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Nixon’s War 5

Stiffened by messages, Thieu balked at sending diplomats to Paris until four days before Nixon’s inauguration on January 20, 1969. His pretext was alleged displeasure with the seating accommodations for an expanded conference, which accorded formal rank to the Vietcong delegation. He directed Bui Diem to inform the lame-duck Johnson administration that “even the appearance” of the Vietcong as a ... Read More »

Nixon’s War 4

At the end of 1968, as Nixon prepared to move into the White House, these geopolitical considerations were still abstract speculations. To translate them into reality would require a diplomatic giant. By sheer impulse, he selected Henry Kissinger. Then forty-five, Kissinger personified human complexity—his characteristics ranging from brilliance and wit to sensitivity, melan¬choly, abrasiveness and savagery. As he adapted to ... Read More »

Nixon’s War 3

Humphrey’s supporters have contended for years that the Demo¬crats would have beaten Nixon had Johnson adopted a moderate po¬sition earlier. After all, Nixon and his running mate, Governor Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland, were to nose out Humphrey and his vice- presidential candidate, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, by only a half million votes—less than a 1 percent difference. But ... Read More »

Nixon’s War 2

On March 31, 1968, when Lyndon Johnson announced his decision to retire, he claimed that he wanted to withdraw from “the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year” in order to devote himself to a dispassionate quest for peace in Vietnam. As the race for the presidency gathered momentum, however, he began to feel that his abdication might ... Read More »

Nixon’s War

Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon shared several traits. Both of them, born and raised in lace-curtain obscurity, had clawed their way to prominence, often resorting to devious means to overcome obstacles. As Westerners, both oscillated be¬tween envy and disdain for the Ivy Leaguers from New York and Boston who supposedly comprised the power elite. And though both were seasoned politicians, ... Read More »

Tet 19

The scene in Johnson’s bedchamber that afternoon was tumultuous as Busby put the finishing touches on the most dramatic paragraphs of the speech—the president’s statement that he would not run for reelection. Johnson ambled around the room, talking almost contin¬ually on the telephone, trailing its long cord behind him and occa¬sionally using a free hand to play with his baby ... Read More »

Tet 18

“Somebody poisoned the well,” Johnson growled after his prom¬inent advisers had left. Infuriated, he ordered a search for the culprit. He called in two of the government specialists who had briefed the group, and instructed them to replay their comments to him. But he could not locate Habib, who had shrewdly left town. In his memoirs, however, Johnson conceded that ... Read More »

Tet 17

It was a measure of Johnson’s sense of his own inadequacy that, for all his crude populist affectations, he curried the respect and admiration of the Eastern establishment—the distinguished group that alternated between prestigious public positions and lucrative private pursuits. So he consented to Clifford’s proposal to reconvene the “wise men.” But it was also a reflection of Clifford’s conspiratorial ... Read More »

Tet 16

The results were staggering. Of the fifty thousand votes cast for the Democratic party contenders, McCarthy received only three hundred fewer than Johnson. A maverick senator had successfully defied an incumbent president and master politician in a performance that electrified the country. Interestingly, though, New Hampshire citizens had strongly endorsed McCarthy as a protest against Johnson rather than as a ... Read More »

Tet 15

At that stage, Rusk approached him with an idea. Rusk, primarily pained by the gloomy mood at home, had come to believe that Amer¬ica’s confidence in the president’s policies might be restored by cur¬tailing the bombing of North Vietnam as a prerequisite to inviting the Communists to negotiate. If they agreed, Johnson would be seen as an apostle of peace; ... Read More »