Born on August 27, 1908 in Stonewall, Texas, both sides of his family were political, but Johnson did not come from wealth. Like most people in the Texas hill country, he had a Baptist background and grew up around preachers and teachers. Both his father and his paternal grandfather served in the Texas House of Representatives.
After his graduation from Southwest Texas State Teachers College, Johnson taught school for two years. He went to Washington in 1932 as secretary to Representative Richard M. Kleberg (D.-Texas). During this time, he married Claudia Alta Taylor, known as “Lady Bird”. They had two children, Lynda Bird and Luci Baines. Johnson notoriously used his position to work his way into positions of power and influence. He was more of a politician than the Congressman he worked for. An unabashed New Deal Democrat, he made contacts within the Roosevelt Administration. In Texas he became administrator for the National Youth Administration. Two years later, he was elected to Congress as an all-out supporter of Roosevelt, serving until 1949. He was the first member of Congress to enlist in the armed forces after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was in the Navy in the Pacific and "won" a Silver Star. In reality, he saw no combat and his "service" was a sham
Johnson was elected to the Senate in 1948 after he had captured the Democratic nomination by only 87 votes. Charges of flagrant voter irregularity surrounded the 1948 election. He knew how to manipulate the system. In those pre-computer days, especially after the war in which many Texans had died in Europe and the Pacific, there were huge numbers of "tombstone votes." Johnson had mastered the art of getting multiple votes from dead people. It was this tactic which was used to give the Kennedy-Johnson ticket the edge in Texas over Nixon 12 years later.
In five short years, Johnson emerged as the Senate Democrat leader, in 1953. He suffered a heart attack in 1955 but recovered fully. He was possibly the most powerful Senate Majority Leader in U.S. history. Johnson worked constantly. He strong-armed opponents and allies in a manner never before seen.
At the height of his power as Senate leader, Johnson sought the Democrat nomination for President in 1960. He entered the Primaries as the favorite and gave short shrift to Kennedy, who he considered a pretty boy with absolutely no record. But in the television age, Kennedy's looks and charisma won out amongst Democrat voters. When he lost, LBJ surprised even some of his closest associates by accepting second place on the ticket.
Johnson was riding in another car in the motorcade when Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963. He took the oath of office in the Presidential jet at Dallas' Love Airfield.
Under his stewardship, Congress finally adopted a far-reaching civil-rights bill, a voting-rights bill, a Medicare program for the aged, and measures to improve education and conservation. Congress also began what Johnson described as “an all-out war” on poverty.
He garnered nearly 16 million votes in defeating Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona in 1964, one of the biggest landslides in history. It was a memorable and important election. Goldwater was the surprise Republican candidate. Nixon had been the presumptive head of the G.O.P., but had run for Governor of California in 1962. After being defeated by Edmund "Pat" Brown, Nixon had given his "last press conference," telling the press they "wouldn't have Nixon to kick around anymore." He effectively wrote what at the time was thought to be his political epitaph.
Nixon knew Kennedy would be re-elected in 1964 and never made any attempt to plan a campaign. When the President was shot, he calculated, correctly, that his successor would be invulnerable and continued to stay out of the race. The party favorite after Nixon was Nelson Rockefeller, scion of the oil tycoon and a man with virtually unlimited monetary resources.
Elected Governor of New York in 1958, Rockefeller was a moderate in a party that was being split between the old school Easterners and a new class of "young Turks" from the Western states. Post-World War II suburban sprawl and air conditioning had created an electoral juggernaut in the West. Nixon embodied the new breed; anti-Communist to the core, entrepreneurial, many of them appealing to the ranchers and cowboys that made up their constituencies.
One of this appealing new breed emerged Goldwater. A fighter pilot during the war, Goldwater was half-Jewish, but he worshipped in the Episcopalian Church and was appealing to the land-owing individualists of the Arizona sprawl. Goldwater was an avowed anti-Communist who warned of the dangers of that ideology every chance he got. He believed in low taxes to spur business and promote families. Prior to 1964, the conservative movement in America had been largely unorganized in the West, where voters felt conservative but their strength was not coalesced. The John Birch Society was a strong organization, but their main focus was fighting Communism. There was little political organization that addressed all the other areas of social and domestic policies.
