Johnson, Practical Politics, and the Campaign

Because LBJ served, effectively, as his own campaign manager, he also was involved in campaign minutiae to an unusual degree for a President. The clips below offer a perspective of the range of Johnson’s interests.

With Walter Jenkins, from early October, on the size and distribution of bumper stickers:

Walter Jenkins: [Cliff] Carter said that they’ve ordered two million [bumper stickers]—

President Johnson: Forty-five what?

Jenkins: Calls, that you have me earlier today—

President Johnson: I gave you 45?!

Jenkins: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: How’s that? I didn’t give you that many.

Jenkins: Yes, sir, you sure did. [Reads quickly.] Herman Talmadge, Bob MacKinnon, Fred Dutton, Larry O’Brien, Dick Maguire, Clark Clifford, George Meany, Roy Wilkins—

President Johnson: Good gosh. Never mind, then; that’s all right. [Jenkins chuckles.] Well, let’s see what happens on them.

Jenkins: Cliff says that they ordered two million of the little 4-by-4 “LBJs” [bumper stickers]. Half of them have been delivered, and they’ve all been shipped. The other half are due to be delivered tomorrow or the next day.

President Johnson: Now, how is he going to get ‘em on the cars?

Jenkins: Well, he’s leaving that to the states.

President Johnson: Well, they ain’t going to do it. I told Bill Moyer[s]—try to get him to get the Young Citizens’ [Committee] to do it. If he can’t get them, get the Scientists [Committee], or get somebody to do it. They’re not doing it in the states.

[KTBC general manager] Jesse [Kellam] hasn’t got a decent sticker on his car. [Johnson estate trustee] A.W. [Moursund] hasn’t got one on his car. They’ve got those old long ones, and faded out.

With Walter Jenkins and Bill Moyers, from early October, on how to appropriately identify the Democratic Party’s name:

President Johnson: I would never put “Vote Democrat.” I’d [put] “Vote Democratic.” Democrat’s a Republican way of saying it.

With Bill Moyers, from early October, on the contrast between TV and newspaper ads:

President Johnson: Do you-all understand that what I want is to saturate any way we can with sports with women, with real names, with scientists, the former heads of the American Bar (like Story can be in the South)—why they’re for Johnson.

And never for “Lyndon B. Johnson.” Always for, “Our great President Johnson.”

And I think that where we can, we ought to have these scientists and others saying, “He’s carrying on the program of President Kennedy.” I think we can pull a lot of people, hold ‘em, that way.

Bill Moyers: The best investment of money, Mr. President, would be full-page ads in most of the metropolitan newspapers, signed by the prominent Nobel Prize scientists that we have on our committee.

President Johnson: Well, get an ad up. I think TV reaches more than the papers, but if you-all think the papers, all right.

Moyers: Well, we use TV, too, but—

President Johnson: All right.

Moyers: You got—

President Johnson: It looks like you ain’t got enough money to do both of ‘em, I don’t think. But if you can, just go on and do it.

I got—somebody gave me five little things from [McGeorge] Bundy that could be run in a full-page ad. The trouble is, you get an ad, [and] some son-of-a-bitch just puts a scoopful of dictionary in it. And I can’t read our ads. I haven’t seen an ad of ours that I’d read.

[ILGWU head] David Dubinsky just had a scoopful that I saw down at the bottom, and I never read any of the rest of it. Ain’t nobody going to read it. You’ve got to have some white stuff in there, Bill.

Moyers: Right.

President Johnson: We always say “right,” but we don’t do it.


With Walter Jenkins and Bill Moyers, from early October, on the President’s unhappiness with Hubert Humphrey’s performance on the campaign trail:

President Johnson: Now tell Humphrey, and tell the Cabinet, and tell somebody at the [Democratic National] Committee to tell them—tell this [Fred] Dutton this—to say, “When you’re referring to the President, never refer to him as Lyndon, or Lyndon Johnson. Refer to him as the President.” It adds so much more prestige, and so much more standing.

Humphrey is just like a gigolo. He’s jumping up every day and saying, “Well, they’re hitting Lyndon Johnson, and sometimes they’re saying some mean things about Hubert Humphrey.”

He ought to be saying, “They’re hitting our dear President,” or “our great President.” You get the difference?

Walter Jenkins: Yes, sir, I sure do, and agree.

President Johnson: Now, tell that—write that down.

Jenkins: I have.

President Johnson: I’m going to ask you. Bill, you write down what I’m asking him. I’m going to see tomorrow what we’ve got done.

With Walter Jenkins, from early October, on how to appeal to Georgia senator Herman Talmadge, who was reluctant to endorse the national ticket. (This appeal failed.)

President Johnson: Well, do you know him that well?

