• U.S.

The Presidency: ‘Formidable! Formidable!

4 minute read


To the White House last week came the first state visitor since President Johnson’s inauguration. He was little (5 ft. 6 in.) Maurice Yameogo, President of the little (105,900 sq. mi.), new nation of Upper Volta. Yameogo, 43, came to Washington a fan of Abraham Lincoln; he left a fan of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Yameogo’s landlocked West African country, one of the smallest and poorest of Africa’s new nations, has about 4,500,000 inhabitants, whose yearly per capita income is only $50. Once part of French West Africa, Upper Volta gained its independence in 1960 and elected Yameogo, then 38, its first President. A staunch U.S. ally in the presence of such powerful anti-U.S. neighbors as Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Yameogo did not come seeking more U.S. aid (Upper Volta gets about $1,000,000 a year), simply wanted to reassure Johnson that Upper Volta and the other moderate, new African nations continue to hold the U.S. in high esteem. For his pains, Yameogo received red-carpet treatment, including a 21-gun-salute welcome on the White House south lawn, where Johnson praised him as a leader who had “steadfastly and wisely denied comfort to those who would subvert the hard-won freedom” of Africa.

That night, Lyndon and Lady Bird threw a glittering state dinner for the Upper Voltan President and his wife. Afterward, the guests adjourned to the East Room for some entertainment cooked up by Johnson especially for American-Indian Student Yameogo. There, decked out in everything from buffalo hides (with horns) to loincloths, were 35 Indians representing 14 American tribes, who whooped, chanted and clanged their way through five primitive dances—all to Yameogo’s obvious delight.

Toward evening’s end, Johnson hustled his guests into a waiting limousine, sped through the almost deserted, post-midnight Washington streets to the Lincoln Memorial. Aware that Yameogo wanted especially to see the shrine, Johnson ordered that the spotlight illuminating the seated Lincoln figure be left on. As a Secret Serviceman beamed a flashlight, Johnson escorted the Yameogos up the stairs and into the memorial. There they paused, as Yameogo caught his first glimpse of the massive, brooding figure. “Formidable! Formidable!,” he whispered in French. On the trip back to Blair House, Yameogo and Johnson quoted to each other passages from Lincoln’s Gettysburg and second inaugural addresses. Last week the President also:

> Disclosed that he recently had to borrow money to help pay his 1964 federal income tax as well as the first quarter estimate on his 1965 tax, both of which totaled some $100,000. As President, Johnson receives a taxable salary of $100,000, along with a taxable expense account of $50,000. After standard deductions, the tax on the combined $150,000 would equal about $79,466, which means that Johnson, like many of his predecessors, does not necessarily have to depend on his salary for a living.

> Prepared to send to Congress a sugar-sweet farm bill that would give U.S. farmers a $100 million-a-year income boost. Under the measure, federal farm spending would fall by $200 million annually, but consumer prices of bread, bakery products, flour and rice would rise by an estimated $300 million, in effect, shifting part of the cost of the $3 billion-a-year farm program from the Government to the housewife. To accomplish this, Johnson proposes raising the support price for wheat grown for domestic use from $2 to $2.50 a bushel. Farmers who comply with acreage requirements would receive a $1.25-a-bushel support payment direct from the government, just as they do now. The remainder of the payment would be borne by flour millers, who currently pay the government a 750-a-bushel grinding fee and, under the new plan, would be charged $1.25 instead—and could be expected to pass on the cost hike to the consumer. Beyond that, the bill calls for extension of both the feed-grains and wool-stabilization programs with modifications, also a new rice-support program similar to that for wheat, and a cropland-retirement plan designed to remove 40,000,000 acres from production within five years.

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