of Defense to comment on a situation in which the U.S. President is deeply involved in very delicate negotiations, in which U.S. military personnel are putting their lives on the line every day." And I haven't answered any one of those requests, and I'm not going to comment on it today.

MR. LEWIS:  Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have time for just a few questions. Please keep them extremely short, a sentence, no more, because we have to try to give people a chance.

Q:   My name is Albert Hurder. I've lived in Paris for the last seven years. I come each year in October to visit my sister. And a year ago I heard Mrs. Sorensen stand up on the same platform where her husband sits today and try to educate us to the point where people around the world don't much appreciate the way America acts on the world stage.

I'd like to ask each of you to comment very simply on one question that I ask from Paris to those in America who suggest that George Bush is doing a very good job, that it's worth a billion dollars a week.  And that is, if it was America, Inc. and you were allowed to buy shares, would you be long or would you be short?

MR. SORENSEN:  Let me simply say two things, because I don't believe the restrictions that inhibit a former Secretary of Defense apply to a former Special Counsel to the President.  First is, that I believe President Bush went into Iraq with a totally different approach than President Kennedy when he faced down the Soviets in Berlin and on the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

First, Kennedy wanted to know what all the options were, military and diplomatic, so he could choose the best. Second, Kennedy did not bypass the United Nations. You remember Adelaide Stevenson's dramatic presentation of the Missile Crisis to the Security Council, which did not rule against the American quarantine of offensive weapons coming into Cuba.  Kennedy wanted allies. He didn't regard them as backseat drivers. Kennedy had respect for world opinion. Kennedy wanted to find peaceful, negotiated solutions.

I happen to think that there were other ways by which Saddam Hussein, who is a vicious, terrible person, could have been removed from power in Iraq and held accountable by the International Criminal Court, which our government doesn't even support and participate in, and his weapons of mass destruction, if any, located and destroyed. And the region safeguarded by the American troops that were already there without the United States undertaking a unilateral invasion of Iraq, which has simply increased by hundreds of millions the number of potential terrorists out there who want to harm America and its interests.

So I don't want to get into selling long or short; that hasn't been my forte.  But I think our children and our grandchildren face a very difficult, dangerous time because of the changes in leadership that I've summarized.

MR. McNAMARA:  I've dealt with the problems of long and short various times in my career at Ford and otherwise.  I'd go long despite what Ted has pointed to. We have very serious problems in the world, particularly the tendency to be unilateralist.  And let me stress a point. I'm not talking about the Administration. I'm talking about the American people. The American people are basically, at various points in time, unilateralists.  Why not?  We won two world wars, we saved Europe.  We supply 10% … this is what people believe … We use 10% of our GDP to support development across the world. That's absolutely absurd.  The percentage of our GDP that goes for development helped the emerging nations, the poor nations of the world, the poverty stricken nations, is not 10%; it's .1%, one-hundredth of 10%. But the American people believe it's 10%.  They believe we're good. We saved people in Europe in two World Wars.  We introduced the Marshall Plan, saved them economically.  Our moral standards are high, so they believe. They don't look upon themselves as unilateralists.  But they are.  

However, I would buy long. I'd take a long position because I think we'll change. We're seeing the change every day. The attitude of the U.S. toward the U.N. today is quite different than it was six months ago or 12 months ago. And I believe it will still be further different a year or two from now.  The nation is very, very strong.  It's strong militarily, it's strong politically, it's strong economically.  We're much weaker than I'd like to see it in certain respects. I'm not going to comment on the weaknesses.  But in the long run the strengths will offset the weaknesses.  And I think we're gradually moving away from some of these weaknesses. I hope that's the case.

Q:  Mr. McNamara, I have two questions that are related. You said that there was no opposition on the part of the advisors to Kennedy with regard to his position in Vietnam. I wonder would he have  ...(inaudible) some of the people who in the press would  ...(inaudible) situation very differently?  ...(inaudible) was the future President Johnson while depending 


MR. McNAMARA:  I couldn't really hear the question. [the mike cut out] But the one part I heard that I want to … 

Q:  I asked whether Johnson would have followed Kennedy's policy and why did he change Kennedy's policy?

MR. McNAMARA:  Well, first I think you said there was no opposition among Kennedy's advisors to his position.  There was strong opposition. Look at the tapes of the October 2nd meeting.  His advisors were split.  There was very strong opposition to his belief that we should plan on withdrawing military advisors from Vietnam by the end of '65. And there was even greater opposition to his decision to announce it.  So his advisors were split.  

