Lyndon Johnson on Principles & Values
If it seemed like voting against LBJ would be a vote against John F. Kennedy, Johnson apparently was fine with that. The Republicans, in effect, were battling two presidents at once: one martyred and one sitting. That meant the GOP needed to run a pitch-perfect campaign. What we got was quite the opposite.
At one point, Lady Bird caught him having sex on a sofa in the Oval Office with one of his secretaries. Johnson became furious at the Secret Service for not warning him. After the incident, which occurred just months after he took office, Johnson ordered the Secret Service to install a buzzer system so that agents stationed in the residence part of the White House could warn him when his wife was approaching. A former Secret Service agent says, "if we saw Lady Bird heading for the elevator or stairs, we were to ring the buzzer."
Asked in a 1987 TV interview about her husband's rumored infidelities, Lady Bird Johnson said, "You have to understand, my husband loved people. All people. And half the people in the world were women."
All of the great presidents used their leadership first to transform the public understanding of national challenges and then to break through impasses made up of congressional blockage, interest-group power, voter cynicism or passivity, and conventional wisdom. In different ways, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, & Johnson found allies, respectively, in the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement. Each president grew immensely if office. Each changed the national mood, then the direction of national policy.
About 4 PM each day, the president would go to his bedroom, put on his pajamas, and climb into bed where he stayed for an hour. I cannot certify that he slept or even dozed. All I can verify is that he was in his bedroom.
Usually by 5 PM, the second half of the president's day began. The president would be receiving in his office. There would be off-the-record appointments of congressional leaders or individual congressman and senators, cabinet officials, and sprinkled among these would be on-the-record meetings with whomever the president chose to put on display.
Therefore, the classic Johnson approach was to create a mood & feeling within the legislator that the best interests of the nation and his district (or state) would be served if a particular law was passed.
This was to be the augury of the Johnson style of Congress-treating and Congress-handling. His was the personal approach. Man to man. Phone to ear. Come let us reason together. This is Lyndon Johnson talking. Now, we don't have to be at each other's throat, do we? Your country needs your help and so do I. So it went.
He made the Senate peculiarly his own institution and became the youngest, and at the same time the most effective, floor leader any political party ever had in that body. At the peak of his influence in the Senate, he was struck down by a heart attack that for a time threatened to take him out of politics forever. But he fought back to complete recovery.
In 1960 he hopefully went after the Democratic nomination for President, but Kennedy won the nomination on the 1st ballot. Where that left Johnson no one could tell--for a few hours. Then it was announced that he had accepted the nominee's plea to join him on the ticket as candidate for Vice President.
As a Democrat in a position of leadership, he was convinced the greatest service he could render his party was to guide it into and along the path of moderation. He believed the party had made great strides in regaining much of the respect it had lost because of accusations that it was irresponsible. He wanted to hold these gains and add to them.
"Eventually," he said, "the people will reject any political organization that is ruled by the extremists, either the right or the left. If I can leave any imprint on the Democratic Party, I want it to have the effect of making ours a moderate party, not a party of extremes." He succeeded in making the issue of the 1954 campaign the "politics of responsibility" record of the Democrats in Congress.
"Johnson has distinguished himself as a conscientious composer of differences not only between a Democratic Congress and a Republican Executive but also among factions of Democrats. His leadership has been notable for the smoothness of its functioning, the absence of caviling and obstructionist tactics and the harmony which has been induced within his own traditionally wide-split party."
One of the Washington newspaper writers headed a column, "Everybody Loves Lyndon." That seemed to sum up the situation fairly enough.
I am also a liberal, a conservative, a Texan, a taxpayer, a rancher, a businessman, a consumer, a parent, a voter--and I am all these things in no fixed order.
I bridle at the very casualness with which we have come to ask each other, "What is your political philosophy?" I resent the question most often not because I suspect it of guile and cunning, but for its innocence, the innocence that confuses dogma with philosophy and presumes that the answer can be given in a word or two. Our political philosophies, I have found, are the sum of our life's experience. God made no man so simple or his life so sterile that such experience can be summarized in an adjective.
It is part of my philosophy to regard individuality of political philosophy as a cornerstone of American freedom and, more specifically, as a right expressly implied in our nation's basic law and indispensable to the proper functioning of our system.
|Other past presidents on Principles & Values:||Lyndon Johnson on other issues:|
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Past Vice Presidents:
Natural Law Party