I was watching a drama-documentary on President Lyndon B Johnson on Sky-Atlantic last night. Called “All The Way”. It starred Bryan Cranston in the title role.
I was 11 years old and already interested in politics when LBJ became President of the United States after President John F Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963.
After the charismatic Kennedy, LBJ would always seem disappointing.
More so, as I got more interested in politics, the Johnson years would be depressing. The Summer of Love (1967), the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, Vietnam and Race Riots are the legacy.
Yet that in retrospect is unfair on Johnson’s first term which was marked by the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
I dont think LBJ gets enough credit.
An “accidental President”, he was a southerner (from Texas) but outside the “Deep South” where segregation was rampant. While Kennedy was in favour of Civil Rights, I dont know if a Massachusetts liberal could really have delivered it. Of course Kennedy’s death did provide some sympathy and goodwill to his successor but it was Johnson who had to negotiate Civil Rights legislation thru Congress in the face of the good ole boys in the Dixiecrat wing of the Democrat Party.
Yet LBJ…the folksy occasionally profane cowboy is constantly in the shadow of Kennedy.
Three years ago, I went to Texas…a city called San Marcos about half way between Austin and San Antonio. It is a “college town”, home of Texas State University and alma mater of Lyndon Johnson.
It is an unusual part of Texas…hill country, a liberal oasis in a conservative State, it was actually had some Union sympathies during the American Civil War.
I went there, knowing little about LBJ beyond what I had seen on TV screens in the 1960s.
But in San Marcos, there is a Johnson Boulevard and a small museum…and a statue in the grounds of TSU.
But there was always a doubt in my mind about LBJ. Just how sincere was he about Civil Rights. The museum tells the story of Felix Longoria…a young man from Texas killed in the Pacific in World War Two. His repariated body could only be buried in a “Mexican” cemetry in his home town. It came as a shock to me to realise just how much anti-hispanic prejudice was officially tolerated in Texas in the late 1940s. LBJ, then a US Senator was instumental in having Felix Longoria buried in the Arlington Military Cemetry.
I think this speaks volumes for President Johnson having the right instincts.
Kennedy himself was a devout Catholic and part of America’s Royal Family.
Devout Catholics have more respect for their marriages and do not sleep around.
He may or may not have been a great President but he was not a great Catholic.
I thought Bryan Cranston was fantastic in the dramatisation. I cannot imagine a southern Democrat blue collar working-class American rising so high in political office these days. Not to wax lyrical but many of the WWII generation of politicians in the US really were a class apart.
Cranston was brilliant.
And cannily SKY scheduled a similar drama doc on Sarah Palin right after it.
The Palin programme in a way has more relevance in 2016 than in 2008….the handlers were at a crossroads in Politics. McCain was honourable and Palin….well thats the future….Trump.
A race to the bottom.
Whatevertheir politics the characters played by Peter McNichol and Woody Harrelson believed in the system.
I think in the LBJ programme, it was referenced that he could not have become President thru lack of finance (he seemed guilty that he had made it thru assassination).
It is strange really that my aboding memory of LBJ is my 15 yr old self watching the chant that eas in protests all around the world “HEy Hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”
That and a strange kinda WEst Belfast Catholic resentment that he wasnt JFK.
Yet in 1964 at least, he was the right man at the right time.
Certainly he knew the system and the players in Congress well enough to get the right result.
Very true. He had many faults but he was of superior political/intellectual stock to what passes for politicos in the southern US today. I thought the warts an’ all presentation, including MLK, was brilliantly done. That Sarah Palin movie was great. The moment her minders realised what they had done during a conversation with her, the depth of her ignorance, is a wonderful scene. Fantastic performances all around
Its hard to believe that this was only 50 years ago. In my lifetime.
One of those opposed the Civil Rights Act was Strom Thummond. Of course it came out after he died that he had fathered a child with the familys black maid.
Its not unusual.
Whether thru rape, abuse of power, many white supremacist politicians had children in this way.
In some cases…going back to slave-owning “liberal” (a contradiction in terms pf course) like Thomas Jefferson, there is evidence that “loving relationships” were suppressed so that political careers could be advanced.
It was shamefully a rite of passage…doigt de seigneur…that was a fact of life on the old plantations and later the southern states in the 20th century.
Likewise the preacher men who abused congregations (and we know about that in Ireland of course).
One reference I read years ago about an old Dixiecrat from 1960s stated that he was a closet gay man. Again, I emphasise few will have any issue with this in itself….the issue would be enforcing anti-gay laws.