William F. Buckley had written "God and Man at Yale", helped form the Conservative Party in New York that garnered many votes in the 1960s, and been part of the Young Americans for Freedom. But Eastern conservatives were still looked upon as a semi-cult, in part because much of their philosophy was based on an almost-mystical following of the objectivist novelist Ayn Rand. Rand had written "Atlas Shrugged". She toured the country giving seminars in which she compared Aristotle favorably to Plato, ostensibly because Aristotle was more in favor of free enterprise than his predecessor.
But Goldwater coalesced the large voting power of the West. His nomination was assured when California backed him, on the strength of the new, conservative base of suburban Orange County, just south of Los Angeles. Orange County, the birth place of Nixon and part of his old Congressional district, had sprung up almost over night from endless orange groves into clean, friendly, safe towns like Fullerton, Yorba Linda, Anaheim, Villa Park, Tustin, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, Newport Beach, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.
Disneyland had located itself there. It was a well-scrubbed place, filled with sunshine, pretty girls, and an endless strand of perfect surf beaches. Its new, modern houses were filled with large families. The high schools were new, great athletes seemed to fall from the trees, and the population was utterly invested in the American Dream. They were veterans of two wars, educated and full of hope that America would stop Communism as it had stopped Hitler. Naturally, they were the most solid Republican voting bloc in the nation.
Rockefeller had sunk millions of dollars of his personal money into the campaign, which was sleek and run like a well-oiled machine. But Goldwater had captured the spirit of the New America; an America that could not be broken up by Godlessness, drugs and the morally relative softness towards atheistic Communism. He had started the modern conservative movement. Orange County embodied it. It was Orange County that pushed him over the top in the primary, giving him the California delegation. Rockefeller's chances were also hurt by the fact that he had left his wife and married a new woman named "Happy", of all things. This hurt him with the conservative base.
Johnson immediately set out to destroy him. Goldwater had made a speech in which he had said that extremism in the name of liberty was not a vice. The Democrats twisted and perverted the phrase until they had convinced many Americans that Goldwater was an extreme racist who planned to plunge the country into an awful war.
Johnson ran an advertisement that showed a little girl picking daisies in a field, followed by the image of an atomic mushroom cloud. The controversial ad was meant to make voters fear that Goldwater would use nuclear weapons at a moment's notice. Goldwater ran ads that said, "In your heart, you know he's right." The Democrats twisted that into, "In your guts, you know he's nuts."
Johnson campaigned as a dove, promising to keep America out of a major Vietnamese War, which he said Goldwater would do. Once elected, Johnson did highly, precisely, and to quintessential effect, exactly what he said Goldwater would have done.
"Johnson ran on the premise that if I voted for Goldwater I'd get war," said Republicans. "I voted for Goldwater, and I got war."
Goldwater was a man of honor and integrity. He served in the Senate for years, gaining a reputation for bi-partisan cooperation that earned him the respect and friendship of many Democrats, and the devotion of Republicans. He did not go out of his way to second-guess Johnson with any "I told you so" comments. But had he been elected President in 1964, the chances are that he would have quickly escalated the war in Vietnam with a purpose and resolve that Johnson, forced to cater to the pacifist elements of the Left, was unable to do. Goldwater very likely would have called the Communists' bluff with a full-scale invasion of the North, followed by the encirclement, conquering and occupation of Hanoi. The Communists likely would have been as caught off guard as they were when Reagan upped the ante in the 1980s, resulting in their collapse a few short years later.
Goldwater could have accomplished this task in 1965. By the time Nixon was President in 1969, the political climate had changed. The Left had coalesced the students, the professors and the media, making the kind of bold offensives that were needed to win the war too risky because public support was lacking.
