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    Anecdotal Observations On History & Politics

    Entries in LBJ (8)


    LBJ Sightings in Frank Underwood's Office

    Recognize the man in those photographs? It's President Johnson, one of the inspirations for the character of Frank Underwood in House of Cards. Executive Producer Beau Willimon described Underwood as being, "Two scoops of LBJ with a dash of Richard III and a pinch of Hannibal Lecter."

    These photographs depict what was known as the "Johnson treatment" - bending legislators to his will, and turning them to his side.


    LBJ in Retirement

    After his famous "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President," speech, LBJ retired to his ranch in Stonewall, Texas, just outside Austin, where he would live the final four years of his life. His post-presidency was a somewhat depressing affair. He indulged in drink and took up smoking again, lighting up as soon as his plane took off from DC, as Historian Michael Bechloss describes:

    On Inauguration Day, Johnson saw Nixon sworn in, then got on the plane to fly back to Texas. When the front door of the plane closed, Johnson pulled out a cigarette—first cigarette he had smoked since his heart attack in 1955. One of his daughters pulled it out of his mouth and said, "Daddy, what are you doing? You're going to kill yourself." He took it back and said, "I've now raised you girls. I've now been President. Now it's my time!" From that point on, he went into a very self-destructive spiral.

    Self-pitying and withdrawn, Johnson took it upon himself buoy his mood by running his ranch as he had ran the country from the Oval Office -- with rigor. Known as a micro-manager, Johnson's attentiveness to details was unsurpassed, bordering on obsessiveness. In her book Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, Doris Kearns Goodwin describes how the former president would survey his fields and check up on the men who milked the cows, fed for the chickens, drove the tractors and kept the ranch running smoothly overall. He delivered morning pep-talks to his staff, declaring without irony, "We've got a chance of producing some of the finest beef in this country if we work on it... if we treat those hens with loving care, we should be able to produce the finest eggs in the country. Really fresh." He even devised a system of prioritizing the tasks of the day, using abbreviations HP for "high priority," and S for "Hold for a slow day". 

    As a ranchman, LBJ increasingly behaved as if he were making the weighty decisions that affected the fate of the nation. In one instance, he couldn't sleep because his nerves were fraught over a broken pump. He even called the head of American Airlines in Dallas to ensure the prompt delivery of replacement parts so that he could drain rainwater after a minor flood -- an emergency indeed.

    But perhaps the lasting image from LBJ's retirement was his long hair. Much like Al Gore's post-2000 "depression beard", Johnson let his hair grow out, sporting a mullet:


    Huh? LBJ & The Great Society Comic Book

    Below is a bizarre 1966 pro-LBJ comic book that glamorizes his concept of the "great society". Portraying the president as "Super-LBJ," a superhero who fights off Khrushchev, the KKK and the political establishment, it appears to be a rip-off of Superman, Batman and other popular comic characters of the era. The story also includes Robert and Teddy Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Hubert Humphrey, Ladybird Johnson, Richard Nixon and several other political icons of the 1960's. 
    The question is: why? Not only is this cheesy piece of political history embarrassing, but who was it supposed to appeal to? Teenagers don't vote. And if anyone can tell me why RFK is dressed up as what appears to be a teddy-bear, please let me know. 

    Click the below thumbnails to view the full size images: 


    1964 Anti-Goldwater Booklet

    Republican Presidential Nominee Barry Goldwater was parodied to no end during the 1964 presidential election against LBJ. This particular campaign item, "Barry Goldwater from A to Z," was novelty booklet that reinforced the popular democratic stereotype of their opponent, portraying Goldwater as a lazy, trigger happy, unsympathetic war-monger. Click the thumbnails to see the larger images.