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Transcribing, editing, and explaining the most powerful moments from hundreds of hours of newly released LBJ tapes, Michael Beschloss has added another lasting treasure to the American historical record. Reaching for Glory exposes the inner workings of the Johnson presidency from the summer of 1964 through the summer of 1965.
From behind the scenes, you will hear Johnson pulling the strings of his presidential campaign against Barry Goldwater and pursuing his feud with the new senator Robert Kennedy. He agonizes over Martin Luther King, Jr., and the bloody march on Selma, Alabama, and twists arms on Capitol Hill to pass voting rights, Medicare, and more basic laws than any American president before or since. Above all, you will hear him sending young Americans off to Vietnam while privately insisting that the war can never be won.
Winding Johnson's voice and exclusive excerpts from Lady Bird Johnson's private diaries into a gripping narrative, Michael Beschloss provides context and historical insights, showing how profoundly LBJ changed the presidency and the country. Reaching for Glory allows us to live at Lyndon Johnson's side, day by day, through the dramatic, triumphant, and catastrophic year of a turbulent presidency that continues to affect us all.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Michael Beschloss has been called "the nation's leading Presidential historian" by Newsweek. He has written eight books on American Presidents and is NBC News Presidential Historian, as well as contributor to PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and two sons.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter Ten: "WE KNOW IT'S GOING TO BE BAD"
We know ourselves, in our own conscience, that when we asked for this [Gulf of Tonkin] resolution, we had no intention of committing this many ground troops. We're doing so now, and we know it's going to be bad. And the question is, Do we just want to do it out on a limb by ourselves? I don't know whether those [Pentagon] men have ever [calculated] whether we can win with the kind of training we have, the kind of power, and...whether we can have a united support at home.
LBJ to Robert McNamara, July 2, 1965
Thursday, July 1, 1965, 9:55 A.M.
By July, Bill Moyers was worried about what he considered the President's psychological and emotional deterioration. He recalled that, even during the best of times, LBJ had been prone to paranoid outbursts and depression. But "it was never more pronounced than in 1965, when he was leading up to the decision about the buildup in Vietnam." Years later Moyers told the historian Robert Dallek that Johnson's depression came from "the realization, about which he was clearer than anyone, that this was a road from which there was no turning back."
As Moyers recalled, LBJ knew that his decision to send large numbers of ground troops to Vietnam would likely mean "the end of his Presidency...It was a pronounced, prolonged depression. He would just go within himself, just disappear morose, self-pitying, angry...He was a tormented man." One day, lying in bed with the covers almost over his head, Johnson told Moyers that he felt as if he was in a Louisiana swamp "that's pulling me down."
Moyers recalled that he was so troubled by the President's "paranoia," which made him "irascible" and "suspicious," that he even went to see LADY BIRD: "I came away from it knowing that she herself was more concerned, because she was more routinely and regularly exposed to it." Moyers got calls from "Cabinet officers and others" who were "deeply concerned about his behavior." He noted that one day the President would be in severe depression. Then, "twenty-four hours later, no one who had seen him this way would ever have suspected it." LBJ would convince himself that he could win the war. Or the passage of a bill would "be an antidote." But when Johnson returned to the problems in Vietnam, the "cloud in his eyes" and the "predictably unpredictable behavior" would reappear.
Both Moyers and Richard Goodwin independently confided their worries about LBJ's mood swings to psychiatrists. As Goodwin recalled, one doctor told him that the President's "disintegration could continue...or recede, depending on the strength of Johnson's resistance and, more significantly, on the direction of...the war, the crumbling public support, whose pressures were dissolving Johnson's confidence in his ability to control events."
Stung by ridicule for ducking out of the Vietnam teach-in of May, McGeorge Bundy arranged to debate Professor Hans Morgenthau on television in late June. Once again he was defying the President's wishes. A furious LBJ told Moyers, "Bill, I want you to go to Bundy and tell him the President would be pleased, mighty pleased, to accept his resignation." Startled, Moyers did not reply. "That's the trouble with all you fellows," Johnson carped. "You're in bed with the Kennedys." Moyers lunched with Bundy to convey the President's annoyance with his debate and other speeches Bundy planned to deliver. Now he reports back to Johnson, who tells him that the real problem is that Bundy has been co-opted by the Kennedys.
MOYERS: He knew that he had...gone against the President's...wishes on these speeches. But he reiterated to me..."my honest understanding of the President's desire, stated three or four months ago, to make some speeches in the right way."...He...felt it was good to take some of the...criticism from the liberal community...away from the President and attach it to him...As best I could tell, Bundy was trying to say to me, "Look, if the President has any idea that anything's wrong with me...there's not...I'm very happy in my job."...
LBJ: You see, they [Robert Kennedy and his circle] would naturally talk to Bundy, and to Larry, and to Dick...That's where they would start. Then they'd take on...people...like Cater. Maybe Harry. They're kind of liberal and on the fringe, and not known as tied too closely [with me]. And then move in. I would imagine, though, that this started with Bundy. Because he's had to be sat down a time or two...The other day...he insisted on bringing up the Javits resolution. I said, "No, I'll think about that." He said, "We've got to decide it."...I just had to finally just really embarrass him and say,..."I told you two or three times, quit that! Let's go on to the agenda."...It was rather rough...You can see the crowd that's doing this. Bobby's going to Latin America now. He's got Gilpatric working for him. You saw the Gilpatric story in the New York Times this morning. That's not accidental.
MOYERS: I saw that. Of course, I think there's a lot can be done with just more candidness. I think that's our basic problem, as I have mentioned to you before. Our image is due...primarily to their interpretation of our being overly secretive. I just think more candid and sincere discussion
LBJ: And I just think you ought to say that on Jack's speech that you know that it's amusing to some of them that a man should have this affection for another man. But...if they will look at anyone who has been with me twenty-five years...John Connally...Walter Jenkins...all of them have this feeling. And that you have it. And that as far as this business of saying somebody's a "messenger boy," you just have never heard that. You have always given your honest opinion, and a good many times you've been vetoed. But...at thirty years old, you have made more big decisions that have been approved by the President than would have been approved if you had been working for AT&T.
MOYERS: Which is true.
LBJ: ...Just say, "Now I know I'm not supposed to be a Sorensen, but Sorensen went much stronger than Jack [Valenti] did. He said that Kennedy was Christ." Compared him to Christ! But...they had a better feeling for Kennedy than they do [us]. And they've never liked Jack because they feel Jack is a personal servant of mine. And he is wonderful for me. He is not irritating to me. He's pleasant. He's soft. I think Buz is good for me. I think Harry is awfully good for me. I don't have men that clash with me? Marvin just says every day, "Mr. President, I don't think we ought to do this." But he does it in a nice, kind way.
Friday, July 2, 1965, 8:41 A.M.
Johnson must now decide among three main proposals for the American future in Vietnam. McNamara wants a serious escalation. George Ball wants to negotiate withdrawal. William Bundy is for "holding on" at present force levels but using American troops for more aggressive "search and destroy" missions, which, if successful, could lead to more U.S. ground troops. McGeorge Bundy wrote LBJ on July 1, "My hunch is that you will want to listen hard to George Ball and then reject his proposal. Discussion could then move to the narrow choice between my brother's choice and McNamara's. The decision between them should be made in about ten days."
LBJ: I'm pretty depressed reading all these proposals. They're tough, aren't they?
McNAMARA: They are...But we're at a point of a fairly tough decision, Mr. President...We purposely made no effort to compromise any of our views...
LBJ: Two or three things that I want you to explore. First, assuming we do everything we can, to the extent of our resources, can we really have any assurance that we win? I mean, assuming we have all the big bombers and all the powerful payloads and everything else, can the Vietcong come in and tear us up and continue this thing indefinitely, and never really bring it to an end?...Second,...can we really, without getting any further authority from the Congress, have...sufficient, overwhelming [domestic] support to...fight successfully?...You know the friend you talked to about the pause [Robert Kennedy]. You know the Mansfields. You know the Clarks. And those men carry a good deal of weight. And this fellow we talked to the other day here at lunch has a good deal of weight...He's got cancer, in my judgment. I've never told anybody, but I saw him yesterday coughing several times.
McNAMARA: He doesn't look good.
LBJ: He went home that very day and he hasn't been back since. Had a stomach upset. He can't carry on much for us. We have to rely on the younger crowd...The McGoverns and the Clarks and the other folks...If you don't ask them, I think you'd have a long debate about not having asked them, with this kind of a commitment. Even though there's some record behind us, we know ourselves, in our own conscience, that when we asked for this resolution, we had no intention of committing this many ground troops. We're doing so now, and we know it's going to be bad. And the question is, Do we just want to do it out on a limb by ourselves? I don't know whether those [Pentagon] men have ever [calculated] whether we can win with the kind of training we have, the kind of power, and...whether we can have a united support at home.
