Wednesday, August 10, 2016
lyndon b. trump
"I am willing to let any objective historian look at my record. If I can't do more than anyone else to help my country, I'll quit."
The sentence made me stop reading my Kindle to see if I had accidentally opened a political column in The Oregonian. Nope. I was still reading my latest installment in my presidential biography project. Robert Dallek's Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President (an abridgment of his two-volume biography).
The quotation is pure Johnson. He had stopped in Alaska in 1967 on his way to Asia, and was reassuring the public he was the man to stop the war in Vietnam while he simultaneously wiped out discrimination and poverty in The States.
On that same trip, he visited the troops in Vietnam. While crossing the airfield to board Marine One, the Air Force protocol officer told him: "Sir, your helicopter is over here." Johnson looked the young officer straight in the eye, and swept his hand across the airfield: "Son, they're all my helicopters."
This is another election cycle where we hear political commentators, hoping we are deceived into believing they are in the know, telling us there has never been an election like this. Admittedly, there have been some odd events this year. But the oversized egos of both candidates certainly are not new.
Lyndon Johnson often makes Donald Trump's outrageous comments look entirely amateur. LBJ was a political wizard wrapped in the crassness of a Texas hill country rancher.
That is one of the advantages of studying past presidents and campaigns. It helps us to put matters in perspective.
Not that the perspective makes my concerns this year disappear. I did not like Lyndon Johnson's Great Leader rhetoric that was dialed just one notch south of being Kim Il-sung. Trump's ("I'm the guy") is not much better.
Several of our presidents have suffered from the man-on-the-white-horse syndrome. In their minds, only they can save us from the forces of evil that besiege the people. I suspect a person could not be in politics without suffering from that heresy, which is the polar opposite of the philosophy espoused in the Declaration of Independence.
And they are exactly the people who we should not choose as leaders. Both of this year's political candidates are advocates of the heresy.
By the way, I do not recommend the abridged version of Dallek's biography. Whoever edited it did a terrible job. Names pop up without any introduction. I assume the transition paragraphs had simply been removed without regard to the information they contained.
At one moment, we are talking about Ambassador Lodge, and, all of a sudden, Bunker pops up -- without any introduction. Maybe we are simply to remember the news from the 1960s.
He makes a passing reference to Johnson's belief that the Castro brothers were involved in John Kennedy's assassination, something I already knew. But Dallek offers no support why Johnson believed this interesting theory. Of course, people believe all sorts of crazy things about the Kennedy assassination, but we do not need to trot out the denizens of the fever swamp here -- or in the comments.
That now leaves me with only one more dead president biography to read: Warren Harding. And it is on its way to me in the mail.
Until I finish the project, I am going to do what I can to avoid the Punch and Judy show on offer in The States.