Aides to President Lyndon Johnson say they are outraged by a new book that depicts LBJ as tormented by paranoia during escalation of the Vietnam War, with one calling the claim "vicious exploitation to make a fast buck."
In the book, titled "Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties," Richard N. Goodwin, a special assistant at the White House in 1964 and 1965, wrote that Johnson displayed irrational distrust of blacks and Sen. Robert Kennedy.Goodwin, whose book is to be published next month, said Johnson once remarked that he thought communists were taking over America, that Kennedy had Martin Luther King on his payroll and that the New York senator was trying to cash in politically on race riots.
Goodwin's characterization of the late president was criticized by Liz Carpenter, who was press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson.
"I'm indignant that an erratic yet talented aide to LBJ would put out this garbage," Carpenter said Sunday in Austin, Texas. "It was an anxious time for him (Johnson). But to distort that anxiety into something more sinister is a most vicious kind of exploitation to make a fast buck. None of us saw anything that was any sign of paranoia, and I think you'll find that down the line."
Former Secretary of State Dean Rusk also dismissed the allegations. "I think those observations are more reflective on Mr. Goodwin than on Mr. Johnson," Rusk said Sunday from his home in Athens, Ga. "In short, I believe they are unworthy of consideration."
Former Johnson aide Jack Valenti said Sunday he read proofs of the book and denounced Goodwin in a letter to the author.
"I just pointed out to Dick that I thought this was a fable that he had concocted and had no basis in fact, as well he knew," said Valenti, now president of the Motion Picture Association of America in Washington. "I suggested to him that I thought this was all part of an assertion that he put in this book that I thought was calculated just to sell more books."