Walter Jenkins: I know him pretty well. He calls me all the time about appointments and so on.

President Johnson: All right. I’d just call him and say, “Now, we want—first, the President wants to thank you for what Mrs. Talmadge did [in joining Lady Bird’s Southern tour].”

“He thinks he’s going to carry 40 states. But he wants to carry Georgia more than any other, and he wants you to help him in Georgia. And while he may not be able to help you much in Georgia now, he thinks in another two or three years, the way things are developing, that he will be able to help you in Georgia, and he will.”

“He’d like to see you join with Peyton Anderson and them over in Macon, and [Governor Carl Carl] Sanders down there, some of the rest of them, and make three or four real good speeches for him. He hasn’t taken one civil rights action that hasn’t been taken with the governor’s approval in every one of the states, including Mississippi. And he’s going to appoint the attorney general.”

“He wants you to come out now and make some statements, and help him.”

See what he says.

Jenkins: All right.

Herman Talmadge

With New York Liberal Party leader Alex Rose, from early October, on trying to tie Barry Goldwater to the KKK by a phony charge that Goldwater was a member of the John Birch Society’s board:

President Johnson: I’ve got a job that’s really going to be effective. It’s going to be more so than the Nixon telecast was on his dog [the Checkers speech] back there, when he was with Eisenhower.

But I’ve got to have somebody that’s smart to handle it, and can get it started. And I just wonder if you can’t give a little thought to it.


President Johnson: Now, Humphrey is speaking all the time, and he charges him [Goldwater] with this and that. But they’re too damn scholarly, and it’s not getting us votes.

Alex Rose: No.

President Johnson: The thing that gets you votes is when they get scared about a man that’s going to be a Klansman, or . . . You see the Jewish thing, what’s happening to Bobby [Kennedy, in the New York Senate race].


President Johnson: Now, on this Birchite thing—

Rose: You shouldn’t let it go—

President Johnson: If we could get the AP and the UP and the New York Post, if we could get our lady friend [publisher Dorothy Schiff] there; or if we could get [James] Wexler; or if could get somebody over at the Times to just hound him [Goldwater] to death every day, “Is he resigning? Will he quit it? Will he denounce it? Is it not true that’s he’s on it? Did he intend it to be against Eisenhower? What kind of a secret thing? Has he ever had any connection with the Klan?”

With Robert Kennedy, from late October, on the President’s (ultimately unsuccessful) efforts to secure the defeat of Delaware senator John Williams:

President Johnson: We are trying to beat Williams, very confidentially. That son-of-a-bitch is going to give us hell for four years, if he’s still there, and we’re within four points of beating him—

Robert Kennedy: Yeah.

President Johnson: —if we could the Negroes to come down and get their people to vote. So I told ‘em to put in my schedule that we would be in Wilmington at 3.30—

Robert Kennedy: Yeah.

President Johnson: And Dover at 5.00, before we went to New York [for the Madison Square Garden speech].

Now, I’ve told Marvin Watson (who’s in charge of my schedule, Jack Valenti’s gone) that if this [an early LBJ arrival in New York] is important to tell them in Delaware we’ll be there at noon, and we’ll try to get through at 2.30 at Dover, and leave at 3.00, and get up there [to New York] by 3.30 or 4.00.

Robert Kennedy: Well, that would be terrific, if you could do it.

President Johnson: Now, if it’s that important, we’ll do it.

I want to beat this son-of-a-bitch Williams—

Robert Kennedy: I can understand that.

President Johnson: Well, now, if I do this, you get some Negroes—you talk to Roy Wilkins, and get him to send one or two of his organizers into Dover and Wilmington. They got a lot of people registered, but they say they won’t vote.

Robert Kennedy: You know who’s good? That Charles Evers from Mississippi.

President Johnson: Yeah?

Robert Kennedy: They could get him up there.

President Johnson: All right. Well, now, I can’t do that—

Robert Kennedy: I’ll call him.

President Johnson: Will you do that for me?

Robert Kennedy: Yeah.

President Johnson: I’ll give you—I’ll give you—

Robert Kennedy: And I’ll get the—

President Johnson: I’ll give you three hours—

Robert Kennedy: And I’ll get the people there [to Delaware].

President Johnson: I’ll give you three hours before the Madison Square Garden [speech]. I’ll be in New York not later than 4.00.

Robert Kennedy: OK. And I’ll get Burke Marshall to get—

President Johnson: And you just do it quietly, and call on anybody in the federal government you need. But do it where they don’t catch you.

Robert Kennedy: Yeah. We’ll do it.

President Johnson: We want all the money—and I’m putting some money in there—but we just want to keep him from hounding us every day for four years.

LBJ and RFK on the promised visit to New York.


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