Who Was Lyndon Baines Johnson?

“Do you have a lot of energy?" the thirtysixth President of the United States asked a young winner of the White House Fellowship. “It’s important for me to know.”LBJ was looking for a confidante with the endurance to hear and interpret some of his deepest secrets, fiercest convictions, and haunting dreams as he came to the lonesome end of a career that changed history. That confidante was Doris Kearns, twenty-four when she went to work at the White House in 1968. and now a professor of government at Harvard. “Who Was Lyndon Baines Johnson?" will appear in this and next month’s Atlantics. It is drawn from Ms. Kearns’s forthcoming book, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.

Atlantic

FOUNDED IN 1857

by Doris Kearns

Part I: The Man Who Would Be Loved

Prologue: More is less

The up world was a in world which different Lyndon from Johnson the one grew he came to lead. He grew up in an America where almost every household contained the text and the message of Horatio Alger—the triumphs of character, determination, and will over all adversity. Success or failure was determined entirely by the individual himself; structural barriers simply did not exist. In weekly college editorials on getting ahead, playing the game, and striving to succeed, Johnson preached that with industry, temperance, promptness, and generosity the persistent man would inevitably triumph. All his life Johnson retained the belief that any problem could be solved by personal force. He believed he could make a friend of anyone Nikita Khrushchev. Ho Chi Minh, Charles de Gaulle if only he could sit alone with him in a room and talk. Indeed, there were few who could resist the influence of his personal presence.

And. Johnson believed, when success came, it must be used to benefit others. Whether it was Lyndon the college student producing accomplishments for his mother, the husband and father producing wealth and security for his family, the Senate majority leader producing legislation and electoral victory for his party, or the President of his country producing a Great Society for his people and what he believed to be progress in Southeast Asia the desire to benefit others was the prime motive for his quest for power. The power he gained made good works possible, and good works, he believed, brought love and gratitude.

Yet this man of such intensely personal gifts, who received understanding and transmitted influence through other men’s eyes, was destined as President to deal with an enemy abroad and power groups at home (blacks, students, the peace movement) who were unsusceptible to personal persuasion and ungrateful for his “gifts.” He was compelled to reach out to a constituency of 200 million citizens while sitting alone in his office staring into the lens of a camera. He was required to sit at the head of a gargantuan bureaucracy largely managed by people he could neither know nor observe. The war in Vietnam and the domestic unrest of the 1960s challenged the traditional American faith in the ability of the American government to do good for others at home and abroad. The course of events in those years seemed to show that paternalism—the wish to reform, reshape, and control— was inextricably bound to American generosity; that American benevolence was often tyrannical.

It was, however, impossible for Johnson to understand the tumult in the streets and the continuing capacity of the North Vietnamese to resist his will. After all. he believed, he had given more laws, more houses, more medical services, more loans, and more promises to more people than any other President in history. Surely he had earned the love and gratitude of the American people. Yet, as he looked around him in 1967 and 1968. he saw only paralyzing bitterness and hatred. Uncomprehending and deeply hurt, he naturally would seek the cause of his decline in the personal animosity and motives of individual enemies—the press, the eastern intellectuals, and the Kennedys— and even more naturally, though surprising at first glance, he would decide to withdraw from the world of politics and go back to the place where he was born, where at least, as his father had told him years before. “The people know when you’re sick, and care when you die.”

1. A dance at the White House; talks at dawn

In the spring of 1967, I was nominated for the White House Fellows Program. The program was designed to allow young people to work as special assistants to the President and members of his Cabinet. During interviews for the fellowship I made no effort to conceal my antiwar activities and made it clear that 1 could not work on anything to do with the war, but believed strongly in the domestic programs of the Great Society, particularly in the area of civil rights. These admissions did not seem to perturb the committee, many of whom, such as John Oakes, editorial page editor of the New York Times, and John Gardner, secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, were themselves opposed to the war.

My selection was to be announced in a White House ceremony in the first week of May. A month before. I had co-authored an article for The New Republic. This essay, “How to Remove LBJ in 1968” (The New Republic chose the title), argued for a new political party to be formed from an alliance of blacks, the poor, the lower middle class, and women.

A week before the article was to appear, on May 7, 1967, I went to the White House for the ceremony and the dance which would follow. There I first met Lyndon Johnson. He was already in the ballroom when I entered. His appearance startled me. The picture in my mind had been a caricature: the sly televised politician, his features locked into virtual immobility, eyes squinting, ears which seemed to dangle like thick pendants affixed to the side of his head. Now I saw a ruddy giant of a man with a strong mobile face, a presence whose manifest energy dominated an entire room filled with senators, representatives. Cabinet officials. White House staff members, and reporters. Beginning each dance number with a different woman, he moved gracefully across the floor.

My turn to dance with the President came in the middle of the evening. He walked up to me and began to talk. “Do your men ever dance at Harvard?" he teased. “Of course they do,” I said. “Bull.”he responded. “I know what goes on up there. And I bet they can’t dance like I’m dancing right now.” With that, he started to move me in wide circles around the floor. “I have one question,” he said suddenly. “Do you have a lot of energy? It’s important for me to know.” “Well,” 1 replied. surprised at how easy it seemed to make small talk with him. “I hear you need only five hours of sleep, but I need only four, so it stands to reason that I’ve got even more energy than you. In fact,”I continued, even more surprised to find myself confiding in him. “I hate going to bed at night and I love waking up in the morning.”

Abruptly, Johnson interrupted to say that at my age he had also hated to sleep, but now his burdens with the war were such that sleep represented a welcome escape.

The dance ended, but as Johnson moved away, he said in a loud whisper that he had already decided that 1 should be the White House Fellow assigned to work for him on the White House staff’.

It was not to be that simple. The next week the issue of The New Republic containing my article appeared in Washington. There was a flurry in the press, which was evidently amused with the idea that Lyndon Johnson had tried to waltz the NewLeft and had been spurned.

I had heard of the President’s reaction to earlier. more trivial public embarrassments. I could easily imagine his punishing or even canceling the entire White House Fellows Program for its error in selecting me. He had already abolished the annual Medal of Freedom award because he did not approve of some who had been selected to receive it. among them critics of his Vietnam policies. I considered, and discussed with friends, the advisability of resigning. But then, a few days later. 1 received a phone call from Postmaster General Larry O’Brien, who told me that, despite the rumors, the President still wanted me to come to Washington and participate in the program. There was no further talk of my working for the President directly.

I was assigned to the Labor Department.

In nouncement the spring of his 1968, decision after to Johnson’s retire, his anappointments secretary called one day to say that the President wanted to see me at the White House at 5:00 P.M. I had had two more encounters with him. In one, I condemned his lack of perception of opposition to the Vietnam War; in the second. I had found myself criticizing his rejection of a strong speech, prepared for him after Martin Luther King’s assassination, calling for economic reforms. When I walked into the Oval Office, the President was in the midst of signing documents and his back was turned. I stood there silently, looking across the great office at the figure intently bent over his desk, the man suddenly appearing a symbol out of one of my high school textbooks. I cleared my throat to let him know I was there. He swiveled in his chair and. without a greeting, in strong, almost accusing tones, said. “First you say I should be dumped from the ticket. Then you criticize me for not making a speech. I’ve got nine months left in office without another election. I want to use those months to do and say all the things that should be done and said simply because they’re right. And you can help me. You should be happy, now that you’ve had your way. and now that I’ve removed myself from the race, it is time for you to remove yourself from the Department of Labor and come to work for me until have to leave. Anyway,” he added. “I’ve decided to do some teaching when I leave office, and 1 always liked teaching. 1 should have been a teacher, and I want to practice on you. 1 want to do everything I can.” lie said, “to make the young people of America, especially you Harvards, understand what this political system is all about.”

So for the last nine months of his Administration tion I became a member of the White House staff, my office two doors away from that of the President. For the four years after he left office, while teaching at Harvard, I spent long weekends. parts of summer vacations, and winter holidays with the President and his wife at the ranch. I helped with the work on his memoirs, which was fascinating but difficult. There was no shortage of material—there were 31 million papers in storage in Austin and a dedicated staff engaged in the process of sorting them out. I was assigned to cover the chapters on civil rights, economics, and the Congress, but I worked with a number of others in reading through hundreds of files, memos, and transcripts. preparing questions for the President.

It soon became clear that he would rather be doing anything else than working on hi-s memoirs. The moment a formal interview began, he stiffened; the moment it was over, he relaxed, had Lady Bird join him. and expanded colorfully on the subject he had just discussed with dull rhetoric. Yet. if ever we tried to include our notes from these informal sessions in the draft, he took them out, insisting that this was a presidential memoir and had to be written in a stately fashion. So the man who talked for the memoirs was the man Lyndon Johnson thought he should be—the statesman above the fray, a soft-spoken observer of events whose opinions were offered with uncharacteristic deference and humility. Lyndon Johnson was filled with powerful emotions, with anger, rage, and sympathy, but the image he projected was that of a calm, almost cold man, a sober fellow, with pinched energy; humble, earnest, and crashingly dull.

He began to settle into his retirement, enjoying the time with his wife, his daughters, and his grandchildren, seemingly content with long, half idle, unplanned days. Nevertheless, his physical strength was gradually ebbing away. His hair whitened; wrinkles appeared in his skin; hollows deepened beneath his eyes; and the backs of his hands became flecked with spots of brown. His intestinal system was in continuous turmoil. He had chest pains; it was often difficult for him to breathe. “I feel a bad pain in my angina these days,” he said to me one summer afternoon in 1970, interrupting himself in the middle of a story about his first race for Congress. “I went to a doctor in Mexico, and he said my blood pressure was perfect, and he wished it would shoot up so he could get me worried. But I have an instinct something is wrong. Last night’s drink was the first in ten days. I’ve lost ten pounds and been exercising each day. But I’m still worried. I’ve got an instinct.” More than two and a half years remained. But he was beginning to die, and he knew it.

