‘Cowardice’ Made LBJ Grow War

Schlesinger diaries depict liberal flight as prez sought heroism
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2007 10:06 AM CDT
‘Cowardice’ Made LBJ Grow War
USA. Texas. LBJ Ranch. 1963. President Lyndon B. Johnson on his ranch, riding his horse "Lady B", he was on the ranch to welcome the West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard. (PAR60115)   (Magnum Photos)

President Johnson’s motives for escalating the Vietnam War were “psychological and political rather than military,” wrote insider Arthur Schlesinger Jr. The former Kennedy hand documented the flight of top liberals from LBJ, even as he psychoanalyzed the president’s 1966-1967 decision to play “the war to the hilt”—entries relived in the latest New York Review of Books.

The Texan craved the “public virility” of his lionized predecessor, and even VP Hubert Humphrey confirmed that turned backs of players like Dick Goodwin and George McGovern drove Johnson further into warmongering. The disappointed Schlesinger pined for a replacement; with only a hint of sarcasm, he planned “a coup d’etat” with Averell Harriman and even pledged to vote Republican in 1968. (More Lyndon Johnson stories.)

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