Instead of a Goldwater Presidency that might have been among the greatest in American history, Johnson presided over disunity. His other legacy is the Great Society, which was a larger coalition of his legislation in the areas of voting and civil rights; health care, affirmative action, housing and efforts to end racial prejudice and segregation.
Johnson had both houses of Congress on his side in 1965. He was carrying out the legacy of the beloved, slain Kennedy. He had the martyred President's brother there to urge passage. LBJ had the wind in his sails. He got everything he wanted. It was one of the most sweeping mandates in history, and a domestic victory that few Presidents have ever so completely attained.
38 years later, history is able to render its assessment of the Great Society. Like the New Deal, it can be said that its time had come, and at the heart of the Society was a noble purpose. But it was an experiment, with no practical road map, and no successful test case to demonstrate what it could accomplish and what it could not.
In 1965, a young sociologist named Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a paper for Johnson's Labor Department in which he pointed out a troubling trend among black families in the urban cities. Since World War II, when many blacks had moved to northern cities to work in the shipyards and in wartime factories, huge numbers of black children had been born out of wedlock. By the '60s, they were now making up a dangerous core of urban youth - dispossessed, prone to rioting, often career criminals, and not invested in America. Troubling high percentages of black men were not married to the women who bore their children, and had not made any effort to be a part of these new families. What made Moynihan's report so disturbing was that these facts represented not a phenomenon, but a new trend. Unless it was stopped, he predicted disaster for black America. Black America was no longer considered separate from the larger country. The new politics were that if it was a disaster for black America, it was a disaster for America.
After the Civil War, blacks had been freed, but once the Federal government ended Reconstruction in 1877, the white backlash in the South had been terrible. Scapegoating the former slaves as reasons for the Confederates' defeat, a de facto state of slavery existed for the better part of another century. Finally, in the 1950s with Brown, Little Rock, Jackie Robinson and the de-segregation of the military, blacks were beginning to attain real freedom. When this occurred, they began to travel more, and to branch out. Unfortunately, the result of this was the break-up of their families. Christianity and family had always been the thing that held blacks together throughout slavery and Jim Crow. Freedom broke these rocks of their society apart. This is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions.
Moynihan addressed the issue and used a controversial term, urging "benign neglect" as a government policy in the inner cities. What he meant was that government assistance would, in his view, turn the blacks into a dependent class. He pointed out that blacks had survived their worst crises through entrepreneurialism. They were farmers and small business owners, supplying their own communities with goods and services that the whites refused to provide for them. Out of this they had developed self-reliance, economic power, pride, and most important, family strength. A typical black-owned business was a family operation, with all the members pitching in for a common cause.
Moynihan feared that if government filled the needs of these small businesses, the fragile black economic base would crumble in the wake of handouts that, like Communism, had robbed people of their desire to work hard, produce and strive. His term, "benign neglect," did not mean to "neglect" blacks' needs, as his detractors said. Rather, it meant to augment the existing black base. Metaphorically, Moynihan wanted to put a safety net under the blacks, not lift them puppet-like by ropes from above.
Johnson's social engineers could not abide by the Moynihan view. At the heart of the Great Society was a victim mentality that refused to ascribe any blame or responsibility on the blacks. To acknowledge that millions of them had abandoned their families, and their off-spring were now doing the same thing, was a Politically Incorrect assessment long before that term came into being.
Rather, the powerful new mantra of the Left was that black plight had been caused by white prejudice, which could only be remedied by white, i.e., government largesse. The iron that stoked the fire was based on the emotional weight of guilt, as old as man and at the heart of Judeo-Christianity. While the fact that much black plight had been caused by white prejudice, the lessons of socialism were not yet learned. The Soviets and Chinese were still engaged in a massive PR campaign to convince the liberal West that their citizens were better educated and more productive than their capitalist counterparts. The concept that people should "hold their own weight," "pull themselves up by the bootstraps," and adhere to "personal responsibility," were considered the racist rants of Goldwater, his white Republicans and their lousy 39 percent of the vote.
