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    Anecdotal Observations On History & Politics

    Entries in LBJ (8)


    Hilarious LBJ Animation

    It's about ordering custom pants. Based on a true story:

    Choosing Not To Run

    Since 1900, only four presidents have decided not to run for an additional term even though they were constitutionally entitled to do so. What did they all have in common? They each assumed the presidency from the vice presidency, following the death of the president. Even after term limits were imposed after FDR, Presidents were allowed two "full" terms, but those who had served the end of a previous chief executive always declined. 

    Teddy Roosevelt assumed the presidency upon the assassination of William McKinley, who was only six months into his second term. Completing the majority of McKinley's first term, he was elected on his own right in 1904 but in 1908 he declined to seek reelection after flirting with the idea of exceeding the two term precedent and running for a third. In a 1908 letter TR said, "if I had conscientiously felt at liberty to run again and try once more to hold this great office, I should greatly have liked to do so and keep my hands on the levers of this mighty machine." TR served 7 1/2 years total. 

    Calvin Coolidge became president in 1923 after the death of Warren Harding, near the close of Harding's first term. Coolidge was then elected in 1924 and on the anniversary of the day he ascended to the Presidency he said, "It's four years ago today since I became president, if I take another term, I will be in the White House till 1933... Ten years in Washington is longer than any other man has had it -- too long!" Coolidge was characteristically understated in his announcement that he would not run in 1928. He wrote "I do not chose to run for president in 1928" on a single piece of paper, then had his short quote duplicated on several sheets that he personally cut into thin strips and then distributed to the press one by one, declining to give more information. He was president for 5 1/2 years. 

    When Franklin Roosevelt died in April 1945, Harry S. Truman took the office about a year into FDR's fourth term. He squeaked out a victory in 1948 against Thomas Dewey, but by 1952 his approval ratings had reached all time lows for the office, around 22%. His name was on the ballot in the New Hampshire Primary of 1952, but he lost to Estes Kefauver, a huge blow to a sitting president. While he denied it, the defeat likely contributed to his decision soon thereafter not to run. Truman was president for 7 years. 

    Lyndon Johnson became president after the assisination of JFK in November of 1963, completing the last year of Kennedy's term. His overwhelming election in 1964 bode well for him, however he would find his presidency in dire straits by 1968. Civil unrest, the unpopularity of the war in Vietnam and the emergence of peacenik candidates Eugene McCarthy and JFK's brother Robert Kennedy contributed to his decision to withdraw from the race in late March of 1968. On TV he famously declared, "I will not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president." However, by the Democratic Convention LBJ momentarily regretted his decision to bow out and considered rejoining the race because Hubert Humphrey, the apparent party nominee, was doing so poorly in national polls. Toying with the idea, LBJ shocked his intimates and baffled Humphrey, who felt that the President was selling him out to run in his stead. When a Harris poll showed Johnson running behind Nixon in a general election, he finally decided against it. LBJ was president for 5 1/2 years.


    FDR and the Legacy of the White House Pool 

    Few Americans in the 30's and 40's knew that President Franklin Roosevelt, who suffered from polio, was a paraplegic who was unable to walk without assistance during his administration. They knew he was handicapped, but he was never shown in his wheelchair and he always projected a robust image of himself. 

    The reality of his condition was much more grievous, both physically and mentally -- his battle with polio was brilliantly depicted by Kenneth Branagh in the HBO film "Warm Springs", viewable below:

    A pool was installed in the White House in 1933 to allow the President to exercise regularly. Housed between the White House and the West Wing, the room had french doors which opened to the rose garden. Below are photos and a rare article detailing FDR's workout routine projecting him as being in prime physical shape and as an avid swimmer. 

    Subsequent presidents also used the pool, Harry Truman swam laps while wearing his eyeglasses, but JFK got more use of it than any other -- he even remodeled the room, putting up a mural of a tropical paradise along the walls, painted by Bernard LaMotte:

    Aside from swimming nearly every day at noon, author Seymour Hersh asserted that the pool was allegedly a convenient place for skinny dipping and sexual escapades with numerous women, including Marilyn Monroe. One such event that Hersh detailed was an incident when First Lady Jackie Kennedy was en route back to the White House. Her pending arrival went unannounced causing the secret service to scramble into the pool room to evacuate the President, and his guests. Upon exiting with little time to spare, JFK is said to have handed off his bloody mary to the agent, merely saying "here, take this."

    Similar claims were corrobarated by former White House intern, Mimi Alford Beardsley, in her book "Once Upon A Secret".

    Lyndon Johnson used the pool following Kennedy:

    Motivated by his distain for Kennedy, Richard Nixon paved over the pool in 1970 to create a press room in the space, which remains to this day.

    Upon taking office, Gerald Ford had an outdoor swimming pool installed, which he showed to members of the press in 1975:

    Here, Ford's daughter Susan helps her father take a dive:

    More on the outdoor pool here.


    LBJ's Dirty Mouth

    In the wake of Rahm Emmanuel's resignation at the beginning of the month, it may be appropriate to look back at politician who may have had a dirtier mouth than Rahm's. Lyndon Baines Johnson was infamous for strong arming, intimidation tactics and perhaps more graphic storytelling than was necessary for a President. See the precarious situation he describes in the below audio clip (listeners beware):

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