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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Beautiful Texas (LBJ: Part One A)

 

Beautiful Texas (LBJ: Part One A)
 
Lyndon B. Johnson

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix
 

View entire film online (3 hours, 43 mins.)

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    LBJ

    Written and Produced by David Grubin
    Narrated by David McCullough

    PBS Transcript

    Pres. Lyndon Baines Johnson:[1964 Democratic Convention] My fellow Americans, I accept your nomination.

    McCullough:[voice-over] The 1964 presidential campaign was all Lyndon Baines Johnson. After years of compromise and opportunism, he fired America with his vision of a great society.

    Pres. Johnson:Our first objective is to free 30 million Americans from the prison of poverty. Can you help us free these Americans? And if you can, let me hear your voices!

    McCullough:[voice-over] He reached out to the poor, the dispossessed, to Americans who were left behind.

    Pres. Johnson:Do something we can be proud of. Help the weak and the meek and lift them up and help them dream and give them an education where they can make their own way.

    McCullough:[voice-over] Campaigning with the energy of 10 men -- "As if he had an extra pair of glands," one aide said -- he sounded the battle cries of his political youth, echoing his very first campaign a quarter of a century before.

    In the spring of 1937, Johnson was 28 years old, campaigning as an ardent Roosevelt New Dealer, reaching out to the working men and poor dirt farmers of the Texas hill country. He ran for office as if his life depended on it. He spoke in every town in his district, lost 40 pounds in 42 days, made 200 speeches and collapsed with appendicitis just two days before the election.

    From his hospital bed, with his wife Lady Bird, he learned that he'd been elected one of the youngest members of Congress. His political ideals would waver, but for the rest of his life, he would display the same nervous intensity, the same obsessive drive to succeed and a talent for attaching himself to power.

    One month after Johnson's election, the President paid a holiday visit to Galveston, Texas. Franklin Roosevelt was Lyndon Johnson's political hero. Now, the ambitious new congressman seized the opportunity to meet him.

    Lady Bird Johnson:The Governor was going down to pay his respects, so he called Lyndon and said, "I'd like to take you along because you ran so completely on Roosevelt's platforms that I think he ought to meet you." And Lyndon was there with his eyes out on stems, taking in every word and every gesture.

    McCullough:[voice-over] They talked about fishing, about the Navy. Then, Johnson asked for an assignment to nothing less than the Appropriations Committee. The President said that would have to wait.

    Robert Dallek, LBJ Biographer:Here are the two great politicians in American history in this century, I believe, and they're sizing each other up. And Roosevelt gives him the name of Tommy Corcoran, Tommy "The Cork," the White House aide and the Washington fixer and he tells Johnson, "If you need anything when you get to Washington, you call up Mr. Corcoran." Well Roosevelt himself gets back to Washington and he calls up Corcoran, the story goes, and he says to him, "Tommy, I just met the most extraordinary young man down in Texas."

    Eliot Janeway, Economist, Johnson Family Friend:"With any luck, if the chips go right and he hangs onto the friends he makes, this boy Lyndon Johnson one day can wind up being the President of the United States. He's got it." It was quite a call, wasn't it?

    McCullough:[voice-over] In the Texas hill country, they said that Lyndon was born to politics. His grandfather had run for state office and his father, Sam Ealy Johnson served six terms in the Texas legislature. Sam was an old-time reform politician who voted to tax big business and, like his father before him, supported the eight-hour day. "I loved going with my father to the legislature," Lyndon said. "The only thing I loved more was going with him on the trail during his campaigns. Sometimes, I wished it would go on forever."

    Robert Dallek, LBJ Biographer:There are state legislators who remember Lyndon. They said it was uncanny how much he looked like his father, how much his mannerisms were like his father's and how they grabbed you by the lapels and pulled you toward them and were very physical. And there was a kind of warmth to it, a kind of very human quality. And he got the smell in his nose of politics and it just enthralled him.

    McCullough:[voice-over] Johnson's mother Rebecca was a college graduate, cultured and ambitious. It was said that Lyndon got his drive and ambition from her. Nothing had prepared Rebecca for the hardships of life in the rural backwaters of Texas with no electricity or indoor plumbing. "Life is real and earnest," she wrote, "and not the charming fairy tale of which I had so long dreamed."

    "The first year of their marriage was the worst year of her life," Johnson later said. "Then I came along and suddenly everything was all right again. I could do all the things she never did."

    Doris Kearns Goodwin, LBJ Biographer:There was a certain depression that was in her which could only be relieved by putting all of her hopes and ambitions on this child. I mean, he would tell me that when his father was away at the state legislature, even when he was 11 or 12, that he was invited to stay in her bed at night to keep her company.

    But then, when he came home with a bad report card, she would literally withdraw her love to the point where, he told me, that she wouldn't even speak to him for days on end, that she would talk to her husband or the other children and pretend he didn't exist. So that lack of consistent love, I think, was what made him feel always that he would only be loved if he performed.

    McCullough:[voice-over] Fear of failure would haunt him all of his life. When Lyndon was in his teens, he watched his father go broke. Cotton prices plummeted. Sam was forced to sell the family farm. Neither Lyndon nor his mother ever wanted him to be like his failed father and it fired his drive to be successful.

    The day Lyndon Johnson left for Washington to take his place in Congress, he bid his parents an emotional goodbye. His mother had told him his election was compensation for her own disappointments. "You have always justified my expectations, my hopes, my dreams. How dear to me you are you cannot know, my darling boy."

    Johnson never forgot his father's parting words. "Now, you get up there, support FDR all the way, never shimmy and give 'em hell." Less than six months later, his father was dead.



  • 1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    You should definitely read the Robert Caro series of books about LBJ (most libraries have them.) The amount of detail about his elections, especially against Coke Stevenson, is outstanding and not boring in the least. Although a liberal himself Caro doesn't really attempt to cover up for Johnson and his many, many sins. He also has a first hand account of the story of box 13 written by George Parr's hired Mexican gun thug before his death. Lewis33