McNAMARA: ...If we do go as far as my paper suggested, sending numbers of men out there, we ought to call up Reserves. You have authority to do that without additional legislation. But...almost surely, if we called up Reserves, you would want to go to the Congress to get additional authority...Yes, it also might lead to an extended debate and divisive statements. I think we could avoid that. I really think if we were to go to the Clarks and the McGoverns and the Churches and say to them, "Now, this is our situation. We cannot win with our existing commitment. We must increase it if we're going to win, and [with] this limited term that we define [and] limited way we define 'win,' it requires additional troops. Along with that approach, we are...continuing this political initiative to probe for a willingness to negotiate a reasonable settlement here. And we ask your support."...I think you'd get it...And that's a vehicle by which you both get the authority to call up the Reserves and also tie them into the whole program.
LBJ: That makes sense.
McNAMARA: I don't know that you want to go that far. I'm not pressing you to. It's my judgment you should, but my judgment may be in error here...
LBJ: Does Rusk generally agree with you?
McNAMARA: ...He very definitely does. He's a hard-liner on this, in the sense that he doesn't want to give up South Vietnam under any circumstances. Even if it means going to general war. Now, he doesn't think we ought to go to general war. He thinks we ought to try to avoid it. But if that's what's required to hold South Vietnam, he would go to general war. He would say, as a footnote, "Military commanders always ask for all they need. For God's sakes, don't take what they request as an absolute, ironclad requirement." I don't disagree with that point...I do think...that this request for thirty-four U.S. battalions and ten non-U.S., a total of forty-four battalions, comes pretty close to the minimum requirement...
LBJ: When you put these people in and you really do go all out [and] you call up your Reserves and everything else, can you do anything to restore your communication and your railroads and your roads?...
McNAMARA: Yes, I think so...By the end of the year, we ought to have that railroad...and...the major highways opened...The problem is you can't send an engineering company into an area...unless you send combat troops with them. And we just don't have the combat troops to do that...
LBJ: What has happened out there in the last forty-eight hours? Looks like we killed six or seven hundred of them.
McNAMARA: Yeah, we killed a large number, I'd say, over the last three or four days...At least five hundred.
LBJ: ...Can they continue losses like that?
McNAMARA: ...Of the numbers that are killed by [U.S.] Air Force actions, and a great bulk of these people are killed that way, I would think that 75 percent are probably not from what we call the...guerrilla force.
Friday, July 2, 1965, 11:02 A.M.
LBJ: I'm having a meeting this morning with my top people...McNamara recommends really what Westmoreland and Wheeler do a quite expanded operation, and one that's really going to kick up some folks like Ford. He says that he doesn't want to use ground troops. He thinks we ought to do it by bombing. We can't even protect our bases without the ground troops, according to Westmoreland. And we've got all the Bobby Kennedys and the Mansfields and the Morses against it. But [Westmoreland] recommends an all-out operation. We don't know whether we can beat them with that or not. The State Department comes in and recommends a rather modified one through the monsoon season, to see how effective we are with our B-52 strikes and with our other strikes...Westmoreland has urged...about double what we've got there now. But if we do that, we've got to call up the Reserves and get authority from Congress...That will really serve notice that we're in a land operation over there. Now, I guess it's your view that we ought to do that. You don't think that we can just have a holding operation, from a military standpoint, do you?
EISENHOWER: ...You've got to go along with your military advisers, because otherwise you are just going to continue to have these casualties indefinitely...My advice is, do what you have to do. I'm sorry that you have to go to the Congress...but I guess you would be calling up the Reserves.
LBJ: Yes, sir. We're out of them, you see...And if they move on other fronts, we'll have to increase our strength, too...[The State Department says] we ought to avoid bombing Hanoi until we can see through the monsoon season whether, with these forces there, we can make any progress...before we go out and execute everything. Of course, McNamara's people recommend taking all the harbors...Mining and blowing the hell out of it...They go all out. State Department people say they're taking too much chance on bringing China in and Russia in...They [want] to try...during the monsoon season to hold what [we've] got, and to really try to convince Russia that if she doesn't bring about some kind of understanding, we're going to have to give them the works. But they believe that she doesn't really want an all-out war.
EISENHOWER: ...[For them to] agree to some kind of negotiation...[you must say,] "Hell, we're going to end this and win this thing...We don't intend to fail."...
LBJ: You think that we can really beat the Vietcong out there?
EISENHOWER: ...This is the hardest thing [to decide,] because we can't finally find out how many of these Vietcong have been imported down there and how many of them are just rebels.
LBJ: We killed twenty-six thousand [Vietcong] this year...Three hundred yesterday...Two hundred and fifty of them the day before. But they just keep coming in from North Vietnam...How many they're going to pour in from China, I don't know...
EISENHOWER: ...I would go ahead and...do it as quickly as I could.
LBJ: ...You're the best chief of staff I've got...I've got to rely on you on this one.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Saturday, July 3, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
The family spent the long Independence Day weekend at the LBJ Ranch.
LADY BIRD: We helicoptered to the Coca-Cola Cove, where the big boat met us...Marianne [Means] put on a good demonstration of waterskiing...while I sunned and read...When the fast boat whirled past us, Lyndon had exactly the expression of a little boy aged two and a half sitting in the ice cream parlor chair a mischievous, happy, the-world-is-mine look.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Monday, July 5, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
LADY BIRD: Lyndon...is as proud of the new fast boat as Luci is of her green Sting Ray Took all of the pretty girls he could gather...for a ride...I [talked] to George Reedy about something serious and sad that worries me. He's having trouble with his feet. He will have to leave to have an operation...It has been excruciatingly painful for months...I flinched to think of George as a very old and kindly-natured bull in a pen, the daily object of the sharp darts of a host of rather brutal picadors...He feels like he's at his rope's end and will leave for this operation just as soon as Lyndon gives the go signal on [a new] press secretary. Lyndon had spoken about Bill Moyers...I think I do not remember three successive days at the ranch with such a minimum of calls from McNamara and McGeorge Bundy and Dean Rusk...Briefly the world has stopped to take a breath.
Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals
Wednesday, July 7, 1965, 1:30 P.M.
Johnson offers the job of Solicitor General to Judge Marshall, who famously championed school desegregation before the Supreme Court in the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education and succeeded in twenty-eight other cases before the Court. Without saying so flat-out, LBJ makes it clear that he intends one day to appoint Marshall as the first black Justice on the Supreme Court. (This he ultimately did in June 1966. When an aide later suggested another black judge, Leon Higginbotham, for the Court, Johnson glared and said, "The only two people who ever heard of Judge Higginbotham are you and his mama. When I appoint a nigger to the bench, I want everyone to know he's a nigger.")
LBJ: I want you to be my Solicitor General.
LBJ: Now, you lose a lot. You lose security, and you lose the freedom that you like, and you lose the philosophizing that you can do [on the Court of Appeals]...I want you to do it for two or three reasons. One, I want the top lawyer...representing me before the Supreme Court to be a Negro, and to be a damn good lawyer that's done it before...Number two, I think it will do a lot for our image abroad and at home...Number three, I want you to...be in the picture...I don't want to make any other commitments. I don't want to imply or bribe or mislead you, but I want you to have the training and experience of being there [at the Supreme Court] day after day...I think you ought to do it for the people of the world...And after you do it awhile, if there's not something better, which I would hope there would be,...there'll be security for you. Because I'm going to be here for quite a while.
MARSHALL: That's right, that's right.
LBJ: But I want to do this job that Lincoln started, and I want to do it the right way...I think you can see what I'm looking at. I want to be the first President that really goes all the way.
MARSHALL: I think it would be wonderful.
LBJ: ...I want to do it on merit...Without regard to politics...I'm not looking for votes...I had [a margin of] 15 million. All I want to do is serve my term and do it well. But I also want...to leave my mark, and...see that justice is done. And you can be a symbol there that you can't ever be where you are.
MARSHALL: The answer is yes.
LBJ: Well, it's got to be!
LBJ: I've thought about it for weeks.
MARSHALL: I'm so appreciative to be able to help.
LBJ: Well, you can. Because you live such a life, and they've gone over you with a fine-tooth comb, and they could never use anything about you to thwart us, and we're on our way now.
LBJ: And we're going to move!
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
Wednesday, July 7, 1965, 8:05 P.M.
With a House vote on the voting rights bill just ahead, Dr. King is concerned about a substitute proposed by Republican Congressman William McCulloch of Ohio that, he fears, will dilute its effect. McCulloch's substitute would not enforce voting rights automatically. Federal action would require a complaint by twenty-five or more citizens in a voting district, possibly opening the way to local intimidation to keep blacks from voting. LBJ uses this opportunity to complain to King about his recent public criticism of Johnson's Vietnam policies.
KING: This McCulloch [proposal]...would stand in the way of everything we are trying to get in the voting bill...
LBJ: ...We're confronted with the...problem that we've faced all through the years a combination of the South and the Republicans...How do we avoid this combination?...I've done the best I could. But they're hitting me on different sides, and the press is...[on] Vietnam or the Dominican Republic. Some mistake here or some mistake there. I'm getting kind of cut up a little bit. And Wilkins is having a national convention. And you're somewhere else. I called Meany to ask him to help and he'd gone to Europe...I called Joe Rauh and said, "For God's sakes, you try to get in here before it's too late."...They got a wire sent from Roy to all the Republicans. But the Republicans are...going to quit the Negroes. They will not let the Negro vote for them. Every time they get a chance to help out a little, they'll blow it...They could elect some good men in suburban districts and in cities. But they haven't got that much sense. That's why they are disintegrating as a party...
