Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power

By Rowland Evans; Robert Novak | Go to book overview
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Chapter VIII THE LEGISLATOR

I have always thought of myself as one who has been moderate in approaching problems.

-- Lyndon B. Johnson, December 12, 1955

Under the banner of Senate Majority Leader Johnson, the congressional Democrats have become practically indistinguishable from the party they allegedly oppose.

-- Joseph L. Rauh, national chairman of ADA, March 23, 1956

The unmistakable signal that the second session of the 85th Congress was only hours away from sine die, or final, adjournment came around ten o'clock on Saturday evening, August 23, 1958, when Lyndon B. Johnson emerged from the Democratic cloakroom, took the floor, and began reading a statement lauding the accomplishments of the session--his fourth as Majority Leader. Reading from a double- spaced typewritten sheet in a barely audible monotone, he began:

This Senate has been a body deeply aware of the obligations to all the people. It has been creative and constructive. It has emphasized the substantial rather than the trivial. It has sought achievement rather than discord.

Johnson documented the ways in which the Senate--his Senate-- had achieved a remarkable consensus during 1958 on many issues that had seemed certain to divide and overwhelm the Democratic majority. He went down the list. Although civilian versus military control of the new program to explore space should predictably have split Congress down the middle, a compromise bill creating a new Space Agency passed the Senate by a "unanimous" vote--that is, without a roll call and without audible dissent. Although President Eisenhower's proposed reorganization of the Defense Department had brought

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