The most frightening message that the Left strove to avoid in these pivotal hours of decision was that white prejudice had actually caused blacks to be productive. Out of hardship they had been forced to pull together. The idea that they had built businesses, provided services for their community, and maintained Christian faith in part because of Jim Crow simply could not be allowed.
A small number of blacks quickly realized the sham of the Great Society. Out of this was formed the Black Muslims. Led until his assassination by Malcolm X, the Black Muslims preached self-reliance, hard work and education. They adhered to the strong moral tenets of Islam, requiring them to avoid drugs and alcohol, and to abstain from adulterous sex in favor of marriage and family. Malcolm X had started off as a radical. He was taught Islam while serving a jail sentence. He had adopted it at first because it seemed to be the natural alternative to Christianity, the "white man's religion" that prayed to a "blonde-haired, blue-eyed God." Malcolm X had eschewed the Christian message of Dr. King. By 1965 had had a major change of heart. He now advocated working with Dr. King and the white community in a joint effort to bring all people together. His book, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X", is a classic, one of the finest books ever written and one that every schoolchild should be required to read and talk about at length.
Malcolm X would have been a great American. He was a man of growth, constantly evolving because he had an open mind and possessed real morality. For this, his own people assassinated him in 1965. The Black Muslim community still preaches self-reliance, education and hard work, and for this they should be commended. However, their leadership is utterly corrupt, filled with the vile hatred of America and Jews spewed forth by the despicable Louis Farrakhan. There is no reason this group should have made the determination to place itself on the margins. They have the power to do enormous good. Instead they represent more tragedy, their value outweighed by the cancer that spreads from within.
The other problem the Democrats had with Moynihan's message, and any attempt to inculcate self-reliance into the message of the black cause, was the dirty secret of liberalism. This "secret," of course, is now thankfully a well-known fact. In 1965 the strategy of the Left was political, not social. If blacks were set on the path to self-reliance in the new America, a country filled with as much promise and opportunity as any place on Earth, at a time when old racial barriers were coming down, then there would be an inevitable result. That result would be that enormous numbers of blacks would become successful. They would become rich entrepreneurs and businessmen. Their children would become doctors and lawyers. Education would be the cornerstone of their communities. They would develop into patriotic, invested members of the communities they lived in, and the country they thrived in. Their success would impress their white neighbors, who would lay down their old prejudices in favor of admiration.
All of this sounds great, but if the root of it was self-reliance, then these people would not feel the need to pay back the Democrat party. Worse, all of this success would mean that blacks would be more likely to love America, want their high tax bills lowered, thank God in church for their good fortune, and maintain good schools (mostly private) for their kids. God forbid any of that should happen, since all those concepts are family values, and family values are the basic tenets of, gulp, Republicans!
Johnson's people came up with a great catchphrase: War on poverty. Huge sums of the national treasure were spent trying to create equality in housing, jobs and civil rights. But it failed. Years after the war on poverty, the devastation of America's inner cities is testament to the simple, inescapable fact that Johnson's programs were the wrong approach.
Money spent on schooling has become a major debate. Conservatives suggest that a great deal of money spent on education is wasted in bureaucracy. Teachers unions have devoted themselves to job security above the student needs. Competitiveness, the bulwark of all good results, has been removed. Teachers need not compete to determine who is the better instructor. Schools need not compete to lure students. Students need not compete to move on. Everything in public education has been reduced to an outcome-based result in which the process of learning is replaced with a system designed to allow low achievers to success without their failures being compared to the successful students.
Home schooling and private education have been the successful conservative answer to the perils of public education.
Of all the bad liberal ideas of the Great Society, perhaps none was worse than busing. This concept entailed sending white kids from the suburbs to schools in the ghetto, and black and minority kids from the ghetto to schools in the suburbs. The minority kids certainly benefited from this system, getting the chance to go to clean, safe schools with better teachers. But the downside was horrendous. In essence, busing had the effect of families achieving the American Dream - a nice house in a safe neighborhood near good schools, the result of hard work and benefits earned - only to have the government penalize them for having the temerity of achieving things that contrasted with low achievers.
