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Lyndon Johnson and 1960s Political Culture

President Johnson and Walker Stone (excerpt), 6 January 1964

President Johnson: I never enjoyed life more, never felt better in my life, physically, than I do now.

At 12:45 today, I took [Johnson aides] Jack Valenti, Walter Jenkins, Bill Moyer[s], and I swam the length of that [White House] pool eight times. Eight times today.

I went down and had a hamburger. I came back and looked over my State of the Union [address]. Called up and fussed with a fellow about $40 million too much in the budget. Then I stretched out and took a little doze, lost consciousness, for about five minutes on the couch.

I came back, and they said, “Now, are you in good humor?” I said yeah. They said, “Well, we’ll save you this until you’re in a bad humor.” I said, “What is it?” They said, “It’s [conservative columnist] George Carmack’s article. We want to give it to you when you’re in a bad humor.”

Now, I knew it was going to be bad because it was George’s. I read it, and he said, “They always say that folks are not true to their raising. But Johnson is true to his raising.” And he wrote the kindest, sweetest, nicest description.

I’m going to send it to [Secretary of State] Dean Rusk, [National Security Advisor] McGeorge Bundy, and all these sophisticated fellows—[Chief of Protocol] Angier Biddle Duke. He even complements Angier Biddle Duke. I want you to read it.

Walker Stone: I’ll catch it—

President Johnson: Then I read old man [Texas politician Frank] Dobie’s letter.

You know, I don’t have anything to do at night. I can’t go out. I broke out twice. What I do is I go home, and I have myself two or three highballs with my wife. I have to sit there and read and work.

I’ve got Indonesia. They wanted me to give them 35 million [dollars in foreign aid] the other day. I had to read on it until 2:00 in the morning. Came in, and had to have India 65 [million in aid], and I read on it till 2:00, and turned both of them down.

But I just thought: what it I hadn’t had the desire to read them? I’d be in a helluva shape.

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