It seems all Presidents, not just Donald Trump, are endlessly fixated on “How am I doing? Do the people worship me?” Early in his political career, Lyndon Johnson squeaked out a 1948 Senate primary victory with a scant 87 votes; Republicans scornfully dubbed him “Landslide Lyndon.” That so galled him he viciously ran up the Presidential vote against Goldwater, and spent four White House years obsessing over his polls. Humorist Art Buchwald took a cute jab at him with this 1966 column.
Now that President Johnson’s operation on his throat has been so successful, I can reveal the reason the President decided to have it done.
It has been no secret that the President’s popularity has been slipping. Despite the fact that he had got more legislation through than any other President and although the country was riding its greatest wave of prosperity, many people seemed to be voicing suspicions of their leader. The President, who rules by consensus, was smart enough to know that something had to be done. But what?
He called in all his advisors just before he left for Manila and laid it on the line. He wanted them to speak frankly and make any suggestions that they thought would make the people love him again.
One advisor said, “I think we should put more stress on presenting you as a statesman and less on the fact that you’re trying to think of new ways of spending the taxpayers’ money.”
Another advisor said, “Mr. President, your popularity was at its height when Luci got married. Couldn’t you arrange a Christmas wedding for Lynda?”
“Ah probably could,” the President said, “but that would give us all of 1967 with nothing to do.”
A third advisor said, “Mr. President, you asked us to speak frankly, and I will. A recent poll taken by Zlonk Brothers asked people what was the one thing that annoyed them the most about your television appearance, and seventy-three percent of those questioned said it was your Texas accent.”
“Well, what am Ah supposed to do about that?” the President said angrily.
“Now don’t get mad, Mr. President. I’m just quoting the poll. Perhaps if we could change your accent, we could change your image.”
“It’s a little late for that,” the President flushed.
“No, it isn’t, sir. There’s a doctor at Johns Hopkins who can perform a minor operation on your throat which could change your speech overnight. He can give you any accent you want.”
The President said, still angry, “And what accent do Ah want?”
“I was thinking of a New England accent, with perhaps a slight Harvard twang.”
“Never,” the President said, slamming his fist on the conference table. “Ah was born in Texas, raised in Texas, and Ah love Texas.”
Just then an advisor came in with the latest popularity polls. They revealed the President had slipped two percentage points.
The President studied the polls for several minutes and then said, “Will the operation hurt?”
“No, sir. It’s just like having a polyp removed. I assure you, sir, with your dynamism and a New England accent, you’ll be unbeatable.”
“What about Lady Bird?”
“People like her accent, so she won’t have to do a thing.”
“Of course,” another advisor said, “if you did have the operation, you’d have to sell the ranch.”
“Then where would Ah go on vacation?” the President shouted.
“They say Hyannis Port is very nice in the summertime.”
“All right, all right. But if it doesn’t work, there’s going to be some very sorry people around here.”
“Don’t worry, it will work, Mr. President, and I can’t wait to see the expression on Bobby and Teddy’s faces when you give your State of the Union Message to Congress in January of next year.”