by Robin McMeeking
Lyndon Baynes Johnson and the Great Society
The following quoted segments are from wikipedia.
Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908 – January 22, 1973), often referred to as LBJ, served as the 36th President of the United States from 1963 to 1969 after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States from 1961 to 1963. He served in all four federal elected offices of the United States: Representative, Senator, Vice President, and President.
Johnson, a Democrat, served as a United States Representative from Texas, from 1937–1949 and as United States Senator from 1949–1961, including six years as United States Senate Majority Leader, two as Senate Minority Leader and two as Senate Majority Whip. After campaigning unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 1960, Johnson was asked by John F. Kennedy to be his running mate for the 1960 presidential election.
During the convention, Kennedy designated Johnson as his choice for Vice President. Some later reports (such as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s) say that Kennedy offered the position to Johnson as a courtesy and did not expect him to accept. Others (such as W. Marvin Watson) say that the Kennedy campaign was desperate to win the 1960 election against Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., and needed Johnson on the ticket to help carry Southern states.
According to some other sources, Kennedy did not want Johnson to be his running-mate and Vice President, and did not even want to ask him. JFK’s reported choice was Symington. Johnson, however, decided to seek the Vice Presidency and with Speaker Rayburn’s help pressured Kennedy to give him a spot.
Johnson was riding in the Dallas motorcade a few cars behind Kennedy. He was sworn in as President just over 2 hours after the assassination.
The wave of national grief following the assassination gave enormous momentum to Johnson’s promise to carry out Kennedy’s programs. He retained senior Kennedy appointees, some for the full term of his presidency. The late President’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, with whom Johnson had a notoriously difficult relationship, remained in office for a few months until leaving in 1964 to run for the Senate.
Robert Kennedy would be assassinated while campaigning in 1968.
The Republican candidate in 1964 was Senator Barry Goldwater, sometimes referred to as “Mr. Conservative”. He was very much opposed to the welfare aspects of the New Deal, Fair Deal, etc. He also advocated a strong stance in Vietnam. Johnson ran as a cautious statesman anxious to avoid military conflict. A famous TV campaign ad for Johnson that only ran once showed a little girl picking petals in a field of daisies. She counted from one to ten. Then a male voice came in counting down from 10 to one. The field of flowers was replaced with a nuclear explosion. Johnson won with 61% of the popular vote.
In May of 1964 he spoke at the University of Michigan. Here are some excerpts from the “Great Society” speech.
The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning.
The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.
It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what it adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.
Will you join in the battle to give every citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty?
Will you join in the battle to make it possible for all nations to live in enduring peace as neighbors and not as mortal enemies?
Will you join in the battle to build the Great Society, to prove that our material progress is only the foundation on which we will build a richer life of mind and spirit?
More from from wikipedia
In conjunction with the civil rights movement, Johnson overcame southern resistance and convinced Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed most forms of racial segregation. John Kennedy originally proposed the Act and had lined up the necessary votes in the House to pass his civil rights act by the time of his death in November 1963, but it was Johnson who pushed it through the Senate and signed it into law on July 2, 1964. Legend has it that, as he put down his pen, Johnson told an aide, “We have lost the South for a generation”, anticipating a coming backlash from Southern whites against Johnson’s Democratic Party.
In 1965, he achieved passage of a second civil rights bill, the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination in voting, thus allowing millions of southern blacks to vote for the first time. In accordance with the act, several states, “seven of the eleven southern states of the former confederacy” – Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia — were subjected to the procedure of preclearance in 1965, while Texas, home to the majority of the African American population at the time, followed in 1975.
The Great Society program, with its name coined from one of Johnson’s speeches, became Johnson’s agenda for Congress in January 1965: aid to education, attack on disease, Medicare, Medicaid, urban renewal, beautification, conservation, development of depressed regions, a wide-scale fight against poverty, control and prevention of crime, and removal of obstacles to the right to vote. Congress, at times augmenting or amending, enacted many of Johnson’s recommendations.
