Tag Archives: Lyndon Johnson

Where have you gone, Capitol Hill collegiality?

A Facebook exchange with a friend today brought to mind a missing ingredient in today’s political recipe.

Collegiality is gone. Maybe forever, for all I know … although I hope it makes a comeback.

The exchange was precipitated by a blog I posted about President Reagan’s 11th commandment, which the late president decreed should prohibit Republicans from speaking ill of other Republicans.


My friend responded by saying the blog post reminded him of why he still missed The Gipper. He added that Reagan and the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill, the tough Boston Democrat, liked each other’s company, even though they agreed on virtually nothing.

This all brings to mind some other unusual political friendships on Capitol Hill: Republican Orrin Hatch and Democrat Ted Kennedy; Republican Bob Dole and Democrat Daniel Inouye; Republican Barry Goldwater and Democrat George McGovern; Republican Everett Dirksen and Democrat Lyndon Johnson. (Indeed, the Dirksen-Johnson friendship carried over into LBJ’s presidency.)

Two of those friendships — Dole and Inouye, and Goldwater and McGovern — were forged by common experiences during World War II. Dole and Inouye suffered grievous injury fighting in Europe and spent time in rehab together, where they formed a friendship that would last a lifetime; Goldwater and McGovern both flew combat missions as Army Air Corps pilots and they carried that common bond with them into the Senate.

These are the kinds of relationships we don’t see these days.

What we see instead is a continuation of what then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich once admonished of his Republican troops in the House of Representatives. It was to treat Democrats as the “enemy of normal Americans.”

The enemy? Yes, that was the word he used.

The parties today seem to have carried that outlook well into the 21st century.

It’s shameful in the extreme and it has resulted in the kind of gridlock that stalls the progress of worthwhile legislation. Democrats sought to throw roadblocks in front of Republican President George W. Bush and we’ve seen the payback in the form of even more intense opposition from congressional Republicans who seek to block everything that Democratic President Barack Obama pushes forward.

Each side is pulled away from the center by extremists. “Compromise” has become a four-letter word. Both sides ignore the basis of how legislation is conceived, created and completed.

Remember when Sen. Mitch McConnell declared in 2009 his “main goal” would be to make Barack Obama a “one-term president”?

There you have it. The Age of Collegiality has given way to the Age of Confrontation.

And they call this “good government.” Give me a break.

Where is LBJ when you need him?

Barack H. Obama needs to channel Lyndon B. Johnson.

In a big way.

President Obama’s negotiating team — led by Secretary of State John Kerry — has just brokered a deal that cuts off Iran’s path to obtaining a nuclear weapon.

But not only are congressional Republicans opposed to the deal — which is no surprise in the least — but congressional Democrats appear to be skeptical of the deal.


How does LBJ play into this? I’m trying to imagine congressional Democrats bucking ol’ Lyndon, who was legendary in his ability to cajole his former congressional colleagues into seeing things his way.

Vote with me, or else I’m going to make your life holy hell, he would tell friend and foe alike. There was not disputing LBJ’s sincerity. When he said he’d make congressmen and women’s lives uncomfortable, he meant it.

Former Amarillo College President Paul Matney, who is no slouch as a political observer, once told me he thought Obama’s greatest weakness as president was his lack of congressional relationships. He served only three years in the Senate before being elected president in 2008 and hadn’t built a large cache of friends on Capitol Hill upon whom he could depend when the going gets tough.

It’s going to get quite tough in the weeks ahead as the president seeks to sell the details of his Iran nuclear deal to members of both parties.

Imagine Democrats telling Lyndon Johnson that they’re skeptical of a deal negotiated by a presidential team of the same party.

As for President Obama’s efforts to sell this deal — which I believe has the potential for bringing a more comprehensive peace to the Middle East — well, good luck, Mr. President.

Obama finds friends in GOP

Republicans have made it their mission — a lot of them, anyhow — to trash Barack Obama as some sort of wacked-out Marxist/socialist who is intent on the destruction of the country that elected him as president of the United States.

So, what does the president do? He locks arms with Republican members of Congress and decides it’s really all right to support a free-trade agreement with a dozen Asian nations — which runs counter to where the base of his Democratic Party stands, or so it appears.


