The Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson

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This pioneering assessment of all significant aspects of the Johnson presidency is the first book-length appraisal by a professional historian to cover all issues, decisions, and developments of consequence—from foreign affairs, Vietnam, and the space race to the Great Society, civil rights, and the war on poverty—during the span of Johnson's five years in office. At a time when unflattering portraits of Johnson's distinctive personal and governmental style prevail, this volume presents a full, thoughtful, and balanced evaluation of the administration's achievements and failures.

Vaughn Bornet draws a compelling picture of the dramatic period from late 1963 to early 1969 based on a close examination of memoirs, scholarly books and articles, manuscript materials in the central White House files, and key oral histories. Many of the sources of information have not been used before; only a few of those who worked closely with Johnson during his 1,886 days in office will be familiar with all the details of this comprehensive account.

Bornet documents that, at the very outset, Johnson ignored or dismissed information from key advisors showing that our Vietnam war efforts would fail without a major commitment. In his chapter on the hostile relations between Johnson and the media, Bornet blames both the President and the press for the so-called credibility gap. He credits Johnson, rather than Kennedy, with the moon landing. He shifts the focus from Johnson as a consummate politician to give full attention and credit to the Presidents important and talented team—a group that included Bill Moyers, Joseph Califano, Douglass Cater, Horace Busby, Walt Rostow, McGeorge Bundy, Lawrence O'Brien, Dean Rusk, George Reedy, and Jack Valenti. And Bornet is the first to argue that it was poor health, not political pressure, that caused Johnson to decide against seeking reelection in 1968.

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Editorial Reviews

Review of Politics
Provides two sensitive and well-researched chapters on Vietnam issues and an excellent chapter on the president's relations with the media. . . . A sympathetic but balanced appraisal reflecting a total mastery of an extraordinary variety and quantity of literature.
History: Reviews of New Books
An important book that has to be on every 'must read' list of the Johnson years. . . . A distinguished contribution . . . with lively quotes and lively asides.
Journal of Southern History
Sympathy does not cloud the author's judgment. . . . The tone and maturity of this book likely will infuence Johnson studies for some time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700602421
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 1/28/1984
  • Series: American Presidency Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,335,619
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Table of Contents



1. Into the Oval Office: 1963

2. A Johnson Team in Action

3. First Mandate: The Legacy to Continue

4. Enlarging on an Inheritance in Southeast Asia

5. Winning Big: 1964

6. Second Mandate: Endorsed with Votes

7. In This Corner: The Media

8. America: Custodian of the World

9. Building Power on Earth and in Space

10. The Great Society in Law and in Practice

11. Waging a No-Win War of Attrition: Vietnam

12. "I've Gone the Distance"

13. Commander in Chief during an Election: 1968

14. "History Will Judge"


Bibliographical Essay


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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2000

    Hugh Davis Graham, Univ. of Maryland

    'Of all the books in the series, Bornet's volume is by far the longest and in the judgment of this reviewer is one of the best. ... This book provides two sensitive and well-researched chapters on Vietnam issues. ... an excellent chaptr on the president's relations with the media. ... a sympathetic but balanced appraisal... The book reflects a total mastery of an extraordinary variety and quatity of literature and many hours of patient archival research. It is a very good book. ... a generation of graduate students will be extremely grateful (for the bibliographical essay).'

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