JOHNSON CITY, Texas — What would Lyndon think of what happened today?
We’ve spent the past three nights in President Johnson’s beloved Texas Hill Country and it was in this tranquil environment that we heard the news out of Washington — that House Speaker John Boehner is resigning his speakership and his congressional seat at the end of October.
The reaction from across the political spectrum? Well, President Obama — with whom Boehner has had many enormous differences — called him a “patriot” and a “good man.”
The reaction from the right wing of the speaker’s Republican Party? They cheered the news. Good riddance, Mr. Speaker.
Right wingers are smiling at the news. They want the speaker out of there.
Which brings me back to Lyndon Johnson.
LBJ was a proud Democrat. He also was a supreme legislator, thought by many to be the greatest Senate majority leader in the history of the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”
He took his legislative skill with him to the vice presidency and then — in that spasm of violence on Nov. 22, 1963 — to the presidency.
How do you suppose he earned the legislative kudos? He earned them by knowing how to compromise and how to get his friends in the other party to join him in enacting critical legislation. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, enactment of Medicare? All three of those landmarks were achieved with bipartisan support engineered in large part by the president of the United States.
Today, the mood and the atmosphere is different. Arch-conservatives — and, for that matter, ultraliberals — would rather fall on their proverbial grenades than compromise with politicians they see as enemies, and not just adversaries.
Lyndon Johnson would be an unhappy man were he to rise from his grave in Stonewall and see what has happened to the two great political parties that at one time knew how to work together to get things done for the common good.
In that respect, the president likely would throw his arm around Speaker Boehner, wish him well and hope for the return of better days atop Capitol Hill.