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In with LBJ

In response to:

Wild Bunch from the February 11, 1971 issue

To the Editors:

I would not ordinarily comment on Hans Morgenthau’s review of my book The Tuesday Cabinet [NYR, February 11], but I must ask for space to set the record straight on an item of fiction that Mr. Morgenthau would fob off as fact. I refer to his suggestion that in 1965, with White House connivance, The New York Times “commissioned” me to write three articles on the Johnson Administration in order to counteract an article Mr. Morgenthau had written for the Times Magazine.

Anyone familiar with either the Times or the White House knows how absurd such a statement is on its face. My meetings with President Johnson and the members of his Tuesday lunch group took place during a period of three and a half years. After my first visit, I saw the President and his men only when I took the initiative in obtaining the necessary appointments. And each time, including the first, I made arrangements for publishing whatever I might write about my meetings. I was under no obligation to publish anything at all in the Times or elsewhere, then or ever.

As to Mr. Morgenthau’s intimation that an article he wrote troubled the Johnson people so much that they felt forced to issue an invitation to me to attempt to neutralize it, I hope he will not be dismayed to learn that I never heard his name or article mentioned anywhere in Washington in the years of visiting there while on this project. Possibly his name and work were on every tongue only when I was not around.

The Tuesday Cabinet was not designed to be a polemic, but rather an effort at explaining the Administration’s Vietnam policy as the President and his chief aides said they understood it—a worthy task for any historian. Mr. Morgenthau uses the word Byzantinism in characterizing my books. I do not know what he means, but I do know that my work does not rely on hearsay evidence.

Henry F. Graff

Columbia University

New York City

Hans J Morgenthau replies:

Professor Graff’s letter has no relevance to the issue I raised in my article. I nowhere so much as intimated that Professor Graff was a party to the arrangements. Thus his arguments completely miss the point. What Professor Graff denies, I never asserted, and what I asserted, he is in no postion to deny.

However, I am glad to set the record straight with regard to Colonel Donovan’s retirement from the Marine Corps. It is obvious from the facts Colonel Donovan presented to me that he retired voluntarily two years before he would have come up for promotion. The information to the contrary I received came from an apparently competent and trustworthy source. I regret to have been misinformed.

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