The GOP-led Senate has just shut down a filibuster that had stalled the fast-track legislation to get the free trade agreement approved and sent to the president’s desk.

Obama’s major allies in this deal happen to Republicans. The Senate was acting chaotically as senators scrambled between discussion groups to hammer out some kind of deal.

What’s up with that?

I happen to believe in a freer trade than what we’ve had for so long. The world is shrinking and nations or even continents no longer can shield themselves from influences of other nations and continents.

So the free trade agreement likely now will get approved. It will end up on the president’s desk. He’ll sign it.

I’m hoping to see a lot of Republican lawmakers — along with centrist/moderate Democrats — standing with the president when he puts pen to paper.

It’s a scene we haven’t witnessed too much during the Obama administration, but which used to be a regular occurrence during the past presidencies of, say, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Government works better when both parties can find common ground. So help me, it works almost all the time.



Welcome back, Daylight Savings Time

Am I weird or what?

Daylight Savings Time never has been a big deal to me. Here we are, back on it once more. DST has returned a bit earlier than usual. It’s going to stick around a bit later than normal.

What’s the problem with it?


The essay attached here “blames” DST on two presidents from Texas, Democrat Lyndon Johnson and Republican George W. Bush.

LBJ pushed Congress to approve DST in 1966. It would take effect late in April and expire at the end of October every year. The idea was to provide more recreational time in the daylight for Texans wanting to enjoy the great outdoors.

It also was intended to conserve electricity, with buildings needing fewer light bulbs burning while the sun was out.

Along came George Dubya in 2005 to get Congress to extend DST from early March to early November. That means we get even more daylight.

Not all states recognize DST. Arizona is one of them. That state retained its independent streak and went against the feds’ decision to enact it for the rest of the country. That’s Arizona’s call. Go for it.

Ranchers long have objected to DST because their cattle and/or horses stay on the same feeding schedule whether its daylight time or standard time.

For me, the time change has become part of our way of life. We know to “spring forward” in the spring and “fall back” in the fall.

Big deal.

Let’s just live with it. Shall we?


Paul does the Texas thing: two races at once

Kentucky’s Rand Paul is seeking to do something that Texas politicians have done for years.

He wants the ability to run for his U.S. Senate seat and the presidency of the United States at the same time.

Go for it, Sen. Paul.


Paul is expected to get approval by the Kentucky Republican Party soon, enabling him to file for re-election and seek the GOP nomination for the presidency in 2016.

What’s the big deal?

The two most famous Texans to do the same thing were the late Democratic U.S. Sens. Lyndon Johnson and Lloyd Bentsen. LBJ was elected vice president in 1960 and was re-elected to the Senate the same year; the state held a special election in 1961 and Republican John Tower finished first in a huge field for the Senate seat. Then, in 1988, Sen. Bentsen was running for re-election when he was picked to run as vice president on a Democratic ticket led by Michael Dukakis; the Dukakis-Bentsen ticket didn’t win the White House, but Bentsen was re-elected handily over Amarillo Congressman Beau Boulter.

I’ve never had a particular problem with this electoral “loophole.” As for Rand Paul’s political future, the Kentucky GOP holds the key to allowing him to seek re-election to the Senate.

Let him to do it. If he’s as popular in Kentucky as he appears to be, there won’t be much need to campaign actively for that seat while he seeks the GOP presidential nomination.

And hey, if Paul gets drummed out of the Republican presidential race, he’s got plenty of campaign time left to make the case for his Senate seat.


PETA gets its dander up again

I’ve posted plenty of negative comments about the former half-term Alaska governor, and one-time Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Does she deserve the beating she’s getting over her son’s treatment of a family pet?

I don’t believe so.


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has criticized Palin because her son, Trig, is using the dog as a step-stool. Why, it’s just cruel, PETA says. Palin should teach her son how to treat animals. It’s irresponsible of her to allow young Trig to brutalize the family pet.

“It’s odd that anyone — let alone a mother — would find it appropriate to post such a thing, with no apparent sympathy for the dog in the photo,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement to POLITICO.

Come on.

Trig has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. He’s a special needs child. What’s more — and perhaps this is most critical — he is a child. A boy.