Now, when I went up with my message, I could have probably passed it by seventy-five. But [our situation in Congress] is deteriorating. The other day, they almost beat my rent subsidy, which is very important to...the poor people...Smith comes out and says my bill has had a lot of venom in it. I have a "great hatred for the South," and I'm like a "rattlesnake." I'm trying to "punish" them...So, he gets the Congressmen from the thirteen old Confederate states, and he [adds] a hundred [of them] with a hundred and fifty Republicans. That gives him two hundred and fifty...A good majority...
Unless we can pull some of the Republicans away, we're in trouble...Now the smart thing to do...would be to get some language that [will]...get this bill passed and start registering our people and get them ready to vote next year...You-all are either going to have confidence in me and in Katzenbach, or you ought to pick some leader you do [trust] and then follow [him]. I started out on this voting bill last November, right after the election...I called you down here and told you what I was going to do. I went before the Congress, made the speech, and asked them to work every weekend...They're getting tired of the heat from me. They don't like for me to be asking for rent one day and poverty the next day, and education the next day, and voting rights the next day. They know I can't defeat them out there in their district in Michigan and some other place.
So I'm just fighting the battle the best I can. I think I'll win it. But it's going to be close, and it's going to be dangerous...I cannot influence the Republicans. The people that can influence the Republicans are men like the local chapters of CORE or NAACP, or your group in New York...and these states where you've got a good many Negro voters. You've got to say to them, "We're not Democrats. We're going to vote for the man that gives us freedom. We don't give a damn whether it's Abraham Lincoln or Lyndon Johnson...We're smart enough to know, and we're here watching you. Now, we want to see how you...answer on that roll call."
LBJ: You ought to find out who you can trust...If you can't trust [me], why, trust Teddy Kennedy or whoever you want to trust...The trouble is, that fire's gone out. We've got to put some cedar back on it, and put a little coal oil on it...My recommendation would be that you...come in here and follow my political judgment and see if we can't get a bill passed.
KING: All right...Now there's one other point that I wanted to mention to you, because it has begun to concern me a great deal...In the last few days...I made a statement concerning the Vietnam situation...This in no way is an attempt to engage in a criticism of [your] policies...The press, unfortunately, lifted it out of context...I know the terrible burden and awesome responsibilities and decisions that you have to make...
LBJ: ...I did see it. I was distressed...I'd welcome a chance to review with you my problems and our alternatives there. I not only know you have a right, I think you have a duty, as a minister and as a leader of millions of people, to give them a sense of purpose and direction...I've lost about 264 lives up to now And I could lose 265,000 mighty easy. I'm trying to keep those zeros down, and at the same time not trigger a conflagration that would be worse if we pulled out.
I can't stay there and do nothing. Unless I bomb, they'll run me out right quick...The only pressure we can put on is to try to hold them back as much as we can by taking their bridges out...[and] their ammunition dumps...[and] their radar stations...A good many people, including the military, think that's not near enough...I don't want to pull down the flag and come home running with my tail between my legs...On the other hand, I don't want to get us in a war with China and Russia. So, I've got a pretty tough problem. And I'm not all wise. I pray every night to get direction and judgment and leadership that permit me to do what's right...
KING: I certainly appreciate...your concern. It's true leadership and true greatness...I don't think I've had the chance to thank you for what I considered the greatest speech that any President has made on the question of civil rights...
LBJ: I'm having some new copies printed. I'll send you some of them...And I hope that you do talk to Roy [about the voting rights bill]. You-all see what can be done quick, because...this thing will be decided Thursday and Friday.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Wednesday, July 7, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
Lady Bird is spending most of the summer at the ranch while her husband stays in Washington. LBJ told one aide, "I don't like to sleep alone, ever since my heart attack." He feared that he would suffer another coronary and no one would be there to help. When Lady Bird was away, Johnson would ask friends, like his secretary Vicky McCammon and her husband, to stay the night in the First Lady's dressing room: "The only deal is you've got to leave your door open a crack so that if I holler, someone will hear me."
LADY BIRD: [Lynda] said something that brought a pang to my heart. She had been talking to her daddy. He sounded lonesome. She said, "You know, Mother, he's never the same without you."...She had called Jack Valenti...and asked about Lyndon. And he felt too that he was tense and lonesome. I feel selfish, as though I was insulating myself from pain and troubles down here. But I do know I need it.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Thursday, July 8, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
At St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, eighteen-year-old Luci Johnson has converted to Catholicism. Her parents and sister attended, but Lynda left the church in tears. Lady Bird "could not help but think we went in four and came out three." LBJ is indignant at Father James Montgomery, who gave Luci a "conditional" baptism, implying that her Episcopal baptism as an infant was invalid. He is also angry at Episcopalians like Bishop James Pike and Dean Francis Sayre of the Washington Cathedral, who have called Luci's decision an "insult" to their church. Leaving her husband at the White House, Lady Bird later flew back to the ranch.
LADY BIRD: He's hurt and angry at the Catholic Church. He thinks they've let her down. And he is hurt and angry too at the Episcopalians...No one is surprised Bishop Sayre took the occasion to preach a sermon...The gist was that she had done wrong...Anybody that hurts his little girl wounds Lyndon deeply...I called Luci, and I found, from her standpoint, that she had been consoling him. She said, "But you know, that bad man didn't come home until twelve o'clock for dinner last night. But I was the best daughter I could be, and I tried to help him."...
Luci's self-confidence is shaken. She is almost hurt and frightened that she should have caused a rift, a disturbance, trouble for her parents...between any churches. Perhaps in part this will have a sobering effect on her, [and show her] that she can always trust her own judgment...She was also blissfully wide-eyed, happy, that she had had a message...from the Holy Father himself, welcoming her: "To me, Mama, Luci just a little girl!"...Bishop Hannan...talked to Lyndon...[He will] issue a statement that the Church...[intended] no reflection on her previous baptism...Well, one can only go forward...So I tried to console and love.
I wish I could have been more use to Lyndon. He said, "Things are not going well here...Vietnam is getting worse every day. I have the choice to go in with great casualty lists or to get out with disgrace. It's like being in an airplane and I have to choose between crashing the plane or jumping out. I do not have a parachute."...When he is pierced, I bleed. It's a bad time all around.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Saturday, July 10, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
Johnson joins his wife at the ranch for the weekend.
LADY BIRD: About every ten minutes, Lyndon picked up the talking machine [in his car] to give Dale Malechek a job to do hinge off a gate here, a cow has got a cancer eye, put in a cattle guard there. Dale needs a stenographer's pad in his pocket when we are at home!...Lyndon...has every reason to feel fulfilled and proud this weekend. Last week the voting rights bill passed [the Senate] and the Medicare bill [passed the House] that impossible bill.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Sunday, July 11, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
LADY BIRD: Lyndon talked to [Luci by telephone]. Then he handed the phone to me, saying, "I'll let your mother talk. She's like an old cow when her calf gets out. She just moos and bawls and looks around for her." If Lyndon has lost a certain something by the lack of the most polished Eastern education, he has the compensation at least of the earthy expressions, some so amusing, that really say what he thinks in a clear way...[I] said goodbye to Lyndon in his city clothes. I almost look upon them as fighting uniforms these days. And it is a little sad to say goodbye to him heading back to the city of troubles.
Thursday, July 15, 1965, 9:12 A.M.
The previous day at noon, after a telephone call, LBJ walked into the office of his secretary Juanita Roberts and said, "Well, Adlai Stevenson just died." On a London street the UN Ambassador had suffered a heart attack, fallen backward, struck his skull on the sidewalk, and died. When Lady Bird heard the news at the ranch, she knew "how heavily this blow must fall on Lyndon...coupled with Lyndon's own heart attack." She said, "I want to be right by Lyndon's side when he goes to any service for Adlai." "That Stevenson!" Johnson said, later in the week. "Why did he have to die right now? He was always off in his timing. Who am I going to get to take his place?" Eager to fill the vacancy quickly, LBJ consults his Secretary of State.
LBJ: What thought are you giving to the Stevenson successor?
RUSK: ...I would wonder whether Frank Church is worth considering. But he's got a Republican governor.
LBJ: Mansfield wouldn't be interested, would he?
RUSK: ...He might be...
LBJ: Fulbright wouldn't be...Would he be insulted if he'd be asked?...I think the man we need is somebody [with] a genuine, deep interest in the poor part of the world. Particularly the Africa-Asia group...I don't know whether Fulbright could do that with Africa...
RUSK: You know, Bill is not really into great liberal tradition. He's a sort of a maverick.
LBJ: ...Do you think George Ball would consider it upgrading?
RUSK: Oh, I think so. After all, no one steps down to occupy a post that Adlai Stevenson occupied.
LBJ: ...I've felt that Ball was a good man, and I believe that he's been loyal to me...I rather like his willingness to be a little independent [on Vietnam] and say to me, "Now wait a minute, I want to give you the devil's side of it." I also have a feeling he might be a little bull in the china shop and run over them a little bit if he needed to. Would be a little autocratic. I don't like those qualities in anybody. Including myself. And I have them.
