Still no respect for LBJ
I had the TV on in the background Saturday morning and heard an ad for a new History Channel show, What the Hell's the Presidency For? LBJ's Battle for Civil Rights. I found the teaser interesting, as it showed LBJ working the phones, lobbying Congress. He was the master of shepherding his programs through.
What was unusual is that the program was to be aired just once and during what had to be one of the worst time slots of the year: 7 pm Eastern time on the Saturday night of the long Independence Day weekend. Indeed, most channels avoid airing new programs on that weekend. Most new cable TV programs also air twice a night so they hit prime time in all time zones.
Nor is this documentary scheduled to rerun anytime this week.
I have to wonder why this documentary was even made, since the History Channel apparently has chosen to bury it.
LBJ is a monumental character who has not gotten his due, in part because the historians like to attribute his domestic legislative achievements to President Kennedy. Many of LBJs Great Society programs were ill advised, as they failed to take into account both human nature and the law of unintended consequences. But he certainly knew how to work Congress to get what he wanted. What the Hell's the Presidency For? shows how he did it, with audio clips of many of his phone calls. LBJ could wheedle, flatter, threaten, cajole, and horse trade in turn to get his way. A large and not very attractive man, in person he was even known to invade people's personal space until they finally agreed with him simply to make him just go away.
The documentary was marred by way too much Barack Obama talking about LBJ and the 1960s, a forced attempt to make Black Lives Matter a meaningful part of the civil rights continuum, and some nonsense about recent attempts to roll back the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On the plus side, it did cover the role Republicans played in breaking the Southern Democrat filibusterer of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, through there was a snide dig along the way.
At the end of the hour, I had to wonder what the forceful LBJ, who seemed to vastly prefer the rough and tumble of directly working out the details of legislation with members of both parties to reading speeches, would make of Obama.