Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Johnson Unzipped: Listening to LBJ Ordering Trousers Will Have You in Stitches

by Nomad

Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, had a reputation as being a little uncivilized at times. Here's slightly graphic telephone conversations between the president and his tailors.

Let's go back to August 1964 to listen to President Johnson unplugged. This slightly vulgar- or at least, vividly described- excerpt provides us with a snapshot of the man who ran things in the 1960s.

Compared to the elegance and sophistication of the Kennedy era, Lyndon Johnson ushered in a bit of a cultural shock for many in Washington. Insider tales of the president's vulgarity and a bit too plain speaking were gossiped about.

In fairness, Johnson was not the only president known for his vulgar language in private. Truman and Nixon both had such reputations. In Johnson's case, there was a naturalness which is a little shocking but funny too.  (I was also a little surprised that Johnson carried a knife with him.)

Of President Johnson, his secretary, Mildred Stegall, gave this description:
"He was a man of many moods. It was as though he was several people rolled into one. At times he could be as hard as nails. Yet, at other times he was as gentle as a lamb."
"People often asked me if LBJ wasn't hard to work for. I would always answer, 'Not if you were willing to work.' It seemed as though he never ran out of steam — work, work, work."
To put this candid and private conversation into a historical context, August 8, 1964. A month before, President Johnson had signed into law the Civil Rights Act, which outlaws most types of discrimination, such as sex, race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion. the new laws also ended the "unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public." 

It was perhaps one of his crowning achievement along with the social reform omnibus programs known as the Great Society.

However, only a day before the President ordered his order for trousers, Congress had passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave the President the power to pursue military action in Vietnam without consulting the Senate. 
It was a fateful moment in which the Vietnam war might have been avoided or at least postponed. 

Throughout the spring of that year, his military planners had laid out a detailed plan for destroying the North Vietnamese insurgency. Johnson was reportedly uncertain how the public would react to an escalation of the war. 
By summer, however, rebel forces had established control over nearly half of South Vietnam, and Senator Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee for president, was criticizing the Johnson administration for not pursuing the war more aggressively.
Through Congressional approval the power to wage war was at his command, The urging of warhawks and the assurances of his military advisors had won out. Today we know that the pretext for the expansion of the IndoChina war was based on distorted facts and deceptions by high level administration officials, especially Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

With this authority, President Johnson would launch the country into an unwinnable war that was to cost the nation the lives of 58,220 soldiers with 303,644 injured.
All of the good that Johnson did for American society was to be overshadowed by the Vietnam quagmire.