RUSK: ...I think we could come to a point later in the fall on Vietnam where George's own views on the matter would make him rather uncomfortable. This hasn't been just the devil's advocate's point of view...
LBJ: ...I'm not going to tell Lady Bird...I don't want you to tell a human...But my preference would be to have, if I had to decide it in the next minute,...Ball succeed Stevenson for whatever time that he would give us...and at least get us over this sad day and this period...and Clifford take his place [as Under Secretary of State]...I just think Clifford would just be a hell of a good witness [in Congress] when you're out and he's got to appear. He just appears right and you don't have to hold his hand...He's not throwing his weight and he's not a bulldog.
Press Secretary to the President
Thursday, July 15, 1965, 9:35 A.M.
Impatient with the shambling, long-winded George Reedy and disgruntled by growing animosity from the press, Johnson has installed Moyers as press secretary, using Reedy's foot surgery as the excuse. (As a consolation prize, LBJ gave Reedy one of his old white Lincoln Continentals and helped him find a job in business.) Now Moyers asks LBJ for guidance on a question from Charles Bailey of the Minneapolis Tribune about whether Johnson has recently purchased land near the LBJ Ranch, which would suggest that he is circumventing his blind trust.
LBJ: Just tell him you don't know anything about what he's talking about...That...I have acquired no land of any kind that I know of in the last twelve months...We have some leases. The Hightower place, immediately across from the ranch, is twenty or thirty acres. We were afraid they're going to build a beer joint [there]...I don't believe that the company has bought a thing in twelve months, although we have nothing to do with it...and they don't discuss it with us...[Tell Bailey] you have nothing to do with these financial things. That...the Kennedys have very comparable things. [Bailey should] spend a lot of time with them getting all the dope on their gas and oil holdings...He doesn't realize how trivial ours is...The company's completely in the hands of trustees...
We don't know [of] any obligation to discuss the acres of land we have anyway, if it's got no government subsidy...Any more than we have a right to check on how many times he screwed his wife last night...We have the greatest [blind] trust agreement that anybody's ever written...I don't know what kind of trust agreement Bobby Kennedy's got. He's got $10 million invested in oil and gas in Texas, and he's up there voting. [Bailey doesn't] have the slightest interest to do a goddamn thing but harassing us...He [wants to get] a big Wall Street Journal story going again...He don't pay us for a damn thing. He's never done anything for us. I haven't seen one friendly story he's written.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Friday, July 16, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
Lady Bird returned from the ranch to attend Adlai Stevenson's memorial service at the Washington Cathedral with her husband. In her White House closet was a black dress, which she would wear should LBJ suddenly die in office. Although the public was encouraged to believe that the President was as healthy as anyone, Lady Bird never passed a day without remembering that he was a heart patient and that Johnson men usually died before the age of sixty-five.
LADY BIRD: I...put on the black silk dress I had bought in February and never yet worn, having, in the back of my mind when I bought it, the grim, unacknowledged thought that I might need a black dress for a funeral...[That evening] Lyndon asked Abe [Fortas] to come [into his bedroom] and talk while he started his massage. But it was not long until Abe emerged, saying that [Lyndon] had gone to sleep, which often happens a great armor for him. So we said good night with a sense of an emotionally and physically exhausting day.
Monday, July 19, 1965, 6:07 P.M.
During the first hymn at Stevenson's memorial service, Arthur Schlesinger or Edward Kennedy or both let John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist who had served JFK as Ambassador to India, know that LBJ was considering him to replace Stevenson at the UN. Galbraith did not want the job but knew he had better have an alternative or Johnson might force him to take it. He told LBJ that Arthur Goldberg was restless on the Supreme Court. Johnson liked Goldberg, who had been appointed to the Court by Kennedy after serving as Secretary of Labor. LBJ had called the Justice for advice on his first evening as President in November 1963.
As usual, there was another layer to Johnson's machinations. Having begun to lay the foundations of the Great Society, he presumably feared that, as with his hero Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the Supreme Court might repeal some of the programs as unconstitutional. He wanted to appoint Abe Fortas to the Court. Fortas not only would be a reliable pro-Great Society vote but from Johnson's point of view, he could keep the President confidentially informed of what the Justices were doing and warn him if there were trouble in the offing. With this in mind, Johnson had asked his Attorney General in May when the next Court vacancy might occur. He had tried to entice Goldberg to leave the Court to be Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare but failed.
If Goldberg would accept the UN post, Johnson would win both a prestigious Ambassador and the chance to appoint Fortas to the Court. Invited to the White House the day after Stevenson's Washington service, Goldberg was asked by Jack Valenti if he might reconsider the HEW offer. By Goldberg's recollection, he said, "I'm walking out. I'm not interested in HEW." Johnson called him into the Oval Office and said he was actually offering the UN, with "a key role in the Vietnam situation." LBJ turned up the heat on Goldberg on July 19, while flying with him on Air Force One to the Stevenson burial in Illinois.
During their conversations, with minimal sincerity, LBJ told Goldberg that his next UN Ambassador had the chance to make peace in Vietnam. With that under his belt, Goldberg might be in line to become the first Jewish Vice President: "You never know what can happen, Arthur...You can't get to the Vice Presidency from the Court." Goldberg wanted to think about it. He would recall in 1983 that he had the "egotistical feeling" that he could keep LBJ from getting "overly involved" in Vietnam.
Johnson was so certain he had Goldberg in the bag that, while flying back from Illinois, he called Fortas from Air Force One: "I am arriving, and I am going to announce your appointment to the Supreme Court." "God almighty, Mr. President, you can't do that," said Fortas. "I have got to talk to you about it." Now LBJ asks Richard Russell how he would like Goldberg at the UN.
LBJ: What do you think I ought to do with Stevenson's successor?
RUSSELL: I'd appoint either Ball or Gruenther...
LBJ: Gruenther's sick, and nearly everybody I talked to said I ought to keep Ball where he is because he knows so damn much about what he's doing...I was pretty strong for Ball...but the more I've talked to folks, the more problems I see it would create here. The Vietnam thing is important...Arthur Goldberg's been suggested. He is the best one. He's very He can speak at the drop of a hat, and he's a Johnson man. He's pretty understanding of our country, he's a product of our system, he's tolerant of everybody...
RUSSELL: But he's a man that I'd hate to get taken off the Court...
LBJ: ...What would it do to the Arabs, Dick? Rusk said it wouldn't do anything, except show that in our system that we didn't discriminate against people...I was afraid that...they'd say Johnson didn't even know the Arabs were [UN] members...Goldberg would be able to answer the Russians...very effectively...He's pretty abrasive...He's got a bulldog face on him, and I think this Jew thing would take the New York Times all this crowd that gives me hell all the time and disarm them. And [I'd] still have a Johnson man. I've always thought that Goldberg was the ablest man in Kennedy's Cabinet, and he was the best man to us...He has a better understanding of us than most Jews have. I guess the lawyers would cuss me for taking him off the Court.
RUSSELL: Have you considered who you'd put in there?...
LBJ: ...[I'd like] to put Abe Fortas on...Abe Fortas is one of the great lawyers in this country, and one of [my] great friends...Goldberg sold bananas, you know...He's kind of like I am. He's shined some shoes in his day and he sold newspapers, and he has had to slug it out. He's like a Georgian. It just wasn't all inherited.
LBJ: Want to work the hell out of you when McNamara gets back here. Just quietly down here, asking questions...So you just better...get rested...Did you see where Chou En-lai just announced...that, by God, he's going to send...a good deal of equipment...to North Vietnam? Russia answered,..."We're sending a hell of a lot." The last thing I want to do is...say, "I want $3 billion or $4 billion [for Vietnam] right now." I want to get through this monsoon season...in the hope that maybe...I don't think there's much hope, about 5 percent hope [that]...maybe they'll be willing to have some kind of a Laos treaty...I've got $700 million and $89 million in economic [aid]...I don't want to put enough in where [Russia and China] will unload [money into] North Vietnam.
Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
Monday, July 19, 1965, 8:28 P.M.
Johnson has grown ever more intent on sending Goldberg to the UN. Not only will this create an opening for Fortas on the Supreme Court but just as he is about to escalate the war, LBJ knows he can show off Ambassador Goldberg, a skeptic about the war, as walking, talking proof of his eagerness to negotiate peace. (It is not by accident that Johnson's other candidates for the UN job are doves such as Ball, Fulbright, Mansfield, and Church.) Now LBJ tries to close the sale by serenading Goldberg with the glowing reviews he has gleaned on his character and ability. But the Justice wants more time. The President pressures him for a final decision. Otherwise Goldberg's name will leak to the newspapers, where it might arouse opposition. Johnson also wants to surprise the world with his appointment.
LBJ: I've got some very interesting reports. Fulbright says he considers you the best man in the United States...Bundy...says you're the best...Russell said...the first thing you know, you'll be leading the Arabs, you're so goddamned much smarter than they are...It's a difficult job, the most important we could have. [The UN] is going under...I can't help it if they think you're smart and...patriotic and...able. And so we've gone too far now [to turn back]. [Except that] Abe Fortas says he won't take the Supreme Court Justice seat...
