The Thirty-First of March: An Intimate Portrait of Lyndon Johnson's Final Days in Office

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An intimate, compulsively readable memoir by LBJ's closest aide and chief speechwriter.

"I have made up my mind. I can't get peace in Vietnam and be President too." So begins this posthumously discovered account of Lyndon Johnson's final days in office. The Thirty-first of March is an indelible portrait of a president and a presidency at a time of crisis, and spans twenty ...
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Overview

An intimate, compulsively readable memoir by LBJ's closest aide and chief speechwriter.

"I have made up my mind. I can't get peace in Vietnam and be President too." So begins this posthumously discovered account of Lyndon Johnson's final days in office. The Thirty-first of March is an indelible portrait of a president and a presidency at a time of crisis, and spans twenty years of a close working and personal relationship between Johnson and Horace Busby.

It was Busby's job to "put a little Churchill " into Johnson's orations, and his skill earned him a position of trust in Johnson's staff from the earliest days of Johnson's career as a congressman in Texas to the twilight of his presidency. From the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination when Busby was asked by the newly sworn-in President to sit by his bedside during his first troubled nights in office, to the concerns that defined the Great Society, Busby not only articulated and refined Johnson's political thinking, he helped shape the most ambitious, far-reaching legislative agenda since FDR's New Deal.

Here is Johnson the politician, Johnson the schemer, Johnson who advised against JFK riding in an open limousine that fateful day in Dallas, and Johnson the father, sickened by the men fighting and dying in Vietnam on his behalf. The Thirty-first of March is a rare glimpse into the inner sanctum of Johnson's presidency.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
"Buzz" Busby, Lyndon Johnson's speechwriter from 1948 to 1968, was hired to help LBJ take on the wealthy "smart sonsabitches" in Washington. Busby's son, Scott, discovered this warm personal journal in 2003, three years after his father's death. While much of it reveals Johnson's decision not to seek a second term-announced March 31, 1968, in a short speech written by Busby-there are also intriguing anecdotes about Johnson's caring yet bullying personality. As vice president, Johnson was obsessed with the fear that John Kennedy would replace him on the 1964 Democratic ticket, and as president he was driven more by a dread of failure than a desire to succeed, says the author. Johnson's decision not to seek another term, Busby claims, was made so he could devote his energies to ending the Vietnam War. However, the public and political goodwill brought about by this decision vanished quickly when Martin Luther King was murdered. Unlike Busby, who opposed another term for his boss, W. Marvin Watson (Chief of Staff: Lyndon Johnson and His Presidency) favored it. Recommended for public libraries.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Lyndon Johnson's speechwriter and sounding-board Busby offers insight into the blustery Texan's personality, politics, and work habits. As a politics reporter, Busby first got to know Johnson in the late 1940s-and what a sight Johnson was, unafraid and decidedly unrefined. Busby recalls some memorable run-ins when then junior politician Johnson confronted the Texas Establishment, as when he told one ranch-and-oil Austin patriarch (whom Busby nicely characterizes as "never bullish on the twentieth century"), "Your brain has been clogged up for thirty years . . . and it would be a service to the city if you poured in a can of Drano to open it up." To a constituent worried that funding an all-black college would make the rest of Texas's African-Americans get big ideas, Johnson replied that he had to leave in order to get back to his office before the check went out-so that he could double it. The Texas governor at the time was resigned to Johnson's ways, remarking, "If Lyndon would only learn that politics is the art of compromise . . . he would make life so much easier for himself-and all his friends." If Johnson was not keen on learning that art, he was certainly keen to study great predecessors. One of Busby's charges as a White House advisor was to put some polish on the president's public persona; he recalls, for instance, that LBJ left a stack of 37 books on Winston Churchill on his desk with a note instructing Busby to "be my Churchill." Busby tried, pitching in on resounding State of the Union addresses and other speeches that doubtless would have been sweeter to the ear had riots and wars not crowded them out. Busby's account of LBJ in his last months in office is affecting: hedepicts a tired old man worn out by his office, barely holding on in a besieged city and a country torn in two, yet steadily keeping to a 20-hour-a-day schedule. A minor but welcome addition to the literature of the Johnson White House.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374530211
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 2/21/2006
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Horace Busby was Lyndon Johnson's chief speechwriter from 1948 to 1968.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2007

    More detail on old stories

    I am intrigued about the time in history that is the focus of this book. The Johnson presidency continues to be controversial because of the accomplishments of the administration that is always measured against the problems that plagued it by Viet Nam. This book provides personal insight to stories that were only rumored or known generally. As always it adds to the portrayal of Johnson the enigma.

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