U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson Election and Term Part 1

About the U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, a brief history of his first election and presidential term.

36th President

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON

PRESIDENCY

Election: Nov. 3, 1964...

Johnson's victory in 1964 was assured before the national campaign even began. For the first time in 30 years, the Republicans had ignored the moderate leaders of their party and had nominated a hard-line conservative for president--Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona. As Goldwater himself admitted, "I'm not even sure I've got the brains to be president." He had spent a year and a half at the University of Arizona, but he had got his real education in the front office of his family's department store. There Barry distinguished himself with his clever sales ideas, most notably, men's shorts decorated with red ants and marketed as "Antsy Pants." The grandson of a Jewish merchant, Barry worked hard to portray himself as an all-American frontiersman. He wore Navaho tattoos on his left hand, and the pride and joy of his desert home was an electronic gadget that automatically raised the Stars and Stripes every day at dawn and hauled it down again at sunset. An amiable, generally easygoing man, Goldwater referred to campaigning as "pooping around" and showed little driving ambition for the white House. "It certainly wasn't something that was burning a hole in me," he recalled later. Nevertheless, right-wing activists across the country had come to see Goldwater as their spokesman, and long before the election they began working to make him the Republican candidate. Though Goldwater's showing in the primaries was mediocre, his supporters managed to take over the party machinery at the grass-roots level, and at the Republican convention the Arizona senator was nominated on the first ballot. In his acceptance speech, rather than reassuring the millions of Americans who were worried about his extreme stands, Goldwater declared: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." During the campaign that followed, Goldwater lashed out at the basic assumptions of American liberalism. "The trouble with the so-called liberal today," he said, "is that he doesn't understand straightforward simplicity. The answers to America's problems are simple." Among the simple solutions favored by Goldwater were a full-scale invasion of Cuba, the use of "tactical" nuclear weapons in Vietnam, and the dismantling of the Social Security system. With his insistent demands that the U.S. press on to "victory" over the Communist slavemasters, Goldwater raised the frightening specter of nuclear holocaust and played directly into Johnson's hands. In a campaign appearance in late October, LBJ defined the key issue in the election with typical eloquence: "So you are going to have to select the man whose thumb will be close to that button. You are going to have to select the man who will answer that telephone, that hot line from Moscow, when that bell starts jingling, ting-a-ling-a-ling, and they say, 'Moscow is calling.' You are going to have to select the president, and you have only one president." Unabashedly billing himself as the peace candidate, Johnson promised the people there would be "no wider war" in Vietnam.

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