There is a cosmic irony in the role payed by Vietnam in Lyndon Johnson’s career….What increased the irony was that Vietnam turned against him that group in society whose approbation he most desired—the college students. Nothing bewildered him more that the sieges of the White House by half-naked hippies chanting: “Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many kids have you killed today?”
He thought he had done everything for them—college loans, scholarships, subsidies—and he considered their conduct nothing but the grossest ingratitude. They were not showing the same concern for his problem that he had shown for their problems—or, at least, that was the way he reasoned.
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Oct. 20, 1967. Lady Bird records in her Diary:
"Lyndon said, as he often has, that he would give a piece of his life if Speaker Sam Rayburn would be back with the gavel and he (Lyndon himself) were over in the Senate for just one week. In discussing President Eisenhower, he said: ‘He has paid me back one hundred percent for what I did for him when I was Majority Leader by just trying to be decent.’”
Monday, Sept. 25, 1967. Last night was one of those bleak nights when the shadows take over. We both woke up about 3:30 AM and talked and talked and talked about when and how to make the statement that Lyndon is not going to be a candidate again.
September 6, 1967. LBJ announces that he will nominate Walter Washington to be the first Mayor (Commissioner) of Washington, D.C. After advocates for home-rule for the District, including LBJ, finally won their fight, LBJ offered the mayoralty to Washington. The President enlisted the help of NYC Mayor Lindsay and Lady Bird to help Mr. Washington prepare .
Now LBJ announces his mayoral selection—the first African-American mayor of a large U.S. city:
"Three weeks ago Congress approved a reorganization plan to bring modern government to the Nation’s Capital.
"Even this new system can be only as strong and fair as the men who will lead it….
"We have found a man who will be a strong and authentic voice for the people of the District. His name is Walter Edward Washington."
Photo C6814-12, Washington at White House with LBJ on 10/3/67, public domain.
August 9, 1967. Senator John Stennis, as head of the Senate Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee, begins hearings regarding the conduct and effectiveness of the bombing campaign over North Vietnam. Unlike Senator Fulbright, Stennis believes that the bombing of North Vietnam has been too limited and needs to be escalated in order to ensure a more decisive victory in the Vietnam War.
—(left to right) Senator John Stennis, President Johnson, Senator Herman Talmadge. LBJ Library photo A3037-21; image is in the public domain.
It’s strange. You feel soothed and happy by the companionship of your daughter and your son-in-law, and the fine young people who are their friends and the members of your staff. And the cool, brisk, shiny beauty of the day. But simultaneously, you are way down and grieved, emotionally wearied by the troubles that you must try to solve—the growing virus of the riots, the rising list of Vietnam casualties, criticism from your own friends, or former friends, in Congress—and most of the complaining is coming from the Democrats.
QUESTION. Mr. President, 51 former Democratic National Convention delegates are said to be urging you to retire for the good of the party and their criticism seems to be mainly on foreign policy. What is your comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. None.
A subject that had been very much on my mind over the weekend was our ‘coming down off the mountain’—our departure from this place. On Sunday there was a poll that showed a distinct downward trend in the number of people who approved of Lyndon’s handling of the war in Vietnam. Our own decision, our hope, our determination, is to leave when this term ends. but how to tell it to the world, and when—in the fall, as John Connally suggested? Or not until March 1968—my own idea? Nevertheless, it does seem the leaves of autumn are falling rather early, since there are eighteen months left of this term.
Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh offers a slightly different interpretation of the issues around of sending federal troops to his city:
Cavanagh: “By the time really that the Army came in, which was a day or two later, it naturally was starting to burn down. These things all are the same. They’re like a fire. They slowly will extinguish themselves even if you leave them alone, which you can’t do obviously. I’m not derogating the Army’s role in it; they were very vital. It continued for many more nights. But it was mainly their presence, and their professionalism I think, that helped.”
Interviewer: “This matter of the delay in sending in the federal troops because of almost the semantic argument over whether or not you had an insurrection, was this a political maneuver in your feeling either on the part of Governor Romney or of the administration in Washington? Is this real and legal?”
Cavanagh: “I thought there was a genuine concern on the part of the federal officials, the President, the Attorney General, and others, a genuine legal concern about the commitment of federal troops for this kind of a domestic outbreak. On the other hand I’m not so naive as to assume that politics didn’t play a part. I don’t think though that politics was the paramount consideration. I think, as I believe I mentioned, that the President probably saw some slight political advantage in the whole situation and proceeded to use it. And I’m not saying that the Governor didn’t use what political advantages he might have, or that I would not have . After all, we are political people . That’s not to say though that politics was the paramount consideration and we were making decisions on the basis of what would be good politics.”
June 29, 1967. LBJ greets people on his visit to the Opportunities Industrialization Center in Philadelphia, a training center that replaced an unused jail with an facility that provides vocational training.
LBJ Presidential Library photo #5906-7a, public domain.
“Take-off from Philadelphia for Washington, D.C.—This flight was to be speeded up as much as possible for the President was in a race w/ time, for he wanted to make his statement on live television at the White House prior to Chairman Kosygin’s televised Press Conference in New York…
"AF One 26000 landed at Washington National Airport, the MAC terminal. The President and the occupants of his helicopter quickly lined up at the back door of the plane so that they could go directly to the waiting helicopter with a minimum of time. However, as the door opened, it was discovered that the steps had been placed, by mistake, at the front of the plane, so as the President and party raced through the plane, it could be heard over the intercom, ‘Make way for the President.’ As Frank Cormier who was in the press pool on board the plane, [noted] it looked almost like one of the old silent movies in which a comedy of errors occurred.”
Photo: LBJ finally makes his speech, with Lynda behind him and the White House dogs off to the right. #C5791-6A. LBJ Presidential Library.
June 23, 1967. After the day of meetings at Glassboro, LBJ attends the President’s Club Dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California. The President’s Club, which began during the Kennedy administration, is a fundraising group that provides funds directly to the President (not his party) to use for various political purposes, including campaigning. After the dinner, President Johnson flies to his ranch in Texas to spend the day before the summit meeting continues on June 25th.
More on the President’s Club in the Library’s oral histories of Arthur Krim, Chairman of the President’s Club from 1962-1968.
June 1967. While the Summer of Love takes off in Haight-Ashbury, New York’s Lower East Side becomes another center of the burgeoning “hippie” culture. One of the recent transplants is a 31-year-old organizer and civil rights worker named Abbie Hoffman, from Worcester, Massachusetts. Hoffman has just left SNCC, in part to focus more on antiwar activities in NYC. Hoffman later described the scene:
"At 31 I was older than the average runaway by some fifteen years but those who took an interest in building a youth community on the Lower East Side were all over 30. Like myself, they had run away from mainstream life and were eager to pass their insights on to younger kids, An IBM executive moved down from Westchester County and founded "Food," a commune whose purpose was to pass out free food in Tompkins Square Park. Actors created street theater groups. Lawyers volunteered time for serious busts. Medical students set up a street clinic. Careers had come to be seen as as strait jackets as the sound and smell of liberation filled the air. These were heady times."
April 28, 1967. LBJ referees a meeting with Congressional Leadership on the ongoing railroad labor dispute. Members present include Democratic and Republican leadership plus ranking members of both the Senate Labor Committee and the House Commerce Committee.
LBJ Library photo 5221-5a, public domain.