It was then that he began to talk more and more about his childhood. Encroaching, unmastered death chipped away at the defenses of a lifetime and, bit by bit. a story I had never heard before began to unfold—a painful story of an unhappy boy trapped in a divided home, relentlessly tumbled among the impossible demands of an unyielding mother, love offered and then denied in seeming punishment, contempt for a father who had failed, admiration for a father who was a model for a Texas manhood; commanded to be what he could not be; forced to become what he was not. How different from his earlier public descriptions—the rags-to-riches rise from a happy childhood, guided by an adoring mother and the example of his manly, principled father. Sometimes he said more than he could accept, and. after recounting some terribly revealing story, the old defenses re-emerged and he would disclaim the obvious meaning of what had just been said. But something seemed to drive him on as far as his reach and memory would permit.

We talked mostly in the early hours of the morning. Johnson slept poorly those days, waking up at 5:30. Terrified at lying alone in the dark, he came into my room to talk. Gradually, a curious ritual developed. I would awaken at five and get dressed. Half an hour later Johnson would knock on my door, dressed in his robe and pajamas. As I sat in a chair by the window, he climbed into the bed, pulling the sheets up to his neck, looking like a cold and frightened child.

In those dawn talks. I saw him as perhaps few others, except his wife and close friends, had seen him, crumpled, ragged, and defenseless. He spoke of the beginnings and ends of things, of dreams and fantasies. His words seemed to flow from some deep well of sadness, nostalgia, and longing. It is, of course, impossible for me to sort out dream or memory from fantasy. After all, I was listening to a man who had always had a peculiar relationship with words. If there were inconsistencies with facts, how much more treacherous were memories and dreams, and yet how’ much more revealing. For what a man like Johnson chose to remember may be even more important to understand than what really happened.

2. Mother gaveth—and tooketh away

Johnson remembered the family fights provoked by his father’s drinking. In the Baines’s (his mother’s) family code, sobriety was essential: it insured the cardinal quality, selfcontrol. Sobriety was a promise of industry and reliability. Nor was Rebekah Baines Johnson alone in her dismay; at that time, women throughout the West regarded liquor as the greatest of threats to their husbands’ acceptability, devotion, and income. Their anxiety sustained the prohibition movement which enlisted the support of thousands, among them Rebekah. This war between good and evil was manifest in the two main symbols of the small western town—the church, with its steeple pointing upward to heaven, and the low saloon, with its swinging doors leading straight down to hell. There was no room in Rebekah’s Protestant ethic for uncontrolled and frivolous behavior. Economic and social ruin awaited the drunkard. Temperance was both the sign of morality and the key to economic success.

According to her son. Rebekah saw this vision painfully vindicated in her own husband’s intemperance. “There was nothing Mother hated more than seeing my daddy drink. When he had too much to drink, he’d lose control of himself. He used bad language. He squandered the little money we had on the cotton and real estate markets. Sometimes he’d be lucky and make a lot of money. But more often, he lost out. One year we’d all be riding high in Pedernales terms, so high in fact that on a scale of A to F. we’d be right up there with the A’s. Then two years later, he’d lose it all. The cotton he had bought for 44C a bale had dropped to 6c a bale, and with it the Johnsons had dropped to the bottom of the heap. These ups and downs were hard on my mother. She wanted things to be nice for us but she could never count on a stable income. When she got upset she blamed our money problems on my father’s drinking. And then she cried a lot. Especially when he slaved out all night. I remember one bad night. I woke up and heard her in the parlor crying her eyes out. I knew she needed me. With me there, she seemed less afraid. She stopped crying and told me over and over how important it wras that I never lose control of myself and disappoint her that way. I promised that 1 would be there to protect her always. Finally she calmed down and we both fell asleep.”

The image of Rebekah Baines Johnson that emerges in these stories is that of an unhappy woman, cut oil’ from all the things that had once given her pleasure in life, stranded in a cabin on a muddy stream with a man she considered vulgar and brutish: a frustrated woman with a host of throttled ambitions. Irving, through her firstborn son, to find a substitute for a dead father she revered, an unsuccessful marriage, and a failed career (she had originally hoped to become a novelist). She seemed under compulsion to renew’ on her son’s behalf all the plans and projects she had given up for herself. The son would fulfill the dreams she had never carried out; he would become the important person she had failed to be.

“She never wanted me to be alone.” Lyndon later recalled. “She kept me constantly amused. I remember playing games with her that only the two of us could play. And she always let me win. even if to do so 1 had to change the rules. 1 knew how much she needed me; that she needed me to take care of her. 1 liked that, it made me feel big and important. It made me believe 1 could do anything in the whole world.”

From his position of primacy in his mother’s home. Johnson seemed to develop what Freud has called “the feeling of a conqueror,” that confidence of success that often produces real success. The early privilege of his mother’s intense love was a source of extraordinary energy and powder. He learned the alphabet before he was two, learned to read before he was four, and at three could recite long passages of poetry from Longfellow and Tennyson. “I’ll never forget how much my mother loved me when 1 recited those poems. The minute 1 finished she’d take me in her arms and hug me so hard 1 sometimes thought I’d be strangled to death.”

But as strong as Rebekah’s feelings undoubtedly were, one gets the impression Lyndon experienced her love never as a steady or reliable force but as a conditional reward, alternately given and taken away. When he failed to satisfy her desires-as he did by refusing to complete the violin and dancing lessons she set up for him when he was seven and eight—he experienced not simply criticism but a complete withdrawal of affection. “For days after I quit those lessons she walked around the house pretending l was dead. And then, to make it worse, 1 had to watch her being especially warm and nice to my father and sisters.” The same experience was repeated later when Johnson decided not to go to college and Rebekah closed him out for weeks, refusing to speak or even to look at him.

One cannot prove the existence of a pattern on the basis of three or four remembered incidents. But there does seem to be a connecting link between the syndrome implicit in Johnson’s childhood memories-of love alternately given and taken away—and the pattern observed in nearly all his adult relationships. With friends, colleagues, and members of his staff, Johnson was capable of extraordinary closeness; he enveloped people, one by one. in the warmth of his affection and concern. If the hospital bill of a friend needed payment, he paid it. If an employee’s child needed a new coat, he bought it. If a secretary’s house needed renovation, he supervised. But in return he demanded a measure of gratitude and loyalty so high that disappointment was inevitable. And when the disappointment came, Johnson tended to withdraw his affection and concern—the “Johnson freeze-out” it was called hurting others in much the same way his mother had hurt him years before.

3. Cowboys and nightmares

Johnson remembered his paternal grandfather’s house just down the road as “the perfect escape from all my problems at home.” Sam Ealy Johnson had endless stories to tell of days on the trail and a renowned narrative gift, only to be matched and exceeded by his grandson, who, sixty years later, could recreate these conversations as if they had occurred the day before, adding, one always suspected, a few embellishments of his own. “Eleven cowboys,” as Johnson remembered it. “made an average crew for a trail herd of 1500 cows. Gathered and branded in Texas, the cattle were driven up the Chisholm Trail until they reached Abilene, Kansas, where they were slaughtered and sent east by railroad. When the rivers which crossed the trails were cold, the cattle would often balk partway across, circling and jumping on top of one another instead of moving in a straight line. Then the lead cowboy would have to ride out in front of the herd and get the cattle moving.”

The young boy would never forget his grandfather’s image of men and cattle circling aimlessly in the cold, treacherous currents, their continued progress dependent on the daring and skill of the lead cowboy. In later years he was to describe the arena of national affairs as a huge swampland in which the participants often wandered, mired and confused, in circles of endless debate until the appearance of strong leadership. It is an irony he would not have appreciated that later commentators would accuse him of bringing the nation into just such a swampland—Vietnam—through the exercise of these very qualities of leadership and wall. But subduing a stampede was the most dangerous adventure of all. As he remembered his grandfather’s version of it. “There was no foretelling what might start a stampede. It might be a clap of thunder, a lightning flash, a strange smell, or the rattle of a single snake in the middle of the night.” Or. Lyndon always insisted his grandfather said (but it was more likely his own retrospective parable), “it might be started by one or two troublemaker cows that went around hooking the sleeping cattle.” One steer stood up. then another, and more and more until the whole herd was on its feet. To soothe the cattle. lullabies were sung. That failing, all you could do was to outrun the wild herd, trying to swing its leaders around into its tail end, so as to turn the mass into a circle that would wind down like a spent top. You had to ride at a dead run in the dark of the night, knowing there were prairie dog holes all around and knowing that if the horse stepped into one of these holes, you could be crushed to death by the oncoming stampede.

When Johnson was five his family left the cabin on the river and moved to a frame house in Johnson City. His father. Sam. had found some real estate business in Austin and wanted to be nearby. The new house was larger and more pleasant than the old one, and the move gave Rebekah an escape from her isolation. Though Johnson City was hardly more than a village, it had a high school in which she soon taught debate, a newspaper for which she wrote a weekly column, and an opera house in which local plays, directed by Rebekah, were performed. Rebekah organized a Browning society. She gave private lessons in elocution and she taught a class in Old Bible. She joined a temperance society.

