There was a time -- a long time -- when Democratic presidential candidates would not even utter the name Lyndon Baines Johnson.
This week, the three Democrats elected president since Johnson traveled to Texas to honor the memory of LBJ -- a president once reviled for the Vietnam War, now revered for a domestic record that includes landmark civil rights laws.
"We're here because the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act made it possible for Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to be president of the United States," Clinton said during a speech Wednesday.
Clinton spoke during a three-day summit on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an event that has drawn scores of lawmakers and civil rights activists from decades past.
The summit is part of what ex-Texas lieutenant governor and LBJ protege Ben Barnes called "the re-introduction of Johnson" more than four decades after his death in 1973.
It's another example of how, like stock values, presidential reputations can rise and fall over time. It is now a buyer's market for Johnson, amid a string of golden anniversaries that include, this year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, next year, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"LBJ was known as the Vietnam president," said Mark Updegrove, director of the Lyndon Johnson library in Austin. "But I think ultimately he'll be known as the civil rights president."
Quite a change from 1992, when Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton made a campaign stop at the LBJ library but never mentioned Johnson by name -- even though the event took place on Johnson's birthday.Well, (hanging my head) I was there at that event in 1992, which was a campaign rally for the Clinton/Gore ticket, and I remember the name of LBJ and the fact it was his birthday was mentioned a lot from the podium that day. Don't remember if Slick Willie uttered it though.
But the legacy of Lyndon Johnson as the "Civil Rights President" is outrageous, and an effort by liberals and Democrats to rewrite not only Johnson's past as a racist, but the racist legacy of the Democrat Party as well.
First of all, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was largely a result of John F. Kennedy, and would most likely have been signed by him, had he not been assassinated a few months earlier. (Forget the conspiracy theory that LBJ had him killed, JFK was killed by a lone Communist sympathizer, Lee Harvey Oswald). Plus, the first Civil Rights 0ill was signed into law by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, but had been watered down by....Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson. James Taranto explains...
As Bruce Bartlett explains in "Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past" (available from the OpinionJournal bookstore):
In his January 10, 1957, State of the Union Address, Eisenhower renewed his request for civil rights legislation, which had passed the House but died in the Senate in the previous Congress due to Southern Democratic delaying tactics. . . .
Everyone knew that the critical fight on the civil rights bill would be in the Senate. . . . In that body, the key figure was Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, who represented the [former] Confederate state of Texas and had been installed in his position by Southern Democrats precisely in order to block civil rights legislation. Until the 1950s, Johnson's record of opposition to all civil rights legislation was spotless. But he was ambitious and wanted to be president.
After dragging his feet on the civil rights bill throughout much of 1957, Johnson finally came to the conclusion that the tide had turned in favor of civil rights and he needed to be on the right side of the issue if he hoped to become president. . . .
At the same time, the Senate's master tactician and principal opponent of the civil rights bill, Democrat Richard B. Russell of Georgia, saw the same handwriting on the wall but came to a different conclusion. He realized that the support was no longer there for an old-fashioned Democrat filibuster. . . . So Russell adopted a different strategy this time of trying to amend the civil rights bill so as to minimize its impact. Behind the scenes, Johnson went along with Russell's strategy of not killing the civil rights bill, but trying to neuter it as much as possible. . . .
Eisenhower was disappointed at not being able to produce a better piece of legislation. "I wanted a much stronger civil rights bill in '57 than I could get," he later lamented. "But the Democrats . . . wouldn't let me have it."
But here's something else LBJ said about the 1957 Civil Rights bill.Liberals criticized Eisenhower for getting such a modest bill at the end of the day. But Johnson argued that it was historically important because it was the first civil rights bill to pass Congress since 1875. "Once you break virginity," he said, "it'll be easier next time."
"These Negroes, they're getting pretty uppity these days and that's a problem for us since they've got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we've got to do something about this, we've got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference. For if we don't move at all, then their allies will line up against us and there'll be no way of stopping them, we'll lose the filibuster and there'll be no way of putting a brake on all sorts of wild legislation. It'll be Reconstruction all over again."But that doesn't compare to what Johnson was overheard saying to two Democrat governors on Air Force One, while he was President, and is attributed to Ronald Kessler from his book "Inside the White House."
“I’ll have those niggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.”Johnson allegedly used the racial slur against Marin Luther King Jr., when King decided to attack American involvement in Vietnam due to LBJ's bungling and insistence of running the war from the White House.
President Lyndon Johnson is said to have admitted privately, "That g*ddamn nigger preacher may drive me out of the White House."If you don't believe Johnson used that word, here's a YouTube clip of a phone call where Johnson casually drops the "N-word."
Real credit for passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act should go to Congressional Republicans, because it was Democrats like Al Gore Sr., Bill Clinton's mentor J. William Fulbright, liberal hero of Watergate Sam Ervin, and Robert "Sheets" Byrd (D-KKK) who opposed the act. Byrd even filibustered the bill for 14 hours on the Senate floor.
Some history you won't hear about from the liberal media, or in your history class, and the Democrat Party won't discuss it either.