GOLDBERG: I'll tell you what. Let's do it tomorrow morning.
LBJ: No, I'm afraid it'll be in the papers by eleven o'clock. Fulbright told me that Senators are already being asked about it by the reporters. Let me read you Abe's letter...We'll just have to start working on him tomorrow.
Monday, July 19, 1965, 8:45 P.M.
Johnson consults his Secretary of State about problems a Jewish envoy might have with Arab delegates at the UN.
RUSK: We have to expect some Arab reaction...I just don't think there's ever been a man in that position of the Jewish faith, so you've got to...brace for that...
LBJ: Oh, I'm braced for anything...I want [you] to be comfortable with [him] first, because I am as devoted to you as I am to my wife...This man has...ability and...loyalty, I believe, to the Johnson administration...
RUSK: ...I didn't want to run the risk of surfacing the name, [so] I haven't been able to find out how active he's been in the Zionist groups,...Israel Bond drives, and things like that.
LBJ: I don't think much. But...I told Goldberg...what Russell said. I said, "He said, 'You'll have to quit being a Zionist and...quit leading the Jews and start leading the Arabs!' And he said that you'd be smart enough to do that." He just laughed.
LBJ: After Goldberg, if something happened to him, you would like McCarthy?...McCarthy is more discreet than Humphrey. And Humphrey is just a big damn fool. He put out the damnedest statement today about how he was...furnishing Congressmen tickets to go home. He was just bribing them. Just the damnedest fool statement you ever saw. To show that he's active. You know, a Vice President feels that everybody thinks he's inactive. And he is. And he tries to blow it up. But he just made a hell of a statement today. Just real embarrassing to me. I leaned very closely toward McCarthy [for Vice President in 1964] for that reason. But every human I talked to just said he's just lazy as hell. He won't come to [Senate] committee meetings...He goes off and they [can't] locate him. Now, if he did that up at the United Nations, we'd be in a hell of a shape.
RUSK: ...It's a sixteen- or eighteen-hour-a-day job up there.
LBJ: I like him...I thought he made the best speech in nominating Adlai that I nearly ever heard...His wife's good...Lady Bird and I are very strong
for them. We'll consider him if something happens here. Maybe we'll just have to tell him everybody says he's just too damn lazy and then see if he'll do anything about it.
Monday, July 19, 1965, 9:00 P.M.
Goldberg assures Johnson that he will take the UN job, while assuring himself that the President is comfortable with his Judaism and commitment to Israel.
GOLDBERG: You know me. I am a very proud Jew...I will never be anything less than a proud Jew...I am what I am. I can't change that. I didn't know anybody would be that interested in what I was...The main thing is I want to do what's best in the service of my country...So you have my commitment that I am going to serve...However, I don't think that [we should announce] this late at night...We ought to do this in a dignified way in the morning...I would like to...notify my children and bring Dorothy with me...
LBJ: ...Whoever you talk to tonight...for God's sakes...let's don't get it out in the paper...
GOLDBERG: You heard what I said about the Jewish question. Does that cause any problems for you?
LBJ: ...All I know is...I've always been proud of America because I have believed that we had equality...One of the reasons I would like you to take it is to show the world that I don't want to be the President that says a Jew can't be my top ambassador any more than I want to say a Negro can't sit on the Supreme Court.
GOLDBERG: ...I believe profoundly that people who deny their origin do not warrant respect...
LBJ: I do too.
GOLDBERG: ...I have said that I am a Zionist. I was brought up as a boy to believe the Messianic expectation that Jews should be brought back to their ancient homeland. I was taught that in the Old Testament. I said I was a Zionist in the sense that Winston Churchill was a Zionist...I, as a member of my government, would be working towards peace in the Middle East...
LBJ: I don't see a damned thing wrong with that.
GOLDBERG: ...You got that piece of paper with some of the words?
LBJ: Oh, yes, yes. I will [read] it tonight.
JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH
Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Tuesday, July 20, 1965, 12:06 P.M.
In the White House Rose Garden, LBJ has announced Goldberg's appointment. Already there are stories that the appointment demonstrates that the President is earnest about seeking a peaceful way out of Vietnam. If Johnson weren't serious about peace, why else would Goldberg give up a seat on the Supreme Court? To LBJ's delight, the choice has surprised the press. He is exhilarated by his coup and, at least for this moment, sounds as if he feels he has once again become the master of events. He calls Galbraith to thank him for suggesting Goldberg at the UN and confides that he will one day appoint Thurgood Marshall to the Court. As LBJ calls, his Oval Office television set is blaring out an insect extermination commercial featuring "Otto the Orkin man."
LBJ: Well, you got your man named...
LBJ: Arthur Goldberg!
GALBRAITH: Oh, my gosh!...
LBJ: ...I checked it out with a good many people...They had some concern about the Arabs, but...I didn't think that we ought to take the position that we couldn't have a Negro on the Court, or we couldn't have a Jew in the United Nations. That's not very much in line with the kind of government I thought we had...While he likes the Court...he loves peace more, and he thinks he has a better chance to do something about it here.
LBJ: And I'm going to appoint Thurgood Marshall to the Court. Not to succeed [Goldberg]. But after he's Solicitor [General] for a year or two. The first vacancy I have. I haven't told anybody that. And I don't want you to...At the end of a year or two, no one can say he's not one of the best-qualified men that was ever appointed...We'll break through there like we're breaking through on so many of these things.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Tuesday, July 20, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
Lady Bird has returned to Washington for a brief visit.
LADY BIRD: Lyndon...asked, "What about dinner on the boat?" That's always a treat, though sometimes I resent anything that takes me away from work when I'm so far behind...The answer's simple. After a day of Vietnam, anything that is solace, nirvana for him, makes sense. Mostly he makes up the [guest] list...Tonight it [included] the Bill Fulbrights and dear Senator Russell...The evening was superb, the views a balm to the spirit (but the river full of floating debris), and the talk good. There was a big comfortable chair at the very end of the Honey Fitz that's Lyndon's favorite of the boats and Lyndon ensconces himself there and gets some pretty ladies clustered around him and spends his evening. Sometimes he even goes to sleep...We had dinner on trays. One of the nicest things about the boat is that you have the feeling that every guest is glad that he got included.
Wednesday, July 21, 1965, 4:31 P.M.
Despite Fortas's note declining the Supreme Court, Johnson has not given up. As Lady Bird recalled, LBJ "didn't believe that Abe Fortas did not want to be on the Supreme Court." Now he hopes to soften Fortas up by asking for other names, perhaps to show Fortas that there is no other candidate as qualified as he.
LBJ: I got your letter, and I'm mighty sorry...It was a sweet, gracious, lovely letter that only you could write. And I regretted it. But we'll debate it a little later. What I called you about now I wish you would think of every human you could that we ought to give thought to [for the Court], so we have the best appointee anybody you could ever conceive of. And I want to get away from Harvard and the professors up there.
LBJ: I would really like to have, if I could, everything else being equal...a lawyer that was...a little left of the center. About what I think I am. I would like to have one fifty years old...that everybody in the United States had heard of...A good lawyer that was a man of compassion...Somewhat of a Warren's general stature, temperament, disposition, and philosophy...I wouldn't care if he's Republican. I would really like it if he were a Republican. Incidentally, I got a new FBI [report] on you...I'll talk to you about it some of these days...There wasn't a critical word. Not a black mark on it. Just a perfect report.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Wednesday, July 21, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
During an all-day meeting, McNamara, back from his tour of South Vietnam, urged Johnson to increase American troops in Vietnam to between 175,000 and 200,000 as well as call up 255,000 Reserves. Ball doubted that an "army of Westerners" could fight "Orientals" in an "Asian jungle." He wished to let South Vietnam and its government "fall apart" if necessary, and be taken over by Communists. Then the United States could move on to defense of Thailand.
McNamara replied that no one could predict how the Vietcong would behave "when confronted by 175,000 Americans." LBJ said that withdrawal would be a "disaster." Harsher bombing could bring in the Russians and Chinese. He had decided to "put in his stack."
LADY BIRD: Lyndon had...a meeting at eleven with McNamara, just back from Vietnam, and Dean Rusk and McGeorge Bundy. And their cars were still there when I got back from the beauty parlor at five. So it had been a sheer hell of a day for him...Bill Moyers is riding a wave of euphoria of compliments from all sides...Every one's deserved. And yet every one is a pang or thrust toward George [Reedy]. I wish we could avoid comparisons in all fields. He gave us years of wisdom, work, and loyalty. He simply isn't a bullfighter. I know that the pluses for Bill carry with them also for Lyndon a weight of sadness.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Thursday, July 22, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
This afternoon, LBJ told McNamara and the Joint Chiefs, "We are in a new war. This is going off the diving board." Years later he recalled that he knew the day Congress exploded "into a major debate on the war, that day would be the beginning of the end of the Great Society." He is searching for a way to announce his Vietnam decision that will not provoke Congress or the American people.
