Sunday, January 19, 2014

LBJ: PBS Spins a Racial Fairy Tale about Lyndon Johnson, as His Reward for Signing the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts


Lyndon B. Johnson

Re-posted, with commentary, by Nicholas Stix

The PBS “documentary” LBJ runs three hours and 43 minutes; its transcript is over 31,000 words long. PBS was kind enough to post both the video and the transcript online. I have copied and pasted a link to the video below, and the transcript. However, since few people are willing to read such a long text in one sitting, I have broken it up into 29 chapters. Since PBS divided the film into four sections, I have tried to maintain that set-up, but since I found the sections too long, I added alphabetical subsections, e.g., “Part One A.”)

Note that the transcript is riddled with errors, including even the sections. Transcribers are under a great deal of time pressure, and always make a great many errors. However, either no one is correcting the errors, or the editors assigned to do so are themselves incompetent. PBS is not paying me to correct its editors’ mistakes, and so I have inserted “sic” all over the place, but in the interest of not distracting my readers, not as frequently as I could have.

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


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    Lyndon Johnson was the first president to appoint an African American to the Supreme Court when, on June 13, 1967, Johnson named Thurgood Marshall, the great-grandson of a slave, to sit on the highest court in the land. Lyndon Johnson exploited his mastery of the legislative process to shepherd a collection of progressive programs, rivaling those of FDR's New Deal, through Congress with astounding success. However, visions of a Great Society were swallowed up in the quagmire of Vietnam: the unpopular and costly war eroded his political base and left him an exile within his own White House.

    Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

    Written and Produced by David Grubin
    Narrated by David McCullough

    "This bill will lock up the nigger vote for the Democrats for the next 100 years."

    Lyndon Johnson, after signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    Transcript: LBJ


    LBJ: Program Transcript

    McCullough:[voice-over] LBJ, Lyndon Baines Johnson -- Texan, Democrat, political virtuoso. He rises up out of the 1960s like a Colossus, like something from Shakespeare, filling the stage -- 10, 12 characters in one. He is admired and he is detested. Everybody who knew him had stories.

    Yet Lyndon Johnson was hard for the country to know. He seemed so stiff and colorless on television, not at all himself. The real Lyndon Johnson was a mover, a driver, a charmer, a bully -- six feet four inches tall with a size 7-3/8 Stetson hat. He loved food -- chili and tapioca pudding. He loved attractive women. He was a good dancer, a brilliant mimic. He was funny, often hilarious. They all say that.

    But the real measure of a leader is what he gets done, the size of the problems he faces. Before Lyndon Johnson, we were essentially a segregated society. Inequality among black Americans in the South was set in law. Before Lyndon Johnson, there was no Head Start program, no Medicare -- so much that we take for granted -- and before Lyndon Johnson, very few Americans had even heard of Vietnam. He is a story, a very American story and, in all, a tragedy in the real sense. He's the central character in a struggle of moral importance ending in ruin.

    He had been scorned as an unscrupulous politician, a vulgar wheeler-dealer driven by ambition and a lust for power, but on January 20, 1965, the night of his inaugural gala, Lyndon Johnson was a happy man. Overwhelmingly elected, he promised to wipe out poverty and segregation, protect the old and educate the young -- that was his dream. Few presidents would ever know more triumph, few suffer such a swift and tragic fall.

    John Connally, LBJ Campaign Aide, LBJ Advisor:He was generous and he was selfish. He was kind. At other times, he was cruel. At times, he was an earthy, crude-acting fella. At other times, he was incredibly charming. He could be whatever he wanted to be, but he was a strange, complex man who had basically almost a Jekyll-and-Hyde existence. He was two different people.

    George Reedy, U.S. Senate Staff, White House Press Secretary:What was it that would send him into those fantastic rages where he could be one of the nastiest, most insufferable, sadistic SOB's that ever lived and a few minutes later really be a big, magnificent and inspiring leader?

    Robert Dallek, LBJ Biographer:What you have is a thoroughly American president, who was American from day one: his birth in South Central Texas. This is a man who reflected American moods and attitudes and contradictions and trends. And when he failed, it was America's failure.

    George Reedy, U.S. Senate Staff, White House Press Secretary:Hubris, as the Greeks would put it. "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." Now, this was a man that was so big, that reached so far and made it and then let the whole thing crumble. I think it's one of the great stories of history.

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