Federal funding for education
Johnson had a lifelong commitment to the belief that education was the cure for both ignorance and poverty,and was an essential component of the American Dream, especially for minorities who endured poor facilities and tight-fisted budgets from local taxes. He made education a top priority of the Great Society, with an emphasis on helping poor children. After the 1964 landslide brought in many new liberal Congressmen, he had the votes for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. For the first time, large amounts of federal money went to public schools. In practice ESEA meant helping all public school districts, with more money going to districts that had large proportions of students from poor families (which included all the big cities). However, for the first time private schools (most of them Catholic schools in the inner cities) received services, such as library funding, comprising about 12% of the ESEA budget. As Dallek reports, researchers soon found that poverty had more to do with family background and neighborhood conditions than the quantity of education a child received. Early studies suggested initial improvements for poor kids helped by ESEA reading and math programs, but later assessments indicated that benefits faded quickly and left students little better off than those not in the programs. Johnson’s second major education program was the Higher Education Act of 1965, which focused on funding for lower income students, including grants, work-study money, and government loans. He set up the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, to support humanists and artists (as the WPA once did). Although ESEA solidified Johnson’s support among K-12 teachers’ unions, neither the Higher Education Act nor the Endowments mollified the college professors and students growing increasingly uneasy with the war in Vietnam. In 1967 Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act to create educational television programs to supplement the broadcast networks.
“War on poverty”
In 1964, upon Johnson’s request, Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1964 and the Economic Opportunity Act, which was in association with the war on poverty. Johnson set in motion bills and acts, creating programs such as Head Start, food stamps, Work Study, Medicare and Medicaid, which still exist today.
Medicare and Medicaid
The medicare program was established to offer cheaper medical services to the elderly, today covering tens of millions of Americans. Johnson gave the first two Medicare cards to former President Harry S. Truman and his wife Bess after signing the medicare bill at the Truman Library.
Lower income groups receive government-sponsored medical coverage through the Medicaid program.
During Johnson’s administration, the first human spaceflight to the Moon, Apollo 8, was successfully flown by NASA in December 1968. The President congratulated the astronauts, saying, “You’ve taken … all of us, all over the world, into a new era.”
Major riots in black neighborhoods caused a series of “long hot summers.” They started with a violent disturbance in Harlem in 1964 and the Watts district of Los Angeles in 1965, and extended to 1970. The biggest wave came in April 1968, when riots occurred in over a hundred cities in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Newark burned in 1967, where six days of rioting left 26 dead, 1500 injured, and the inner city a burned out shell. In Detroit in 1967, Governor George Romney sent in 7400 national guard troops to quell fire bombings, looting, and attacks on businesses and on police. Johnson finally sent in federal troops with tanks and machine guns. Detroit continued to burn for three more days until finally 43 were dead, 2250 were injured, 4000 were arrested; property damage ranged into the hundreds of millions; much of inner Detroit was never rebuilt. Johnson called for even more billions to be spent in the cities and another federal civil rights law regarding housing, but his political capital had been spent, and his Great Society programs lost support. Johnson’s popularity plummeted as a massive white political backlash took shape, reinforcing the sense Johnson had lost control of the streets of major cities as well as his party.
Backlash against Johnson: 1966–67
Johnson’s problems began to mount in 1966. The press had sensed a “Credibility gap” between what Johnson was saying in press conferences and what was happening on the ground in Vietnam, which led to much less favorable coverage of Johnson.
By year’s end, the Democratic governor of Missouri warned that Johnson would lose the state by 100,000 votes, despite a half-million margin in 1964. “Frustration over Vietnam; too much federal spending and… taxation; no great public support for your Great Society programs; and … public disenchantment with the civil rights programs” had eroded the President’s standing, the governor reported. There were bright spots, however. In January 1967, Johnson boasted that wages were the highest in history, unemployment was at a 13-year low, and corporate profits and farm incomes were greater than ever; however, a 4.5% jump in consumer prices was worrisome, as well as the rise in interest rates. Johnson asked for a temporary 6% surcharge in income taxes to cover the mounting deficit caused by increased spending. Johnson’s approval ratings stayed below 50%; by January 1967, the number of his strong supporters had plunged to 16%, from 25% four months before. He ran about even with Republican George Romney in trial matchups that spring. Asked to explain why he was unpopular, Johnson responded, “I am a dominating personality, and when I get things done I don’t always please all the people.” Johnson also blamed the press, saying they showed “complete irresponsibility and lie and misstate facts and have no one to be answerable to.” He also blamed “the preachers, liberals and professors” who had turned against him. In the congressional elections of 1966, the Republicans gained three seats in the Senate and 47 in the House, reinvigorating the Conservative Coalition and making it impossible for Johnson to pass any additional Great Society legislation.
