Lessons Learned: LBJ Announces He Will Not Seek Reelection

Lessons Learned: LBJ Announces He Will Not Seek Reelection

March 27, 2012 11:33 pm (EST)

Lessons Learned: LBJ Announces He Will Not Seek Reelection
Explainer Video
from The Water's Edge

In a televised speech on March 31, 1968, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection. Johnson’s decision was in large part a consequence of declining public support for his policies in the Vietnam War. The Tet Offensive, a massive assault in late January 1968 by North Vietnamese forces on South Vietnam, contradicted the Johnson administration’s assertions of progress in Vietnam and further undermined Johnson’s credibility. As challenges from other members of his party--including Senators Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy--began to mount in the Democratic primary, Johnson chose not to run again.

More From Our Experts

James M. Lindsay, CFR’s senior vice president and director of studies, argues that Johnson’s decision serves as a reminder that "foreign policy may not make a presidency, but it certainly can break one." Many other presidents have faced stiff criticism for their foreign policies, Lindsay says, including Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush. Their experiences, he argues, raise the question of why presidents are "so eager to pursue an activist foreign policy when history suggests that it so often hurts them politically."

More on:

United States

Heads of State and Government

Political History and Theory

This video is part of Lessons Learned, a series dedicated to exploring historical events and examining their meaning in the context of foreign relations today.

More From Our Experts

More on:

United States

Heads of State and Government

Political History and Theory

Close

Top Stories on CFR

 

Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Michael Krepon, cofounder of and distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the rise, demise, and possible revival of arms control efforts across the globe.

United States

Temporary protected status has long been used as a humanitarian solution for migrants who are unable to return home safely, but efforts to end the program have reignited the debate around U.S. immigration policy.