• U.S.

The Presidency: Patient on The Move

2 minute read


Two weeks after his throat and abdomen surgery, Lyndon Johnson was an uncommonly active convalescent. When Mexican President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz invited him to fly down from the L.B.J. ranch to join in an inspection of the $78 million Amistad (Friendship) Dam, which the U.S. and Mexico are building on the Rio Grande, Johnson accepted in a twinkling. Meeting Díaz Ordaz in the middle of a bridge spanning the river, he exchanged abrazos with him, then helicoptered to the dam site. In a speech on the Mexican side, Johnson declared that the binational project, which will provide flood control and irrigation for the upper Rio Grande system, “sets a pattern which I hope will be increasingly repeated by neighboring countries throughout the hemisphere.”

Earlier in the week, Johnson showed familiar signs of restlessness. Though doctors had advised him not to drive for three weeks, he led the press corps on an hour-long auto chase around tiny Fredericksburg, Texas, after church services. Later, he grew lonesome at the ranch, began commuting 65 miles daily by JetStar to Austin. There he worked for the first time in memory in the ten-room office suite built for him two years ago atop Austin’s new federal building—a layout which the G.O.P. branded his Texas Taj Mahal. For all his exertions—or was it because of them?—Johnson looked in fine fettle. His only complaint was a sty on his left eyelid, which aides ascribed to too much Texas wind and dust.

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