After the Fall
IT is no exaggeration to say that the return to Texas and a bucolic life on the banks of the Pedernales appealed to and troubled Johnson. For thirty-two years he had primarily lived in Washington, D.C., where he had observed and exercised political power every day of his life. His identity, his very being was bound up with his work. "My daddy committed political suicide for that war in Vietnam," younger daughter Luci told me. "And since politics was his life, it was like committing actual suicide."1
Despite his love affair with politics and power, by 1969 one side of Johnson was ready to go home. He was exhausted and looked forward to escaping the hurly-burly of the presidency--the endless pressures over Vietnam, managing domestic and international crises, meeting deadlines, balancing budgets, stroking supporters, combating opponents, working sixteen- and eighteen-hour days in behalf of policies and programs that misfired as often as they succeeded. He was dead tired by the time he turned over the government to Nixon and boarded Air Force One for the trip back to Texas. "He returned to the Texas Hill Country so exhausted by his presidency that it took him nearly a full year to shed the fatigue in his bones," Time reporter Leo Janos said. 2
As a private citizen, he intended to indulge himself--to do whatever made him happy. He was tired of being cooped up in the White House, he told George Christian. "'By God, I'm going to do what I want to do. If I want to drink a glass of whiskey, I'm going to drink a glass of whiskey. And if I want to have some bad manners, I'm going to have bad manners. I've got to have some freedom to do what I want to do.'"
In November, he told Helen Thomas: "'The first thing I want to do is to go home and relieve myself of the weight I have been