(By the way, I haven’t forgotten about the “Real Time Update.” I’m just taking my time with it for a variety of reasons, one of which being that the show is off this Friday.)
I’ve read some letters from the conservative shock troops out there (or, as Atrios refers to them, “the 101st Fighting Keyboarders”) who, in a continuing, 24/7/365 effort to prop up Dubya, are now stating that, “well, whaddaya know? Because of the cleanup from Katrina, Bush has the opportunity to become a ‘big-government president’ like another former president from Texas, Lyndon B. Johnson.”
There’s a word for a statement like that which equates perfectly with the substance that you wipe off your footwear after spending a few hours on your ranch cleaning out the horse stable (going a LONG way not to curse, I’ll admit).
As you can read from the Wikipedia article, Johnson taught in a Texas high school before he entered politics. He also served in the military during World War II and received several commendations. Johnson was also elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1937 and the U.S. Senate in 1948, rising through the ranks to position himself near the top of the party by the time of the 1960 presidential election. As we know of course, he became president in 1963 upon JFK’s assassination and was elected to a term of his own in 1964.
Questionable events and circumstances surrounded his ascent, but nonetheless, he rose largely through his own hard work and determination. His presidency will be remembered primarily for the success (and excess, to a degree) of his Great Society programs, as well as the turmoil due to the escalation of the Vietnam War. Indeed, you could argue that Johnson’s popularity as president (for a time) stemmed partly from the fact that he knew the U.S. Congress as well as he did.
Regarding Vietnam, Johnson clearly agonized over the turn of events, finally deciding not to run for another term as president in 1968 largely because of it. From the moment he left office, he let his health go with smoking and failing to keep up his exercise regimen, which was necessary due to the severe heart attack he had suffered many years earlier, requiring continual fitness on his part. This led to his death from another heart attack (his third) in 1973. In essence, Johnson committed suicide because of the war.
Considering all of this, it is easy to contrast Johnson, a largely self-made man (though, then as now, Kellogg, Brown and Root figure largely in anyone’s political ascent in Texas), with Dubya, who has had everything in his life handed to him. Also, it is even more preposterous to think that Dubya would perform any kind of “governmental social engineering” on behalf of anyone except his fellow millionaires.
I would humbly ask that you ponder all of this the next time you hear about a genuine leader (though Johnson clearly was not a saint, and I personally don’t think he had a hand in the assassination) being contrasted with a pretender who, God help us, currently holds what is still the most important job in the world.