Should Barack Obama pull a Lyndon Johnson?

Lyndon B. Johnson

On March 31, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson went before the nation in what was expected to be another policy speech attempting to justify his escalation of the war in Vietnam.

It turned out to be far more than that.

At the end, Johnson shocked the nation by announcing:

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.

I remember the impact of those words.  I was working as a reporter in the newsroom of The Roanoke Times at the time and the TV was on in the background as Johnson spoke. When he dropped the bombshell of not running again, several of us looked up and said something like “what did he just say?”

Within seconds, alarm bells that signal a news alert began ringing on the teletype machines in an enclosure off the newsroom.

While the news shocked many, it did not surprise some Democratic strategists who had worked for months to convince Johnson to step down. With the country divided by an unpopular war and domestic problems the party needed something something drastic to keep its hold on the White House.

It didn’t work. Richard Nixon took the 1968 election and gave us Watergate and more reasons to distrust the Presidency and government.

Now, more than four decades later, some Democrats whisper privately in the halls of power that the party is once again stuck with an unpopular President who should consider not running again.

Should Barack Obama quit with just one term?  It’s an idea Democrats won’t discuss publicly but do ponder privately.

Republicans, in the meantime, aren’t shy about suggesting the same thing.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote recently in The Washington Post that Hillary Clinton would have made a far better President and suggested Democrats should turn to her to replace Obama instead of having him lose an election for a second term.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is saying the same thing.

Former GOP Congressman and current talk show host Joe Scarborough this week asked if it were possible that Obama might pull a Johnson and decide not to run for a second term.

His cohost — Mika Brzezinski quickly shot down that idea.  Their guests agreed  with a consensus that Obama’s ego and concern about the “historical significance” of his Presidency would never allow him to even consider not running again.

Obama quitting is a stretch but political realities could change even the President’s thinking.  His poll numbers and approval ratings continue to drop and his concern about his place in history could be overruled by the very real possibility that he could go down in flames if he tries to win a second term.

Stranger things have happened and in today’s surreal political environment, strange is the new normal.

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13 Responses to "Should Barack Obama pull a Lyndon Johnson?"

  1. Rick  September 22, 2011 at 9:19 am

    I prefer to look at 1980 when Teddy attempted to unseat Carter knowing damn well the party was going down in flames. Maybe the Dems can have someone step up?

    When the support from minorities starts to vaporize as in another article then the party has nothing to lose by dumping Obama.

    • Leslie Franklin  September 25, 2011 at 11:37 pm

      Nice try Thompson! There is no parallel between President Johnson and President Obama, but I’m sure you and the right wing would love him to resign so that the Republicans can regain the Whitehouse and drive us right back into the economic ditch they dug for us during the Bush administration.

  2. griff  September 22, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    He should pull some thing.

  3. Carl Nemo **==  September 23, 2011 at 12:35 am

    Yeah, ol’ LBJ was the epitome of what fine crimpol should be: Re: LBJ on the horn to Captain Tully commander of the USS Saratoga concerning the Israeli attcack on the USS Liberty…

    The USS SARATOGA, commanded by Captain Tully, sent aircraft to our aid only to have them recalled by voice from Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara.
    Again, Captain Tully ordered rescue aircraft to come to our aid [USS Liberty]. Then, President Lyndon Johnson got on the phone and ordered the recall himself, saying “I don’t give a God damn if every man on board that ship dies, I will not embarrass our ally, Israel.” …extract from link content my brackets.

    ***

    http://www.rumormillnews.com/cgi-bin/archive.cgi?read=120734*

    ***

    Johnson stepping down from reelection is just more boohoo b.s. pumped out by the ill informed or simply the unaware media as to how monstrous and corrupt our leaderhip might be…no? Knowing Johnson’s ‘feeding habits’, he’d simply had bellyful of D.C. and it’s tedious b.s. and wanted to head back to Texas so he could eat tapioca puddng while gazing out on his ‘ranchland’. / : |

    Lyndon Johnson was one of the most corrupt politicians in modern times to ascend to the presidency, so too in the wake of a truly fine President, possibly our last, John F. Kennedy even with his flaws.