LADY BIRD: I woke about five-thirty to hear Lyndon say, almost as if he were in the middle of a sentence but...had been interrupted, "I don't want to get in a war and I don't see any way out of it. I've got to call up 600,000 boys, make them leave their homes and their families." It was as though he were talking out loud, not especially to me. I hope the refrain hadn't been in his mind all night long. Feeling like the boy that leaves the burning deck, I went to my own room to try to get another hour or two of sleep fitful and unsatisfactory.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
Friday, July 23, 1965, 11:45 A.M.
Eisenhower warns Johnson that, with monumental decisions on Vietnam about to be made, Republican congressional leaders feel he is not consulting them enough.
EISENHOWER: Mr. President, I had a call yesterday from...the Republican leadership. Both the Senate and the House...They said, "Look, we have been supportive...But [there] are rumors that the Reserves are going to be called up and great strength needed in the armed forces, and a lot of troops going to move in." They'd really like to be informed...
LBJ: ...Here's our problem. General Westmoreland has made some recommendations...To hold the bases that he has, and to release the South Vietnamese who are now guarding them, he wants a hundred thousand people in there between now and the first of the year. Or as soon as he can get them. He thinks he may need that many more at that time. But he wants to see what effect the monsoon has...
We have been a little bit fearful that we were driving [the Chinese and Russians] closer together because of Vietnam...Every time we announce that we are going to do something in South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh runs to...Mao Tse-tung and says,..."The Americans are...going to send a hundred thousand and 3 billion or 10 billion...You do the same for us."...They go to the Russians and...do the same thing. Both of them read...some speeches that folks have made, including Wayne Morse. The intelligence indicates that...many of them...think we almost got a Civil War Congress again, with all of them telling every day what ought to be done...And a good many [in Congress] are sympathetic with the Communists. They think they're not, but...Ho Chi Minh said he'd fight on for twenty years, if he needed to, because he had the support of the world. Including a good many Americans...
Now, I just finished an hour and a half with Everett Dirksen...and Mansfield...We have reached no conclusions on what action to take on Westmoreland's recommendations. Although the odds are ninety-nine to one you know what they'd be without my telling you. But I called in the Joint Chiefs because I wanted each one of them to evaluate Westmoreland's recommendations...They all supported [them] unanimously...They charge McNamara has computerized the [Defense] Department, and that he is the...quiz kid, whiz kid...and that I'm downgrading the military...So...this morning, I got the [civilian] secretaries in...When we...decide what we ought to recommend...I will call in the leaders. The moment I call them in, though, it's going to be in the papers...
EISENHOWER: Now, I wonder if you could just...call Everett [Dirksen]...and ask [him] to calm Ford down...Just say I have talked to you, and that I do know that you are trying to get all your ducks in a row with all the military...
LBJ: ...As long as they're calling you, why, they're not going to be too erratic...Now we've got authority to call up the Reserves, but Ford got into a political thing yesterday. He said, "You called up the Reserves in the Cuban Missile Crisis. You called up the Reserves after Khrushchev's meeting [with Kennedy] in Vienna...[But] we [Republicans] never had to call up the Reserves in eight years of Eisenhower. So I think Johnson ought to come down here and...be questioned why."...I'll tell Dirksen to...tell...Mel Laird and Jerry [Ford] just not to get excited...I have had more meetings with the [congressional] leadership in the first six months of this year than any President has had with any leadership in history...[Of] the hundred thousand [troops], I may put in forty at one time, and forty at another, and twenty at another so that it doesn't scare the British and scare hell out of everybody else that we're going into a world war...We are going in with...what the...commander says we need to hold what we've got, so that they can launch some offensives...
EISENHOWER: ...That's...all you can do. I just wanted to calm these people down by telling them I talked to you.
LBJ: ...You tell them...that, of course, I'm going to talk to all of them before we do anything. That they're going to know every bit of it...I don't want to keep any secrets. I want all of them in on it with me.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Friday, July 23, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
The Johnsons are spending the weekend at Camp David with houseguests including the McNamaras, the Clark Cliffords, the Arthur Goldbergs, and the John Connallys. During the next few weeks LBJ will have Goldberg at his side at Camp David, the LBJ Ranch, and official events, brandishing him as public evidence of his desire for peace in Vietnam.
LADY BIRD: When we reached Camp David, I wanted only to get into slacks, seek the solace of a drink, curl up on the sofa, and listen...I could only feel that I had made Lyndon's time more difficult by not really understanding his plans for the weekend, so that I was tense and on edge...After midnight, when I couldn't go to sleep, I...found Brownstone Front by Louis Auchincloss, and...read until two-thirty. The light wakened Lyndon. He put his head in the door. Said, "Can't my darling sleep? I'm so sorry." So I put a blanket across the crack between the doors, read a little, and then turned it out.
It was a short night. I waked at five-thirty, with the birds chirping the dawn. For an extraordinarily healthy, tough, reasonably happy person, sleeping is becoming the hardest thing for me to do, particularly when I feel that I have not played my role well, that I have been a hindrance and not a help. For Lyndon, the day had been a constant diet of Vietnam...The fact the poverty bill had passed...had not prevented Vietnam from dominating the news...
At dinner we discussed...one of the favorite subjects of conversation around Washington these days Schlesinger's book, LBJ versus RFK, the story of who said what on the fateful day [in 1960] the decision was ma de about who should be Vice President. And the nasty little thing that [David] Schoenbrun claimed Stevenson had told him. Goldberg said, "We are all gripers, to an extent. You come home and gripe to Lady Bird. I go home and gripe to Dorothy. We've got to blow off steam somewhere. Stevenson was tired. He was frustrated. But don't for one moment ever believe that he thought or said a moment's disloyalty to...the President."
Lyndon told...about how Stevenson had come to him [in the spring of 1964] and told him he was thinking of running for the Senate in New York...Lyndon said, "I think it will be awful. You were made for this [UN] role you're in. I just don't want to think of anybody else in it." Stevenson, somewhat taken aback, said, "Is that what you really want me to keep on doing?" Pitilessly Lyndon said, "Yes, I do." And Stevenson never cast a backward glance to the Senate. He went right on to a job in which he was, in theater terms, perfectly cast.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Saturday, July 24, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
LADY BIRD: I simply abdicated my command post and curled up and went to sleep, hoping that everybody found a place they liked to talk privately, or exercise violently, or just sit and look at the trees. I slept two blissful hours, and when I woke up, I found that John [Connally] and all the Texas folks were gone. I said I wished they had stayed for lunch, and Lyndon said rather plaintively, "I wanted them to, but I didn't know whether I could ask them. It might be too many." He really needs a tougher wife or a better executive, because I failed to touch that base of telling him to ask them.
LADY BIRD JOHNSON
Sunday, July 25, 1965, Tape-recorded Diary
In Aspen Lodge, late on Sunday afternoon, LBJ sat down, drinking a glass of Fresca, with Goldberg, McNamara, and Clifford to talk about Vietnam. When the Defense Secretary suggested calling up Reserves and putting the nation on a war footing, Goldberg told Johnson, "You do that and you don't get my letter of resignation!"
When Goldberg described his wish to take Vietnam to the UN, Clifford dismissed it, warning that the risks outweighed the potential gains. Clifford said he doubted that America could win the war. Until January 1966, they should "underplay Vietnam" in public, with "no talking about where and why we are there." Then, after the monsoon season, they should find a way "to get out." McNamara briskly replied that without a rapid military buildup, Saigon would fall. LBJ abruptly said that no one wanted peace more than he did. Then the man who so craved having people around him spent two hours driving and walking the grounds of Camp David alone.
LADY BIRD: I'm determined to get a portrait [of Lyndon]. And every time I pass [that of] President Wilson, my determination hardens. We had a late lunch on the porch...Lyndon is in his element with a sizable crowd. He bores in and...concentrates on whatever set of individuals he needs to learn from...at that time...I can see him getting the business of the weekend done. At one point, he walked away with Arthur Goldberg...for about an hour on the golf course...Both earnest. Lyndon frequently with his hands in his pockets. Walking, stopping, gesturing, listening intently to each other...Goldberg is a daring...choice [for the UN]. So far there have not been screams from the Arabs...
When I woke up, I found Lyndon stretched out on a chaise longue on the terrace, talking to John Chancellor. I curled up quietly beside him. He said,..."If this [war] winds up bad, and we get in a land war [in] Asia, there's only one address they will look for...Mine."...Lyndon went on to say that there had been twenty-four major advances [in Congress] last week and not one got a quarter of an inch [in the newspapers]. Vietnam got all the space...Lyndon spoke of sending McNamara out to Vietnam [earlier in July], and how frightened Lyndon was every time he went. He said, "I have kept him away from there almost a year now, and I lie awake until he gets back."...Flying in [from Camp David by helicopter,] Clark Clifford...said, "It's been a good weekend for us all. It's been a good weekend for the country."...His tone was so weighted that I felt some pretty important decisions had been arrived at.
Monday, July 26, 1965, 5:46 P.M.
The Joint Chiefs are recommending that the United States bomb the new surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites in North Vietnam. Since they are probably Russian-operated, an attack that killed Russians may risk bringing the Soviet Union into the war. Johnson had told the Chiefs, "This is a war, and the stakes are high." Russell once again shows the President his grave misgivings about escalating the war. But LBJ is no longer listening. With his big decision made, all he wants from Russell is tactical advice.