[By 1968] Johnson had lost control of the Democratic Party, which was splitting into four factions, each of which despised the other three. The first consisted of Johnson (and Humphrey), labor unions, and local party bosses (led by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley). The second group consisted of students and intellectuals who were vociferously against the war and rallied behind McCarthy. The third group were Catholics, Hispanics and African Americans, who rallied behind Robert Kennedy. The fourth group were traditionally segregationist white Southerners, who rallied behind George C. Wallace and the American Independent Party. Vietnam was one of many issues that splintered the party, and Johnson could see no way to win Vietnam and no way to unite the party long enough for him to win re-election.
Therefore, at the end of a March 31 speech, he shocked the nation when he announced he would not run for re-election: “I shall not seek, nor will I accept the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”
In connection to the Civil Rights legislation mentioned above, Johnson’s support of it represented a dramatic change of position for him. From Canada Free Press:
… in order to break the racist ways of Southern Democrats, it was Republican President Eisenhower who sponsored both Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act and it was an LBJ lead Senate who fought tooth and nail against them? Ike finally signed a watered down Civil Rights Bill. Yes, let me repeat that, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower sponsored and signed the first Civil Rights Bill. Did you know that? In 1957 President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which was intended to guarantee the voting rights of all African Americans. This was the first Civil Rights legislation to pass since Reconstruction. He also was forced to send Federal troops to Little Rock Arkansas to escort black students entering a formally all white school. Now today all we here in regards to Civil Rights legislation centers around the 1964 C.R.A., but this is leaving out some of the most important parts. Including the fact that LBJ, prior to moving up to the Executive Office, opposed legislation favoring civil rights for African Americans in this country. One should ask, why this is no longer taught in our schools to children?
I apologize for the following language but we have to understand the truth that is not being told any longer. The following quotes are LBJ quotes:
“I’ll have those niggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.” —Lyndon B. Johnson to two governors on Air Force One –
“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.”—LBJ
You can find this in Ronald Kessler’s “Inside The White House”
Nixon Gets His Turn
Born in California in 1913 into a poor family, Richard Milhouse Nixon graduated first in his class from high school, graduated from Whittier College with a degree in history, then went to Duke Law School where he graduated in 1937. He served in the Navy during WW II, then was elected to the House of Representatives. From History.com:
As a congressman, Nixon served on the House Un-American Activities Committee and rose to national prominence by leading a controversial investigation of Alger Hiss (1904-1996), a well-regarded former State Department official who was accused of spying for the Soviet Union in the late 1930s. Nixon was re-elected to Congress in 1948 and two years later, in 1950, won a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Winning the White House
Six years after losing the governorship in his home state, Nixon made a remarkable political comeback and once again claimed his party’s presidential nomination. He prevailed in the 1968 U.S. presidential election, defeating Democrat Hubert Humphrey (1911-78) and third-party candidate George Wallace (1919-98). Nixon took office at a time of upheaval and change in the U.S. The American people were bitterly divided over the Vietnam War (1954-75), while women marched for equal rights and racial violence rocked the nation’s cities.
Declaring his intention to achieve “peace with honor” in Vietnam, Nixon introduced a strategy known as Vietnamization, which called for gradually withdrawing American troops from the war while training South Vietnamese army forces to take over their own defense. In January 1973, Nixon administration officials reached a peace agreement with Communist North Vietnam. The last American combat troops left Vietnam in March of that year. The hostilities continued, however, and in 1975 North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam and reunited the country under Communist rule.
In addition to dealing with the Vietnam War, Nixon made historic visits, in 1972, to China and the Soviet Union. He reduced tensions between these Communist nations and the U.S., helping to set the stage for establishing formal diplomatic relations. Nixon also signed important treaties to limit the production of nuclear weapons.
The Watergate Scandal and Beyond
While Nixon was running for re-election in 1972, operatives associated with his campaign broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. Several members of Nixon’s administration had knowledge of the burglary and while Nixon denied any involvement, secret tapes of White House conversations later revealed that the president had participated in efforts to cover up the criminal activity.
Facing impeachment by Congress, Nixon resigned from office on August 9, 1974. He was replaced by Vice President Gerald Ford (1913-2006), who a month later pardoned Nixon for any wrongdoing. A number of administration officials were eventually convicted of crimes related to the Watergate affair.
