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.
This is a damn good question, and I wish I had the exact answer.
If I were to guess, however, I would say that LBJ probably wasn’t that interested in the first Super Bowl. During his political career, Lyndon Johnson had one interest or hobby — politics. There are stories about Senate Majority Leader Johnson accompanying political colleagues to baseball games to watch the Washington Senators, but Johnson would pay absolutely no attention to the game. He’d people-watch, he’d talk politics, and he’d do a dozen different things besides watch what was happening on the field.
As President, his political focus was even more all-encompassing, so I can’t imagine LBJ sitting in front of one of the three television sets he had in the Oval Office to watch Super Bowl I between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. It simply wasn’t on his radar during his political career. If, by chance, he did choose a team, I’m guessing he would have done it for purely political reasons — like rooting for the Packers because he needed a vote from a Wisconsin Congressman. I just don’t know and, like I said, I doubt it was something that he spent time on as President.
Interestingly enough, as soon as Lyndon Johnson left office and was no longer consumed by politics, politics, and politics, LBJ suddenly became a regular at University of Texas football games in Austin, Texas. LBJ was good friends with longtime Texas head coach Darrell Royal and the LBJ Library is located on the University of Texas campus, just a short walk from the stadium that the Longhorns play in and which bears Royal’s name. Most people who knew LBJ well understood that he still wasn’t much of a sports fan, but he enjoyed getting out in a crowd where people knew who he was and — because he was born and bred locally — appreciated him. One of LBJ’s last public appearances in the weeks before he died was at a University of Texas football game.
No, I’ve never really gone out of my way to find autographed copies of books or waited in line to get a book signed. During the 2007-2008 Obama campaign, at certain events, there would be a small table backstage with maybe a dozen or so copies of Obama’s books for him to sign, usually for top donors or local civic leaders/surrogates. Early in the campaign (I think it might have been in Oakland), I made sure to slip my copy of The Audacity of Hope (BOOK•KINDLE) in there for Obama to sign, but I really think that’s the only time I have actively sought a signed copy of a book by an author.
The other autographed books that I have were basically accidents. A few years ago, I was buying some books in an outlet mall at a book store that was going out of business and liquidating its merchandise for cheap. I bought Behind the Oval Office: Getting Reelected Against All Odds by Dick Morris, who helped Bill Clinton during Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign, and who happens to be a world-class slimeball with no actual political soul. Anyway, I paid maybe $3 for the book and realized later that it was an autographed copy. I’m guessing a non-autographed copy of that book would have cost about 50 cents.
The only other autographed copy of a book in my library that I can think of was actually a pretty cool find. When I lived in Sacramento, there was a little used book store on Marconi Avenue not far from where I lived called Book Chek (yes, that is how it is spelled). Book Chek has been in the same little shopping center since I was a little kid and, quite frankly, they have never had that great of a selection. They were cheap, though, and every once in a while, I could find a few good history titles. On one trip to Book Chek, I found the autobiography of professional wrestling legend Bret Hart, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling (BOOK•KINDLE). On its own that was a great find at Book Chek because it had only recently been released and was, in fact, on the New York Times best-seller list at the time. Plus, it’s a fantastic book — one of the best ever written on wrestling or by a wrestler because Hart is a talented writer, kept meticulous details about his career, and was unabashedly candid about the good and bad that he experienced. Anyway, I opened it up when I got home and it was autographed — not bad for $7.
I think that’s it, though. I’m pretty sure that there aren’t any others I have that been signed. When I visited the Nixon Library several years ago, I was definitely drawn to the signed copies of Richard Nixon’s Memoirs and Gerald Ford’s autobiography, A Time To Heal, on sale in the gift shop. Then I saw the price tag and bought magnets instead.
I do have autographed 8”x11” photos of President Ford, President Carter, and President George H.W. Bush, so that’s cool. I’d love to somehow get an LBJ autograph. I’m sure he probably signed some surplus copies of his autobiography, The Vantage Point, or a bunch of photographs for his office to send out to people who wrote him letters. Now, I could be wrong, of course, since LBJ has been dead for nearly 40 years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a stack of signed photos somewhere in the LBJ Library.
(So, ummm, hello to my buddies down there at the LBJ Library in Austin! I just want to throw this out there, but if you find an LBJ autograph that you are just dying to send to me, you know how to get in touch with me! Have I mentioned that you are my favorite Presidential Library research staff lately? Because you totally are.)
To my friends at the LBJ Library:
I am, of course, already your biggest supporter but if anything would unyieldingly keep me devoted to the cause of Lyndon B. Johnson and the LBJ Library, it would be a replica of that AWESOME belt buckle that I can’t believe it’s taken me 32 years of life and study of LBJ to notice.
P.S.: A closer look: