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. . . . LBJ has been at this game for years. . . . He knows where he's going. . . . He's working hard on Vietnam and has been for a long time, and he knows the answers for it. If this is submitted to arbitration and it goes against him, even so it will be a way out. He will find some way out."1
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; [he] wishes we were not there but we are there." And the anguish was causing him indescribable grief.
"I just returned to the office from the Cabinet meeting," Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman told him on February 1. "I would like very much to be more helpful to you in the Vietnam matter. I can only imagine how heavy a burden it is, how frustrating, how depressing, how it keeps jumping up." Dean Rusk told congressional leaders in mid-February: "the burdens that are put on the President . . . are beyond my description." When things go badly, Rusk added, the President bears the sole burden. 2
With everyone "blaming the President for all of their troubles,"