    Carl Nemo **==

  4. egc52556  September 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Obama’s problem is not him personally, it’s the problem of the Democratic party vs. the Republicans.

    Obama and the Democrats need to make a clear voiced argument for who they are and what they are for. Not the cartoon-depth stereotypes the GOP are painting them with — socialist, tax and spend, ineffective — but remind the American voters about the good Obama and the Democrats have done for America: New Deal, Civil Rights, Universal Health Care, withdrawal from Iraq, finding and killing Bin Laden. At the same time they need to sharpen their message about the damage the GOP has recently done: wrong on Iraq, wrong on the economy, having proposed NOTHING to generate jobs, ignorant and/or theocratic GOP candidates.

    Obama will win as well as any “generic Democrat”. Because the election is not about Obama personally. It’s about which party does a better job painting a better vision for America.

    • griff  September 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      So you mean they should fight cartoon-depth stereotypes with cartoon-depth stereotypes? Brilliant!

      Ummm…They are taxing and spending, their policies have been “ineffective,” and not only have we not withdrawn from Iraq, we are engaging in more and more middle eastern countries under Obama.

      The bin Laden killing was a right place – right time thing.

      I won’t mention socialized medicine. Yeah, that’ll be great.

      But don’t take this as a vote for the Republicans, because it isn’t, it’s merely a vote for reality.

  5. Sandune  September 23, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    The GOP would dance in the streets if President Obama declared he would not run for a second term. They have spent millions of dollars and hours hating this man’s Presidency.

    America hates a quitter and if Obama bends into the religious right, the Democrats will never again be able to run a decent election. Until the GOP can locate a viable party on their own grounds, they should not ever get even close to the White House.

    • griff  September 23, 2011 at 9:27 pm

      That’s politics, Sandra. How much did the Democrats spend hating Bush’s presidency in 2008? I seem to remember Obama alone setting all kinds of fundraising records…millions of dollars. Almost a trillion, if memory serves. That’s a lot of hatred. His entire campaign revolved around Republican hatred. The Democrats won back the Congress on Republican hatred. Otherwise, there would be no reason for “Hope” and “Change.” Not that Obama has delivered any, mind you, unless change for the worse is what he meant all along.

      I would beg to differ with you on dancing Republicans should Obama not run again. They want him to.

      “Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.” – H.L. Mencken

      So in your world, it’s quite alright to hate a failure of a white president, but not a failed black one? Any one that opposes Obama is a card-carrying member of the religious right, as are all Republicans?

  6. Rick  September 24, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Dems had their shot with Control of Congress and the Presidency. They blew it. Simple as that. The next President can now spend her/his first two years blaming Obama.

    Some view that vision through rose colored glasses!

  7. Watchman  September 24, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Obama should not be in the Oval Office. Obama should be downstairs in the White House kitchen – at most. That he made it to the top is due to failings of the media, who in their enthusiasm for this “historic” semi-black candidate failed to report that Obama had been a slacker, a showing-up-is-good-enough kind of guy all his life.

    Having Obama flying around in Air Force One pretending to be the president isn’t good enough. And he is the second guy in twelve years to do that.

    God help us all – I am beginning to suspect Perry would be the third.

  8. Walter Wouk  September 25, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Obama campaigned against the PATRIOT Act; then, as president, he embraced it and ramped up the war on our civil liberties. That alone makes him unfit to lead this country.

  9. Rick  September 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Hey, Walter, are you telling me a politician says one thing and does another?

    IMO the Patriot Act is a wonderful measure – it made me return that over due library book otherwise a SWAT Team would be whacking down my front door.

  10. Jay Spaan Sr.  September 27, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Doug is not a right wing, or left-wing.
    He backed Obama, but knows what a huge mistake it was.

    I said from the get-go Hillary was the best choice.
    I can now say “I told you so”.

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