March 18, 1967. 9.05 AM. LBJ welcomes state governors, including new California Governor Ronald Reagan, above, to the White House for the “White House Conference of Governors on Federal-State Relations.”
“We are here to advise and consult with each other, as public executives, on the central business of our governments—the welfare of the American people. We are here on common ground, nonpartisan ground—as elected officials charged with the obligation of using public resources for the public good.”
LBJ Presidential Library photo #A3858-22, public domain. Read the rest of his remarks here.
December 21, 1966. One of the Governors present at the ranch on Dec. 21, 1966, is John Connally of Texas, who has just won election to a third term with 74% of the vote. His relationship with the President has lately become more fraught: Connally opposes two pieces of 1966 legislation supported by the White House: raising the minimum wage and repeal of right-to-work provisions in the Taft-Hartley Act. Especially egregious to Connally was the FBI monitoring of Texas voter registrations in March 1966. According to George Christian, who worked for both men:
“Connally wanted to be independent. He didn’t want to be identified as just ‘Lyndon’s boy John’ type of thing. He had his own views on things.He was quite upset at some of the things that the federal government was doing in Texas, and he sounded off. If he didn’t like it, he’d call Marvin Watson or Willard Wirtz or whoever he could get to‑‑….The President made reference from time to time that John was more conservative than he was, ‘John doesn’t feel the same as I do on that,’ or something to that effect. But he knew it. He might think in his own mind, ‘Old John’s wrong on that.’ But I never heard him say anything mean or anything of that nature about John Connally. Now I heard him say some things about lots of people, but I don’t recall him ever, ever referring to John Connally in any demeaning fashion. In the first place he had very great respect for him. And one of the few people I think that the President just really has up on a pedestal.”
Transcript, George Christian Oral History Interview IV, 6/30/70, by Joe B. Frantz. Photo is LBJ and Gov. Connally (in foreground) at the Houston Astrodome, 04/09/1965, #A267-12. Both from the LBJ Presidential Library.
November 8, 1966. The election returns are in. Republicans have captured three seats in the Senate and 47 seats in the House of Representatives: it is now 248/187 in the House and 64/36 in the Senate, with the Democrats still in the majority in both. One of the new Republican Senators is former Massachusetts Attorney General Edward Brooke, who becomes the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction.
November 8, 1966. Election Day. LBJ casts his vote at the Pedernales Electric Coop, Johnson City, Texas.
The campaigning in these midterm elections has been fierce: after the 1964 Demoratic sweep, the Republicans have rebounded and are focused on issues of inflation; the costs of the Great Society programs, and those programs’ failures and disappointments; crime; racial strife and riots; a stalled Vietnam War effort, as well as its rising toll in money and lives; and the perceived ”credibility gap” of the Johnson administration on many of these issues.
“QUESTION. Does the cancellation of your big campaign trip mean that you do not intend to do anything to help Democratic candidates before election, such as one little speech in Texas, or maybe a TV pep talk before election?
THE PRESIDENT. First, we don’t have any plans, so when you don’t have plans, you don’t cancel plans.
We get invited to come to most of the States. In the last 6 weeks we have been invited to 47 of the States by the candidates for Governor, or the Senate, or the Congress.
We have been invited on nonpolitical invitations to the other three States, I might say.
But we have not accepted those invitations. We do contact the local people who extend them. We do investigate in some instances going there, and we do express the hope that we can go.
But until it is firm, until we know we can, we do not say, “We accept,” and schedule it.
The people of this country ought to know that all these canceled plans primarily involve the imagination of people who phrase sentences and write columns, and have to report what they hope or what they imagine.
We have no plans for any political speeches between now and the election. We know of no requirement that we forgo them. I just don’t think they are necessary.”
However, it had already been reported in the press that LBJ had planned a campaign trip to Massachusetts, Illinois, Nevada, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado that was now cancelled. This discrepancy was used by Republicans as an example of the ”credibility gap” in the Johnson administration. This seeming disparity between what the White House said, or promised, and what it delivered, became an effective issue for Republicans as they tried to take back—or at least win more seats in—the House and Senate.
