Interview with Harry McPherson
QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

Let me just move ahead to the Kerner Commission and specifically you had talked about you had written letters of thanking the Kerner Commission and Johnson couldn't even sign those and Roger Wilkins has told us, he was very angry at the President for refusing to acknowledge the Commission's report. Can you talk about what happened when the Kerner Commission came up with its findings and why Johnson couldn't sign them?

HARRY MCPHERSON:

The Kerner Commission was appointed to, to examine the causes of unrest that were creating the riots. And they reported back with a finding and a proposal. The finding was that we were headed toward two societies in America, Black and White affluent and relatively affluent and poor. And the proposal was that we come forward on the federal level with a vast budget of social change. Ah, Johnson was, ah, I believe chiefly dismayed by the size of the budget. He was being asked by the Congress to cut the budget that he had submitted to Congress that year in order that there did not have to be a tax increase. And at the same time the Kerner Commission was saying, don't cut the budget, increase it by 30 or 40 billion dollars. He didn't know where he would find the money. He was frustrated and outraged that somebody would be putting that kind of pressure on him. Other people thought the, the two societies, ah, description was even more of a problem. Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King's aid, ah, thought that he would, a whole lot rather have a lot of money for social programs than a psychological description.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you tell me--

HARRY MCPHERSON:

Can I have, a break just a minute.

INTERVIEWER:

Sure

HARRY MCPHERSON:

OK, let me just--


HARRY MCPHERSON:

I had just written, ah, well, you--