Posts Tagged Lyndon B. Johnson
Maureen Dowd of the NY Times has complained that Barack Obama needs to be more like Lyndon Johnson, and others would say Franklin D. Roosevelt.
This is preposterous, as both LBJ and FDR had MASSIVE majorities in the US Senate, while Obama has to deal with having only 55 members of his party in the Senate, plus a Republican House of Representatives for the past two and a half years, the next year and a half, and likely beyond that!
Johnson had 68 Democrats at the time of the Civil Rights Act, and 64 for the Voting Rights Act, and FDR had 75 Senators at his peak.
It is true that LBJ had to deal with segregationist Southern Senators, but he also had moderate and liberal Northern Republicans he could count on, and FDR had progressive Republicans, including those that this author published about in his monograph, TWILIGHT OF PROGRESSIVISM (1981), who were willing to cross party lines to back him on many issues!
Obama has found the opposition party unwilling, in either house of Congress, to back him on almost anything he promotes, with an occasional few Senators helping out, but with the filibuster requiring 60 votes, the result is a total stalemate, something he has not been able to overcome, even after having lunches and dinners with Republicans, particularly in the Senate, as they are dedicated to prevention of any legislation that might make him look good in history.
But despite that, Obama is accomplishing a record that will make him look good in history, even with the opposition of conservatives and Republicans, and the criticism of Maureen Dowd and other unrealistic liberals and progressives!
Former George W. Bush “brain” Karl Rove is totally delusional, as yesterday, he declared on Fox News Channel that George W. Bush belonged with the “greats” among the Presidency, including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan!
This is the same man who failed to elect most of the Republicans that he supported through his campaign organization, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy patrons who believed he knew who to back and could win seats in Congress.
This is the same man who said on Election night that Mitt Romney was going to win, and denied the obvious Barack Obama victory when it was already happening!
Bush will make the list of Presidents as one of the FAILURES of the Presidency, in the company of James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Pierce.
Rove has conveniently forgotten Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Thomas Jefferson, Lyndon B. Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, all of whom rank better than Ronald Reagan, who might be number 11, but not in the top ten of all Presidents!
And Bill Clinton may eventually rank above Reagan as well, and Barack Obama might also make the top ten to twelve list, when he has left the Presidency, and passions have cooled down!
For those of us who are Presidential junkies, the only time we see a group of Presidents and First Ladies together in public is at openings of Presidential libraries, and at funerals of Presidents and First Ladies.
Since these do not happen very often in either regard, today’s gathering of five Presidents and five First Ladies at the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, was an exciting moment, no matter how one feels about the Presidency of George W. Bush.
Seeing Jimmy Carter looking hale and hearty; George H. W. Bush in a wheelchair in obviously poor health although only being less than four months older than Carter; Bill Clinton his usual talkative, charismatic self; George W. Bush being very positive, despite the clear cut failures of his time in office; and Barack Obama, always good with saying the right things, was fascinating!
Seeing Rosalynn Carter and Barbara Bush looking good, considering their advanced age; Hillary Clinton looking ready to run for President any time now; Laura Bush being her usual sweet self; and Michelle Obama looking always as an elegant lady, was also very inspiring!
Of course, Nancy Reagan, while not mentioned, was absent, as she is in her early 90s and not in good health.
And we saw the two daughters of Lyndon Johnson and of Richard Nixon, along with the daughter of Gerald Ford, but no other Presidential children, other than the two daughters of George W. Bush, of course! But only Michael Reagan, the adopted son of Reagan and his first wife, Jane Wyman, was present, not the son and daughter of Nancy Reagan, Ron Jr. and Patti. And neither was Caroline Kennedy, or the other children of Gerald Ford, and none of the children of Jimmy Carter, or the Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea!
In any case, for those who are into photographs of a group of Presidents or First Ladies, today was a very good day!
A very important measurement of Presidential leadership is to evaluate their interest in the advancement of science, and their willingness to support scientific research as a major part of their administrative goals.