Johnson was in a different position.  And I don't want to comment on Johnson. Johnson inherited a miserable situation. And I don't want to comment on how he dealt with it or why he dealt with it. I do want to mention one point, though. I think you implied that when Kennedy was still alive there was strong opposition in the press to U.S. … 

Q:  Just some opposition in the press.

MR. McNAMARA:  Well, that's a much better statement. That's what I was going to point out. There was general support in the press and among all segments of U.S. society -- academia, the press, the political settlements, the Congress.  Today we tend to look back on those years in the early and midsixties, and we think of, and I think we should recognize, the opposition that built up.  But throughout those years the majority of Americans were in favor of what was going on in Vietnam. 

There's a very, very interesting study that was made by a political scientist, I think it was at the University of Illinois, who examined the polls and the positions of various segments of our society from the early sixties into early 1968. And that political scientist found and reported that the majority of the people supported the position of America … 

Q:  I know I did until 1966.  

MR. LEWIS:  We've got just a couple of minutes left.

Q:  Hi, I'm Mimi Horowitz, a student at Boston University.  I have a twopart question and they're brief. The first is to Mr. Sorensen and McNamara.  JFK's  ...(inaudible) during the Cuban Missile Crisis parallels Bush's initial refusal to engage in diplomatic talks with North Korea. But he's been criticized for this approach.  How is the current situation different from the Cuban Missile Crisis? And how should it be approached  ...(inaudible)

President? And to Mr. Lewis, do you feel that the media and the press has largely been drawn in by the Bush Administration to overly focus on North Korea?

MR. LEWIS:  Do I feel that what?

Q:  Do you feel that the media has been drawn in by the Bush Administration to overly focus on Iraq so much so that they have not questioned him enough about North Korea as what happened with the press during Franklin Roosevelt's administration where they ignored a lot of the things going on during the Holocaust in Europe?

MR. McNAMARA:  Would you translate for me, I couldn't hear it.

MR. LEWIS:  The first question I couldn't hear. I'll do my best to answer what I think was your second question.  The mikes are not working very well. But if the question is about the attitude … and I'm not supposed to be here to answer questions, but I will.  The attitude of the press toward the Bush Administration policy in Iraq.  I think pressure has been far too slow to look critically and analytically at the policy. I think we were driven into the Iraq war by misrepresentation, by falsehood, by bad intelligence. And that the press, on the whole, was lamely sitting comfortably in some place and not asking the hard questions.  It has begun to do so, but far too late. That's just my opinion.

MR. SORENSEN:  Let me answer what I think I heard the first question to be. Which is I think there is a potential nuclear danger in North Korea now and in the near future in Iran. And that justifies some comparison with the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Whereas I said Kennedy was willing to communicate, the present Administration has said they will not talk with North Korea, except in some kind of sixth power context. And they won't talk with Iran. The Europeans, as you've noted in the papers this week, have been willing to engage with the Iranians and so far they've engaged with Iranians successfully.  Why this Administration takes a policy of never negotiating when there's danger, I don't know. 

Prime Minister Rabin in Israel said many years ago, "Who am I going to negotiate with if I don't negotiate with my enemy."

MR. McNAMARA:  Well, if Tony were still writing his column for the New York Times, which I thought was the best column, published in the days he was writing it, you would have read, I'm sure -- and don't you comment, Tony -- you would have read quite a different analysis and evaluation of U.S. policy with respect to Iraq. And you would have read quite a different evaluation of U.S. policy toward North Korea and Iran with respect to nuclear weapons. Ted is absolutely correct. There is no solution to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran, other than a diplomatic solution. And you can't carry out a diplomatic solution if you don't talk. That's the foundation of diplomacy. And we haven't done nearly enough of it.  And I'm not charging this Administration with it.

The U.S. has failed to deal with this problem. By the way, President Kennedy understood that problem. He stated, "If we don't deal with this problem of proliferation by 1970," I think he said … You may remember better than I, Ted, he said, "There will be ten nations with nuclear weapons and more after that." And there would have been.  He began to deal with it. He put forward with Khrushchev the limited test ban. That was the first step toward dealing with nuclear proliferation.  It was the leading treaty that led to a succession of treaties between the U.S. and the Soviet Union designed to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. And it finally led to the nonproliferation treaty. 

We must recognize the danger to the world of proliferation of nuclear weapons. And the only way to deal with it is through diplomacy. Now, it's going to require some very, very tough decisions by the U.S. to be successful in that diplomacy. But you can't do it by preemptive military action. And I absolutely guarantee that.

MR. LEWIS:  Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have to stop; this is our time limit. And I'm sorry to cut you off. But I think it was also a very good place to stop.  [applause]

MR. McNAMARA:  Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.