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

By Robert Dallek | Go to book overview

4
King of the Hill

HE autumn and winter of 1964 were a happy time for Lyndon Johnson. He was fulfilling every imaginable fantasy in his political life: He was a highly popular President winning passage of groundbreaking laws, describing broad plans for bold advances in American life, and gaining election in his own right with an unprecedented number of votes. If success gave him a temporary sense of repose, a feeling that at age fifty-six he had indelibly stamped his mark on history and could enjoy the prospect of another four and possibly even eight years achieving great things for the country, it was not evident to anyone around him. Johnson, Bill Moyers says, had "an exquisite hole at his center, which was an unfillable void." He was an inveterate malcontent, a man constantly reaching for new goals.

He was, as someone said of Napoleon, a tornado in pants. In August, after his nomination, and again in November and December, after his election, he spent weeks at his Texas ranch, where he was supposed to be relaxing. But a vacation from work, even a brief respite from his normally arduous schedule, was impossible. "Rest for him," Hubert Humphrey said, "was controlled frenzy."1

Watching Johnson on the plane flying to Texas after the Democratic convention in August, Humphrey felt that "if the plane had run out of fuel in mid-air, President Johnson's frenetic energy and excitement would have kept it flying."

At the ranch, he was in constant motion. It was not enough that he attended to the daily business of government, he also had to micromanage the affairs of his "spread." As Humphrey remembered, "If a fence was falling, he'd call his ranch foreman by phone from the car to report it. If a gate was loose, that word would go out. He would check cattle, looking for an injured or diseased one. When nothing caught his eye, he worried about dinner, calling the cook at the ranch

-185-

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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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