Sadly, many Presidents have shown a lack of interest in the advancement of science, and presently, we have a group of KNOW NOTHINGS in the Republican Party who would rather promote religion in government, and deny evolution and global warming, and are generally antagonistic to any suggestion of the advancement of science, such as Barack Obama newly suggesting an investment through the National Institutes of Health to fund $100 million to work on the mapping of the human brain, which could lead to research and advancement in the study of mental illness, and such other major problems as Alzheimers Disease and Parkinson Disease. But in the Sequester environment we are now in, and the push for austerity by the GOP, it will be difficult for the vision of the study of the brain to be understood as a worthwhile and significant investment!
In any case, the Presidents who can be seen as having advanced science include the following,
Thomas Jefferson–arguably the most science oriented of all Presidents, a true genius and intellectual, who sponsored the Lewis and Clark Expedition for its scientific value, as well as the exploration of a large part of the American continent.
John Quincy Adams—a promoter of federal support of the arts and sciences, and helped to promote astronomical studies, and helped to form the Smithsonian Institution, for which he laid the cornerstone in 1846, as well as the US Naval Observatory.
Abraham Lincoln—-promoted the scientific study of agriculture, and signed legislation establishing the National Academy of Sciences.
James A. Garfield—tragically killed early in his term, but a promoter of mathematical studies, devising a mathematical proof of the Pythagorean Theorem, and promoted funding for agricultural research. Garfield was a great intellectual, and in many ways, was a tragic loss of a President whose potential for greatness was lost so quickly!
Theodore Roosevelt—was a great promoter of nature and conservation of natural resources, quadrupling our national parks and national forest lands. He also set up the US Forestry Service, and went on a dangerous trip to map the Amazon River Basin and discover new species of animal and plant life.
Herbert Hoover—a brilliant mining engineer, and elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, and a great intellectual, who was sadly a disaster in the White House, despite his credentials.
Franklin D. Roosevelt—managed the challenge of the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression, in his promotion of forest conservation, watersheds, and agriculture, and also worked with Albert Einstein and others in development of the atomic bomb to help win World War II.
Harry Truman—signed legislation setting up the National Science Foundation, and saw the need for greater funding of scientific research.
Dwight D. Eisenhower—promoted the beginning of the space program and the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in response to the Russian putting of Sputnik I in space in 1957.
John F. Kennedy—promoted the space program goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, and was a great promoter of science in other ways as well.
Lyndon B. Johnson—promoted the completion of the moon landing, and encouraged more students to go into science through federal fellowships and grants.
Jimmy Carter—received a Bachelor of Science degree with specialty in nuclear physics from the US Naval Academy, and promoted energy conservation research, with creation of the Energy Department in the cabinet, and signed legislation for the original funding of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Ronald Reagan—promoted the Space Shuttle and a space station, and although flawed, wanted to encourage a system to stop nuclear attack, known as the Strategic Defense Initiative.
Bill Clinton—promoted the Human Genome Project and the International Space Station as important for the advancement of science.
Barack Obama—is now promoting human brain research, and has called for action against global warming, and the importance of the study of evolution in science classes.
Lyndon Johnson’s Withdrawal From Presidential Race 45 Years Ago Today Led To Five More Years Of Vietnam War, Tragically!
On this day, 45 years ago, the nation was stunned by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s announcement that he was withdrawing from the Presidential race of 1968 to devote attention to an attempt to end US involvement in the Vietnam War.
Sadly, the action led to no such thing, as Richard Nixon was elected, and continued the war until 1973, gaining nothing permanently, as Vietnam would be unified under Communist North Vietnam in 1975.
Meanwhile, the number of American troops killed more than doubled to 58,000, with many more wounded, some permanently, and massive damage done by US bombing of South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and we are still paying for the cost of that war with aging veterans of the war who need medical and psychological care that is never ending.
It seems clear that had Vice President Hubert Humphrey been elected to succeed Johnson, US involvement in the war would have ended sooner than the beginning of the second term of Nixon.
And the Great Society of LBJ would have been continued and expanded on a massive scale with Humphrey, the premier liberal of his time, in the Presidency.
And had Robert Kennedy not been assassinated, and somehow became the Democratic nominee, instead of Humphrey, there would also have been a quicker end of the war, and an expansion of the Great Society.
