The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #4)

And, in fact, had Johnson’s plan succeeded, in many ways it would indeed have been “just the way it was.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country” that they summoned up, and, in some ways, summed up, the best of the American spirit, igniting hopes so that, almost on the instant it seemed, they summoned up a new era for Americans, an era of ideals, of brightness, of hope.

Ask not what you have done for Lyndon Johnson, but what you have done for him lately.

But although the cliche says that power always corrupts, what is seldom said ... is that power always reveals. When a man is climbing, trying to persuade others to give him power, concealment is necessary. ... But as a man obtains more power, camouflage becomes less necessary.

He was to become the lawmaker for the poor and the downtrodden and the oppressed. He was to be the bearer of at least a measure of social justice to those whom social justice had so long been denied. The restorer of at least a measure of dignity to those who so desperately needed to be given some dignity. The redeemer of the promises made by them to America. “It is time to write it in the books of law.” By the time Lyndon Johnson left office he had done a lot of writing in those books, had become, above all presidents save Lincoln, the codifier of compassion, the president who wrote mercy and justice in the statute books by which America was governed.

Humphrey was to say, and now he was planning to continue doing so, to use the chairmanship, in Humphrey’s words, “to hang on to [the power] he had wielded as Majority Leader” as a “de facto Majority Leader”; Johnson “had the illusions that he could be in a sense, as Vice President, the Majority Leader.” His proposal violated what was to these senators one of the Senate’s most sacred precepts—its independence of the executive branch; he was proposing that a member of that branch preside over their meetings.

In later decades, the role of the Vice President would be gradually and substantially enlarged—at the discretion of the President—but at the time of the 1960 election, that was where the office stood. No legislative powers, no executive powers, and obstacles, hitherto insurmountable obstacles, to obtaining any—except what the President might choose to give

IS WHERE POWER GOES”: the most significant factor in any equation that adds up to political power, Lyndon Johnson had assured his allies, is the individual, not the office; for a man with a gift for acquiring power, whatever office he held would become powerful—because of what he would make out of it. Johnson

It is not clear who will bring to the Whitehouse those useful commodities of vivid language, a sense of history and most important - a sense of humour, but Johnson himself will provide many other attributes. He is effective precisely because he is so determined, industrious, personal and even humourless, particularly in dealing with Congress. (…) Kennedy had a detached and even donnish willingness to grant a merit in the other fellow’s argument. Johnson is not so inclined to retreat and grants nothing in an argument, not even equal time. Ask not what you have done for Lyndon Johnson, but what you have done for him lately. This may not be the most attractive quality of the new administration but it works. The lovers of style are not too happy with the new administration, but the lovers of substance are not complaining.

It was Abraham Lincoln who struck off the chains of black Americans, but it was Lyndon Johnson who led them into voting booths, closed democracy's sacred curtain behind them, placed their hands upon the lever that gave them a hold on their own destiny, made them, at last and forever, a true part of American political life. How true a part? Forty-three years later, a mere blink of history's eye, a black American, Barack Obama, was sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office.

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans”; “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty”—the phrases of Kennedy’s inaugural

Lyndon Johnson. The junior congressman saw two things that no one else saw. The first was a possible connection between two groups that had previously had no link: conservative Texas oilmen and contractors—most notably his financial backer, Herman Brown, of Brown & Root—who needed federal contracts and tax breaks and were willing to spend money, a lot of money, to get them; and the scores of northern, liberal congressmen, running for re-election, who needed money for their campaigns. The second was that he could become that link.

President Kennedy’s eloquence was designed to make men think; President Johnson’s hammer blows are designed to make men act.

strength with which President Kennedy dispatched his enemies”—a tribute couched in rather remarkable words: Johnson described Kennedy “when he looks you straight in the eye and puts that knife into you without flinching.

The second most powerful man in the country.” All his life Lyndon Johnson had been taking “nothing jobs” and making them into something—something big. And now, no sooner

Time would never cure it. Almost half a century later, when she was the only one of the nine Kennedy siblings still living, the author would ask Jean Kennedy Smith about her brother Bobby and his depression over Jack’s death. “When did he come out of that?” she repeated, and then said, “I don’t think he ever came out of that.

We have talked long enough ... about civil rights,' Lyndon Johnson had said. 'It is time ... to write it in the books of law' - to embody justice and equality in legislation.

You know,' Russell said, 'we could have beaten John Kennedy on civil rights, but not Lyndon Johnson.' There was a pause. A man was perhaps contemplating the end of a way of life he cherished. He was perhaps contemplating the fact that he had played a large role - perhaps the largest role - in raising to power the man who was going to end that way of life. But when, a moment later, Richard Russell spoke again, it was only to repeat the remark. 'We could have beaten Kennedy on civil rights, but we can't Lyndon.