Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President

By Robert Dallek | Go to book overview

11
A SEA OF TROUBLES

By the beginning of 1967, the dissent over Vietnam, urban riots, political reverses, and doubts about administration programs to elevate poor folks into the middle class and transform America into a Great Society made Johnson wonder why he had ever wanted to be President. In the winter of 1966–67, even before a host of new difficulties appeared, he found himself defending his administration from attacks by friends and foes alike. Governor Warren Hearnes of Missouri told Johnson that if he were running in his state now he would lose by 100,000 votes, despite a half-million margin in 1964.

However much the criticism hurt and agitated him, he refused to show his true feelings in public. He put the best possible face on everything. The economy was a case in point. During the first half of the 1960s an amazing 96 percent of Americans believed that their standard of living would improve. In January 1967, when Johnson told the country that wages were the highest in history, unemployment was at a thirteen-year low, and corporate profits and farm incomes were greater than ever, Americans nodded in agreement. True, a 4.5 percent jump in consumer prices over the previous eighteen months and an “excessive rise” in interest rates were disturbing elements in the national economic picture. But, the President reassured the country, “as 1966 ended, price stability was seemingly being restored,” while interest rates were retreating from their earlier peaks.

Johnson knew, however, that his public rhetoric masked potential budget deficits. Additional defense outlays and cost-of-living increases might lead to a recession and political defeat in 1968. But no one in the administration was sure. Their watchwords on the economy in early 1967 were: “Where are we headed?”

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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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