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.
To be honest, I don’t follow a whole lot of history blogs. Maybe that’s why Tumblr won’t put me in the History Directory after six years of posts, well over a million words of original writing, thousands of followers, and one book that largely sold on the strength of my Dead Presidents site. (I’m not bitter about that. Nope. Not. At. All.)
I’m looking at my phone really quick to see which History blogs I follow so I (hopefully) don’t leave anybody out:
•Our Presidents (Great aggregator of posts from the various Tumblrs of Presidential Libraries)
•LBJ Time Machine (The LBJ Library’s Tumblr — my favorite Presidential Library and favorite President)
•Historical Indulgences and Frowzy Indulgences and Heck Yes, Americana (Blogs from the wonderful and lovely Tuesday Johnson)
•All Things Lincoln
•PBS’s American Experience
•AOTUS (The official Tumblr of the Archivist of the United States)
•The American Scholar
•Today’s Document (via the National Archives)
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
From the always-awesome LBJ Library, here’s a transcript of the phone call between LBJ and Lady Bird that I mentioned in the last post. (There is audio of this call that is out there, too.)
Lady Bird Evaluates LBJ’s Performance After a Press Conference
3/7/1964 - 4:10PM
Lady Bird Grades the President’s Press Conference
Lady Bird: You want to listen for about one minute to—
LBJ: Yes, ma’am.
Lady Bird: —my critique, or would you rather wait until tonight?
LBJ: Yes, ma’am. I’m willing now.
Lady Bird: I thought that you looked strong, firm, and like a reliable guy. Your looks were splendid. The close-ups were much better than the distance ones.
LBJ: Well, you can’t get them to do it—
Lady Bird: Well, I will say this: there were more close-ups than there were distance ones. During the statement you were a little breathless. And there was too much looking down. And I think it was a little too fast. Not enough change of pace. Drop in voice at the end of sentence. There was a considerable pickup in drama and interest when the questioning began. Your voice was noticeably better and your facial expressions noticeably better.
Lady Bird: I think the outstanding things were that the close-ups were excellent. You need to learn—when you’re going to have a prepared text, you need to have the opportunity to study it a little bit more and to read it with a little more conviction, and interest, and change of pace because—
LBJ: [talking over each other] Well, the trouble is that they criticize you for taking so much time; they want to use it all for questions. Then their questions don’t produce any news, and if you don’t give them news, you catch hell. So my problem was trying to get through before ten minutes. And I still ran ten minutes today.
Lady Bird: Mm-hm.
LBJ: And I took a third of it for the questions, and I could have taken, if I’d read it like I wanted to, fifteen minutes.
Lady Bird: Mm-hm.
LBJ: But I didn’t know what to cut out. Maybe I ought to cut out Mary’s [Lasker] Heart [Cancer, Stroke Committee members] name[s], but I thought that every place one of those names was dropped they’d call up the fellow and ask him about it, and he’d get his name in the paper and then publicize it good, and it would help the committee.
Lady Bird: Mm-hm. I believe if I’d had that choice I would have said use thirteen minutes—or fourteen for the statement. In general, I’d say it was a good B+. How do you feel about it?
LBJ: I thought it was much better than last week.
Lady Bird: Well, I heard last week, see, and didn’t see it and didn’t hear all of it. And, at any rate, I felt sort of on safe ground [sigh]. I mean, like you had sort of gotten over a hump psychologically and in other ways. It’ll be interesting to hear everybody else’s reaction.