Johnson was not as happy as his mother about moving into town. The excitement of the new house was spoiled for the boy by the feeling that he had left behind his closest friend -his grandfather. Now he saw his grandfather only when the whole family went back to visit the farm, and he hated these visits since he had to sit in the parlor, and listen to the adults talk. Even worse, he then had to see his paralyzed grandmother. Always before she had remained in the bedroom, but now, when his whole family came to visit, they brought her to a chair and he would have to sit next to her: “Her skin was brown and wrinkled. Her body was twisted. I was afraid that I was meant to kiss her. I tried to imagine her as the strong pioneer woman she had once been. I remembered amazing stories I had heard about her staggering courage in the face of Indian attacks. But age and illness had taken all life out of her face. She never said a word. She sat perfectly still. And I was terrified to sit beside her.”

It was in this period. Johnson later said, that lie began having, night after night, a terrifying dream, in which he would see himself sitting absolutely still in a big straight chair. In the dream, the chair stood in the middle of the great open plains. A stampede of cattle was coming toward him. He tried to move, but he could not. He cried out again and again for his mother, but no one came.

In subsequent conversation, Johnson suggested a relationship between the chair in the dream and the chair where his paralyzed grandmother used to sit. As a child he had. as he remembered it. a persistent fear of becoming paralyzed and sitting forever. like his grandmother. But recurrent dreams are generally a statement of profound psychic dilemmas. suggesting unresolved problems far beyond the reach of daily events. Seen in this light, the boy’s paralysis presents one solution, albeit painful, to the fear of acting out the forbidden Oedipal wish to eliminate the father and take the mother. Termed in psychiatric literature as a “castration” or “punishment" dream, the paralysis would restrain what in young Johnson’s case seems to have been a particularly powerful combination of desire, fear, and guilt.

The Pedernales was not Thebes, however, and the importance of the dream lay more in its particular meaning than in its archetypal form. The cattle drive was the domain of the male in the world of fantasy and fact created for Johnson by his grandfather: controlling a stampede of cattle by one’s own intense motion was the supreme test of a man’s courage and skill. Pitted against this practical’. active life was Rebekah’s world of books and beauty and morality, it feminized world of dreamy thinkers whose idealism led inevitably to ruin and collapse. Both worlds were rigidly defined in his mind one was the object of aspiration: the other of scorn. Boys were supposed to be active, to run. shout, and get dirty; they were never to cry and never to play with dolls. Girls were supposed to read and sit still, dress prettily and stay clean, cry a lot and play with dolls. Yet Lyndon’s mother always kept him clean and she read to him at the end of the day. She brushed his hair in long yellow curls, dressed him like little Lord Fauntleroy. bought him a violin, and enrolled him in dancing class. He knew that his friends were laughing at him for taking time with these feminine things. He loved his mother and loved being close to her. but he feared he was becoming a sissy.

The equation of femininity, paralysis, and intellectuality—and the corresponding compulsions to move, keep control, stay in charge—become even clearer in later versions of the same dream which Johnson claimed he dreamt repeatedly for several months after his heart attack in 1955 and then again after North Vietnam’s Tet offensive in 1968. In these dreams Johnson had become Woodrow Wilson, the President he once characterized as “too intellectual” and “too idealist” for the people’s good. In the dream, he was lying in a bed in the Red Room. His head was still his. but from the neck down his body was dead, victim to that paralysis which had held both Wilson and Johnson’s grandmother in their final years. In the next room, he could hear all his assistants squabbling over who would get what parts of his power. He could neither talk nor walk, and not a single aide tried to protect him.

4. Outward bound

Johnson remembered turning to his father after his grandfather had died. The two had grown closer with the move into town, but now, with Grandpa Johnson dead, a feverish eagerness to resemble his father took possession of him. He listened to his father talk and, rejecting his mother’s elocution lessons, adopted his father’s crude, colorful, and alive way of talking.

The year Lyndon was ten, his father ran for the state legislature, and Lyndon accompanied him on the campaign trail. “We drove in the Model I from farm to farm, up and down the valley, stopping at every door. My father would do most of the talking. He would bring the neighbors up to date on local gossip, talk about the crops and about the bills he’d introduced in the legislature, and always he’d bring along an enormous crust of homemade bread and a large jar of homemade jam. When we got tired or hungry, we’d stop by the side of the road. He sliced the bread, smeared it with jam, and split the slices with me. I’d never seen him happier. Families all along the wav opened up their homes to us. If it was hot outside, we were invited in for big servings of homemade ice cream. If it was cold, we were given hot tea. Christ, sometimes 1 wished it could go on forever.”

This growing identification with his father produced both strain and pleasurethe boy clearly sensed his mother’s disappointment with the increasing preference he was showing for the world of action over the world of ideas. Yet here, as always, his feelings of hurt and anger toward his mother had to be deflected. She was ever the “great lady,” “the perfect woman,” “brilliant,” “sexy,” “beautiful,” and “endlessly enchanting.” But over time, while unfailing in his expressions of love for his mother. Johnson expressed a lasting distrust and fear of all the things she loved the mostideas. intellectuals, debates, books, and eloquence.

From time to time, Johnson’s antagonism toward those he categorized as intellectuals assumed the crude shape of simple exhibitionism. His penchants for talking to visitors while on the toilet, for using crude and scatological language, and for exhibiting his sexual organs were especially pronounced when he dealt with “gentlemen of culture.” In renouncing his civility he stripped them of theirs: he reduced them to his own ignominy in which he celebrated a triumph over his mother’s voice within him.

The sad and poignant thing for Johnson, however, w;as not his anti-intellectualism in itself but his need to be accepted by the very people he scorned. For the boy’s hidden feelings toward his mother were succeeded by the man’s feelings toward Culture: subdued awe and blatant bitterness, a sense that he, unlike the eastern intellectuals, had none of those ridiculous and precious tokens, an Ivy League degree and a facility for words. “They” came into the world fully clothed: he remained essentially naked no matter how much power he acquired. “My daddy always told me,” Johnson once remarked, “that if I brushed up against the grindstone of life. I’d come away with far more polish than 1 could ever get at Harvard or Yale. I wanted to believe him but somehow I never could.”

By the age of fifteen Johnson wanted to get away from home. In the summer of 1924 the opportunity arrived. A group of his friends had decided to leave home and go to California. For each of the boys the trip no doubt meant something different adventure, the hope of work. There was a report, one of the boys later recollected, that money out there grew on trees, and that a person had but to reach up and get it.

The old frontier had promised economic and spiritual independence, but in California, in 1924. that independence was not easy to secure. Indeed, Johnson was barely able to survive on earnings from the grapes he picked, the dishes he washed, and the cars he fixed. Just the same, he remembered living happily for a time in different places. Free of both his mother and his father, he found he had an immense curiosity about people with whom he worked the field hands in the Imperial Valley, the cooks in the all-night cafes, the garage mechanics in the big cities. He found himself constantly entertaining his fellow workers with stories and jokes. People seemed to like him; they admired his quickness.

Johnson lived the vagabond life for nearly a year; then, when his money dried up completely, he took a job in Los Angeles as a clerk to a criminal lawyer. The job was no accident. The lawyer was a cousin of Rebekah’s. There Lyndon stayed for another year, until one August day in 1926 when, suddenly faced with an offer of a ride to Texas, he decided that after two years’ absence, he was ready to return.

Johnson would long remember this trip back home: he later theatrically designated it the moment when he found his vocation of politics. On the trip, as Johnson recounted it. he thought a great deal about his parents. “I still believed my mother the most beautiful, sexy, intelligent woman I’d ever met, and I was determined to recapture her wonderful love, but not at the price of my daddy’s respect. Finally, I saw it all before me. I would become a political figure. Daddy would like that. He would consider it a manly thing to be. But that would be just the beginning. I was going to reach beyond my father. 1 would finish college;

I would build great power and gain high office. Mother would like that. I would succeed where her own father had failed1; 1 would go to the Capitol and talk about big ideas. She would never be disappointed in me again.”

Released from the constant dilemma of his parents’ conflicting demands, Johnson’s prodigious energies turned from an inner world of turmoil, undependable love, and need to the external environment. From the world of work and the conquest of ever widening circles of men. Johnson hoped to obtain the steady love he had lacked as a child. The problem was that each successful performance led only to the need for more. There was no place to rest so long as love and the self-esteem based on love depended upon another’s approbation. So Johnson plunged into ceaseless activity, always searching for the one thing external success could never provide—the reassurance of being loved for who he was rather than what he was doing.

5. Campus politico

From the beginning at San Marcos College (later Southwestern Texas State Teachers College). Johnson set out to win the friendship and respect of those people who would assist his rise within the community which composed San Marcos. Most obvious was the president of the college, Cecil Evans, whose favor would have a multiplier effect with the faculty and student body. But Johnson was not alone in the desire to have a special relationship with Evans. “I knew.” Johnson later said, “there was only one way to get to know Evans and that was to work for him directly.” He became special assistant to the president’s personal secretary.

As special assistant. Johnson’s assigned job was simply to carry messages from the president to the department heads and occasionally to other faculty members. Johnson saw that the rather limited function of messenger had possibilities for expansion: for example, encouraging recipients of the messages to transmit their own communications through him. He occupied a desk in the president’s outer office, where he took it upon himself to announce the arrival of visitors. These added services evolved from a helpful convenience into an aspect of the normal process of presidential business. The messenger had become an appointments secretary, and. in time, faculty members came to think of Johnson as a funnel to the president. Using a technique which was later to serve him in achieving mastery over the Congress, Johnson turned a rather insubstantial service into a process through which power was exercised. By redefining the process, he had given power to himself.