Source: Congress and the Nation, Vol. II 1965-1968, Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Service, 1969, p. 7. Full press conference text available here.
November 3, 1966. 6:33 PM. LBJ speaks with House Minority Leader Gerald Ford (after Ford waits on hold for 2 minutes) to tell him about the results of the Manila conference on Vietnam. Ford interrupts him to express concern about LBJ’s upcoming surgery, which the President explains in detail. LBJ then relays the positions of the leaders he met from the seven represented countries, summarizing, “Those closest to the danger feared the aggression the most.” (at about 7:15)
One interesting side note about his trip (at about 15:30) is LBJ complaining about the 60 Communists “ordered from New York” who carried signs supporting Senator Robert Kennedy for President in 1968. There were also protests of about 1,000 people in the Phillipines and several hundred in Sydney—“but it wasn’t near as bad as Berkeley.”
September-October 1966. This White House-produced film documents the President’s activities for September and October of 1966. It contains lots of campaign footage for the upcoming midterm election, some of it no-holds-barred partisan rhetoric:
“Afraid, afraid, afraid. Republicans are afraid of their own shadows and they are afraid of the shadow of progress. But the only thing that most Americans are afraid of are Republicans. And that is why the Americans have given us a Democratic Congress and that is why the Congress has given us more education bills, more health bills, more dollars to fight poverty, more dollars to rebuild cities, more dollars to help people with Medicare than any Congress in the history of this Nation.”
June 9, 1966. An irritated LBJ takes Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, R-Illinois, to task for speaking to the press about Vietnam. LBJ has heard that Dirksen wants to have a bipartisan conference on the war: LBJ tells Dirksen to “put on your hat and come down here” if he wants to talk rather than going to the media.
Mr. President, you know this is a campaign year and I’ll be getting out, speaking up for the Republicans. They’ll need all the voices they can get. But there won’t be anything personal in what I say about you in what I say about the Democratic Administration.
Former VP Richard Nixon, March 13, 1966, according to Lady Bird Johnson in A White House Diary. The two men had met that day in the White House and spoken informally about international affairs and Nixon’s recent trip to Europe.
December 20, 1965. LBJ speaks with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara about the 1967 budget, and how to estimate the costs of a war that may (they hope) end at any moment. At around 9:45 McNamara explains that “it would be a serious error” for LBJ to ask for a tax increase, when they may not need more money for defense. LBJ asks about possible Congressional reactions to this strategy, and McNamara enumerates the likely Republican accusations (at about 10:40):
“Fictitious reporting, misleading the American people, seeking to finance the Great Society by deficit spending, hiding from the public the true facts relating to war, you know….”
March 16, 1965. The day after he delivers his speech on voting rights to Congress, LBJ tells Tom Watson of IBM how he managed to get the Republicans to give him a standing ovation. (starts around the 11-minute mark).
Watson: … Well, I thought that it was the most forceful speech I ever saw anybody make when they were trying to lead a large group of people. I never saw you come through as strongly as that, nor anybody else come through on television that strongly.
LBJ: The Republicans didn’t want to get up, you know. And I told them—
LBJ: —about when I was a kid and I was teaching this school and I went home. And I never thought I’d be President and—but I was, and I was going to do something about it. And I had this power and I meant to use it. And I looked over, and they wouldn’t get up at all, and all the Democrats were up. And I looked at old [Clifford] Case from New Jersey, and Hugh Scott, and [Everett] Dirksen; and then I looked at the camera, and I just put my head back and I’d look at them and then I’d look at the camera. They looked and saw the damn cameras on them, and I wish you’d have seen them get up.
LBJ: They all of them had glue in their britches, and they were just stuck and they wouldn’t come at all. And—but when they saw that camera start circling around on them, that little red light, it was the funniest thing I ever saw.
June 22, 1964. LBJ calls House Minority Leader Charles Halleck to urge him to pass the Civil Rights bill, the Poverty bill, and other legislation as soon as possible. Halleck tells the President that he wants a recess so the Republicans in Congress can attend their Convention, coming up on July 13-16.