Last Of LBJ Presidential Tapes Released

It has been a great week for lovers of history as White House recordings from both President Nixon and President Johnson have been released to the public.  For accuracy’s sake I need to add that in the case of the RN tapes, the recordings might have been taped at places other than the White House, such as the Old Executive Building, though they all get titled as the White House Tapes.

The LBJ tapes released today continue to show the frustration over the Vietnam War, and the keen political mind of the former Senate Majority Leader at work.

Forty years before Democrats nominated their first candidate of color, President Lyndon Johnson told 1968 presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey that he should pick a Japanese-American as his running mate.

It was Sen. Daniel Inouye, who was awarded a silver star in World War II, and who lost an arm in battle.

“He answers Vietnam with that empty sleeve. He answers your problems with Nixon with that empty sleeve. He has that brown face,” Johnson said.

Humphrey, though he was one of the Senate’s foremost liberals, balked.

“I guess maybe, it’s just taking me a little too far, too fast,” Humphrey said. “Old, conservative Humphrey.”

The Vietnam War was tearing the country apart. Democrats wanted their convention platform to call for a halt to U.S. bombing.

From his Texas ranch, Johnson – whose son-in-law was serving in Vietnam – told an aide “no way.”

“I’m telling ’em what our position is as Commander-in-Chief that I’m not about to stop this bombing unless they arrest me and take my power away from me,” he said. “Because I’ve got some of my own right there and I’m not gonna shoot ’em in the heart. Not for a bunch of goddamn draft dodgers.”

Johnson got his way, but the convention in Chicago was a disaster. He listened without comment as his attorney general, Ramsey Clark, blamed the police.

“It was a very disgusting moment in my judgment, Mr. President,” Clark said. “I think it was caused by law enforcement.”

But Johnson, who sympathized with Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, was having problems with his attorney general.

“Well, he doesn’t see this as you and I see it,” Johnson said

Daley argued that his police had been provoked.

“What are you gonna do if someone hits you with human manure in the face, are you gonna stand there?” Daley said.

Johnson did halt the bombing just before the election, which was extremely close. The morning after, Humphrey called to apologize for losing.

“I’m sorry I let you down a little,” he said.

Johnson replied: “No you didn’t, no you didn’t, it’s on a lot of other folks but not you. It’s our own people in the party that created all the problems.”

In Maine Government Women Hold Power

I marvel at the forward motion of Maine.

Maine’s glass ceiling developed a few more cracks Wednesday as women were sworn in as Senate president and House speaker. And in one of its first acts, the newly seated Legislature elected Maine’s first female attorney general.

“It’s so good to see things moving ahead,” said Janet Mills, a Democrat who won bipartisan support to become the state’s 55th attorney general. “Just because there are a lot of firsts doesn’t mean there can’t be a lot of seconds, thirds and fourths along the way. Maine men and women are sharing responsibilities more than in many other states, most other states.”

Also Wednesday after the formal swearing-in of the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Sen. Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell of Vassalboro was elected the chamber’s president and Rep. Hannah Pingree of North Haven was elected House speaker.

Both were elected unanimously after minority Republicans, in a gesture of bipartisanship at the start of what’s expected to be a difficult session, threw their support behind the two Democrats. It’s the first time both of Maine’s legislative chambers are being headed by women at the same time.

And Mitchell is the first woman to have served as presiding officer in both the Maine House and Senate.

Maine has a history of electing and appointing women to lofty positions, although never a governor. The chief justice of the state supreme court, Leigh Ingalls Saufley, is a woman. Maine’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, soon will be joined in Washington by Democratic Rep.-elect Chellie Pingree, who was in Augusta Wednesday to see her daughter ascend to the House rostrum.