Evans eventually broadened Johnson’s responsibilities to include handling his political correspondence and preparing his reports for the state agencies with jurisdiction over the college and its appropriations. The student was quick to explain that his father had been a member of the state legislature (from 1905 to 1909, and from 1918 to 1925). and Lyndon had often accompanied him to Austin where he had gained some familiarity with the workings of the legislature and the personalities of its leaders. This claim might have sounded almost ludicrous had it not come from someone who already must have seemed an inordinately political creature. Soon Johnson was accompanying Evans on his trips to the state capitol in Austin, and, before long, Evans came to rely upon his young apprentice for political counsel. Lor Johnson was clearly at home in the state legislature: whether sitting in a committee room during hearings or standing on the floor talking with representatives, he could, in later reports to Evans, capture the mood of individual legislators and the legislative body with entertaining accuracy. The older man. on whose favor Johnson depended, nowrelied on him. or at least found him useful.

The world of San Marcos accommodated Lyndon Johnson’s gifts. If some found him tiresome, and even his friends admitted that he was difficult, they were nonetheless bedazzled by his vitality, guile, and endurance, his powers of divination, and ability to appeal to the core interests of other people. In two years, he became a campus politician, a prizewinning debater, an honors student, and the editor of the college Star.

“When troubles beset the family.” Johnson wrote in his first college newspaper editorial, the mother can find comfort in “tears and confidences,” but the father “must square his shoulders, resolutely grit his teeth, suppress his emotions and with renewed courage meet the issue.” The father. Johnson explained, was “the producer, the provider and the protector.” These were, of course, the very qualities which Rebekah felt her own husband lacked. And her son had been burdened from his earliest years with tales of Sam’s weakness and failure along with the sense that he, Lyndon, must compensate for his father’s deficiencies and assume the role which Sam had abdicateda responsibility with unbearable and inadmissible overtones. “At the center of my mother’s philosophy,” Johnson explained to me, “was the belief that the strong must care for the weak.”

The day would come when this older brother/ father, responding to the needs of blacks, would offer civil rights bills; as panacea to the nation’s need offer the Great Society: and. amid the final crisis of his career, use Rebekah’s lessons—almost her words to justify America’s involvement in Vietnam. “There is,” he told the country, “a great responsibility on the strong. The oldest member of the family has got to look after the smaller ones and protect them when the wolf comes to the door. The boy of the household has got to look after his sisters. Now it’s not true that we’ve got to police all of the world . . . but the good Lord has smiled kindly upon us and we have an obligation as fellow human beings to help protect our neighbors against a bunch of desperados.”

If Johnson’s college writings have the qualities of baccalaureate sermons, one must remember that he was voicing the accepted pieties of his day and place—the small-town Texas where success was a reward for virtuous effort, ambition was an admired good, and there was little room for cynicism. If, running through Johnson’s life, there is a duality of word and deed, as if the spoken word were vapor, it would be a mistake to assume that Johnson was simply a young Machiavellian who understood that it is well for a leader or an aspirant to power to seem religious, sincere, faithful, and humane. Conceptions of sacrifice, duty, and benevolence were as deeply rooted in his character as his political skills and his pursuit of’ power.

6. First love and other sorrows

San Marcos was the setting for Lyndon Johnson’s first serious love, twenty-yearold Carol Davis. She was, he recalled, “very beautiful, tall and blonde with dark blue eyes. Her skin was pale and very soft. She was very clever and everyone admired her. I fell in love with her the first moment w-e met. She seemed so much more alive than all the other girls 1 knew, interested in everything; she played the violin and wrote poetry but also liked politics and loved the out-of-doors. 1 still remember the summer evenings we spent together, lying next to the river in a waist-high mass of weeds, talking about our future. I had never been happier. After a while we began to talk about marriage.

“By the end of the senior year, we decided that Carol’s parents had a right to know that we were as serious as we were. The Davises were one of the oldest and best families in Kerrville [a town about fifty miles from Johnson City]. Mr. Davis was a wealthy banker, an extreme conservative in politics, and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. 1 knew it would be a difficult relationship, but I believed that I could win them over. So one evening in June, Carol arranged for me to be invited to her home for a family dinner. The dinner began with a couple of glasses of wine, which made me more talkative than usual. 1 talked about my experiences in California and my activities in college. But the atmosphere, which was cold to begin with, just got colder and colder as I talked. I realized there was nothing I could do or say that night that would be considered right. Carol’s father hated everything about me.”

“I won’t let you, I won’t have my daughter marrying into that no-account Johnson family,” Davis is reported to have told his daughter. “I’ve known that bunch all my life, one generation after another of shiftless dirt farmers and grubby politicians. Always sticking together and leeching onto one another so the minute one starts to make it, the others drag him down. None of them will ever amount to a damn.” In Lyndon’s presence that night. Davis was no less direct. As Johnson remembered it. before that evening was over. Davis had assailed his father’s politics and then disparaged his grandfather, saying that everyone in Blanco County knew that Sam Ealy Johnson had been “nothing but an old cattle rustler.” “No criticism could have hurt more,” Johnson explained to me.

As far as he was concerned, that was it. “ ‘To hell with the whole family,’ I said to myself. ‘I’ll never marry Carol or anyone in the whole damn family. Davis is right about the Johnsons sticking together, they always have and they always will and they don’t need to mix with the likes of the Davises to get along. We’ll make it on our own.’ I left the Davis home that night determined never to sec Carol again. For a long time after I got back to my room I sat in a chair without moving. I felt numb and angry.

“The next morning Carol came into my room. Her face was red from crying; she looked as if she hadn’t slept at all. She told me that until this moment she’d loved her father more than any other man and that to go against him on a matter as important as this would bring terrible pain to her for the rest of her life. But she’d decided that she had to do it. She loved me and she wanted to marry me. All the while she was talking I thought of the many nights we had dreamed of our future together. But all this had to be put in the past, forgotten. It could never work for us. I told her that. I was very firm, and after a long moment of silence, she went away. Long afterwards, I still felt the pain of losing her; I missed her. and I missed the nights along the water terribly. I was lonely as I had never been before. But this did not change the way I felt.”

After that morning Johnson did not see Carol Davis again until seven years later, when she attended his opening speech for his first congressional campaign in April 1937. Mr. Davis. Johnson recounted, was leading the Blanco County opposition to his candidacy, and had personally authored and spread a claim that the first act of this young radical, if he was elected, would be to fight for public confiscation of all the power companies (which, Johnson claimed, was precisely what he wanted to do). Johnson remembered beginning his speech with a blunt denunciation of Davis and his friends as enemies of the people, and. as he spoke, being startled by the unexpected glimpse of Carol Davis leaning against the back wall of the auditorium. “She was wearing a white dress. Her face was pale and sad. I sensed the agony she was experiencing in listening to me attack her father. As soon as 1 saw her, I stopped in midstream and softened mv speech, suggesting that perhaps there were two sides to all these questions and that it was important to recognize that all these men were honorable men, no matter how much we disagreed with them. Two months later, l saw her one last time. It was the day after I won the election. I was in the hospital at the time, having come down with appendicitis two days before. When 1 awoke. 1 saw her standing in the doorway. She was wearing a flowered yellow dress. We were both married by then. I’d married first, then Carol. Carol’s match had pleased everyone in her family. She’d married a young banker who became a partner in her father’s savings bank. But here she was. looking more beautiful than I’d remembered. She said that she had just come to tell me how happy she was for me and that even though her father had led the opposition, she had defied his wish and voted for Lyndon Johnson. I knew then that she was still in love with me. The vote proved it.”

7. The importance of being Lady Bird

In 1934. assistant now to Congressman Richard Kleberg of the King Ranch. Johnson was on a short trip to Austin when he met Claudia Taylor—or “Lady Bird,” as she had been called since she was a child. She was graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in journalism. He was immediately drawn to this shy and sensitive young woman. Later he said that he knew at once that Lady Bird was a woman of great common sense and reasonableness. Her opinions were remarkably shrewd. And beyond all this, beyond her gifts of intelligent judgment, she had an even more precious quality—absolute dependability. To his credit and good fortune, Lyndon Johnson determined not to let this woman go.

Within two hours of the meeting, Johnson arranged to see Lady Bird at 8 A.M. the following day. After breakfast, he suggested a drive in the country. “He told me till sorts of things that I thought were extraordinarily direct for a first conversation,” Lady Bird later said; “his salary as a secretary to a congressman, about all the members of his family. It was just as if he was ready to give me a picture of his life and of what he might be capable of doing.” During this first conversation. Johnson also told her about Rebekah and said that he would like it if the two of them could meet sometime.

Two months later the Johnsons were married. Two weeks after the marriage, the newlyweds received this letter of congratulations:

My precious children:
Thinking of vou. loving you. dreaming of a radiant future for vou. I someway find it difficult to express the depth and tenderness of mv feelings. Often I have felt the utter futility of words, never more than now when I would wish my boy and his bride the highest and truest happiness together.
Mv dear Bird. I earnestly hope that you will love me as I do you. Lyndon has always held a very special place in mv heart. Will you not share that place with him. dear child? It would make me very happy to have you for my very own, to have you turn to me in love and confidence, to let me mother you as I do my precious boy.
I hope and hope you know is composed of desire and expectation, that Lyndon will prove to be as true, as loyal, as loving and as faithful a hushund as he has been a son.
My dear boy, I have always desired the best in life for you. Now that you have the love and companionship of the one and only girl I am sure you will go far. You are fortunate in finding and winning the girl you love and I am sure your love for each other will be an incentive to you to do all the great things of which you are capable. Sweet son, I am loving you and counting on you as never before.
My dearest love to you both,
Mamma

Here, extended to Lady Bird in these disarming and prayerful sentiments, is a full share in the franchise of her son of which she will remain chief proprietor. Her closing—“counting on you as never before” is ambiguous and somehow ominous. Counting on him for what? His loyalty to his wife? His continuing success in the public world? Continuing loyalty to his mother? That Rebekah remained the signal woman and influence in Lyndon’s life there can be no doubt. It is a testament to her love for him and to the power of her own thwarted aspirations. That Lady Bird would become not her adversary but the chief lieutenant of her surrogate’s rise is a testament to her shrewdness.