I posted some commentary on this blog how right-wingers should refrain from criticizing President Obama’s daughters. The kids are off limits.

The same rule ought to apply to Trig Palin.

When I first heard of this dust-up my thoughts turned immediately to President Lyndon Johnson’s (in)famous incident in which he lifted his beagles — Him and Her — off the ground by their ears. PETA would have raised a lot of hell back then as well. If memory serves, the pooches enjoyed long lives after LBJ hoisted them by their ears.

Sarah Palin continues to be a prime target for criticism almost every time she opens her mouth. But on this issue? Leave her son alone.



Why Warren … and not Clinton?

Conservatives seem to have hitched themselves to a possible candidacy by a leading U.S. Senate liberal.

Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has been wowing crowds at political events lately. She’s been firing up the political base of her Democratic Party. Warren also has gotten the attention of conservative commentators and pundits, such as Byron York, who contends that Warren offers a plan while Hillary Rodham Clinton is running essentially on her resume.


I’ll hereby offer my own explanation of why York, a columnist for the Washington Examiner and a Fox News Channel contributor, is so taken by Warren: He wants the Democratic Party to marginalize itself the way Republicans might be willing to do when they nominate their candidate for the 2016 presidential campaign.

You see, Hillary Clinton is a centrist Democrat in the mold of her husband, the 42nd president of the United States. Bill Clinton was the master of “triangulation,” and he parlayed his skill at working the extremes against each other so well that he won two smashing election victories in 1992 and 1996.

Republicans don’t want any more of that.

So some of them have glommed onto Warren’s candidacy, talking her up.

Don’t get me wrong. Elizabeth Warren is a powerhouse. She’s smart and courageous. She’s taking on big-money interests and is talking a darn good populist message about income equality, marriage equality, and financial and tax reform.

York and other conservatives likely don’t give a damn about the content of Warren’s message. They’re just thrilled to have someone out there willing to possibly challenge Hillary Clinton’s perceived inevitability as the Democratic presidential nominee in two years.

She reminds me vaguely of the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who in 1968 took on President Lyndon Johnson when it was perceived widely that LBJ would run for re-election. McCarthy stunned the president by nearly beating him in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. On March 31, 1968, LBJ declared he wouldn’t seek “another term as your president.”

The news thrilled Republicans in ’68. I suspect similar news from Hillary Clinton this time around would have the same effect on the GOP if Warren jumps in and then mounts a serious challenge to Clinton’s perceived invincibility.

Tea party winning as it's losing

It’s time to give credit where it most definitely is due to the tea party wing of the once-Grand Old Republican Party.

Even when it loses it wins.

Take the race for U.S. senator in Mississippi this week. Sen. Thad Cochran beat back a stout challenge from tea party Republican Chris McDaniel. But did Cochran campaign in the GOP runoff on his ability to work with Democrats, or on his ability to funnel lots of money to his home state? Oh no. He campaigned on his conservative record — which he has established — and by telling Mississippians that he’s as conservative as they are.


I am no longer paying much never-mind to these predictions of the tea party’s death, resurrection and death yet again. The tea party wing of the GOP has won the debate.

It has dragged normally thoughtful conservatives into the rage pit right along with them. U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is as “establishment Republican” as they come. Now, though, he’s suing President Obama because the president has taken some executive action that has angered the tea party wing of the GOP. That means Boehner is mad, too.

Here in Texas, tea party Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick yanked Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst so far to the right that Dewhurst never got his legs under him or found his voice. He looked and sounded awkward trying to be as out there as Patrick, who’s smooth, articulate and glib. Patrick beat Dewhurst in the Texas GOP runoff.

Across the state, Republicans are sounding more alike all the time — meaning they’ve adopted the do-nothing mantra so popular among tea party officeholders in Washington.

There once was a Republican Party with pols who could work well with Democrats. Two come to mind immediately: the late U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas. There’ve been others, but those two men stand out in my own mind. Dirksen was pals with President Lyndon Johnson and helped LBJ enact civil rights and voting rights legislation in the mid-1960s. Dole was a dear friend of the late Democratic U.S. Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota. It helped that the two men both were World War II heroes and had a shared bond of military service. They also worked hand-in-hand on anti-hunger legislation.

