Decade of Disillusionment: The Kennedy-Johnson Years

By Jim F. Heath | Go to book overview

IX
The Legacies
of Disillusionment

JOHNSON'S departure from the White House marked the end of an ambitious effort to move America forward in the well-worn tracks forged by Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Both Kennedy and Johnson proudly carried the banner of New Deal liberalism at home and cold war containment abroad. As a result, despite marked differences in their backgrounds and personal styles, their administrations were essentially pieces of the same cloth. Measured by new laws enacted and programs initiated, especially under Johnson, their record was impressive. Yet after eight years of their leadership, instead of being stronger and more unified, the United States was actually weaker and more divided.

Even if the sixties had been as tranquil a period as the later fifties, Lyndon Johnson's style alone would have caused him problems. His coarse, common mannerisms offended the sensibilities of intellectuals and media taste makers who believed that a President should make politics sound like a moral and intellectual challenge. Such faults were minor, however, compared to his incredible vanity, arrogance, and propensity for secrecy and dissembling. Subjected to the relentless attention that any chief executive invariably receives, everything about Johnson--his shortcomings as well as his many virtues--seemed excessive. He could be cranky or jovial, waspish or considerate, vindictive or generous, but he was never bland. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge described him perfectly: "The great problem is that this fellow is outsize, oversize; he's bigger than life, so his virtues seem huge and his vices seem like monstrous warts,

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Decade of Disillusionment: The Kennedy-Johnson Years
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xv
  • I - Introduction 1
  • II - The Torch Is Passed 14
  • III - Opening the New Frontier 49
  • IV - Ambivalence and Action 94
  • V - The Unfulfilled Promise 143
  • VI - Transition to the Great Society 164
  • VII - The Years of Triumph 195
  • VIII - The Years of Frustration 238
  • IX - The Legacies of Disillusionment 290
  • Bibliography 304
  • Index 321
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