To both mother and wife Lyndon Johnson would always ascribe a scarcely credible perfection. But it is evident that they were crucially different women. The mother’s inordinate passion for her son had been employed to spur achievements which she herself had determined. The wife endeavored to sustain and better organize the energy which Rebekah had been instrumental in setting loose. Where Rebekah withdrew into a stony anger over her husband’s spontaneity. Lady Bird gracefully hosted unexpected throngs, welcoming the political friends Lyndon perpetually invited to their house. Where the mother confided her severest disappointments to her son. Lady Bird complained to no one. Amid the most complicated intrigues and struggles of her husband’s career she remained outwardly composed and reasonable. If his incessant demands and orders (he instructed her to avoid full skirts and low shoes: often picked out her clothes; depended on her not only to manage the house but to lay out his clothes in the morning, fill his pens and his lighter, put the correct pocket items in place, pay his bills—in short, to manage him) or his occasional abuse in front of company became too much for her to bear, she possessed, or soon developed, a strange ability to take psychic leave. “Bird,” Johnson would call out at such moments, “are you with me?” And straight off, her accustomed alertness and competence reappeared. Without such devotion and forbearance, without a love steadily given and never withdrawn, the course of Lyndon Johnson’s continuing ascent in the world of politics becomes inconceivable.

During the final year of his life, he told me that he had come to understand that. She was his support, a helper in and necessary condition to his great enterprise, a figure central to his life.

8. Homage to Richard Russell—and other elders

When Johnson entered the Congress in 1937 he had spent five years as a congressman’s assistant and young NewDeal administrator, studying and absorbing the traditions, folkways, and precedents of Congress. He understood that a freshman congressman should proceed with caution, defer participation in important public controversies, and refrain from any attempt to establish independent stature until he had consolidated his position and gained the confidence of his colleagues. Power in the House is based on seniority. Rewards are in the hands of the leadership, and cooperation with that leadership is requisite for any member who wants to be effective. Johnson understood this, and as a member of the House displayed a self-deprecating modesty and a capacity for hard work that helped him win the approval of two men whose acceptance he needed: Carl Vinson of Georgia, chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs and later of the House Armed Services Committee, and his father’s old friend Sam Rayburn, speaker of the House.

When he went to the Senate in 1949 having defeated his Democratic primary opponent by only 87 votes—Johnson saw again the importance of deference to his elders and recognized that the influence of one man. Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, would be decisive to his hopes for leadership. Johnson was then forty; Russell fifty-two. The undisputed leader of the Senate’s inner club. Russell commanded the respect of almost every member. His judgment of Johnson would influence the judgment of all the rest. Hut the Senate did not lack for ambitious men, many of them shrewd enough to recognize Russell’s unique position in the Senate hierarchy. And Russell had many responsibilities, many supplicants--few of whom could be completely ignored or slighted if Russell did not want to risk weakening his own position. And finally there were only so many hours in a day. Johnson could impress Russell with his qualities only if he could establish regular working contact. The Senate provided more formal opportunities than those offered by a desk outside the college president’s office at San Marcos or a message carried into the chamber by a legislative secretary. “I knew there was only one way to see Russell every day,” Johnson explained, “and that was to get a seat on his committee. Without that, we’d most likely be passing acquaintances and nothing more. So I put in a request for the Armed Services Committee, and fortunately—because of all my work on defense preparedness in the House—my request was granted.”

Having established an access to Russell which would not appear as the imposition of a flagrant ambition, since it arose naturally from their common responsibilities, Johnson was in a position to make use of’ one of’ his most powerful faculties—the ability to judge the qualities, needs, and values of other men. From this understanding he could then adapt his conduct to that course most likely to attain his end; in this case, the trust and approving respect of Georgia’s senior senator. In temperament and personality the two men were radically dissimilar. The older man was quiet, courtly, aloof: the younger flamboyant, discourteous, and intimate. Senator Russell shunned publicity and led an austere life. He dressed like a conservative small-town banker and worked in an unpretentious, austere office, devoid of’ any token of power or wealth. Johnson, on the other hand, continually pursued public self-promotion, indulged a developing taste for expensive and fashionable clothes and elaborately plush surroundings. Russell had spent his youth in a small farm town in Georgia, where he had absorbed the unshakable conviction that separation of the races was the most desirable and beneficial state for both Negroes and whites. But Johnson, raised in a town where there were no Negroes, received no such indoctrination. Indeed, his father was a publicly proclaimed enemy of the Ku klux Klan and his grandfather a member of the Populist party.

However, Johnson had a goal whose achievement required that differences superficial or profound—be submerged. Accordingly, Johnson adapted to Russell’s habits and character so skillfully that the two soon came to seem much alike. Courting Russell, Johnson toned down his appearance and took a more civilized demeanor.

“Johnson learned to observe amenities with Senator Russell,” said Bob Hurt, longtime assistant to the Georgian senator. “With other senators he would just walk right into their offices, wouldn’t even say how d’ya do. Would just barge in singlemindedly. Amenities were not part of his relationships. But Russell was totally incapable of responding to that. He had an old-world courtliness. He was not the type whom you could put your arm around. So Johnson learned. He always referred to him as Senator Russell and always sent in a note from the outer office to say he would like to come in.”

“Under magnificent self-control,” two commentators observed, “the Lyndon Johnson of the early Senate years was a subdued fellow, not seen before and not to be seen again until his painful vice presidential period.” “His manner.” it was said in 19? 1. “is quiet and gentle and everything he does, he does with great deliberation and care.” Directing his attention on his committee work, Johnson became a specialist in the subject matter and legislative problems related to his assigned responsibilities. He shied away from speaking to the galleries or the press in favor of quiet accommodation within the sanctum of the Senate.

A shift toward more conservative politics accompanied Johnson’s tempered style, helping him to gain acceptance to the inner club, whose members were generally conservative. Yet he was also, and perhaps more strongly, motivated by the changing nature of his constituency. He now represented the state of Texas, which was far more conservative as a whole than the district centered in Austin which had sent him to Congress. Johnson’s rightward drift culminated in 1949, 1950, and 1951, when he supported the oil and gas industry, fought Truman’s nomination of liberal Leland Olds to a second term on the Federal Power Commission, and defended the Taft-Hartley Act.

Although Johnson’s new style was contrived and his “new politics” expedient, he did share with Russell a genuine and consuming devotion to the Senate. A lifelong bachelor with few intimate friends and virtually no social life, Russell cared for the Senate with an intense fidelity that young Lyndon honestly respected and understood. Yet, at the same time, Johnson also saw in these feelings a potential source of’ advantage. “Richard Russell.” Johnson explained, “found in the Senate what for him was a home. With no one to cook for him at home, he would arrive early enough in the morning to eat breakfast at the Capitol and stay late enough at night to eat dinner across the street. And in these early mornings and late evenings I made sure that there was always one companion, one senator, who worked as hard and as long as he, and that was me. Lyndon Johnson. On Sundays. the House and Senate were empty, quiet, and still, the streets outside were bare. It’s a tough day for a politician, especially if. like Russell, he’s all alone. 1 knew how he felt, for 1 too counted the hours till Monday would come again, and knowing that, 1 made sure to invite Russell over for breakfast. lunch, brunch, or just to read the Sunday papers. He was my mentor and I wanted to take care of him.”

Johnson drew from Russell a knowledge of Senate function which could be acquired only by sifting daily political events to ascertain where power had been lost and where gained. And yet because Johnson’s ambition extended beyond the interests of the southern bloc and the inner club, it became necessary for him. even while courting Russell, to maintain a distance which others would recognize. He chose the issue of civil rights on which to demonstrate that his loyalty did not entail complete subordination. He did not want to be inextricably linked to what he recognized as a losing or regional cause. Yet he wanted to forfeit neither Russell’s friendship nor his enabling power. And so Johnson’s first step was to placate Russell: he decided to deliver his maiden speech in support of the filibuster. In January 1949. the liberals in the Senate, supported by President Truman, were trying to break cloture in order to secure enactment of a Fair Employment Practices Commission. Johnson’s speech—a structural defense rather than an ideological assertion—was. according to Russell, “one of the ablest I have ever heard on the subject.”

Having openly and effectively allied himself with the southern position. Johnson then fell free to decline Russell’s invitation to join the southern caucus—twenty-two southern senators who met each week knowing that membership would indelibly brand him a conservative. Johnson refused, then voted faithfully along the lines of caucus decisions. Johnson always found ways to serve those he needed, and to conform to their standards and values, but he never submitted his will, never became the devoted and unquestioning subordinate. This autonomy was a source of strength, preventing him from losing sight of his own goals or his capacity for independent action when new opportunity arose. It helped create the impression that, however loyal, he was his own man. which made it possible for others to take seriously his ambitions for positions of leadership and independent authority. After protecting himself from future recriminations born of false expectation, Johnson remained Russell’s friend, loyal associate, active supporter, and effective ally in the effort to achieve a large majority of the legislative action which Russell desired.

