Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President

By Robert Dallek | Go to book overview

12
STALEMATE

In February 1966 Chief Justice Earl Warren had told Drew Pearson that a seasoned politician like Lyndon Johnson would surely find his way through the maze of Vietnam. “This is going to last a long time, and the President will go through some rough sailing,” Warren said. “But he's used to it. … He's working hard on Vietnam and has been for a long time, and he knows the answers for it. He will find some way out.”

Warren's confidence in the President exceeded Johnson's capacity to set things right. Vietnam was a stalemate producing irreconcilable domestic divisions and a nightmare, to borrow from James Joyce, from which Johnson could not awake. More than ever in 1967 the war made him irrational and repressive toward opponents, provoking illusions about “winning” or negotiating our way out one moment and fears of losing the next. At a meeting with Senate leaders Mike Mansfield and Everett Dirksen in January, he “said he personally wished he had never heard of South Vietnam.” The anguish was causing him indescribable grief.

With the likelihood that a continuation of the fighting into 1968 would be a political disaster for Johnson and the Democrats, he was almost desperate to end the war. But no one knew how to do it, at least on terms that Johnson believed acceptable. When Fulbright told him that “the President's first priority must be liquidation of the war—that the war poisons everything else—the President said he totally agreed.”

Yet however great the pressure to end the fighting before American civil strife became intolerable, Johnson wouldn't agree to military steps that might precipitate a larger conflict with China and/or Russia. A suggestion from Texas Governor John Connally that Johnson use tactical nuclear

-295-

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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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