For black families who had worked their way out of the ghetto, it was a boondoggle in which, after all their efforts, they found their kids bused back to the neighborhoods they had escaped from. If busing was to work, the government should have simply built more schools in the suburbs and bused all the inner city kids in, without forcing white kids into the ghettos. But this would not have been a "fair" thing to do. It would have acknowledged that ghetto schools were bad, and the fiction of liberalism is that everything is "equal."
It should be acknowledged that somewhere in the racial politics of Johnson's Great Society is genuine hope. It was not entirely devised to enslave blacks to liberal prescriptions, and to create a 90 percent voting bloc. Johnson, the Southerner, deserves kudos for overseeing the first real governmental action since Reconstruction that addressed the plight of African-Americans. Furthermore, the rule of not judging history entirely by hindsight should be put into place here. It is only in viewing it through the lens of time that it fails. In understanding its failure, it is also instructive to note that Johnson's programs only passed because the Republicans got behind them by a large majority. Southern Democrats blocked all of it, and it was only with G.O.P. support that the Society came to be. Furthermore, many of the programs, which required years of study, staffing and development before they came into fruition, came into full enactment not under Johnson, but under Nixon.
Nixon, the conservative, was a politician living in, as the Chinese say, "interesting times." He was under pressure from the John Birch wing of the Republican party to disavow the Society, and he could have done so. But Nixon was not as socially conservative as his reputation might suggest. He did not benefit from Republican majorities in the Congress, and made the decision to compromise on a number of issues. He was bitten badly for this decision, but he did enact major programs in the area of medical care, cancer research, environmental protection, and other areas.
The Great Society was a huge program of disparate type. Therefore, judging it must be compartmentalized. Its environmental programs were needed at the time. Over the years, power was created and given to agencies that has been badly abused, making much of the modern environmental movement not advocates for clean air and water, but de facto collection agencies that hold businesses up like old-time gangsters robbing stores to pay for "protection."
Social security came about under Roosevelt, and at the time was a reasonable program. Now, it is bloated and corrupt, the very symbol of bad government. It is too powerful to be touched. The medical programs enacted under Johnson - Medicaid and Medicare - have done a great deal of good for people, particularly the aged.
The biggest complaint with the Great Society is in the social engineering aimed at improving the lives of blacks. Moynihan's warnings all came true. Black crime rose horrendously and continuously, along with the rate of single mothers. The break-up of the black family owes itself to the welfare state provisos that Johnson thought was compassion. The only thing that has saved blacks has been to move out of black neighborhoods where, residing amongst whites, they could not live in government housing. Instead, they had to compete for jobs in a world in which there are fewer excuses for failing to achieve productivity and excellence. But for those left behind in the cesspools of the inner cities, the welfare checks sapped people of hope and ambition. The worst part of this is that the result; lazy blacks, men pimping their women; prostitutes shooting up; babies on crack; black-on-black crime; violent, rampaging Negroes, armed gang wars, and humans living as animals; has had the awful effect of promoting the racist stereotypes of those who do not want them to succeed, anyway. It has also exacerbated the front-line tensions of urban blacks and police.
The police see life in these places, unfiltered by liberal spin, but raw and uncut. The cop's first job is to survive, and their survival mechanisms often result in menacing and intimidating behavior around the blacks. Many cops see blacks in their worst environment. They are not as likely to see the many blacks who live good, decent lives. Even black cops in the cities fall prey to this "us vs. them" mentality. Over time, being human, the cops cannot help but develop a military mindset in the "war zones" of our worst urban cores. Blacks and other minorities are to often pitted against them. The result of this can be violent and unsettling. It did not need to be that way.
The other failure of Johnson's Great Society is affirmative action. There are, essentially, two kinds of affirmative action. The first is the one that emerged from the Johnson years, which is an attempt by the government to correct past wrongs by assigning a quota of blacks and other minorities into schools, jobs, the government and other institutions without major regard for qualifications. The theory is that the qualifications cannot be fairly assessed, since minorities grow up in disadvantaged areas and attend poor schools. Their grades, test scores and other criteria are "culturally biased". This is inherently wrong for several reasons. First, not all minorities fall into the "disadvantaged" category, and second it is just plain unfair. The argument against this is that the modern unfairness tips the schools of past unfairness. There is some emotional resonance to this argument, but at the end of the day it causes more problems than it solves, on multiple levels.