Dole and Dirksen would be laughed out of the Senate chamber today.

The tea party’s strength can be seen in the debate that’s raging within the Republican Party — if you want to call it that when virtually all Republicans now are singing off the tea party song sheet.

The tea party, therefore, is winning, even when it’s losing.

That slope is slippery, Mr. President

The Vietnam Generation remembers a time when U.S. military assistance overseas went from “advisory” to engaging in bloody combat. It didn’t take terribly long for our role to change in Vietnam.

It is that memory that’s been stirred in recent days as President Obama has announced the return of U.S. advisers to Iraq to aid the Iraqi military in its fight against Sunni insurgents seeking to take back the government Americans overthrew when it went to war there in March 2003.


The president has declared categorically that the United States will not send combat troops back into Iraq. I and no doubt million of other Americans will hold him to his word on that.

I just watched an interesting segment from CNN’s series “The Sixties” that dealt with the Vietnam War. President Kennedy was killed in November 1963 and by then our advisory role in ‘Nam had grown to several thousand troops. President Johnson fairly quickly granted military requests for more troops, ratcheting up our involvement to a level where Americans were shouldering the bulk of the combat operations against the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army.

By the time I arrived at Marble Mountain, just south of Da Nang, South Vietnam, in March 1969, American troops strength was at its absolute peak: 543,000 of us were deployed there. But soon the drawdown began as President Nixon implemented his “Vietnamization” program of turning the combat responsibility over to those who had the most skin in the game.

Surely, the wise men and women at the White House and perhaps even at the Pentagon will remind the current president — who was not quite 8 years old when I arrived in ‘Nam way back when — of the folly of resuming a ground combat role in Iraq.

Listen to them, Mr. President. Please.

Congressional overreaction?

Congress’s reaction to the way President Obama brokered the deal to release Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl certainly is a serious matter.

But is it worth a loss of sleep in the residential quarters of the White House? I don’t think so.

The anger is a result of what I believe has been a nearly six-year estrangement between the White House and Capitol Hill. It’s been brought on by both sides.

Republicans who run the House of Representatives dislike Barack Obama for a lengthy list of reasons. Most of it is because of policy reasons. Some of it, though, seems to go beyond what most of us considerable to be reasonable. A handful of GOP lawmakers have gone to extreme lengths to insult the president, question his integrity, his qualifications for office, you name it.

Shall we recall, also, that the leading Senate Republican declared during Barack Obama’s first year in office that his “No. 1 goal is to make Obama a one-term president”? Mitch McConnell failed in that quest, as the president won re-election.

OK, there’s where Capitol Hill is to blame.

President Obama did not bother to learn the fine art of legislating during his brief time in the Senate. Therefore, he entered the White House believing in his way only. He hasn’t developed the kind of personal relationships presidents need when the chips are down.

As some of my veteran Texas political observer friends have reminded me over the years, Barack Obama needs a healthy dose of Lyndon Johnson. LBJ was a product of the Senate. He knew how to legislate. He knew how to cajole, persuade, threaten, compromise, surrender — all at the same time. He took those skills to the White House when he became president on Nov. 22, 1963.

Had the current president developed better relationships with Congress, he wouldn’t find himself being pounded incessantly now over this latest matter — the alleged failure to consult fully with Congress before agreeing to the release of the bad guys from Gitmo in exchange for Bergdahl’s freedom.

Whose fault is all this?

From my perspective — and recognizing my own bias — I would have to lay the bulk of the blame here on Congress. The leadership there has been bereft of ideas of their own. They’ve been intent on undoing the president’s agenda at every possible turn. From health care, to environmental policy and lately — and this one just slays me — to rolling back the first lady’s guidelines on serving healthy lunches to our school children attending public schools, congressional Republicans have dug in their heels.

None of that excuses the president’s refusal to build better relationships, but in my mind it suggests that Barack Obama has grown tired of fighting over every single issue that needs to be resolved.

Bergdahl’s release needed to occur. It came after some tough decision-making at the White House. It has enraged members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.

Should we take their outrage seriously? Sure. But it doesn’t mean that Planet Earth will spin off its axis if they don’t get their way in this latest public quarrel.