Reconsidering Lyndon B. Johnson
I'm so glad that Salon ran this article today about the liberal legacy of Johnson. Johnson is so firmly remembered at the President who got us deep into Vietnam that many people don't realize how many good things he did. Or they give Kennedy credit. Hopefully this will help correct certain misconceptions.
Last time I was at the LBJ Library here in Austin with my boyfriend and his stepmom, the topic came up as we descended the stairs into the actual LBJ display of where the hell Bush is going to put up his library. There's no doubt that it'll be in Texas, and we feverishly hoped that he wouldn't put it in Austin to pick up the tourist traffic that the Capitol and the university attracts. Presidential libraries are great places to take visiting parents, but what if your parents are the sort that are obsessed with what welfare queens are getting away with these days? Yeah, the LBJ library isn't the best idea. But boy a Bush library would be a perfect wingnut alternative.
After all, in so many ways, Bush is the anti-Johnson. This hit us like a ton of bricks as we walked into the room that displayed all the pens Johnson used to sign different pieces of historic legislation. The list of bills was like reading an internal memo of stuff that the Bushies would like to overthrow--the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, National Endowment for the Arts, bills creating the student financial aid system so many of us relied on to get us through school, bills setting up valuable welfare programs, the entire underpinnings of the Great Society that actually did become more than a pipe dream. I imagine Bush & Co would keep the Civil Rights Act for nostaglia purposes, but that's it. Granted, now they are overshooting and trying to overturn FDR's legacy first, but I think that's only so that overturning the Great Society will look like the middle ground when all this is over.
Vietnam overshadows Johnson's legacy for a lot of us on the left, but his legacy is crystal clear to conservatives. If you've ever had the pleasure of hearing Limbaugh sputter on about Johnson, two things become very clear--that Johnson is the Great Satan to many on the right and that in Limbaugh's house growing up a certain word starting with N was probably tossed around freely . Sometimes I wonder if anyone has actually up and said out loud in a White House meeting that Vietnam was the only thing that Johnson got right.