LBJ or Woodrow?
Recurring dream, July-Sept. 1955 and again Feb-March 1968, by Lyndon Baines Johnson, as told to Doris Kearns
Johnson claimed he dreamt [this] repeatedly for several months after his heart attack in 1955 and then again after North Vietnam's Tet offensive in 1968. In these dreams... Johnson had become Woodrow Wilson, the President he once characterized as "too intellectual" and "too idealist" for the people's good...
He began dreaming again the dream of paralysis that had haunted him since early childhood. Only this time he was lying in a bed in the Red Room of the White House, instead of sitting in a chair in the middle of the open plains. His head was still his, but from the neck down his body was the thin, paralyzed body that had been the affiiction of both Woodrow Wilson and his own grandmother in their final years. All his presidential assistants were in the next room. He could hear them actively fighting with one another to divide up his power: Joe Califano wanted the legislative program; Walt Rostow wanted the decisions on foreign policy; Arthur Okun wanted to formulate the budget; and George Christian wanted to handle relations with the public. He could hear them, but he could not command them, for he could neither talk nor walk. He was sick and stilled, but not a single aide tried to protect him.The dream terrified Johnson, waking from his sleep. Lying in the dark, he could find no peace until he got out of bed, and, by the light of a small flashlight, walked the halls of the White House to the place where Woodrow Wilson's portrait hung. He found something soothing in the act of touching Wilson's picture; he could sleep again. He was still Lyndon Johnson, and he was still alive and moving; it was Woodrow Wilson who was dead. This ritual, however, brought little lasting peace; when morning came, Johnson's mind was again filled with fear. Only gradually did he recognize the resemblance between this dream and the stampede dream of his boyhood. Making the connection, his fears intensified; he was certain now that paralysis was his inevitable fate. Remembering his family's history of early strokes, he convinced himself that he, too, would suffer a stroke in his next term. Immobilized, still in office nominally, yet not actually in control: this seemed to Johnson the worst situation imaginable...
Source: Doris Kearns, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, pp 34 & 342.
[LBJ began drafting an announcement stating he wouldn't run for re-election, though he waffled about it for weeks, finally announcing his decision to bow out on March 31, 1968--Ed.]
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