After leaving the White House, Nixon retired to California (he and his wife later moved to New Jersey) and quietly worked to rehabilitate his image, writing books, traveling extensively and consulting with Democratic and Republican presidents. By the time he died on April 22, 1994, at age 81 in New York City, after suffering a stroke, some people viewed him as a respected elder statesman. Other Americans, however, rejected efforts to paint him as anything but a disgraced criminal.
Nixon’s Vice President was Spiro Agnew who had been Governor of Maryland. He had his troubles too:
During his fifth year as Vice President, in the late summer of 1973, Agnew was under investigation by the United States Attorney’s office in Baltimore, Maryland, on charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy. In October, he was formally charged with having accepted bribes totaling more than $100,000, while holding office as Baltimore County Executive, Governor of Maryland, and Vice President of the United States. On October 10, 1973, Agnew was allowed to plead no contest to a single charge that he had failed to report $29,500 of income received in 1967, with the condition that he resign the office of Vice President.
Gerald Ford, House Minority Leader was appointed Vice President on October 12. Therefore, Ford became President when Nixon resigned. Another “first” for the Nixon administration.
President Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford was a graduate of the University of Michigan where he majored in economics and played center on the football team. He was the teams MVP in 1934. He then obtained a law degree from Yale. He had a law practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan which he left to serve in the Navy during WW II. He resumed his law practice after the war. In 1948 he was elected to the House of Representatives where he served for 25 years until being tapped by Nixon for the Vice Presidential role. He served as VP from December 6, 1973 to August 9, 1974 when he became President.
Once in the White House, Ford displayed a more consistently conservative ideology than ever before. While holding generally to the policies of the Nixon administration, he proved more unshakably committed than his predecessor to both a conservative, free market economic approach and strongly nationalistic defense and foreign policies. In attempting to translate his objectives into policy, however, President Ford was frequently blocked by a Democratic Congress intent on flexing its muscles in the wake of Watergate and Nixon’s fall. The result was a running battle of vetoes and attempted overrides throughout the brief Ford presidency.
Ford made two quick tactical errors, whatever the merits of the two decisions. On September 8, 1974 he granted a full pardon to Richard Nixon, in advance, for any crimes he may have committed while in office, and a week later he announced a limited amnesty program for Vietnam-era deserters and draft evaders which angered the nationalistic right even while, in stark contrast to the pardon of Nixon, it seemed to many others not to go far enough in attempting to heal the wounds of the Vietnam War.
Gerald Ford governed the nation in a difficult period. Though president for only 895 days (the fifth shortest tenure in American history), he faced tremendous problems. After the furor surrounding the pardon subsided, the most important issues faced by Ford were inflation and unemployment, the continuing energy crisis, and the repercussions – both actual and psychological – from the final “loss” of South Vietnam in April 1975. Ford consistently championed legislative proposals to effect economic recovery by reducing taxes, spending, and the federal role in the national economy, but he got little from Congress except a temporary tax reduction. Federal spending continued to rise despite his call for a lowered spending ceiling. By late 1976 inflation, at least, had been checked somewhat; on the other hand, unemployment remained a major problem, and the 1976 election occurred in the midst of a recession. In energy matters, congressional Democrats consistently opposed Ford’s proposals to tax imported oil and to deregulate domestic oil and natural gas. Eventually Congress approved only a very gradual decontrol measure.
Ford believed he was particularly hampered by Congress in foreign affairs. Having passed the War Powers Resolution in late 1973, the legislative branch first investigated, and then tried to impose restrictions on, the actions of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In the area of war powers, Ford clearly bested his congressional adversaries. In the Mayaquez incident of May 1975 (involving the seizure of a U.S.-registered ship of that name by Cambodia), Ford retaliated with aerial attacks and a 175-marine assault without engaging the formal mechanisms required by the 1973 resolution. Although the actual success of this commando operation was debatable (39 crew members and the ship rescued, at a total cost of 41 other American lives), American honor had been vindicated and Ford’s approval ratings rose sharply. Having succeeded in defying its provisions, Ford continued to speak out against the War Powers Resolution as unconstitutional even after he left the White House.
