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President Bids Soviet Leaders Visit U.S., Outlines 'Great Society'

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« on: January 06, 2010, 07:06:29 am »

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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2010, 07:06:47 am »

President Bids Soviet Leaders Visit U.S., Accept TV Exchange; Outlines 'Great Society' Plan
Will Go Abroad Stresses Education in Message at Capitol on State of Union
By Tom Wicker
Special to The New York Times


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Washington, Jan. 4. -- President Johnson expressed the hope tonight that the new leaders of the Soviet Union could visit the United States and that they and American leaders could exchange television appearances in their respective countries.

In his second State of the Union Message, Mr. Johnson also disclosed plans to visit Europe and Latin America this year. Then he moved on to outline a sweeping program for improved education and for moving the nation "toward the Great Society."

The bid for a visit by the Soviet leaders was the major surprise of a 50-minute address. Government sources said diplomatic approaches to the Soviet Government had been going forward for some time and that Soviet officials had been informed today of what Mr. Johnson would say.

Domestic Program

Mr. Johnson set forth a domestic program that swept almost literally from the Potomac to the Pedernales in his native Texas.

He addressed a joint session of the House and Senate from the rostrum of the House of Representatives nine hours after Congress convened at noon.

Mr. Johnson spoke in a packed chamber and before jammed galleries. Mrs. Johnson and her two daughters, Lynda Bird and Luci Baines, sat in a box to his left.

Members of the Cabinet, the Supreme Court Justices, the diplomatic corps and most of the members of the 89th Congress were in a semicircle before him. Chief Justice Earl Warren was absent from the row of black-robed Justices.

A Somber Speech

The President read his message from an electrically operated prompter, the first time such a device has been used for a State of the Union Message. He read slowly, pausing long to make many of his points, and a planned 30-minute speech gradually stretched out to about 50 minutes.

Mr. Johnson occasionally glanced at a reading script. In a generally somber speech, he evoked one laugh by asserting that a President's hardest job was not "meeting daily troubles, large and small -- or even working with the Congress."

He was interrupted for applause 57 times, a slight drop from the more than 80 interruptions recorded for his first State of the Union address last year.

Government sources said the President would send five special messages to Congress before his inauguration Jan. 20 -- an unusual course.

The first, concerning health, will go to Capitol Hill Thursday. The four others will cover education, immigration, foreign aid and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

On the pressing question of the war in South Vietnam, Mr. Johnson was guarded. His remarks, however, suggested no change in the present policy of supporting the South Vietnamese military operations against the Communist Vietcong insurgents while continuing the search for a stable South Vietnamese government.

The United States, the President said, is attempting to assist a friendly nation against Communist aggression as well as to protect its own security by achieving peace in Southeast Asia.

Such a peace, he said, "will come only when aggressors leave their neighbors in peace."

In summary, the President declared:

"This, then, is the state of the union: free and restless, growing and full of hope."

Mr. Johnson emphasized an educational program that he said would require authorization of $1.5 billion in its first year. Government sources said that, coupled with existing programs, that would bring expenditures for education to above $3 billion in the fiscal year beginning July 1 -- or twice the level of educational expenditures in the current fiscal year.

The President gave few details but said the educational scheme would aid primary and secondary schools, particularly those serving low-income areas, and would include both public and private schools. Greater scholarship and loan aid was pledged to college students.

Mr. Johnson outlined his approach to the Great Society as follows:

He promised to maintain and increase national prosperity partly by the stimulus of a reduction in Federal excise taxes. He also asked Congress to streamline its procedures to make quick tax cuts possible and to make special funds available for emergency public work programs.

He requested "doubling the war against poverty this year" and called for new emphasis on area redevelopment, further efforts at retraining unskilled workers, an improvement in the unemployment compensation system and an extension of the minimum wage floor to two million workers now unprotected by it. No increase in the present $1.25-an-hour level of the minimum wage will be sought, Government sources said.

He called for new, improved or bigger programs in attacking physical and mental disease, urban blight, water and air pollution, and crime and delinquency.

He pledged a "massive effort to save the countryside" by establishing more parks, seashores, open spaces, recreation facilities and beautified highway rights-of-way.

