Lyndon B. Johnson

By Spanberg, Erik | The Christian Science Monitor, June 3, 2010 | Go to article overview

Lyndon B. Johnson


Spanberg, Erik, The Christian Science Monitor


This biography of LBJ is the latest in the well-received American Presidents Series.

In 1964 and 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson overhauled civil

rights, voting rights, immigration, education funding, and health

care for the elderly. Indeed, as Charles Peters points out in Lyndon

B. Johnson, his slim but detailed new biography of the 36th

president, Johnson cajoled, prodded, pleaded, and bullied his way

into the most sweeping run of liberal legislation since Franklin

Delano Roosevelt. It's ironic, then, that Johnson's longtime

rival, Robert Kennedy, considered LBJ to be a conservative.

The great dilemma of Johnson's 1-1/2 terms in office is his

dreadful foreign policy, a counterbalance heavy enough to supersede

his domestic accomplishments, at least in the earliest assessments of

LBJ's presidency. More than four decades after he left the White

House, Johnson's Vietnam quagmire remains a major focal point for

any reasonable analysis of his tenure.

But, as Peters writes, LBJ has come to be regarded as a

better-than-average president in the longer historical perspective.

He doesn't share the rarefied status of FDR, Lincoln, and

Washington, to be sure, but he seems to be a good fit in the next

tier alongside Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew

Jackson. Peters sees plenty of similarity between Jackson and

Johnson: each man could be considered crude, each came from humble

origins, and both had their greatest accomplishments eclipsed at the

time they were in office by grave, haunting decisions (Vietnam for

Johnson and the Trail of Tears for Jackson).

It's worth remembering the John Kenneth Galbraith comment (as

Peters does) on assessing LBJ's greatness without the onus of

Vietnam: "That's like saying Switzerland would be a flat country

without the Alps."

The Johnson biography is the latest in the well-received American

Presidents Series, first edited by the late Arthur M. Schlesinger

Jr., and now presided over by Sean Wilentz. These compact volumes run

a couple of hundred pages and lend insight to the careers of those

who may have neglected, in LBJ's case for example, the mammoth,

multivolume biographies written by Robert Caro and Robert Dallek in

recent decades.

Peters, the founder of Washington Monthly and a former worker on

John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign, offers a fair portrait

blending insider and historical perspectives.

Johnson's boyhood, in retrospect, was the perfect training ground

for a future liberal legislator who believed in using government to

lift up the poor and disenfranchised. Those motives, of course, never

precluded personal gain and the accumulation of more and more

political power.

Sam Johnson was a rural farmer and former legislator whose Austin

connections allowed young Lyndon to run around the halls of the state

capitol, collecting gossip and political acumen. LBJ's mother

graduated from Baylor University and was known to be stern,

domineering, and snobby. From his father, Lyndon inherited alcoholism

and a loathing of racial prejudice; from his mother, among other

things, he learned to freeze out anyone who disappointed him in the

least.

By the time he reached college at Southwest Texas State Teachers

College in San Marcos, Johnson had figured out flattery would get him

everywhere. Soon enough, it did.

Johnson worked for the college president and never failed to dish

out extensive, and excessive, praise. Soon enough, he had become an

indispensable aide.After a brief stint teaching in Houston following

graduation, a friend of Johnson's father won a congressional seat

and tapped LBJ as his staff director. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Lyndon B. Johnson
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.