America went from a nation at its peak in the 1960s, to a deterioration of the middle class after 1973, due to the investment in war spending that continued, leading to three major wars in the 1990s and 2000s, and eating up funding that could have been used for more social and economic change and reform.
The conservative counter revolution did great damage, and we are paying heavily now in our national debt which multiplied under Republicans Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, mostly in foreign policy and defense spending, while the top two percent became ever more massively wealthy due to major tax cuts on them, which did not promote stimulation of the economy!
Barack Obama is trying to reverse the course that has been endemic since 1968, but is being challenged and obstructed at every turn, but even with that, already he has become the major Presidential reformer in domestic affairs since the retirement of Lyndon B. Johnson!
On March 7, 1965, a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, for voting rights for African Americans, was the location of brutal police action at the Edmund Pettus Bridge against the peaceful civil rights demonstrators.
John Lewis, now a long term Congressman from Georgia, incurred a cracked skull that day, and today, he and Al Sharpton and many other people of all races converged on the site to commemorate the horrible events of that day 48 years ago, which had the effect of galvanizing action by Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson within four months, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Joining them today was Vice President Joe Biden, giving his usual inspiring speech, and making clear that the Voting Rights Act is now, now under potential threat of having the crucial Section 5 declared unconstitutional by a conservative Republican majority chosen by Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. The Court may be ready to show they have either forgotten history, or choose to ignore the history of that day, and trust that the Southern states, which have worked to make voting more difficult in 2012 and earlier, can be trusted to avoid undermining the basic right to vote for all citizens, which is supposedly guaranteed by the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments,
This is a day to recall and to commit to prayer and statesmanship, hoping that the Supreme Court will do the right thing, and retain Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, since Congress has constantly renewed it, and ignore the call of states rights, which has been constantly tied to bigotry and discrimination!
As this week is the Presidential week, celebrated this past Monday as Presidents Day, let us do one more entry, this one on Presidential trivia, specifically on the oddities and quirks of Presidential Names.
Four Presidents are remembered for the use of their middle names with their first and last names:
John Quincy Adams
William Henry Harrison
Chester Alan Arthur
William Howard Taft
Thirteen Presidents are usually referred to with their middle initial included:
James K. Polk
Ulysses S. Grant
James A. Garfield
Warren G. Harding
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard M. Nixon
Gerald R. Ford
George H. W. Bush
George W. Bush
Notice that Truman’s middle initial is also his name, as his family could not agree on what name to use, just the letter S, so there is no period after the initial.
Two Presidents use a nickname as their name:
Four Presidents switched names, and preferred to be known by their middle name:
Hiram Ulysses Grant
Stephen Grover Cleveland
Thomas Woodrow Wilson
David Dwight Eisenhower
Two Presidents had their name changed as children
Leslie Lynch King Jr.—Gerald Ford
William Jefferson Blythe III–Bill Clinton
Also, many Presidents are also known by other names or titles, including: Andrew Jackson as “Old Hickory”, Martin Van Buren as “The Little Magician”, William Henry Harrison as “Old Tippecanoe”, James K. Polk as “Young Hickory”, Zachary Taylor as “Old Rough And Ready”, Franklin Pierce as “Handsome Frank”, Calvin Coolidge as “Silent Cal”, Dwight D. Eisenhower as “Ike”, John F. Kennedy as “Jack”, Richard M. Nixon as “Dick”, Gerald R. Ford as “Jerry”, Ronald Reagan as “Ronnie”, and Barack Obama as “Barry”.
That is it for Presidential names!
When one looks at the relationships between Presidents and Vice Presidents historically, it is clear that most Presidents look at their Vice Presidents and see their own mortality; often see the Vice President as a rival; often have disdain for the Vice President; and often do not support the Vice President in his Presidential ambitions to follow the President in office.
Examples of the above abound:
George Washington ignored John Adams, and Adams lamented that he was in an office that had no influence or respect.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were at constant odds, being of different political parties, and elected together by the early quirks of the Electoral College, later resolved by the 12th Amendment to the Constitution in 1804.
