Power, Politics, and the Presidency in America's Year of Upheaval
Cambridge University Press 2018
It was a year that at times left Lyndon Johnson feeling as though he was living in a continuous nightmare. Yet as Kyle Longley describes in his book LBJ’s 1968: Power, Politics, and the Presidency in America’s Year of Upheaval (Cambridge University Press, 2018), it was one in which he continued to engage with the many challenges confronting his presidency as he finished his term in office. That it would be his last year as president was not certain at the beginning of it, as he was expected by everyone to run for another term in the upcoming presidential election. Yet as Longley explains, health concerns and the divisions caused by the Vietnam War led Johnson to contemplate announcing during the State of the Union address that he would not seek another term. Even after he made his decision official in March, he continued to pursue an ambitious agenda that included new Great Society legislation, arms negotiations with the Soviets, and the nomination of his friend Abe Fortas as the next chief justice of the Supreme Court. Longley shows how a combination of Johnson’s lame duck status and events beyond his control often combined to frustrate his intentions, while his desire to avoid a scandal by not publicizing information about the Nixon campaign’s interference in the ongoing negotiations to end the war in Vietnam only paved the way for the even greater political crises in his successor’s administration.