Television and Personality:
Lyndon B. Johnson and
Richard M. Nixon
I learned somewhere that no leader can pursue public tranquility as his first and only goal. For a president to buy public popularity at the sacrifice of his better judgement is too dear a price to pay. This nation cannot afford such a price, and this nation cannot long afford such a leader. -- LBJ
A President can make a hard decision, but a President is not able to carry out that decision unless, in the final analysis, he has the support of the people. -- RMN
The so-called Imperial Presidency 1 begins in this period when Presidents Johnson and Nixon abused their power and systematically lied to the American people. Many scholars have studied these presidents from historical, institutional, and psychological perspectives. This chapter brings a rhetorical perspective to their presidencies and locates the kind of presidency they encountered and encouraged in the high public profile and expectations that had become part of the office they inherited.
During this period, the media and the presidency debated which of them would be accepted as the legitimate voice of the American people. During a time when the presidency seemed to lose so much through Lyndon Johnson's public rejection and Richard Nixon's disgrace and resignation, the presidency as an institution won this debate, and the president became America's virtually uncontested interpreter-in-chief.