LBJ: Westmoreland says that we ought to take out everything simultaneously. He's just really a firefighter. He's an old South Carolina boy, and I guess he's been out there messing with them long enough, and he's getting fed up with it...Wheeler and the Joint Chiefs are real tough on taking out Six and Seven immediately. They'd be glad to take out everything in the whole of Southeast Asia. But they really want to take these out...McNamara thinks you've got to take them out, and the quicker the better. If you don't, you'll send a false signal to Russia that she can do this with impunity...and pretty soon we'll have no planes in the air...because they'll knock them out...Notwithstanding what people think...[McNamara] holds down the military a good deal...Most [people] think he's a hawk and that he's always raising hell to go to war.
RUSSELL: ...I think he's got the military to where they're somewhat circumscribed from expressing themselves freely.
LBJ: ...I've had [the military] over here for hours...Some of them are awfully irresponsible. They'll just scare you. They're ready to put a million men in right quick...Rusk thinks that we ought to go...and take these sites out. Ball and Goldberg and Humphrey kind of wobbled on both sides...We think that the Russians are manning [the sites]...We don't want anybody to know that...
RUSSELL: No, I'd say they were manned by North Vietnamese...I think the Russians have got people there showing them how to shoot them. But I would never mention that.
LBJ: We don't want to put them behind the wall where they got to fight back...That's why I'm trying to hold down this play...We told [the Russians] what our defense budget was. We said, "Ours is $2 billion lower. You lower yours." And they did. When we cut out this nuclear production...last year, you wondered why it hadn't been cut out before. It was running out of our ears when I first came in as President. They cut down theirs. Now...I don't want to...say, "I'm just going to have a hell of a lot of billions of dollars." Because...[North] Vietnam is trying to pull [China and Russia] back together...Any big, dramatic announcement on my part will throw them together...So five minutes from now, they're coming in here to decide what to do about the SAM site. The weight of opinion is pretty solidly on taking out Six and Seven tonight...
RUSSELL: I'd take...every one out...And I'd at least take out one other that I knew exactly where it was.
LBJ: If you do, that gets you in the Hanoi area. That gets you in civilians. That gets...the world upset. I just can't do that on these others. They're not bothering me and my targets...[Six and Seven] are right in line with all the targets I've got that's worth a damn. I can't send my boys up there without knocking them down. The Hanoi ones don't bother me too much...If [you hit those other sites], you're going to hit the goddamn capital. You'll have [Russia and China] in the war in fifteen minutes...when you go to bombing Hanoi. I think [the North Vietnamese] are trying to trap us into doing that.
RUSSELL: Our CIA thinks they moved a lot of the government out of Hanoi.
LBJ: ...We'll debate that later. This one is right up now.
RUSSELL: I'd say yes, get them tonight, if I could. But I'd hate like hell to try to get them and miss them.
LBJ: We think we're likely to miss them...They may just have strips of ground that look like a landing strip and have mobile ones that they move in just like a trailer and move out...Now...on this other thing, I think I'm going to work out a deal where I give Westmoreland what he needs in about three increments. Thirty or forty thousand each. Send a division right away from down at your Fort Benning...Give [us]...that division right quick, and then do it in two or three increments between now and the first of December.
RUSSELL: You have one damn good soldier out there named Walter Brown Russell, Jr...
LBJ: Is he in that crowd?
RUSSELL: Yes, sir...
LBJ: He knows he's going, does he?
RUSSELL: Oh, yeah. They all know it. They're just sitting there waiting for it...
LBJ: We don't think we'll ask for much money [from Congress] because we don't want to blow this thing up.
RUSSELL: I'm with you on that...I didn't see a bit of need of pressing so damn hard.
LBJ: We don't think we'll need any legislation. We'll tell them to get the Reserve plans ready...if next year we do. Then I'm going to do everything I can with this Jew up at the United Nations, and everywhere in the world, to find a way to get out without saying so. But if I can't do that, January I'll have to decide on the Reserves. But I don't think I'll call them up now. I think it's too dramatic. I think it commits me where I can't get out. And it puts me out there further than I want to get right at the moment. Now, does that make sense to you?
RUSSELL: Yes. Except it adds to old Ho Chi Minh's argument that we ain't going to stay in there. That we're going to pull out. It may ease the pressure that we...hoped Russia would put on to get him out.
LBJ: What do you think?
RUSSELL: Call up the Reserves. They understand that language. They understood it in Berlin...
LBJ: If I extend the enlistments, if I put a hundred thousand out there, they'll understand it. I'm afraid they'll understand it too much. I don't have to have the Reserves to do that. And I'm going to step up my draft calls. Double them.
RUSSELL: You shouldn't send many more than a hundred thousand over there, Mr. President.
LBJ: No, I'm not. I'm not going to try to send more...I'm just going to send a little less, maybe.
RUSSELL: You've been living with it every minute. I just live with it at night.
LBJ: I never worked on anything as hard in my life. I've had every human
RUSSELL: It's just nearly driven me mad. I guess it's the only thing I've ever hit in my life I didn't have some quick answer to. But I haven't got one to this...
LBJ: ...I want to [brief]...the [congressional] leaders first. Then the Foreign Relations and Foreign Affairs and Armed Services [Committees]...Do you think I ought to send a message to Congress or just make a statement? I'm not going to need any appropriation or any legislation...[for] my decision out there. Couldn't I just give a statement and say, "I'm going to send thirty thousand within the next few days and thirty thousand more, and it will be a total of a hundred thousand additionally that will be added. And if I do need anything, I'll call you back."...I don't want to dramatize it and throw Russia
RUSSELL: ...If that's the way you're going to play it, I'd play it down.
LBJ: You wouldn't have a Joint Session [of Congress]?
RUSSELL: I wouldn't cut down on the actual fighting, because those people over there are playing for keeps.
LBJ: Oh, I'm putting a hundred thousand in there. Gosh, I've moved a hundred and fifty thousand in the last ninety days!
RUSSELL: Has all the First Division got there yet?
LBJ: I don't know. All I know is I've got eighty thousand there, and I've got a hundred thousand that I'm going to authorize.
RUSSELL: I don't know. It has a mighty good psychological effect to call up some Reserves...
LBJ: Yeah, but it upsets the hell out of [the North Vietnamese]. They'll immediately go to...pressing...for commitments now that they are not getting from Russia. I don't want to force them.
RUSSELL: ...God knows,...and the thing that scares me worse is that these damn [South] Vietnamese are going to say, "Here is your war. Go ahead and take it!" And they'll quit fighting. That's what I've been looking for them to do. That little old mustached fellow [General Ky] was on the television. He indicated that we ought to fight the war and his troops ought to pacify the villages in the rear. God, that scared the hell out of me! If they're going to try to fight that kind of war, I'm in favor of getting out of there. If they're not going to really fight. The Koreans fought every inch of the way...Even when they were taking staggering losses, they were increasing their units...These people are letting theirs run down. They're not making any real effort over there now.
LBJ: ...You don't think that I ought to have a Joint Session, do you?
RUSSELL: No, if I wasn't going to call up any Reserves...I wouldn't...I think I'd just do it on television.
Tuesday, July 27, 1965, 2:43 P.M.
Johnson has refused suggestions to ask Congress for large sums of money for Vietnam, call up the Reserves, put the country on a war footing, and declare a state of emergency with a dramatic address to a Joint Session. Instead he will play down his decision to escalate the war. He will merely announce at a routine press conference that troop commitments will rise from 75,000 to 125,000, with more forces sent later as required. Although LBJ has made his decision, Mansfield asks him to listen one more time to a group of Senators with expertise in foreign and military affairs.
MANSFIELD: Bill Fulbright came to me and suggested that it might be a good idea for him, Dick Russell, John Sherman Cooper, George Aiken, and John Sparkman to come down and see you...on the present Vietnamese situation.
LBJ: ...I've talked to practically all of them. All I think would come out of it would be a story in the paper about the worrying and the mess and the difficulty and their whining. I've been out on the boat with Bill [Fulbright]. I've had him down for breakfast...We're going to see them all tomorrow morning in great detail. The fact is, there is no easy way...Bill's never going to be much of a leader. He's going to find things to worry him and concern him. His stuff he puts out of his meetings on Dominican Republic hurt us down there. [sarcastically:] He's really worried about things in Vietnam. I sit down with him and he agrees with me when I get through, and I think he will in the morning, when we get through...
I'm going to tell you everything that I know this afternoon...I'm taking the soft line of the deal. A good many of my Cabinet, and a good many other people, think that [since] Kennedy called up the Reserve in '61 [and] in the Cuban Missile Crisis, we ought to go all the way...I'm not doing that. I'm following more or less your memorandum. I'm saying to them that I want Rusk and Goldberg and you and Clark Clifford and Abe Fortas, all the folks who really don't want to be in a land war there...to do all they can, around the clock. For Rusk to just lock himself up with the greatest experts he can the Kissingers, the Bohlens, anybody that he can think of...and try to find a way to get out...I would tell [Fulbright] that we don't want to move into Hanoi, where either Russia or China will have to do more than she's doing now, if we can avoid it...
