THE 36th President of the U.S. and the man who will be No. 37 are two of the most pugnacious politicians of their generation. Yet both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon seemed determined last week to avoid the rancor that has so often accompanied the transfer of power.

If they succeed, it will be quite an achievement. In the 1932-33 interregnum, relations between Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt were frosty, though the nation was already deep in the Depression. Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower did somewhat better 20 years later, but not much. In...

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