I lost the copy of the LBJ book that my BFF gave me for my birthday. I’m sure ti will turn up somewhere – in a suitcase or tote bag or maybe it fell behind the dryer. In the meantime, I’m rereading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. This is a totally different kind of book than the Caro tomes – Kearns paints a portrait of a human being rather than a historical figure, but it’s a giant-sized human being who is more like a force of nature than a mere man.
There’s so much that I’m drawn to about his personality and right in the first pages of the prologue is one more reason: he was a Fresca fan.
Here’s a charming little anecdote about LBJ’s Fresca Summit in the White House. It’s billed as “a great Kennedy (no not that one) anecdote” but it’s really a story about LBJ’s skill at dominating the room.
Burke and Ted prepared their presentation for Johnson and then sat with him in the Oval Office. As Ted began his remarks about the failure of the United States to win over hearts and minds of the Vietnamese, Johnson cut him off.
“Now wait a minute, Teddy,” the president drawled. “There’s no need to rush on this. There was something I wanted to ask you first, and then we can get down to what you wanted to say.”
“Teddy,” Johnson said, pausing for effect. “Do you want a Fresca?”
“Um, no thank you, Mr. President,” Ted stammered.
As Ted tried once more to deliver his report, Johnson again interrupted and turned to Burke. “Dave, would you like a Fresca?”
“No thank you, Mr. President.”
“Well, I’m going to have a Fresca,” the leader of the free world announced. Then he turned to look at his butler, who was holding a silver beverage tray. “I’ll ask you again, Dave, are you going to have a Fresca with your president? We’d enjoy it.”
Burke caved. “Yes, Mr. President, I’ll have a Fresca.”
Johnson smiled. “Good, good. Now that’s good.” He turned to his butler. “David and I will have a Fresca.” He waited several beats before adding, “Teddy doesn’t want one.”
FYI – he also loved tapioca pudding. As do I.