George W. Bush, at the LBJ Library’s Civil Rights Summit, April 10, 2014
Man, I have to admit that I sure am enjoying George W. Bush more-and-more as a former President — and not just because he is no longer President.
Andrew Johnson wasn’t winning any congeniality contests. But we might have to give the award to Benjamin Harrison, who was nicknamed the “human iceberg” and Theodore Roosevelt (who was appointed to the Civil Service Commission by President Harrison) said of Harrison, “Damn the President! He is a cold-blooded, narrow-minded, prejudiced, obstinate, timid old psalm-singing Indianapolis politician!” And TR was a SUPPORTER of Harrison’s! William Howard Taft, another supporter who was appointed U.S. Solicitor General by Harrison, said of him, “The President is not popular with the members of either house [of Congress]. His manner of treating them is not at all fortunate, and when they have an interview with him, they generally come away mad.”
(“Obviously”? You must have read a history book that I mercifully skipped. I must admit that this isn’t an area of expertise for me. However, it’s worth noting that LBJ had a name for his: “Jumbo”. And once, while taking a leak outside on his ranch a friend asked LBJ, “Aren’t you afraid a rattlesnake is going to bite it?” LBJ responded, “Hell, it IS part rattlesnake.”)
I doubt it would have made much of a difference. Truman and LBJ were Democrats and would have distanced themselves from Nixon — particularly Truman, who hated Nixon (“Richard Nixon is a no-good lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he’d lie just to keep his hand in,” is just one of the many things Truman said about Nixon). Even though Eisenhower and Nixon had grown closer personally towards the end of Ike’s life (helped in part by the marriage of Nixon’s daughter to Eisenhower’s grandson), I imagine the General would have kept his distance, too, had he been alive during Watergate. Although all three of those Presidents you mentioned (Truman, Eisenhower, and LBJ) taped phone conversations and some meetings in the White House, they didn’t cover up crimes while being taped. Had any other Presidents been alive at the time, I don’t think it would have helped Nixon.
In fact, it might have hurt him even more. It might have been a case where one or all of those former Presidents spoke out and said, “Hey, you are tarnishing the office of the Presidency and you need to go,” and it would have dealt Nixon a devastating blow. After all, it wasn’t until Republican leaders of Congress came to the White House and told Nixon that they couldn’t support him and that he was going to be impeached that he finally stepped down. Had Truman, Eisenhower, or LBJ been alive, they might have had the gravitas to nudge him out of office even more quickly.
By the way, LBJ had some prophetic words in 1969 after Nixon was inaugurated as President: ”I may not know much, but I know chicken shit from chicken salad…(Nixon’s) like a Spanish horse who runs faster than anyone for the first nine lengths and then turns around and runs backwards. You’ll see — he’ll do something wrong in the end. He always does.”
Yes, several folks reminded me that I forgot Leiv Schreiber as LBJ in “The Butler”. That’s right, his performance as LBJ was so unremarkable that I forgot about it. The guy who has posted more about LBJ than any other President — the guy with an LBJ FOR THE USA campaign poster in his LIVING ROOM — totally forgot that it even happened.
Our enemies have always made the same mistake. In my lifetime — in depression and in war — they have awaited our defeat. Each time, from the secret places of the American heart, came forth the faith they could not see or that they could not even imagine. It brought us victory. And it will again. For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest sleeping in the unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say “Farewell.” Is a new world coming? We welcome it — and we will bend it to the hopes of man.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1965
I now know the difference between a cactus and a caucus — in a cactus, all the pricks are on the outside.
Lyndon B. Johnson, to reporters, after meeting with the Senate’s Democratic Caucus following LBJ’s election as Vice President, January 1961
As a Southerner, I am happy to know that a fellow Southerner is in the White House who is concerned about civil rights…LBJ is a man of great ego and great power. He is a pragmatist and a man of pragmatic compassion. It just may be that he’s going to go where John Kennedy couldn’t.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., suggesting that LBJ seemed far more willing to fight for civil rights than JFK ever had, following a one-on-one meeting with President Johnson less than two weeks after the Kennedy Assassination
One of the things about the White House is that you know from the moment you walk in there that this has a time limitation. You don’t know exactly what it is; it may be the four years you were elected for, or death, but you know it’s got a time limitation. And that’s one reason why you do as much as you can do, because you know that this will never happen again, and you can form up the energy from somewhere within you to go more, do more, for this limited time.
Lady Bird Johnson
The Presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was; and no matter how big, not big enough for its demands.
Lyndon B. Johnson
No President ever came to this office on a platform of doing what was wrong. Most of us have made decisions that were wrong. But every man who ever occupied this office, or sat at this desk, or reclined in this chair, has been dedicated to doing what he believed was for the best interest of the people of this country. I am utterly convinced that any man who takes the oath of office as President is determined to do right, as God gives him the wisdom to know the right.
Most people come into office with great dreams and they leave it with many satisfactions and some disappointments, and always some of their dreams have not come true. I’m no exception. But I am so grateful and so proud that I have had my chance. And as to how successful we’ve been in doing the greatest good for the greatest number, the people themselves, and their posterity, must ultimately decide.
Lyndon B. Johnson, October 1968