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CNN glorifies Lyndon Johnson … with SOME legitimacy (BHM – Part 5)

CNN glorifies Lyndon Johnson … with SOME legitimacy (BHM – Part 5)

As I have reported in previous commentaries that CNN has used the so-called documentaries and townhall meetings as infomercials for the Democrats – either by glorifying Democrats and/or vilifying Republicans.  CNN does not present the history in an objective and factual manner – but rather spins the history in one direction.  They are not as much documentaries as they are propaganda films.

The latest in the series involves the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ).  There were four major elements of the LBJ legacy – the failed war policy in Vietnam (and the ignoble retreat), the abysmal failure of his “War on Poverty,” the passage of the Medicare program and the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965.

The mishandling of the War speaks for itself – and it more than anything forced Johnson to withdraw his candidacy for re-election in 1968.  The War on Poverty was a boondoggle that cost the taxpayers trillions of dollars over the decades — and did nothing to even reduce poverty in America. Medicare is popular among the general public, but like all such massive government programs, the services are inadequate (that is why retirees need the supplemental plans), is far too great of a burden on the economy and is rife with waste and corruption.  

Because it is Black History Month, the primary motivation for the so-called documentary is Johnson’s roll in the pursuit of justice for black Americans.  It is there that CNN does history a great disservice by not telling the whole story.  So, I shall fill in some of the gaps.

Lyndon Johnson was a born-and-bred Texas racist.  He was part of – and a leader of – the southern Democrat racist coalition.  He used the n-word so frequently that Adam Serwer — writing for MSNBC Online — said that “Johnson was practically a connoisseur of the n-word.”  

In his memoir, “Capitol Hill in Black and White,” long time Johnson chauffer, Robert Parker, recalled Johnson asking if he would prefer to be addressed by “Robert” rather than “boy” or “nigger.”  When Parker said he would prefer “Robert,” Johnson shot back:

“As long as you are black, and you’re gonna be black till the day you die, no one’s gonna call you by your goddamn name. So, no matter what you are called, nigger, you just let it roll off your back like water, and you’ll make it. Just pretend you’re a goddamn piece of furniture.”

As Senate Majority Leader, Johnson led the fight against the ultimately successful 1957 Civil Rights Bill introduced by congressional Republicans and backed by President Eisenhower.  Incidentally, another senator also voted against that bill – Jack Kennedy.  In 1960, Johnson and Kennedy both voted in favor of the second Eisenhower/Republican civil rights bill – but only after the enforcement provision was removed.  That is what necessitated the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The why and how the 1964 Civil Rights Bill got passed is a complex and interesting story.  Contrary to contemporary opinion, President Kennedy’s reputation among black leaders was not good.

When running for President in 1960, Kennedy promised to enact a civil rights bill.  Black leaders were skeptical since Kennedy often ran on civil rights and then aligned himself with the southern Democrats when in Congress.

With much fanfare, Kennedy proposed a civil rights bill BUT had it assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee headed by staunch segregationist James Eastland of Mississippi — who declared the bill dead-on-arrival.  And it was.  

Kennedy resurrected the legislation for the 1964 campaign – and again it was assigned to the Eastland Committee, where it would again die without so much as a hearing until … 

Kennedy was assassinated and Johnson took over.  Unlike Kennedy, Johnson got serious about the civil rights legislation to the surprise of many.  There is no disputing that the one-time southern segregationist was using his enormous clout to pass the bill.  But he did not have sufficient support from congressional Democrats.  In fact, they mounted a filibuster to stop the 1964 legislation.

However, Johnson knew that he had the full support of the Republicans in Congress.  The question was: Was it enough to stop the filibuster?  With overwhelming support of the GOP, Johnson needed some of the northern Democrats – just a few.

Illinois Republican Senator Everett Dirksen (picture atop with LBJ) led the cloture vote to end the filibuster, saying “The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing in government, in education, and in employment. It will not be stayed or denied. It is here!’”

In the final vote for cloture in the Senate, 82 percent of Republicans vote in favor – but only 66 percent of Democrats.  Without overwhelming GOP support, the southern Democrats would have again blocked civil rights legislation.  It was the first time there was a successful cloture involving a filibuster of a civil rights bill.

Next came the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  That was a steeper hill.  Initially, Johnson did not want to have the Voting Rights Bill introduced, but he changed his mind after witnessing “Bloody Sunday” – the day a contingent of black marchers – on their way to Selma, Alabama — were attacked by police and citizens on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  But again, Johnson lacked sufficient support from his fellow Democrats in Congress.  He needed major GOP support.

The principal drafter and lead sponsor of the Voting Rights Bill was Dirksen – working with Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach.  It was informally known on Capitol Hill as the “Dirksenbach Bill.”  Dirksen introduced the bill, saying “… this legislation is needed if the unequivocal mandate of the 15th Amendment is to be enforced and made effective, and if the Declaration of Independence is to be made truly meaningful.”

This time there was no filibuster, but Johnson had to rely on overwhelming support from congressional Republicans in both the Senate and the House.  And again, he got it.

The bill was subsequently passed by the Senate.  As with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Republicans provided even greater support (96 percent) than the Democrats (74 percent).  Looking at it another way, 26 percent of the Democrat senators opposed the bill while only four percent of the GOP voted in opposition.  

The part of the story that has been lost in history is that without OVERWHELMING support of congressional Republicans, there would not be the Civil Rights and Voting Rights laws … period.  Dirksen’s essential role in drafting and passing the civil rights legislation of the 1960s got him the cover of Time Magazine.

An interesting – and unanswered question – was what motivated Johnson to put his weight behind the civil rights legislation.  Nothing in his history would have predicted that.  There are three theories.

