Lessons Learned: LBJ Announces He Will Not Seek Reelection

>>Jim Lindsay: Political pundits love to
talk about how foreign policy helps or hurts a presidential candidate. But the more interesting
question may be, will foreign policy break a presidency once a candidate makes it to
the White House? I’m Jim Lindsay, and this is Lessons Learned.
Our topic today is Lyndon B. Johnson’s announcement on March 31, 1968, that he would not seek
reelection as president. If history had played out differently, LBJ
would have been running for his first term as president in 1968. But the shots fired
in Dallas on November 22, 1963 changed everything. Less than two hours after John F. Kennedy’s
death, LBJ was sworn in as America’s thirty-sixth president. LBJ inherited JFK’s immense popularity.
He served out the final year of Kennedy’s term and was elected president in November
1964 in a landslide. LBJ won 61 percent of the popular vote, the highest vote share won
by any president ever. LBJ put his political popularity to use. The
list of landmark laws that he pushed through Congress as part of his Great Society effort
is breathtaking. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed major forms of racial discrimination.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which abolishes practices that prevented African-Americans
and other minorities from exercising their right to vote. Medicare, which provided health
insurance to the elderly. The list goes on. If LBJ is judged solely by what he achieved
on domestic issues, he may have been America’s most successful president. But many Americans remember LBJ’s presidency
for an entirely different issue: Vietnam. When LBJ took office in November 1963, the
United States had 16,000 troops in South Vietnam. Over the next several years, LBJ greatly expanded
the number of U.S. troops in South Vietnam and changed their mission from advising the
South Vietnamese to fighting the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. By the end of 1967, the United
States had nearly 500,000 troops in South Vietnam. As the war escalated between 1965 and 1967,
so too did criticism of America’s involvement. Protests grew on college campuses. The chant
“Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” entered the American political lexicon. But doubts about Vietnam went beyond the young.
By 1967, polls showed that a majority of Americans thought that the war was a mistake. In November
1967, Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota announced that he would challenge LBJ for
the Democratic nomination. McCarthy’s challenge might have been a footnote to history if not
for the Tet Offensive that began in late January 1968. Images of fighting on the streets of
Saigon contradicted the Johnson administration’s rosy talk of progress in Vietnam. On March 12, 1968, McCarthy received a stunning
42 percent of the vote in New Hampshire’s Democratic Primary. LBJ still won, but the
political damage had been done. Four days later the Democrat whom LBJ most feared, Senator
Robert Kennedy, announced that he too was running for president. Worn down by the stress of Vietnam and faced
with tough challenges from within his own party, LBJ decided not to seek reelection.
He announced his decision at the tail end of a nationwide address on March 31, 1968:>>President Lyndon B. Johnson: With America’s
sons in the fields far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home,
with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe
that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to
any duties other than the awesome duties of this office—the presidency of your country. Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will
not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.>>Jim Lindsay: What’s the lesson of LBJ’s
decision not to run for reelection? Just this: foreign policy may not make a presidency,
but it certainly can break one. LBJ is hardly alone on this score. Korea ate
away at Harry Truman’s popularity. Jimmy Carter’s presidency faltered over the Iran
hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Iran-Contra affair marred
Ronald Reagan’s second term. Escalating violence in Iraq did the same thing to George
W. Bush. We are now in the midst of another presidential
campaign. President Obama hopes to win reelection. Events in Iraq, North Korea, and Afghanistan
may go a long way toward determining whether he succeeds. So here is a question to consider: Why are
presidents so eager to pursue an activist foreign policy when history suggests that
it so often hurts them politically? I encourage you to weigh in with your answer on my blog,
The Water’s Edge. You can find it at CFR.org. I’m Jim Lindsay. Thank you for watching
this installment of Lessons Learned.

16 thoughts on “Lessons Learned: LBJ Announces He Will Not Seek Reelection

  1. HEY CFR, he wasn't elected and he's a traitor against Austrian economics, let alone the country he was charged with protecting. Your even talking about this just proves the often labeled "paranoid" accusations of MANY here as completely valid. Perpetuating financial slavery through any means necessary, am I right?

  2. I didn't mean it that way. By the statement I meant the financially side of passing that legislation.

  3. If it hadn't been for Vietnam the costs of the Great Society could have balanced. One important reason why LBJ was so activist in Vietnam was exactly because he feared turning out like Truman, who got destroyed by the loss of China and the quagmire in Korea. It's too bad he focused on the first part and not the last one.

  4. Foreign policy Market analysis is required, must be accurate For this reason, very difficult Situation analysis should not be biased In other words, when a wrong decision, will result in very severe Far from being no longer re-election In addition, when making arrangements, such information is required President was waging war is also prone to PTSD Impossible problem re-election, facing up to problems of the country from a personal problem so Side of the support measures It is essential. thanks.

  5. this socio-path got in power by the bullet and fed his good ole boys the war conracts in vietnam. when ya got the sherriff(hoover) and can appt the judge you get to stay out of prison unlike bobby baker and billie sol estes. I say this as a democrat, not the kind who supported goerge wallace and richard russell, – lbj was a stone cold criminal who angled himself into the best political connections money could by and they served him well. as for the country … he fucked over america.

  6. Well stated. He tried to stop the advancement of communism, and believe me, what Obama is trying to do now to America is pretty much what happened in Viet Nam…and LBJ would never approved of any of it. He was first and foremost a decent man and American who loved his country. Obama does not.

  7. LBJ announced not seeking reelection 4 days before MLK assassination. He also knew that the same conspirators who kill JFK were after RFK too. He was deep involved with conspirators. In 1964 won by 61% of the voters, how naive people were at that time. This video don't talk about the dark side of LBJ specially about JFK assassination, very convenient for historians.

  8. Hmmmm…..let me see how i can answer that his question…..hmmm ..MONEY,MONEY,MONEY,ah there it is! The elite know that theres money in wars so they keep starting them and they make our puppet presidents continue them! Weather they want to or not! Hell thats why every president has been involved in a war!

  9. This video hardly contains a valid analysis. When Nixon ran in 68 he promised 'peace with honor' in Vietnam, but only made things worse. Public support declined even further and Nixon received huge criticism for his Vietnam policy. Yet in 72 he was reelected in one of the largest landslides ever in American history. As for other Democratic candidates being a threat (?) and thus a reason for Johnson not to run, that's just a surmise.

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