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If I were President Johnson, I would probably open my speech with a line attributed to his wife in the film, "The Path to War." Over a dinner conversation she argues, "When eloquence of words is not enough, perhaps eloquence in action is the only path to take." I paraphrased it for the speech, but opening with these words would be a good way for me to conclude that I cannot run for the nomination for the office of President. I think I would point to the fact that the severe divisions in the country caused by the war's escalation had to give way to some aspect of healing and cohesion. If this could be done with my (President Johnson's) refusal to seek another term, I would certainly do so. The anti- war call had been heard all over the nation and my Presidency might have become the referendum on the war.
Having said all of this, I think that a case can be made if it were told that Nixon would have won the election. The bombing and expansion of the war under Nixon's rule was actually not that much different than President Johnson's. At the time, it looked like Robert Kennedy would have mobilized the anti- war and youth vote and emerged into office. Certainly, Johnson must have known this. At the same time, it could be argued that Johnson might have wanted out entirely, and the election of 1968 was a perfect storm type of moment where not seeking another term was the easiest way to extricate himself from a nearly impossible situation with American involvement in Vietnam.
More than anything, I'd have to say LBJ's health would be the main reason I wouldn't run again if I were him. Besides having lived a quite unhealthy life with a lot of alcohol and cigarettes, the stress and tension of the Vietnam War and the Tet Offensive having turned the nation against the conflict were more or less killing him. The Vietnam War itself was such an intractable quagmire, that I would have felt honor-bound to resign had I been the one to escalate our involvement there.
That being said, he left the Democrats in a heck of a bind, ten months before the general election without an incumbent. So if it were any other reason besides the two I've stated, I would have stayed in the race and rode it to the finish line.
Note that he died only five years after announcing he would not run again. I don't think he ever got over his role at getting us into that war, despite his best intentions and his other very notable achievements.
I have to agree with Pres. Johnson's decision not to run in 1968. Things were going so badly with the Vietnam War and with the way things were in the US in general that I think his running would have been pretty pointless.
If I were him, I would have given a speech saying that my presence in the race would have been too divisive for the nation. I would have said that it was time for someone with fresh ideas and, more importantly, a fresh start to step in. I would say that I had too much "baggage" to be able to make a new start either in Vietnam or in domestic policy.
So the essence of my speech would have been that America needs a fresh start. I'd say that I didn't think my policies were wrong, but that the US at least needed a new face to be put on those policies. I would say that I owed it to the US to let a fresh face step in.
My fellow Americans,
I will run for re-election. I am energetic and forceful. I have spent thirty years in Congress, so I know something about working with politicians, and I knew how to manage them. I easily got Kennedy’s tax cut passed and, by putting pressure on northern Republicans, succeeded in gaining passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, banning all public segregation and protecting voting rights.
I chose to make America’s persistent poverty my own special issue. I had Congress pass a variety of programs in my “war on poverty” in 1964. The programs generally encouraged self-help and reduced poverty by a significant degree. When the Republicans ran Barry Goldwater, an outspoken conservative, to oppose me in 1964, the result was a Democratic landslide.
I acted quickly to get Congress to enact Medicare and Medicaid and to pump over $1 billion into education. After one of King’s demonstrations in Selma, Alabama, was attacked brutally by the police, I sent help to the blacks and asked Congress for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This act led to a dramatic increase in black voters.
In nine months, I had accomplished more than any president since Roosevelt and had moved the nation beyond the New Deal. I also promise to end the War in Vietnam. I, and the country, need your vote.
Thank you and God Bless America!
If I were Lyndon Johnson I would not have run for re-election in 1968 but I would have in 1964. Johnson was an unsure candidate when he gained the presidency. He also had to follow behind one of the most beloved presidents America had. However, he quickly stepped in to continue on with the projects that President Kennedy had established before his death, a new civil rights bill and a tax cut for citizens.
Johnson also did many things by his own venture. He called on Congress to help to establish a better America by setting up The Great Society Program. He also focused on ending communist aggression in Vietnam and segregation in America.
By 1968 Johnson found himself losing the battle against communism and the Vietnam War getting out of control. In addition there were serious issues having to do with the ghettos and racism in America. He had lost favor of the American people and would not have won.
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