It had been reported that his legacy as President of the United States would not look good if he continued to be a civil rights opponent.  A more pragmatic theory was that he wanted to ride what the public believed to be the dead President’s wish.  Some historians argue that if Kennedy had not been assassinated, the civil right legislation would never have come out of the Judiciary Committee – where it was intended to die.  

Finally, many say it was a moral conversion.  He had come to see the error of his ways.  Whatever the reason, the one thing is historically certain.  Johnson was unequivocal in his support of the civil rights bills.  But he could not have done it without overwhelming Republican support.

If history were accurate and fair, black Democrats would be attending Dirksen Day Dinners instead of the Democrats’ iconic Jackson Day Dinners – a tribute to America’s worst white supremacist slave-owning President.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Ben

    Johnson was a goddamn communist and should’ve been driven from the country like all democratic communist. How could I lose to a bunch of slants in Vietnam. LBJ created the welfare state, tax and spend and vaccines, all terrible things. We need to keep our powder dry. Send all the communist to trumps best friend, Mr. Putin, he’ll know exactly what to do with them. Than America can be for who the founding fathers intended, white people from Europe. Those who believe in God, from Europe. And not socialist Europeans, the good ones.

    • Perry

      All democrats are goddamned communists

    • Pythias

      Isn’t this the Texan who orchestrated the assassination of President Kennedy?

  2. joe

    Every one over 70 inTexas knows johnson was in on the killing of JFK….

    • Ben

      He taught Hillary how to make it happen

  3. aC

    If Republicans have historically been supportive in the Civil Rights and equality for all movement all this time, why did the Republican Conservative majority Supreme Court severely gut the voting rights legislation recently?
    Your so called filling in the voids of the historical record with so called objective facts detailing Democrat short comings as you see it really adds nothing to the general knowledge narrative. It’s no secret to those of us living through that most socially divisive period, that Johnson was a politician and a jerk first and an accidental civil rights advocate. Kennedy had charisma in the public space and said the right things but he too was a politician of his time.
    You cast the Republican Party as favorable to equality for all back in the mid-20th Century. If that was true it was not representative of their constituents’ feelings at that time. Which basically are identical to present day GOP priorities.
    The heavily weighted anti-Democrat and white wash of Republican’s part in your narrative of history is more of your same Republican propaganda. Republicans have mastered the hypocritical mask do gooders hide behind for political correctness while white supremacy is in their hearts.
    You trot out “Southern Democrat” like an epithet damming all Democrats in all times. What of southern Republicans and their northern cousins when equality and just treatment for the non-white citizens want their deserved place at the voting table?
    In the main you have to agree that 19th Century southern Democrats turned coats to the Republican side and retained their estimation of the Black Race. The Republicans from our southern states are majority white and equate with Trump. Rep MT Greene is an archetype.
    If Lincoln had not been assassinated the Republican Party would be much different today. His Vice President Johnson became President and leader of that party. He was unfit to replace Lincoln and lead the country out of the Civil War.
    Larry, the Republican Party you identify with does not align truly with its historical and traditional values of conservatism in political policy and moral certainty.
    The Democrats are as their name indicates, pro democracy and social Justice for all. Of course their policies would be deemed like socialism. But. Socialism is not the same as Communism, although Republicans think one is equal to the other.
    Would Republicans refuse taking Social Security payments when they reach the age. Would they choose not to benefit from the many social programs they depend on if unwittingly.
    Republicans are as prejudice filled, if not increasingly so, compared to the Democrats you unceasingly lambast.
    Neither party is free of missteps present and past, but Republicans are not convinced of the fact that their most revered leader Trump is the least worthy, highly flawed, abjectly unfit, and worst example of Republican Conservatism imaginable.
    Although, he has verbalized Republican loss of historical reference. It is disappointing and concerning that they line up on Putin’s side and not on Ukraine’s. It is telling about how little Republicans understand I out the frailty of a democracy under assault by an unprincipled bully.
    Is it any wonder America is in the politically disheveled state we presently are forced to contend with. The Republican mind is generally historical context illiterate while obsessively hyper focused on some unforgivable spec in Biden’s eye and entirely ignore the log in their own eye creating blindness in every aspect.
    Larry, it had become glaringly apparent that in your case advanced age and as self advertised a great amount of education, experiential learning, life opportunities had to be informed, and an unchallenging mental accumulation of facts, but in all wisdom is nowhere found.
    A tip-off that wisdom is lacking is an inconsistency in the personal complex equation. It is the claim of religious agnosticism, the non belief in the existence of an almighty God. Therefore, every belief organized on one’s faith in God.
    The traditional Republican is steeped in their faith in God & Country. Assuming God is real and Country is revered as well. Conservative theory has its genesis in keeping with God’s will for people on Earth. Republican religiosity is foundational.
    Where that is missing in a person, is political affiliation possibly true in the real Republican sense.
    That Republicans are themselves inconsistent and muddled with regard to which , God or country is first in priority. This picture is further confused when political party enters. With the Republican Party added they say the order of priority is God, then country, then party. In reality talk and walk are not consistent. Observation gives evidence that the order in practice becomes reversed Country stays in 2nd place, party moves to first place. God is relegated to 3rd. Almost never will Republicans drop belief in God entirely. A Protestant is the more likely Republican to loose their faith. The Catholic Republican may stop attending the mass and visiting confession as prerequisite for taking the elements. But very rare are Catholic raised individuals who disclaim their Catholic faith and belief in God.
    Wise persons take as fact that a higher being than man is real and active in the Universe. Denying God’s existence based on no physical presence noted using the human’s 5 senses excludes a person’s innate sense of God.
    Which party then will accommodate one who reveres Country & Party in any order called for, and claims religious agnosticism.
    No judgement over a personal choice, only stating from observation of the Republican mantra, its followers’ behavior played out, and the traditional Republican mind set