American Experience (PBS) documentary on LBJ

I’m watching this right now and despite his later handling of the already started war in Vietnam, you’ve gotta admire how he got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed after Kennedy was assassinated.

Easily one of the most fascinating, conflicting, infuriating, and–yep–forward looking presidents we’ve ever had.

In more than a few ways, can be compared to Andy Jackson. Which I know won’t be a popular thing to say, but still.

I have recorded this and hope to watch it before we drop cable at the end of the month. If not I am sure it is on PBS’s app.

I have read about LBJ through various subjects, but nothing on him directly. He was a complicated guy apparently. He seemed willing to do whatever he was told regarding Vietnam, but when it came to the Civil Rights theater he was willing to lead. He did what JFK and RFK were afraid to do at the time, strange especially as LBJ was a southerner, but maybe that is what it required.

The far right loves to quote a line credited to LBJ about how the legislation would make “ni**gers vote the democratic party” forever. I have seen many use that, however there is no proof he ever said it. None that anyone can find anyway.

Here’s an LBJ quote everyone needs to remember, especially when people like Bernie talk hopefully (and naively) about racism just withering away when better economic policies are in place:

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best
colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him
somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Just as only fervent anticommunist Nixon could go to China, only someone brought up as a southern good old boy like LBJ could have passed the Civil Rights Act.

(LBJ and Nixon are two of the most talented, complicated, and deeply flawed Presidents we’ve ever had - sharp contrasts to Trump, who has no talent for anything but BS and is about as complicated as a wind-up toy.)

He (JFK) was definitely smart. And enigmatic. Very conflicted on him…no shortage of incidents of poor character, the family is shrouded in controversy, and yet I respect his intelligence and service in the navy among other things. He is one of the greater speakers in presidential history if not the best.

Still, I find it funny people bash Bush for 5000 lives in Iraq and conveniently forget 56,000 lives in Vietnam. And what’s maddening is that David Halberstam’s book, The Best and the Brightest, distills the decision to go to Vietnam down to JFK’s “hubris”.

HumanTon, very interesting observations about both LBJ and Nixon. I know a lot of people bash them as two of our worst presidents, but I think that’s oversimplifying it. Complicated and flawed are both good descriptions for them. LBJ seemed to be always caught between a rock and a hard place, wanting to do good but having to deal with Vietnam. Nixon too is probably far more complicated than the dismissive “slippery dick” name implies. There have been more recent volumes published about these presidents…I’ve not read them yet but with new information that time sometimes unearths, we often find the truth is more multifaceted than the caricature.

It has been a long time since I read that book but I don’t remember that being the main point of the book. I recently read McNamara’s book where he tries to explain his motives during that time and I think you just had a large group in power who felt “trapped” by the times and who were unable, or unwilling to face the true facts. That we couldn’t win.

Nixon really is one of those guys who the more you read about him the more you realize what a slime ball he was. Sure, he had some good ideas (China) but he also was almost pathologically insecure.

Oh, I’m sure it was hardly the only factor (been a while since I read it too) but I remember Halberstam calling that key point out when studying why JFK would consent to the whole thing. Truth is that no one can tell the future and they were probably all victims of some hubris, after all they were the best and the brightest :)

Speaking McNamara, have you seen “Fog of War”? It’s a DVD that came out a while ago where McNamara, much older and more contrite, talks about the lessons he learned of that time. I think it should be required viewing for all politicians. It was really interesting to watch.

Yes, I think there was a History Channel or Discovery Channel documentary about him once. He was very insecure…interestingly enough I’ve read LBJ could be too. And the documentary said Nixon had issues with drugs.

No, but I read this…

McNamara’s memoir, In Retrospect, published in 1995, presented an account and analysis of the Vietnam War from his point of view. According to his lengthy New York Times obituary, “[h]e concluded well before leaving the Pentagon that the war was futile, but he did not share that insight with the public until late in life. In 1995, he took a stand against his own conduct of the war, confessing in a memoir that it was ‘wrong, terribly wrong.’” In return, he faced a “firestorm of scorn” at that time.[3]

I don’t think I have read about drug use, or at least don’t remember it. But there has been much written about his drinking.

JFK was on a drug cocktail for his back pain and Addison’s disease. It was a potent mix that probably had him addicted and out of it from time to time.

Thanks for the info, that sounds like a good one. Took some guts for him to come out and say those things amid the controversy. Also, it sounds like the DVD probably has some of the same information.

Its an amazing thing to watch imo. Seeing someone recall why they did things and what they thought at the time and how it could have all played out differently (and horrifically in the case of the Cuban Missile Crisis) is interesting. I know a lot of people hate McNamara, but everyone should watch it regardless of ideology. It’s fascinating shit.

And the second part of the LBJ documentary was tonight. Man, what a mess Vietnam was. If it hadn’t been for that, maybe the Great Society would have had more of a chance (and the resources) to succeed and the Revenge of the Right might have been averted or at least delayed.