Still. Johnson recalled that after three years in the Senate, he had felt an “increasing restlessness.” The major leadership positions in the Senate, a half-dozen important committee chairmanships. were awarded on the basis of seniority. Senator Scott Lucas of Illinois seemed entrenched as party leader, as was party whip Senator Francis Myers of Pennsylvania. Then, in the elections of 1950. both Lucas and Myers were defeated.

Johnson knew that the party caucus would merely ratify the leadership choices previously made by the inner club. Most senators had mixed feelings about the desirability of becoming party leader or whip. The responsibilities of these positions often trapped one in Washington, reducing contact with constituents. Furthermore, during those years, the elected leaders were only front men for the actual leaders of the club. Johnson knew all this, but these were the only available possibilities for changing his status in the Senate. He told Russell that a leadership position was one of the most urgently desired goals of his life. Once more, the ability to put himself forward paid off. The caucus elected Johnson party whip, the youngest in history. In his role as party whip. Johnson was expected to keep in touch with all the members of the party. These contacts enabled him to learn even more about the Senate and its individual members, and enlarged his opportunity to gain the respect of others resources that would sustain him through the decade. His new title had not changed his subordination to Russell, but it assisted him in beginning to gather the means with which he would advance from apprentice to a full partnership.

Then, in November 1952. another opportunity opened when young Barry Goldwater. department store owner from Phoenix, defeated the minority leader, James McFarland. Once again Johnson moved swiftly and with careful calculation, and again, circumstances favored him. Two years later the Democrats regained control of the Congress.

9. Majority leadership: the politics of seduction

The authority that Johnson inherited as Senate Democratic majority leader had been rendered ineffective by the Senate’s inner club. Johnson set about to change all that, and before long he had transformed the instruments at hand the steering committee, which determined committee assignments, and a hitherto unimportant Democratic Policy Committeeinto mechanisms of influence and patronage in his relations with his Democratic colleagues and of control in the scheduling of legislations.

From facts, gossip, observation—a multitude of disparate elements—he shaped a composite mental portrait of every senator: his strengths and his weaknesses; his place in the political spectrum; his aspirations in the Senate, and perhaps beyond the Senate; how far he could be pushed in what direction, and by what means: how he liked his liquor: how he felt about his wife and his family: and. most important, how he felt about himself. For Johnson understood that the most important decision each senator made, often obscurely, was what kind of senator he wanted to be: whether he wanted to be a national leader in education, a regional leader in civil rights, a social magnate in Washington, an agent of the oil industry, a wheel horse of the party, a President of the United Slates. Yet his entrepreneurial spirit encompassed not simply the satisfaction of present needs but the development of new and expanding ones. He would, for instance, explain to a senator that “although five other senators are clamoring for this one remaining seat on the congressional delegation to Tokyo, 1 just might be able to swing it for you since I know how much you really want it. . . . It’ll be tough but let me see what I can do.”The joys td’ visiting Tokyo may never have occurred to the senator, but he was unlikely to deny Johnson’s description of his desire after all. it might be interesting, a relaxing change, even fun; and perhaps some of the businesses in his state had expressed concern about Japanese competition. By creating consumer needs in this fashion, and by then defining the terms of their realization, Johnson was able to expand the base of benefits upon which power could be built.

Johnson’s capacities for control and domination found their consummate manifestation during his private meetings with individual senators. Face to face, behind office doors, Johnson could strike a different pose, a different form of behavior and argument. He would try to make each senator feel that his support in some particular matter was the critical element that would affect the well-being of the nation, the Senate, and the party leader: and would also serve the practical and political interests of the senator.

“A lot of people.” Johnson would later say. “have written a lot of nonsense about my private meetings with senators: that’s because most of the writing is done by the intellectuals who can never imagine me. a graduate from poor little San Marcos. engaged in an actual debate with words and with arguments; yet debating is what those sessions were all about.

“But the Harvards, they picture it instead as a back-alley job with me holding the guy by the collar. twisting his arm behind his back, dangling a carrot in front of his nose, and holding a club over his head. It’s a pretty amazing sight when you think about it. I’d have to be some sort of acrobatic genius to carry it off, and the senator in question, well he’d have to be pretty weak and pretty meek to be simply standing there like a paralyzed idiot.

“But. YOU see. they [the intellectuals] never take the time to think about what really goes on in these one-to-one sessions because they’ve never been involved in persuading anyone to do anything. They’re just like a pack of nuns who’ve convinced themselves that sex is dirty and ugly and low down and forced because they can never have it. And because they can never have it. they see it all as rape instead of seduction and they miss the elaborate preparation that goes on before the act is finally done.”

The arrangements that preceded a private meeting were elaborate indeed. A meeting with a colleague might seem like an accidental encounter in a Senate corridor, but Johnson was not a man who roamed through halls in aimless fashion; when he began to wander he knew who it was he would find.

After the coincidental encounter and casual greetings, Johnson would remember that he had something he would like to talk about. The two men would walk down the corridor, ride the elevator. and enter an office where they would begin their conversation with small talk over Scotch. As the conversation progressed. Johnson would display an overwhelming combination of praise, scorn, rage, and friendship. His voice would rise and fall, moving from the thunder of an orator to the whisper reminiscent of a lover inviting physical touch. Transitions were abrupt. He responded to hostility with a disconcerting glance of indignation; the next minute he would evoke a smile by the warmth of his expression and a playful brush of his hand. Variations in pitch, stress, and gesture reflected the importance which he attached to certain words. His appeal would abound with illustration, anecdote, and hyperbole. He knew how to make his listeners see things he was describing, make them tangible to the senses. And he knew’ how to sustain a sense of uninterrupted flow by parallel structure and a stream of conjunctions.

From his own insistent energy, Johnson would create an illusion that the outcome, and thus the responsibility, rested on the decision of this one senator; refusing to permit any implication of the reality they both knew (but which in this office began to seem increasingly more uncertain), that the decisions of many other senators would also affect the results.

Then too, Johnson was that rare American man who felt free to display intimacy with another man, through expressions of feeling and also in physical closeness. In an empty room he would stand or sit next to a man as if all that were available was a three-foot space. He could flatter men with sentiments of love and touch their bodies with gestures of affection. The intimacy was all the more excusable because it seemed genuine and without menace. Yet it was also the product of meticulous calculation. And it worked. To the ardor and the bearing of this extraordinary man. the ordinary senator would almost invariably succumb.

Johnson was often able to use the same behavior with the press as he did with his colleagues, dividing it into separate components, and carving out a special relationship with each of the reporters.

“You learn,” he said, “that Stewart Alsop cares a lot about appearing to be an intellectual and a historian he strives to match his brother’s intellectual attainments—so whenever you talk to him. play down the gold cufflinks which you play up with Time magazine, and to him. emphasize your relationship with FDR and your roots in Texas, so much so that even when it doesn’t fit the conversation you make sure to bring in maxims from your father and stories from the Old West. You learn that Evans and Novak love to traffic in backroom politics and political intrigue, so that when you’re with them you make sure to bring in lots of details and colorful description of personality. You learn that Mary McGrory likes dominant personalities and Doris Fleeson cares only about issues, so that when you’re with McGrory you come on strong and with Fleeson you make yourself sound like some impractical red-hot liberal.”

Johnson’s performance was not without cost. Toward the end of June 1955, he began to feel continuously tired, so tired in fact that he agreed to take a vacation over the July 4 weekend at the estate of Texas industrialists George and Herman Brown, near Middleburg. Virginia. He left his office late in the day on Saturday. July 2. for the two-hour drive. On the way down, he felt faint and experienced trouble drawing breath. By the time he reached Middleburg, he fell nauseous. Certain, however, that it was only indigestion, Johnson refused to let the Browns call a doctor until another guest. Senator Clinton Anderson, warned him that all of Johnson’s symptoms pointed to one thinga heart attack.

The doctor was called and Johnson was rushed to the hospital, where he went into severe shock. For several days he remained in critical condition. His illness was diagnosed as myocardial infarction, necessitating a hospital stay of six weeks followed by three months of complete rest at home.

During his months of convalescence, Johnson was haunted by his childhood fear of paralysis. The nightmares returned, and with increased intensity. “They got worse after my heart attack.” he said, “for 1 knew then how awful it was to lose command of myself, to be dependent on others. I couldn’t stand it. But at least I was home with mv family and friends. These were people I could trust.” During this period Johnson’s temperament was more mercurial than ever before. Responsive to affection one day. he would fall into a rage the next. Recurrent talk of resigning from politics was followed by furious bursts of activity, countless visitors, and constant phone calls. Submission to the most inconvenient orders of mother and wife was followed by refusal to obey their gentlest suggestions.

There were a half-dozen or more Senate colleagues of Johnson’s who became, through a tangled web of affection, resentment, and dependency, the objects of his domination. Hubert Humphrey is one example, perhaps the most interesting one. Within a matter of days after entering the Senate in 1949, the young, bumptious, and outspokenly liberal Humphrey had become anathema to everyone—except to fellow freshman Lyndon Johnson, who seemed to foresee that some day Humphrey might be useful to him. Just now. Humphrey needed help from Johnson.