Thomas Jefferson literally refused to recognize Aaron Burr, after Burr tried to steal the Presidency from him in 1800, with Burr’s contention that he and Jefferson had ended up in a “tie” vote in the Electoral College, forcing Alexander Hamilton, a rival of both Jefferson and Burr to intervene and call for support of Jefferson, which led to the gun duel between Hamilton and Burr in 1804, and Hamilton’s tragic death.
John Quincy Adams discovered that John C. Calhoun was undermining him, and Calhoun switched sides and ran with Andrew Jackson in 1828.
However, Jackson and Calhoun became bitter rivals, and the Nullification Crisis over the protective tariff, with Calhoun enunciating the doctrine of states rights, nullification, interposition, and secession almost led to civil war, prevented by the intervention of Henry Clay, but only after Jackson threatened to hang Calhoun, a threat that could not be ignored, since Jackson had killed several opponents in gun duels.
Abraham Lincoln hardly dealt with his first term Vice President, Hannibal Hamlin, and then “dumped” him, for Andrew Johnson, someone he hardly knew.
When Theodore Roosevelt decided not to run for another term in 1908, he ignored his own Vice President, Charles Fairbanks, and backed his Secretary of War, William Howard Taft.
Woodrow Wilson gave little concern to the role of his Vice President, Thomas Marshall, and when Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919, he did not intervene to prevent his wife from preventing Marshall from visiting him, and ascertaining the state of his health, or allow him to take over Presidential authority.
Franklin D. Roosevelt ignored his three Vice Presidents—John Nance Garner, Henry A. Wallace, and Harry Truman. This led Garner to say the Vice Presidency was not worth a pitcher of “warm spit”. Wallace was allowed to “hang in the wind” over his public statements on civil rights, and be “dumped” on the demand of Southern Democrats in 1944. Harry Truman was not informed of anything, including the atomic bomb project, in his brief Vice Presidency.
Dwight D. Eisenhower had a strong dislike for his Vice President, Richard Nixon, as shown by his original plan to “dump” Nixon in 1956; his lukewarm support of Nixon in 1960; and his having problems remembering Nixon as a potential future nominee in 1964. At the end, however, Ike witnessed his grandson, David, marry Nixon’s younger daughter, Julie, and was supportive of Nixon in his last year of life, the first year of the Nixon Presidency.
John F. Kennedy failed to use the talents of Lyndon B. Johnson, his Vice President, to a great extent due to the hatred of his brother, Robert Kennedy, for LBJ. Robert Kennedy went out of his way to embarrass and humiliate Johnson in every way possible.
Johnson abused his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, once he realized that Humphrey was critical of his Vietnam War policies. He threatened to leave Humphrey out of his cabinet meetings, and forced him to speak up for the war, which undermined Humphrey’s own Presidential campaign in 1968. And secretly, because Humphrey started to veer from support of the administration policies late in the campaign, Johnson hoped for a victory of Richard Nixon.
Richard Nixon utilized his Vice President, Spiro Agnew for political gain, but showed little respect for him, and let him “hang in the wind” when Agnew was forced out of the Vice Presidency in 1973. And Nixon picked Gerald Ford as his successor Vice President under the 25th Amendment, thinking that this insured that Nixon would not be impeached and be removed from office.
Gerald Ford had a strong respect for Nelson Rockefeller, who he selected as his Vice President, but yet “dumped” him for Bob Dole in the 1976 Presidential race.
Ronald Reagan was never close to George H. W. Bush, who had been his chief rival for the 1980 Presidential nomination, and never invited the Bushes to a private dinner at the White House, although he utilized Bush’s expertise in foreign policy and intelligence, as Bush had been head of the CIA.
Bush did not care for Dan Quayle very much, and considered “dumping” him in 1992 over Quayle’s embarrassing flubs. Quayle was given less involvement in the administration than his recent predecessors, and when he tried for the Presidential nomination in 1996, Bush did not back him in any way.
