In A Nutshell
Lyndon B. Johnson, our 36th president, was well known for getting things done and doing them fast. Within a day of becoming President, he ordered that the entire phone system in the White House be expanded so that calls could be made from absolutely anywhere . . . including the bathroom. But those weren’t the only conversations that were had on the crapper. He was notorious for having reporters and aides follow him into the bathroom where he would then conduct two kinds of business at once.
The Whole Bushel
President Johnson did not mess around. He was constantly on the telephone, making dozens of calls every day, and was known for using more than one phone at a time. Apparently he wanted to get some serious talking done, because nowhere was off limits for conversation. Rather than put a conversation on hold, he would have reporters and aides follow him into the bathroom where the dialogue was supposed to continue. Needless to say this often inspired discomfort.
Johnson is reported to have had conversations while exposing his genitals, urinating in the sink, and sitting on the toilet, but as far as the observers could tell, it never caused him any embarrassment. Some presume that his actions stemmed from a desire to show his power and to put others in an awkward position so that he could better control the conversation. Possibly he simply didn’t want to stop talking.
But surely the President wouldn’t behave this way in front of women or influential people . . . right? Wrong. Presidential historian and former White House aide Doris Kearns Goodwin remembers not only regularly accompanying him to the restroom, but also his criticism of his National Security Advisor’s response when asked to accompany him in a similar manner. Apparently extremely uncomfortable with the situation, McGeorge Bundy stood in the farthest corner of the bathroom with his back toward Johnson. The president, dissatisfied with the speaking arrangements, said, “Come closer, come closer.” Bundy complied, and Johnson later remarked, “I thought he was going to sit on my lap! Hasn’t that guy ever been in the Army?”
Whatever his reasons, it was something that appears to be entirely unique to LBJ. There are no records of any other American president doing such a thing. It seems bizarre, but hey, if you were the leader of the most powerful nation in the world . . .