Johnson tutored Humphrey on the unwritten rules, urging him to become a “liberal doer" and not just a “liberal talker.” “Johnson sought me out.” Humphrey later recalled, “and would visit me from time to time. He always had a good sense of humor. He would say to me that he wanted to crossbreed me with [Harry] Byrd [Democrat of Virginia and an unswerving conservative]. If he amid get two pints of Byrd’s blood in me to cool me off, and a little of Russell’s restraint. I’d be great. Johnson didn’t enjoy talking with the liberals. He didn’t think they had a sense of humor. He thought that most liberals were never so unhappy as when happy, or happy when unhappy. So he wanted someone in the liberal ranks for information and help. Perhaps he came to the conclusion I could be had. 1 never felt 1 was. I felt I was getting more than giving.”

The grateful Humphrey learned his lessons well; he mastered parliamentary skills, he settled down to the work of his committees, and he became, over time, the principal envoy from the camp of the liberals to Lyndon Johnson’s court—and thus, a central figure in the Senate’s inner club.

But Humphrey paid a price for his reclamation. As the relationship grew, Humphrey’s independent will, while not shattered, was softened, bent, and guided. Johnson’s power did not tyrannize; it exerted a diminishing compression, a process that would be repeated with more devastating impact in the 1960s, when Humphrey became Johnson’s Vice President.

10. Civil rights comes to the Senate—LBJ’s way

By 1957 the issue of civil rights could no longer be quietly shelved. There was no longer any way for politicians to evade public and personal responsibility for choice. Johnson later observed. “One thing had become absolutely certain: the Senate simply had to act. the Democratic party simply had to act. and I simply had to act; the issue could wait no longer.” As leader of the Senate. Johnson was concerned that a continuing stalemate would seriously damage the Senate’s prestige in the nation. As a leader of the Democratic party. Johnson felt that the failure of a Democratic Congress to approve a civil rights bill proposed by a Republican Administration would erode Negro support for the Democratic party. As a man with presidential dreams, Johnson recognized that it would be almost impossible for him to escape all responsibility for the failure of the Senate to act: that failure on this issue at this time would brand him forever as sectional and therefore unpresidential.

The civil rights issue intensified and brought to focus Johnson’s recurrent fear that “the whole thing”— his leadership, the Senate, the world— would fall apart if he lost control even for a moment, thus permitting the forces of violent division to “get loose.” “One real slip and we’re done for.” he would say again and again, as if both his power and the future of America were fragilely suspended by a gossamer thread. Fearing that the issues of the civil rights question would be “taken over” by the “extremists” (in the context of the Senate of 1957. to Johnson, defined as irreconcilable southern segregationists and northern liberals), Johnson felt “driven” to seek a middle course, a legislative formula that would represent some real progress—enough to moderate liberal passions, but not so unacceptable that it would provoke an open break with the party and its leadership. “I knew,” he later said, “that if I failed to produce on this one, my leadership would be broken into a hundred pieces; everything I had built up over the years would be completely undone.”

He began with his mentor. Richard Russell of Georgia: “These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don’t move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there’ll be no way of stopping them, we’ll lose the filibuster and there’ll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It’ll be Reconstruction all over again.” Worse. Johnson argued, an attempt to bury civil rights legislation would plunge the Senate and the South into the paralysis that results when issues of status or morality remain unresolved and are the object of constant challenge, making it impossible for senators or the South itself to act on its most fundamental problem—economic growth.

Johnson assured Russell that if the southerners discontinued the filibuster, he would personally take responsibility for revising the bill to eliminate its most objectionable feature—Title III. which authorized the federal government to dispatch agents into the South to protect a wide variety of civil rights—and he would add an amendment requiring a jury trial for all civil cases arising under the new statute. The jury trial amendment provided southerners with a face-saving explanation of’ their willingness to permit the first civil rights bill to pass without a filibuster. How, they could ask, could a southerner fear a southern jury?

Having secured Russell’s agreement to let debate proceed. Johnson turned his attention to the North, where, as he put it. “the liberals could be divided into three classes,” only one of which could be mobilized for his purpose. “First, there were the emotional liberals outside the Congressthe groups like the ADA that were held together only by a desire to create trouble. They believed in controversy and could never reconcile themselves with anyone who believed in achievement. To such men, the words ‘compromise’ and ‘betrayal’ are exactly the same. They cared less about delivering results than they did about the purity of their route to a nonexistent accomplishment.

“Second, there were the emotional liberals inside the Congress, who were similar in psychology to the woolly ADAs, but at least they were checked to some extent by the responsibilities of office and the desire to be re-elected. This meant they would charge a brick wall but stop the charge just short of physical contact with the wall. The only workable approach to this group was the clipped-wing technique—accomplished by pushing forward the ‘good moderate liberals’ who were outside the emotional camp and identifying them with the leadership.

“Third, there were the good liberals, or what I would call the true liberals, the men with specific programs they desired to put across, the men who were satisfied with achieving objectives. These men represented the best leverage for taking care of the emotional liberals, since no matter how irresponsible they got, they couldn’t afford to be completely isolated and identified in the public mind as a crackpot outfit.”

Johnson saw an opening in the possibility of persuading moderate liberals from the mountain states that if they did not help him to eliminate Title III. then the southerners would be forced to filibuster and the issue would become insoluble - with terrible consequences for the Democratic party, the U.S. Senate, and the country. But Johnson did not rely solely on appeals to reason and the national welfare. “1 began with the assumption that most of the senators from the mountain states had never seen a Negro and simply couldn’t care all that much about the whole civil rights issue. But if they didn’t care about the Negro. 1 knew what they did care about, and that was the Hells Canyon issue.2 So I went to a few key southerners and persuaded them to back the western liberals on Hells Canyon. And then, in return. I got the western liberals to back the southerners in cutting out Title III. and then with Title III gone. I was able to show the reasonable southerners that some progress was necessary and that as long as they trusted me the progress would be slow and easy.”

Withholding any expression of his own judgments until all points of view’ had been heard and their relative strength had been measured. Johnson moved from one side of the cloakroom to the other reassuring one side, then the other. He’d tell Senator Douglas to ready his troops and arguments so “we can make sure this long overdue bill for the benefit of the Negro Americans will pass.” Later, in another corner, he would whisper a warning to Senator Ervin that the worst part of “the nigger bill” was coming up. Throughout the long debate he remained on the floor, correcting extreme statements from both sides, continually striving to prevent the conflict from being defined in irreconcilable terms, trying to prevent the various factions from forming impressions of the issue which would make them unwilling to accept any achievable results.

By August 7, 1957, when the bill was finally approved by the Senate—the first civil rights bill enacted by that body in eighty-seven years—it was not Eisenhower’s bill or the Democrats’ or the liberals’; it was Lyndon Johnson’s. Assessed by former Secretary of State Dean Acheson as “among the great achievements since the war.” and by the New York Times as “incomparably the most significant domestic action of any Congress in this century,” passage of the bill was a wondrous victory for Johnson. It gave him what he most valued, a significant achievement which could be described to each of his constituent groups in terms they would accept and even applaud.

To his conservative voters in Texas, he could boast of his leadership role in “cutting out Title III. the notorious ‘troops in the South’ provision.” which would have permitted the federal courts to move into any field categorized as “civil rights.” Thus, by securing Senate approval of the substitute bill, he had prevented “a punitive sectional monstrosity.” “We were faced with a combination of forces capable of ramming down the throat of the South vicious, punitive legislation.” he told Texas voters. “The bill could not be blocked. The only alternative was to convince reasonable minded men to pass instead a reasonable measure . . . and we succeeded in doing so. No better results could have been obtained for Texas.” Indeed, it would be. as Johnson told his constituents, “a serious mistake to regard this legislation as a civil rights billall the objectionable features were eliminated. It is more proper to call what was passed a voting rights bill.”

To his colleagues in the Senate, he could argue that the moderate and dignified manner in which the issue had been resolved had reflected the best and most honored qualities of representative institutions and had recovered the national respect for the Senate which had been impaired during the McCarthy days. “We’ve shown the nation and the world that this legislative body really works, even on the toughest issue of all time, and that’s a critical thing to prove. It’ll give us a reputation for many years to come.”

To other Democrats, Johnson could boast that the party, which seemed on the verge of an irreparuble rupture, had instead achieved its greatest unity in two decades. “The real story of the Civil Rights Act is that five states left the Confederacy voluntarily—the healthiest thing that could have happened to this country in years. The ultraliberal position would have left eleven stales solid—cut off from the rest of the country, dividing the nation in an hour of peril. But now—by opening a division between those southerners who have always been uncomfortable at the denial of so basic a right as the right to vote, and those who are determined from unshakable habit and prejudice to stand against everything for the Negro, we have passed a bill and have bought for ourselves needed time time to reconcile the North and the South so we can present a united front in 1960.”

11. A ghastly function: 1961-1963

Johnson found himself stifled in the vice presidency, reduced to the role of an onlooker. in office but out of power. Perhaps the only useful purpose the vice presidency served, he later suggested, was to remind the President of his mortality—a ghastly function at best. “Every time I came into John Kennedy’s presence. 1 fell like a goddamn raven hovering over his shoulder. Away from the Oval Office, it was even worse. The vice presidency is filled with trips around the world, chauffeurs, men saluting, people clapping, chairmanships of councils, but in the end, it is nothing. I detested every minute of it.”

12. The first presidential year: the art of not putting a foot wrong

Itook the oath,” Johnson later said of his succession to the presidency upon the assassination of John Kennedy in 1963, “but for millions of Americans I was still illegitimate, a naked man with no presidential covering, a pretender to the throne, an illegal usurper. And then there was Texas, my home, the home of both the murder and the murder of the murderer. And then there were the bigots and the dividers and the eastern intellectuals, who were waiting to knock me down before 1 could even begin to stand up. The whole thing was almost unbearable.”