The second kind of affirmative action is the one the Republicans eventually put into place, and it is of real value. This is the policy based on the concept that diversity is good; that the experience of different people working, going to school, and striving together for common goals, is a fine thing. The diversity argument does go too far, in education especially. For instance, it is true that it may be beneficial to society for a white student from Kalamazoo, Michigan to sit in a classroom with a black student from Detroit. Preferably, they will talk to each other, exchange ideas, maybe involve themselves in a group project. If everybody is lucky they will drink beer, go to football games together, and at the end of the year visit each other's homes. But it is not true that either the white guy or the black guy can get a quality education only if the dude or gal sitting next to him is a different ethnicity.
What is good is not quotas or lowered standards. What is good is recruitment. A school, a company, or some other institution may look at its roster and say to themselves, maybe with some incentive from the government, but not based on the threat of sanctions or fines, that their roster is heavily white, or perhaps heavily male. They may look about and say that it would be of benefit if they had more women, blacks, Hispanics, or other minorities, as part of that roster.
Then the organization makes the determination that they need a certain number of slots to be filled, either through expansion, or for some other reason. Next, they determine what it is they need to fill those positions; qualifications, experience, education, etc. Then they identify a series of minority candidates who have those qualifications. If they cannot find minority candidates to fill the positions, they fill them with non-minority candidates and keep looking. The process is no different that a football coach who needs two running backs for the next season. He scouts players, identifies a few who have what he is looking for; size, speed, strength, stats, experience combined with work ethic, attitude, and school success. He recruits them and offers scholarships. Some accept and some do not, and hopefully he has a winning season.
The biggest myth about affirmative action is that, without it, minorities will be forced back into their depressing, underprivileged environments. Take college, for example. Say the minority wants to attend a public college like UCLA. Fine school, great alumni contacts, and a place where a kid can drink a fair share of beer and have fun. But the minority does not have the grades to get into this very competitive institution. Does this mean he or she goes back "to the block" and opens a crack house? If the kid has what it takes to even be considered by UCLA, that person is not likely to open a crack house. The chances are the student goes instead of to UC-Riverside, or Irvine, or some other fine institution of higher learning in the UC system. Okay, so they do not get into a UC school. Crack house? Think again. There is nothing wrong with Cal State, Northridge, or Fullerton, or Cal State, LA.
Take the minority student in California, denied by the "system" the chance to get ahead through education. Denied by whom? Not by the system. The black kid growing up in Watts just has to stay out of trouble enough to graduate from Locke or Fremont or Dorsey High School. This is an act of self-reliance that is simply beneficial for society to impose upon the student. Maybe these are not great schools. Maybe it is not the same as attending Chadwick, a private school in Palos Verdes Estates, or Rancho Santa Margarita, a mostly-white school of affluence in Orange County. But it is a school, and if one wishes to learn, they can make it through. Challenges? Sure, but not insurmountable ones.
Now it is on to L.A. Southwest J.C., a junior college located in the general Watts area. Not glamorous, perhaps, but it is a school and the cost to attend is almost nothing. Two years at Southwest, and with a little determination that student can transfer to nearby Cal State, Dominguez Hills. It costs a few bucks to attend, but it is not impossible to contend with the situation. A part-time job helps, and some readily available financial aid is available. With some more determination, two or three years later, we have ourselves a college graduate, complete with cap, gown and dreams. All of it done without affirmative action.
Say the kid was good in numbers and graduated with an accounting degree. Will a Big Three accounting firm in the downtown L.A. financial district hire him? If he had good grades, presents himself well, and the firm is recruiting with an eye for diversity, there is a chance that will happen, but it is not likely in a competitive situation like that. Crack house? No way.