He Cites the Potomac

On natural beauty and conservation, Mr. Johnson said he would soon call a White House conference on natural beauty. He specifically cited the heavily polluted Potomac River as one he hoped to "make a model of beauty and recreation for the entire country."

The President also called again for programs either he or President Kennedy had requested since the Democratic Administration came to power in 1961.

He asked for the enactment of a plan to provide medical care for the aged through the Social Security System, and for increased Social Security benefits to the aged. Previously, the President had termed this program his "No. 1 priority."

"Doubling" the fight on poverty, Government sources said, meant seeking twice the current $780 million appropriation. The antipoverty program was started last year.

Mr. Johnson called again for "an immigration law based on the work a man can do and not where he was born or how he spells his name."

He proposed a department of housing and urban development in the Cabinet. He also asked for repeal of Section 14-B of the Taft-Hartley Act, permitting state right-to-work laws, which forbid compulsory union membership.

Mr. Johnson also repeated earlier calls for elimination of all barriers to the right to vote. That was his only reference to civil rights, other than for a pledge to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Government sources said Mr. Johnson would seek to eliminate arbitrary restrictions on voting, particularly unreasonable literacy tests and residency requirements. He has not decided, they said, whether to ask legislation or a constitutional amendment.

His call for improved unemployment compensation would also affect many Negroes. Government sources said he intended to ask Federal minimum standards for the amount and duration of unemployment payments.

This was the second time that a President had given his State of the Union Message at night. Franklin D. Roosevelt did so in 1936, to reach a wider audience by radio.

Normally, State of the Union messages are not delivered on the opening day of a Congressional session.

In almost every paragraph of his 4,000-word speech, the President called for an action, a study, or a new establishment.

He urged, for instance, that a national foundation of the arts be set up "to honor and support the achievements of thought and art."

And he said he had directed Secretary of Agriculture Orville L. Freeman to find ways and means to reduce the cost of farm programs and "to direct more of our effort to the small farmer who needs help most."

Mr. Johnson also promised to seek funds "to study high speed rail transportation" -- a study that he said would begin with test projects between Boston and Washington. He would also propose, he said, "heavier reliance on competition in transportation and a new policy for our Merchant Marine."

Government sources said Mr. Johnson would ask $8 million for the Boston-to-Washington tests, with some 100-mile-an-hour trains a possibility within a year. He will seek $12 million for further research and development, aimed at completion by 1980.

The President also turned his attention to Government efficiency. He said he would propose new laws on Presidential succession and disability, as well as a reform of the Electoral College.

The latter, he said, would make sure that "no elector can substitute his will for that of the people." In recent elections, some state electors have availed themselves of their present right to vote for whomever they pleased, whether or not he was a candidate.

Mr. Johnson also said he was planning a reorganization of the Executive Branch, on which he gave no details, and that he would intensify his efforts to cut waste and inefficiency in Government.

The President did not sum up the cost of his myriad proposals, nor did he give the totals of the budget he will present within the next month. He did pledge to "continue along the path toward a balanced budget in a balanced economy."

This indicated that the deficit in the new budget would be less than the estimated $5.7 billion deficit for the current fiscal year.

Mr. Johnson said he "confidently" predicted that the economy would continue to flourish. But he had only mild words for business and labor on the subject of price and wage stability.

Like the consumer, he said, they had "a high stake in keeping wages and prices within the framework of the guideposts that have already served the nation so well."

Government sources pointed to an important distinction between Mr. Johnson's proposal on speedy tax reduction and President Kennedy's request in 1962 for stand-by authority to cut taxes by executive action whenever economic recession threatened.

They said Mr. Johnson did not want such authority, but would urge that Congress change its procedures so that it would be able to effect an emergency anti-recession tax cut within 30 days.

The President discussed his Great Society concept at some length in his speech.

He said the Great Society would "always be challenge and not fulfillment" and would "require of every American, for many generations, both faith in the destination and the fortitude to make the journey."

Aides said that reflected his concern that no one should expect a sort of "five-year plan" to make the nation over.

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