Ford basically continued Nixon’s foreign policies, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was a dominant force in his administration as he had been under Nixon. Under increasing pressure from the nationalist right, Ford stopped using the word “detente,” but he continued Nixon’s efforts to negotiate a second SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty), and in 1975 he signed the Helsinki Accords, which recognized political arrangements in Eastern Europe which had been disputed for more than a generation.
President Jimmy Carter
Carter was the first American President born in a hospital, and he was raised on his family’s farm outside the small town of Plains, Georgia, where the family home lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. Jimmy was named after his father, a businessman who kept a farm and store in Plains. Carter’s mother, “Miz” Lillian, a nurse by training, set a moral example for her son by crossing the strict lines of segregation in 1920s Georgia to counsel poor African American women on matters of health care.
Jimmy graduated valedictorian of the class at Plains High School. Captivated by the stories of exotic lands that his uncle visited in the U.S. Navy, Carter enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated in 1946 in the top tenth of his class and signed on as an officer under the tough but inspirational Captain Hyman Rickover in the Navy’s first experimental nuclear submarine. (Rickover was later to become an admiral and build America’s nuclear submarine force.)
In 1953, Carter and his new wife Rosalynn faced a difficult decision. His father, Earl, had died of cancer, and the family peanut farm and his mother’s livelihood were in danger. Resigning from the Navy, Carter and his wife returned to Georgia to save the farm. After a difficult first few years, the farm began to prosper. He became a deacon and Sunday school teacher in the Plains Baptist Church and began serving on local civic boards before being elected to two terms in the Georgia state senate. There he earned a reputation as a tough, independent operator who attacked wasteful government practices and helped repeal laws designed to discourage African Americans from voting.
Carter was stung by a humiliating defeat in a run for governor of Georgia in 1966. He attributed this loss to a lack of support from segregationist whites, who had turned out in large numbers to vote for his opponent, a nationally known segregationist named Lester Maddox. In a bid to win their vote in the 1970 governor’s race, Carter minimized appearances before African American groups, and even sought the endorsements of avowed segregationists, a move that some critics call deeply hypocritical. Yet after he became governor of Georgia in 1971, he surprised many Georgians by declaring that the era of segregation was over!
As Carter watched the defeat of Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern in 1972, he knew he would have to market himself as a different type of Democrat to have a shot at the White House in 1976. He was completely unknown on the national stage. In the aftermath of Nixon’s Watergate scandal, however, this became an advantage. It also helped Carter that the disgraced Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew were replaced on the republican ticket by Gerald Ford, a political insider with no charisma and an uncanny knack for falling down stairs on camera. Despite an ill-advised interview in Playboy magazine, which plummeted his rating in the polls, Carter squeaked out a narrow victory.
Carter’s newcomer status soon showed itself in his inability to make deals with Congress. Sensing his shallow public support, Congress shot down key portions of his consumer protection bill. Carter was determined to free the nation from dependency on foreign oil by encouraging alternate energy sources and deregulating domestic oil pricing. But the creation of a pricing cartel by OPEC, the oil producing countries organization, sent oil prices soaring, caused rampant inflation, and a serious recession. Carter was also deeply troubled by public scandals involving his family, including a mysterious $250,000 payment by the government of Libya to Carter’s brother Billy.
Foreign affairs during the Carter administration were equally troublesome. Critics thrashed both Carter’s plans to relinquish control of the Panama Canal and his response to Soviet aggression in Afghanistan by pulling out of the Olympics and ending the sale of wheat to the Russians. His recognition of communist China, which expanded on Nixon’s China policy, and his negotiation of new arms control agreements with the Soviets, were both criticized by conservatives in the Republican Party. But the most serious crisis of Carter’s presidency involved Iran. When the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power there, the U.S. offered sanctuary to the ailing Shah, angering the new Iranian government, which then encouraged student militants to storm the American embassy and take over fifty Americans hostage. Carter’s ineffectual handling of the much-televised hostage crisis, and the disastrous failed attempt to rescue them in 1980, doomed his presidency, even though he negotiated their release shortly before leaving office.
Carter is positively remembered, however, for the historic 1978 Camp David Accords, where he mediated a historic peace agreement between Israel’s Menachem Begin and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat. This vital summit revived a long-dormant practice of presidential peacemaking, something every succeeding chief executive has emulated to varying degrees. Nevertheless, because of perceived weaknesses as a domestic and foreign policy leader, and because of the poor performance of the economy, Carter was easily defeated by Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980.