Bill Clinton was closer to Al Gore, but their friendship and collaboration suffered greatly during the scandal over Monica Lewinsky, and the pursuant impeachment trial. Gore decided not to ask Clinton, who remained popular, to work for him in the last days of the 2000 Presidential campaign. After his defeat, there were recriminations between Gore and Clinton over who had been responsible for Gore’s defeat.
George W. Bush relied on his Vice President, Dick Cheney, a lot in the first term, but became estranged from Cheney in the second term over the Scooter Libby scandal and in other ways, as Bush asserted himself much more, making clear he did not need Cheney as much as in the first term.
With all of the above examples of estrangement, or lack of closeness of Presidents with their Vice Presidents, there are two shining examples of very close, warm relationships between two Presidents and their Vice Presidents.
These would be Jimmy Carter with Walter Mondale, and Barack Obama with Joe Biden.
Carter and Mondale were the closest team in American history, with Carter allowing Mondale to share just about every decision in a way no Vice President, before or since, was able to do, and they remained close personal friends, for what is now the all time record of 32 PLUS years out of the Presidency, the longest lasting team in American history, with Carter now 88 plus and Mondale just passing 85, and both still in good health. No sense of any rift has ever existed between the two men, and their relationship was the smoothest ever, a lot of it due to Carter’s lack of insecurity about his Vice President, a testimonial to the former President!
Also, every indication is that Obama and Biden have as close a relationship, but with Biden nearly a generation older, while Carter and Mondale are less than four years apart in age. It seems as if there might be some issues between Obama and Biden, but that will have to be left to the future to find out. Also, a question arises as to how Obama will handle a possible competition for the next Presidential nomination between Biden and Hillary Clinton, both of whom have been crucial to his Presidency’s success so far.
So the Presidential-Vice Presidential relationships have been almost always far from warm and close, with only the two exceptions mentioned above.
This would be an excellent topic for a future scholarly study!
With Presidents Day coming up on Monday, this author has, already, made clear which Presidents were transformative in the areas of foreign policy and diplomacy, and in domestic affairs.
Now, it is appropriate to make clear which Presidents have been the true “turning points” in American history, in the sense of changing the dynamics of Presidential leadership.
This author would say that there have been EIGHT Presidents who transformed America by their actions in office. In chronological order, they are:
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), who was the first President to transition from opposition leader to one who united the country in his inaugural address, adopted many ideas of the opposition as his views, and doubled the size of the nation, and kept America away from a war with Great Britain.
Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), who added greatly to Presidential power, and was the symbol of the spread of democracy to all white men, rather than just the aristocracy, and became the father of the Democratic Party.
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865), who saved the Union by fighting the Civil War against the Confederacy, brought about the end of slavery, promoted nationalism over states rights, made the Republican Party the majority party in America, and greatly increased Presidential power
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), who revived and expanded the Presidential office, promoted government intervention in the economy, advocated for the environment and for labor rights, and became a model for later Presidents of both parties.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945), who helped bring America out of the Great Depression by massive federal government intervention and programs through his New Deal, and took America through another great crisis (World War II), all the time greatly increasing Presidential authority.
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969), who greatly expanded federal authority beyond beyond the New Deal through his massive Great Society domestic programs, becoming the image of modern American liberalism at its peak.
Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), who promoted a conservative “Revolution”, reversing the direction of the previous fifty years, and helped to bring about the end of rhe Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union.
Barack Obama (2009-2017), who brought about the greatest domestic reforms, including ObamaCare, since the Great Society of Lyndon B. Johnson, and moved to change the direction of foreign policy and fight terrorism effectively, with of course, his final record of accomplishments still in process.
These eight Presidents all ushered in a generation or more of their political party’s dominance, with the exception of TR and LBJ, who saw what they represented repudiated or replaced by the opposition party within a short span of time.
And of course, the long range effect of Barack Obama is still questionable, although at the moment, it looks likely that his agenda will be pursued by a stronger Democratic coalition seen as likely to keep the Presidency in 2016 and beyond, with either Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden as the standard bearer and inheritor of the Obama legacy!
Also, notice that these “Turning Point” Presidencies occur within a 16-40 year range from one President to another, with most within a generation of earlier such Presidents by the end of each of these Presidencies!