Our intrepid graduate calls Accountants on Call, or some other placement firm, and probably starts out with temporary assignments. Maybe he has to do something else to make ends meet for awhile, but he is invested and he is not going to open that crack house. Is this person going to succeed? The chances are he will. It will not be easy and he will struggle, but is this not the regular scenario?
Johnson's affirmative action policies did not take into account these kinds of storylines. Granted, the world was different in 1964-65 than it is in 2003. But the original quota system, that said that White Student was not admitted even though she had better qualifications than Minority Student, in the long run did not benefit most of the other Minority Students. Affirmative action failed to take into account the beauty of America's market place, where hard work and ambition are like cream, which rises to the top.
Johnson's Presidency has been judged to be a failure. His Vietnam policies proved to be a disaster. There are plenty of people on the Left who revere his Great Society, and by no means is this an attempt to defame the Society. The 1960s were extraordinary times. Up until that decade blacks in America had lived in a netherworld of poverty and racism. Something needed to be done, and LBJ took bold steps. Failures of his social policies that manifested themselves in the 1970s and '80s cannot be entirely blamed on what he was doing in the mid-'60s. Conservatives tend to a certain amount of smugness, which comes with being on the right side of history more often than not, but they are not infallible. A grudging admiration is due Lyndon Johnson. Most of the people who worked for him swear by him, especially African-Americans. Simply paying attention to blacks was something extraordinary at that time, and they were grateful for it.
Johnson was a man of huge ego and bluster. He wanted desperately to leave a Texas-size mark on history. His support for the space program is a shining star of his legacy, and the space center in Houston is named after him. Black-and-white images of LBJ are part of Americana. Thousands of college students marched and cursed him. There is a sense that the collective conscience of these people is tinged with some guilt for having done that, somewhat they way people felt badly about cursing Abe Lincoln when he was gone. LBJ was a good American put into a very difficult position, and represents an interesting aspect of history.
LBJ held all the cards in 1965. He had his electoral mandate, his party controlled the Federal government, he passed his social programs, the space program was flying right, and he had popular support for a war against an expansionist evil that was no longer a mystery. In four years, most of it went wrong.
Abe Lincoln, on the other hand, had assumed the Presidency in 1861 under conditions that required him to enforce martial law. He was reviled by his opponents, ridiculed by his supporters, and had no mandate. Out of this disaster he rose to greatness.
Was Abe Lincoln, by character and training, that much better than Lyndon Johnson? Yes and no. Lincoln was extraordinary, but he was a man of extraordinary times. Of course, Johnson faced extraordinary times, too. There is little to suggest that he met the challenge of these times as well as we wish he had.
Where is God in all of this? If America is indeed sanctioned by God, which is the theory this book promotes and is the thinking behind the CIA characters in Norman Mailer's novel, "Harlot's Ghost", then where was He from 1965-69? This was a period of test for this country, so confident and hopeful just a few years prior. There were lessons learned from this era, however, that in the end offer as much in value as an easy victory. It is most unfortunate that these lessons came with terrible personal tragedy that affected millions.
Finally, the strength of America emerges from the Johnson years as the ultimate survivor. This nation faced a near-civil war at home, but like in Lincoln's time, it held together. As for the war against Communism, the Vietnam War was a setback, but the Cold War was still won. Some have pointed this out and say that Communism was going to fall anyway, that Vietnam and all our machinations were unnecessary. I cannot disagree more. Anybody who studies Marxist-Leninist philosophy, and what came out of that, would be a fool to advocate such an idea. Communism fell because the U.S. defeated it. While his five-plus years in office might not be the shining light of this fight, Johnson nevertheless deserves his place with all the other Cold Warriors who stood toe-to-toe with the enemy, stared him in the face, and fought on behalf of this battered yet beautiful nation.
The pressures of public life took their tool on Lyndon Johnson. He retired to Texas. Without the Senate or the White House to preside over, he first died mentally. He was physically gone a short time later. On January 22, 1973, he suffered a heart attack at his ranch and left this mortal coil.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism