A year that made the present seem tranquil

Troops were on patrol as protests and arson roiled Washington after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

NO ONE IN THE LOOP—INCLUDING, ALMOST surely, the man himself—was sure he would really do it. On March 31, 1968, Lyndon B. Johnson was scheduled to address the nation about the Vietnam War at 9 p.m. He had drafted a short section for the end of the speech announcing that he would not seek re-election in November. The President had talked about it with family and a few advisers, but the circle of trust was small after more than four years of tumult and war. As political a man who ever drew breath, Johnson kept his options open through the afternoon hours. At one point, the President stopped in his aide Marvin Watson’s office to talk about the race with Terry Sanford, the former North Carolina governor who had agreed to manage the 1968 campaign. “After spending all day at the White House,” recalled Johnson

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