Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973

By Robert Dallek | Go to book overview

11
Unfinished Business

JOHNSON knew that exercising power in the waning months of a presidential term defied the laws of political gravity. But he had no intention of letting his time in office simply run out. As long as he held power, he was determined to use it. His diminishing capacity to make things happen stimulated not acceptance of the inevitable but vigorous efforts to dramatize the unfinished business he saw in domestic and foreign affairs.

In the last months of his presidency he never tired of telling his favorite Winston Churchill story. "It is so apropos of conditions in our country and in the world where people are trying to stay resigned to the status quo," Johnson said. A group of elderly temperance ladies called on the Prime Minister near the end of World War 11 to complain about his drinking habits. They told him that if all the alcohol he had consumed during the war were emptied into his office, it would reach halfway to the ceiling. "My dear ladies," Churchill replied, "so little have I done, so much have I yet to do."1

At a staff meeting on June 25 the President complained of "recent press reports that the White House staff is tired . . . that many officials are soon leaving . . . and that the machinery of government is grinding to a halt." He hoped the entire staff would stay until January, but he would accommodate those who felt compelled to go earlier. In the meantime, however, "there's lots of work to do and no room for a letdown."

He wanted fresh proposals for what they should do between now and January. But not because he was short on ideas; he knew what he wanted to accomplish. He hoped staff initiatives might generate renewed enthusiasm among aides focused on post-White House careers. Lest the staff doubt his determination to take on additional challenges, he announced that he had asked Joe Califano to oversee

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Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - The Most Insignificant Office 3
  • 2 - From JFK to Lbj 54
  • 3 - Landslide Lyndon 122
  • 4 - King of the Hill 185
  • 5 - Foreign Policy Dilemmas 238
  • 6 - Retreat from the Great Society 293
  • 7 - Lyndon Johnson's War, 340
  • 8 - A Sea of Troubles 391
  • 9 - Stalemate 443
  • 10 - Last Hurrahs 494
  • 11 - Unfinished Business 550
  • 12 - After the Fall 601
  • Afterword 624
  • Sources 629
  • Abbreviations Used in Notes 645
  • Notes 647
  • Index 737
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