Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President

By Robert Dallek | Go to book overview

10
“LYNDON JOHNSON'S
WAR”

By the winter of 1965–66 nearly 60 percent of the country saw the Vietnam War as America's most urgent problem. The number had more than doubled since the presidential campaign in 1964. Two out of three Americans considered it essential to take a stand in Vietnam, with only 20 percent favoring a pullout over an expanded role for U.S. forces. Seventy-five percent of a sample poll viewed the war as “part of our worldwide commitment to stop Communism.”

There were also growing indications that as the war went, so would Lyndon Johnson's public standing. At the end of 1965, his approval rating remained impressively high at 64 percent. Moreover, for the third year in a row, Americans chose him as the most admired man in the world, with Dwight Eisenhower second and Robert Kennedy third. Some three-fourths of the country endorsed the President's handling of Vietnam and expressed antagonism to antiwar demonstrators.

Yet at the same time, the public's support had distinct limits. It had little appetite for a long, expanded war. Bill Moyers told Johnson in December that most Americans hoped that stepped-up military actions would facilitate “a negotiated, compromise peace.” Escalation was acceptable because it would bring “peace more quickly.” But impatience and frustration were also evident: Only 25 percent of the country thought “we are making any progress” in Vietnam and 43 percent complained that the administration was not doing enough to end the fighting.

Sentiment in the United States, although important, was only one element shaping Johnson's judgments on the war. In November, Vietnam Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge told the President that “we are beginning

-251-

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Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface ix
  • Lyndon B. Johnson *
  • 1 - The Making of a Politician 1
  • 2 - The Congressman 36
  • 3 - The Senator 72
  • 4 - The Vice President 112
  • 5 - From JFK to LBJ 145
  • 6 - Landslide Lyndon 171
  • 7 - King of the Hill 190
  • 8 - Foreign Policy Dilemmas 208
  • 9 - Retreat from the Great Society 227
  • 10 - Lyndon Johnson''s War 251
  • 11 - A Sea of Troubles 272
  • 12 - Stalemate 295
  • 13 - Last Hurrahs 318
  • 14 - Unfinished Business 343
  • 15 - After the Fall 362
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 379
  • Index 382
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