Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Presidents I Have Known - Part 3

I suggest that you read parts 1 and 2 if you have not done so. But we move on as the country did after that terrible day in Dallas. I once had a young Democrat politician visit me at my home. He wanted to understand the conservative point of view. When we sat down, I asked him, what recent president had done the most to harm the country? He thought long before he answered, Lyndon Johnson. I told him he was correct.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was a political "bull of the woods".He was a Senator, Majority Whip, and Majority Leader before he was sworn in as President. As Majority Leader he knew how to get things done, as opposed to Harry Reid, who only seems to know how to get things stopped. Though they would fight like devils on the Senate floor, there was an air of collegiality that is missing today. They would deal on legislation to the point where no one got everything but everybody got something.

But LBJ had one grand idea. It was that he could defeat poverty. As President he could fight that war. If that were his only war, he may have survived into a second term. But he also wanted to defeat communism in Viet Nam. 

The "war on poverty" was a hugely expanded national welfare program. In these days poor families stayed together because they had to to survive. But the new government program would give money to single moms. So the men moved out when the welfare worker was coming by. After a while they didn't come back. Teenage girls that were unhappy at home or in school realized that if they got pregnant the government would set them up to live on their own. How cool!

At the same time, Johnson escalated the war in Viet Nam and the country was torn apart. Student protests and domestic violence were common. Young men deserted to Canada rather than go to war. Even the music became anti-war with a hard edge. About the only thing Johnson had created was turmoil. Johnson announced he would not seek a second term

And then came Richard Milhous Nixon. Nixon had the potential to be one of the greatest Presidents ever. He opened up China and broke the anti-American, Russia China coalition. He stopped the fighting in Viet Nam. He was a strong believer in states rights.

Richard Nixon had one major failing. He thought that he was the only person qualified to be President. He had followers that had even fewer scruples than he did. So they broke into the Democrat headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. And they got caught. And Nixon lied about it. And he was driven out of office. Not good times in America.

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