Yet scarcely four months later the new President, firmly established in office, had effected a transfer of governmental authority so smooth and dignified that his own nomination for the presidency seemed absolutely assured—a testament to the brilliance of Johnson’s leadership and his ability to transform the presidency in such a way that he could use those techniques that had served him so well in the Senate: one-to-one relations, bargaining, consensus, and insulation from choice.

Conversations in Johnson’s early days as President were appropriately staged: for some the Oval Office was best; for others, the small room to the right of the office, an intimate walk around the White House grounds, or a group meeting in the somewhat austere Cabinet Room proved more relaxing or suitable. The key to Johnson’s success in these meetings was his ability to communicate something unique to each and every person. Even if Johnson had spoken the same words of praise ten minutes before to someone else, the words still held a fresh and spontaneous quality. In a meeting of four or five important persons, Johnson managed at some point to take each one aside and say something special. The repetitive and stylized nature of the performance, therefore, was never perceived unless one stayed by his side through a succession of such meetings. Eventually, Johnson created for himself a mental dossier of data portraits of those with whom he dealt.

After each meeting Johnson would send each visitor a photograph to commemorate the event and to remind him that this was just the beginning of a long line of services. Over time, depending on the rhythm of the relationship, the mode of address on the pictures would shift. If the alliance prospered, the original form of signing “To Roy Wilkins, from Lyndon Johnson” would give way to “Dear Roy, My best. Lyndon”; within a couple of years “Roy” was addressed as “My Esteemed Friend,” and two years later “Lyndon” became “Your friend and admirer, Lyndon.” If things soured, as they did with Wilbur Mills over the course of the surtax struggle, the salutation -“To my friend and colleague Wilbur, from your good friend and greatest admirer, Lyndon” was devaluated “To Wilbur Mills from Lyndon Johnson”—and finally— “To Mr. Chairman from Mr. President.”

Johnson understood that Roy Wilkins would fidget uncomfortably in a conversation if the main point were to ask for a favor, whereas Everett Dirksen would blatantly and without hesitation send long memos to the White House detailing his requests for that week; a judgeship in the 5th district, a post office in Peoria, a presidential speech in Springfield, a tax exemption for peanuts. The following interchange well shows the serious nature of the banter between Johnson and Dirksen. It took place on June 23, 1964:

Dirksen: General Graham is going to appear before the public works appropriations subcommittee tomorrow. There is planning money in the bill for the Kaskaskia River navigation project. Now all I want him to do is say that the engineers do have construction capability for fiscal year 1965 and it is only $25,000 to $50,000. Now it is in that area of Illinois that is distressed. The total cost of the project is $30 million. And it is going to be the making of the southern thirty counties of the state.

President: Let me get on that and I will call you back. Now you are not going to beat me on excises and ruin my budget this year. Please do not beat me on that. You can do it if you want to and you can ruin my budget, but you are hollering economy and trying to balance it.

Dirksen: Well, look at the pressure I’m under.

President: ! know it. but you are also for good fiscal prudence and you know that the way to do this is through Ways and Means. You know they are not going to let you write a bill over in the Senate on taxes. Please do not press me on that. Give me a few of your Republicans because 1 just do not have the votes to do it without you.

Dirksen: You never talked that way when you were sitting in that front seat.

President: Yes, I did, when my country was involved. I voted for Ike many times when [William] Knowland3 voted against him.

Dirksen: You are a hard bargainer.

President: No. I’m not. 1 will look at this and see what I can do and call you right back.

Dirksen: That’ll be fine.

Early that same evening the President phoned Dirksen: “1 got in touch with Major General Graham and he says that if I want him to he wall testify . . . that the engineers have a construction capability for 1965 contingent on favorable restudy of the economics of the project and that he believes it’ll be a favorable restudy because he’s got $100,000 wrapped up in it. I told him to go as strong as he could and he said he’d go $60,000. So please don’t tell anybody now that you have a back door to the White House. But you go up there and please do not kill my tax bill tomorrow.”

Dirksen: You left me upset 100 days on that civil rights bill.

President: You got yourself in debt. You are the hero of the hour now. They have forgotten that anybody else is around. Every lime 1 pick up a paper, it’s “Dirksen” in the magazines. The NAACP is flying Dirksen banners and picketing the White House tomorrow.

Dirksen: I could not even get you to change your tune about that damned House bill.

President: The hell you couldn’t. I told them whatever Dirksen and the AG agree on. I am for. This is what I sent him up there to agree for. You know you never got a call from me during the whole outfit. But do not mess up that tax bill tomorrow. Everett, please don’t.

Dirksen: Well, I have to offer this but we shall see.

President: Offer it but [Senator] John Williams [Republican, Delaware] is not for raiding the Treasury—so get him to save you. Okay. Good-bye.

For Dirksen, Johnson was Tammany Hall—their brazen exchange of memos stretches six inches in the library files. The character of these transactions was not so much an expression of Johnson’s nature as an accommodation to Dirksen’s. If he could easily, in private, share the candor of such manipulations, he could cut a very different figure in the presence of a different personality.

In a conversation with Roy Wilkins, Johnson spoke of his “desperate” need for Wilkins’ advice on a matter he had obviously decided—recalling black Ambassador to Finland Carl Rowan in order to appoint him head of the United States Information Agency.

President: I want to do something a little unusual and I’m going to get me in some trouble, but I want to get you behind me before I do it. Be sure I’m doing the right thing and nobody will know I ever talked to you except you. I want to bring Rowan back from Finland to run this shop. He has good judgment, he’s worked with me around the world, and he started out peeved at me and prejudiced toward me and he wound up being a real devotee of mine and a real friend. Now what is your reaction and your judgment of Carl, and tell me frankly.

Wilkins: He has excellent training as a newspaperman and is familiar with the media. The only chink in the armor I can think of right now is that he lacks the radio and communications media. I know he’s a good administrator and furthermore he’s a southerner. I think he’s a good man and able to survive personal antagonism . . . yes. yes, a good man.

By the end of the conversation, Wilkins was somehow asking Johnson to appoint the very man Johnson had been planning to appoint all along and Johnson was letting the civil rights leader know that at some point in the future the President might ask a return favor from him. Two dilemmas remained: the current head of the USIA, Ed Murrow. though dying, was still alive, and the appointment was bound to meet opposition in the Appropriations Committee, whose chairman was John McClellan, a conservative Democrat from Arkansas. Later that day Johnson called McClellan:

President: John, I’ve got a little problem. 1 don’t want to embarrass you in any way and the best way to avoid it is to talk to you about [it] beforehand so you know what the problem is. Ed Murrow is dying with cancer of the lung. I’ve got to get another man. I’ve got a good solid man that’s gone around the world with me and spent a good deal of time working with me and writing stuff for me and helping me and he’s a good administrator and he’ll listen to me. but he’s a Negro. His name is Carl Rowan. He’s the ambassador to Finland. USIA is in your department under Appropriations and I don’t want you to cut his guts out because he’s a Negro. I’ve seen you operate with a knife.

McClellan: I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t put it on that account. . . . On things like this, when you tell me, I always show every leverage, I appreciate your calling me and I know you have problems and you’re going to do a lot of things I wouldn’t dounless I was President.

And so, with Rowan sounded out, Murrow still living, Wilkins searching black attitudes toward Rowan as head of the USIA. and McClellan willing to “show every leverage.”the way was clear, its potential for serious controversy defused by this seeming collaboration, and upon Murrow’s death, Carl Rowan was appointed and confirmed as director of the USIA.

13. 1964: Love and votes

In the months before the 1964 conventions, it seemed almost inconceivable that Lyndon Johnson’s shining political prospects could be improved - until the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater.

On the campaign trail. Johnson was jubilant. Everywhere he went huge crowds assembled to greet his arrival, attend his movements through the streets. Millions of people he hadn’t met, didn’t know, whose motives and interests he had not calculated in order to decide how best to impose his will, cheered, almost screaming, often jumping excitedly, in their enthusiasm at his presence. No advance men or organization could have produced such multitudes or intensities. He had accomplished some significant things, but less than several Presidents, far less than he intended; yet he was hailed as if he were a national conqueror. And even if he didn’t understand and only half trusted it. he couldn’t get enough of it. traveling from place to place, descending into every crowd, touching the few he could reach as if to reassure himself it was really happening, and more obviously out of an uncontrollable and understandable exuberance. And who could blame him? It was the closest he could come to feeling loved, and who would not expressin his own manner and to the extent he could exultance at the unexpected approach toward satisfaction of this universal longing?

On Election Day, 1964. Johnson flew to Austin; he wanted to be home to hear the results. “It seems to me tonight,” he said to one friend, “that I have spent my whole life getting ready for this moment.”By the time the last poll had closed, Johnson had gathered what was the greatest popular majority in history to date. And his margin in the electoral college, 486-52, had been exceeded only once in the twentieth century-by Franklin Roosevelt. He carried every state in the North, the Midwest, the Far West, and, excepting Goldwater’s native Arizona, the entire Southwest. And in the South, the only area of the country where Goldwater had substantial support. Johnson still carried six of the eleven states.

“It was,” Johnson later recalled, “a night I shall never forget. Millions upon millions of people, each one marking my name on their ballot, each one wanting me as their President. . . . For the first time in all my life I truly felt loved by the American people.” Once again the same expression, the connection of votes and love.

Next month: The Green Society, The Bitter End

  1. He had lost a race for Congress in the late 1800s.
  2. The fight to build the Hells Canyon Dam in the Pacific Northwest was a major public power issue of the 1950s.
  3. Republican of California. Senate Republican Leader 1953-1958.