Number two, we don't see how we can run out [of Vietnam]...Number three, we don't think that we can leave these boys there inadequately protected at these bases...Now...we're...giving [the military], in our own way, what they say they have to have. But we're not [letting] them...go with any new adventures. And we're hoping...to get through the monsoon season...Hoping that maybe the other thing will work. If it doesn't, then by January, you may have to appropriate and appropriate and appropriate. And you may have to do other things. But I'm doing my best to hold this thing in balance just as long as I can.
I can't run out. I'm not going to run in. I can't just sit there and let them be murdered. So I've got to put enough there to hold them and protect them. And...if we don't heat it up ourselves, and we don't dramatize it, we don't play it up and say we're appropriating billions and we're sending millions and all [those] men, I don't think that you [will] get the Russians...or the Chinese worked up about it. That's what we are hoping.
LBJ: ...I think that Bill has a responsibility as leader, just as you do...I've asked George Ball and Rusk to be available every Tuesday morning or any morning that Bill says Bill and whoever he wants on that committee, any of them to go there regularly and keep right up with the constant surveillance of this thing. But kind of have a responsibility for it. Not just to bellyache outside...I'd just give anything if he'll assume a little of the responsibility for it.
Wednesday, July 28, 1965, 11:48 A.M.
After twisting Fortas's arm for days, Johnson has now concluded that the only way to get his friend onto the Supreme Court is to shove him into the swimming pool. At 12:30 P.M. he is scheduled to have a press conference at which he will declare that fifty thousand new troops will go to Vietnam. He has also decided to announce, whether Fortas consents or not, that his old friend is going to the Court. LBJ calls Fortas at his law office to ask him to attend his press conference. Having known Johnson since the 1930s, Fortas suspects what he is up to.
LBJ: Are you going to watch my press conference today?
FORTAS: Yes, sir. Absolutely. I just left a meeting to do it.
LBJ: How's your blood pressure?
FORTAS: A little worried of what you may do. [chuckles nervously]
LBJ: [chuckles] Well, anything I do will be all right, won't it? Why don't you come over here and watch the press conference?...Come on over and go down with Bird or Marvin or Jack or some of them at 12:25.
LBJ: I don't know what will happen or what questions or anything I'll get. But don't be surprised!
Wednesday, July 28, 1965, 7:20 P.M.
When Fortas arrived in the Oval Office, LBJ told him he was going to announce that fifty thousand men would go to Vietnam and that Fortas would join the Supreme Court. If those young men could sacrifice for their country, so could Fortas. Johnson added that since it was his appointment being announced, Fortas should go along with him. At first, the stunned Fortas was silent. Then he said, "I'll accompany you." Fortas later recalled, "To the best of my knowledge and belief, I never said yes."
In the East Room, Johnson told reporters that "our fighting strength" in Vietnam would rise "to 125,000 men, almost immediately. Additional forces will be needed later, and they will be sent as required." He would double the monthly draft call and "step up our campaign for voluntary enlistments," but he would not call up the Reserves. Sending "the flower of our youth" into battle, he said, was the "most agonizing" duty of "your President." But "we will stand in Vietnam." Then the President announced that he was sending Abe Fortas to the Court. Fortas had not wanted to be a Justice, he said, but "in this instance, the job has sought the man."
Johnson also told the reporters that today in New York his newly sworn UN Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg, would present Secretary-General U Thant "with a letter from me, requesting that all the resources, energy, and immense prestige of the United Nations be employed to find ways to halt aggression and to bring peace in Vietnam." Privately Johnson looks on this action as window-dressing but as he shows in this conversation, he is working hard to give Goldberg the illusion that he is at the center of decision making.
GOLDBERG: I want to congratulate you on your speech.
LBJ: Thank you, my friend.
GOLDBERG: ...And I want to congratulate you on the appointment to the Court.
LBJ: God bless you...I just followed both your recommendations. Now, you wanted a peace initiative. So I turned it over to you...Ask every one of the 114 [delegates] personally...Just say to each one,..."The President asked me to ask you to give any suggestion you can."
GOLDBERG: ...The Secretary-General was very flattered that you sent him a letter...He said he would [explore] with the Russians...whether or not there are any hopes...
LBJ: I didn't get much hope out of Averell [Harriman's message], but we'll try it.
GOLDBERG: Averell made a lot of Kosygin's statement that...he regarded the Vietnamese thing to be a small thing...The Secretary-General said that his recent soundings to the Russians haven't indicated that...He talked a little bit about his favorite proposal of putting the cease-fire in first. But I said, "Hold that up. This isn't a good time for you to come out with any cease-fire proposal."
LBJ: I got our [Medicare] passed today.
GOLDBERG: Good, good...What's been the reaction?...
LBJ: Oh, we got a few gripers, but by and large, it was wonderful. I've got all the governors coming in tomorrow...Would you like to fly down here and meet with them?
GOLDBERG: ...If you would like me to, I would.
LBJ: ...Come on down here and just show them that you kind of got an open door here...You can shake hands around and meet some of your old friends.
Thursday, July 29, 1965, 9:20 P.M.
Republican operatives are trying to scuttle the Fortas nomination with charges that Fortas had peddled influence with the Johnson administration to help legal clients. Telegrams from ultraright groups are pouring into Washington denouncing Fortas as a Jew, a left-winger, and a Communist. LBJ asks his Attorney General to take charge of the situation.
LBJ: We got a lot of static on the Fortas thing. We got a bunch of Republicans from the National Committee that's trying to organize a big fight on some oil thing in Puerto Rico. Fortas never had anything to do with it. He represents the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Some lawyer in his office handled the technical detail...Secretary [of the Interior] decided it...You better locate Udall and get a complete record of just what Fortas had to do with it, if anything...The second thing is Walter Jenkins. [Fortas] talked to the [Washington] Star people...He did this without my knowledge...Third is that he was Bobby Baker's lawyer...I don't think he ever took any fee from Bobby. Don't think he ever appeared for him. I think he just listened...
Now the big mistake was...he wanted to go off and have a vacation [with] Carol. She was upset. She didn't want him to go on the Court...They set the hearing [on his nomination] for August the 5th, at my request...Then the damn fool wanted to change it...It just [lets] every Hunt organization in America [make] trouble...Get it as soon as you can, so the Hunts and all the play can get over with...
KATZENBACH: I was in Hruska's office this morning...and he showed me about forty telegrams he had against Abe Fortas..."Don't appoint this liberal...this Communist."...Hruska...said,..."You know all the people who wrote them?...They're all John Birch."
LBJ: ...I've got a good many saying that certain races are taking over the [government]. And "they don't own it," and "they haven't got a title to it," and "he's a Communist."...I just don't want to get it built up where it goes too far.
LBJ: You got your poll tax stuff wound up, didn't you?
KATZENBACH: Yeah. Walking on eggs all the way...They're going to [submit the compromise version of the voting rights bill] in the House for a vote Tuesday.
LBJ: Okay. God bless you.
Friday, July 30, 1965, 9:35 A.M.
This afternoon LBJ is to fly to Missouri and sign the Medicare bill at the Harry Truman Presidential Library, alongside the ailing thirty-third President, who had once tried and failed to expand public health care. He complains to Bundy about new State Department leaks about Vietnam.
LBJ: I want you to try to get some loyalty in the State Department...Work on Bill [Bundy] to use his personal influence with the Assistant Secretaries...over there to be loyal to Johnson and quit slicing us and saying we don't know about foreign affairs. These underlings doing it find out who they are and get rid of them.
Friday, July 30, 1965, 10:00 A.M.
Johnson asks his Senate Majority Leader to move the Fortas hearings up to August 5th, to forestall opposition. But this date will require Fortas to cancel the vacation hastily arranged to calm his wife's fury at him for surrendering to the President's "dirty trick." When LBJ called to mollify her, she accused him of trying to "destroy Abe" and barked, "You don't treat friends that way!" Johnson told an aide, "Oh boy, Carol was furious with me!"
LBJ: Ramsey very foolishly...said they'd like to have [the hearings on August] 12th, because Abe would like to spend some days with his wife...She said her life had been ruined. I don't know these women! Their lives get ruined mighty easy!...Abe is going to be here, after she got through crying one night. He's not going to have to take her off and stay with her a week...So it ought to be on the 5th...
MANSFIELD: Okay. I'll call him...right away.
LBJ: ...Put the blame on me or Ramsey...Don't talk about the wife.
Copyright © 2001 by Michael Beschloss
Table of Contents
PROLOGUE: "Jackie, I Love You!"
1. Mudslinging Campaign
2. Sex Scandal in the Throne Room
3. A Landslide Can't Buy Happiness
4. Girding for Battles
5. "I Don't See Any Way of Winning"
6. "It May Look Like I'm Stirring Up These Marches"
7. "The Kids Are Led by Communist Groups"
8. "Do We Let Castro Take Over?"
9. "I Don't Believe They're Ever Going to Quit"
10. "We Know It's Going to Be Bad"
EPILOGUE: Riding on a Crest
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I still think this and its predecesor is incredibly underrated. This is really fantastic firsthand evidence of all the historic events of the 60's. I think some of the footnotes are unnecessary and block the natural flow of the narrative. Often they are repititious. When will the third one be out?