Saturday, November 10, 2007


Domestic Pressures

Lyndon Johnson was a President unusually sensitive to the domestic impact of his foreign policy decisions. In 1964, he prolonged and inflamed crises with Panama and Cuba lest he appear weak in the run-up to the election. In 1965, his desire for “guns and butter” in part dictated his strategy regarding the Americanization of the Vietnam War.

So it came as little surprise that the President was concerned with how Middle Eastern affairs played on the domestic front. In this clip from a Dirksen call, Johnson complained about how American Jews such as Goldberg and New York senator Jacob Javits were poor representatives for the Israeli cause.

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Everett Dirksen: They read me a long cable tonight, that covered that [Saudi King] Faisal meeting.

President Johnson: Well, I have that. We got that in our intelligence. It was very good. His people told it to us, too. And the Kuwaits [sic] have been pretty good.

Dirksen: Yeah. So they have.

President Johnson: The Arabs cannot unify behind anything ever except the Jews.

Dirksen: Well, now—

President Johnson: And if the goddamn Jews had behaved, and be quiet, and let you talk for them or let [Majority Leader Mike] Mansfield talk for them, or let somebody else—instead of Goldberg and [New York senator Jacob] Javits and all them . . .

That just sets them afire when they get up—

Dirksen: Yeah.

President Johnson: They just get afire.

Dirksen: By the way, you didn’t forget to tell [Undersecretary of State] Nick [Katzenbach] to get on Jack [unclear], did you?

President Johnson: I told Nick to come talk to you, and get your judgments on it. He’s not for the resolution.

Dirksen: No.

President Johnson: He thinks we oughtn’t to have any resolution.

Dirksen: Yeah. Well, Jack [Javits] was working like a goddamn eager beaver, you know.

President Johnson: Well, he wants to, and I can understand his concern. I’d be worried if it was Texans. But it’s not wise. That’s not the best thing,

Dirksen: Yeah.

President Johnson: Because somebody else . . . You know, it’s a man that’s a fool that is his own lawyer.

Dirksen: Yeah. But the hell of it is you can’t talk him out of it when he gets these ideas. And then he just scours that goddamn [Senate] floor.

President Johnson: Yeah.

Dirksen: Saying, “Will you join with me in this resolution?”

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