Wednesday, December 27, 2017

LBJ's early Life

By 1937, Johnson successfully campaigned in a special election for Texas’s 10th congressional district. This district involved Austin and the surrounding hill country. He ran on a New Deal platform. He was aided by his wife effectively. He served in the House form April 10, 1937 to January 3, 1949. President Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomed him as an ally. He was a conduit for information, especially when it relates to Texas internal politics. He worked with LBJ on the machinations of Vice President John Nance Garner and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. Johnson was soon appointed to the Naval Affairs Committee. He worked involving rural electrification and other improvements in his district. LBJ steered the projects towards contractors. He personally knew contractors like the Brown Brothers, Herman and George. They would finance much of LBJ’s future political career. He ran for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in a special election in 1941. His main opponent was the sitting Governor of Texas. He was the businessman and radio personality W. Lee O’Daniel. Johnson narrowly lost the Democratic primary, which was tantamount to the election. O’Daniel received 175,590 votes (30.49%), and Johnson 174,279 votes (30.26%). Lyndon Baines Johnson was in active military duty from 1941 to 1942. On June 21, 1940, he was appointed a Lieutenant Commander of the U.S. Naval Reserve. He served as a U.S. Congressman during this time. He was called to active duty three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941. He was ordered to report to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in D.C. for instruction and training.

After he was trained, LBJ asked Undersecretary of the Navy James Forrestal for a combat assignment. He was sent instead to inspect the shipyard facilities in Texas and on the West Coast. By the spring of 1942, President Roosevelt needed his own reports on what conditions were like in the Southwest Pacific. FDR wanted information from up the military command. He wanted a trusted political aide to send him the information. Forrestal suggested Johnson to do it. So, FDR assigned Johnson to a three man survey team of the Southwest Pacific. Johnson reported to General Douglas MacArthur in Australia. He had 2 U.S. Army officers who went to the 22nd Bomb Group base. This was assigned the high risk mission of bombing the Japanese airbase at Lae in New Guinea. Johnson’s roommate was an army second lieutenant who was a B-17 bomber pilot. On June 9, 1942, he volunteered as an observer for an air strike mission on New Guinea by eleven B-26 bombers that included his roommate in another plane. While on the mission, his roommate and his crew’s B-26 bomber was shot down with none of the eight men surviving the crash into the water. There are different reports on what happened to the B-26 bomber carrying Johnson during the mission. Robert Caro is Johnson’s biographer. He accepts Johnson’s account. His said that it’s supported by testimony from the aircrew. Also, the aircraft was attacked, disabling one engine, and it turned back before reaching its objective, though remaining under heavy fire. Others claim that it turned back because of generator trouble before reaching the objective and before encountering enemy aircraft and never came under fire. This is said to be supported by official flight records. Other airplanes that continued to the target came under fire near the target at about the same time that Johnson's plane was recorded as having landed back at the original airbase. MacArthur recommended Johnson for the Silver Star for gallantry in action. After it was approved by the army, he personally presented the medal to Johnson, with a citation. Johnson used a camera as an observer. He reported to Roosevelt and to the Navy leaders. He said that the conditions were deplorable and unacceptable. He argued that the South West Pacific needed a higher priority and a larger share of war supplies immediately. Warplanes were sent.

He wanted Forrestal to know that the Pacific Fleet needed a critical 6,800 additional experienced men. Johnson prepared a 12-point program to upgrade the effort in the region. He wanted “greater cooperation and coordination within the various commands and between the different war theaters." Congress responded by making Johnson chairman of a high-powered subcommittee of the Naval Affairs Committee, with a mission similar to that of the Truman Committee in the Senate. He probed the peacetime "business as usual" inefficiencies that permeated the naval war and demanded that admirals shape up and get the job done. Johnson went too far when he proposed a bill that would crack down on the draft exemptions of shipyard workers if they were absent from work too often; organized labor blocked the bill and denounced him. Johnson's biographer, Robert Dallek concludes, "The mission was a temporary exposure to danger calculated to satisfy Johnson's personal and political wishes, but it also represented a genuine effort on his part, however misplaced, to improve the lot of America's fighting men." In addition to the Silver Star, Johnson received the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was released from active duty on July 17, 1942 and remained in the Navy Reserve, later promoted to commander on October 19, 1949 (effective June 2, 1948). He resigned from the Navy Reserve effective January 18, 1964.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was in the U.S. Senate from 1949 to 1961. During the 1948 elections, Johnson ran for the Senate. He won in a highly controversial result in a three way Democratic Party primary. Johnson faced a well-known former governor, Coke Stevenson and George Peddy, who was a former state representative of District 8 in Shelby County. Johnson drew crowds to fairgrounds with his rented helicopter named “The Johnson City Windmill.” He raised money to flood the state with campaign circulars. He won other conservatives by voting for the Taft-Hartley act (which curbed union power) as well as him criticizing unions. Stevenson came in first, but he lacked a majority. Therefore, a runoff was held. Johnson campaigned harder while Stevenson’s efforts slumped. The runoff took about a week. It was handled by the Democratic State Central Committee, because it was a party primary. Johnson announced that he was the winner by 87 votes out of 988,295 cast. The Committee voted to certify Johnson's nomination by a majority of one (29–28), with the last vote cast on Johnson's behalf by Temple, Texas, publisher Frank W. Mayborn. There were many allegations of voter fraud; one writer alleges that Johnson's campaign manager, future Texas governor John B. Connally, was connected with 202 ballots in Precinct 13 in Jim Wells County where the names had curiously been listed in alphabetical order with the same pen and handwriting, just at the close of polling. Some of these voters insisted that they had not voted that day. Robert Caro argued in his 1989 book that Johnson had thus stolen the election in Jim Wells County, and that 10,000 ballots were also rigged in Bexar County alone. Election judge Luis Salas said in 1977 that he had certified 202 fraudulent ballots for Johnson. The state Democratic convention upheld Johnson. Stevenson went to court, but Johnson prevailed—with timely help from his friend Abe Fortas. He soundly defeated Republican Jack Porter in the general election in November and went to Washington, permanently dubbed "Landslide Lyndon." Johnson, dismissive of his critics, happily adopted the nickname.

Soon, LBJ was a freshman Senator. He made many courtships with older senators like Senator Richard Russell, who was Democrat from Georgia. Russell was part of the conservative coalition and was probably the most powerful man in the Senate during that time. He or LBJ wanted to gain Russell’s favor like he courted Sam Rayburn and gained his crucial support in the House. He was appointed to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Later in 1950, he helped create the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee. Johnson became its chairman and conducted investigations of defense costs and efficiency. These investigations revealed old investigations and demanded actions that were already being taken in part by the Truman Administration, although it can be said that the committee's investigations reinforced the need for changes. Johnson gained headlines and national attention through his handling of the press, the efficiency with which his committee issued new reports, and the fact that he ensured that every report was endorsed unanimously by the committee. Johnson used his political influence in the Senate to receive broadcast licenses from the Federal Communications Commission in his wife's name. After the 1950 general elections, Johnson was chosen as Senate Majority Whip in 1951 under the new Majority Leader, Ernest McFarland of Arizona, and served from 1951 to 1953.

After the 1952 general election, Republicans won a majority in both the House and the Senate. Many defeated Democrats including McFarland, who lost to the newcomer Barry Goldwater. In January of 1953, Johnson was chosen by Democrats to be the minority leader. He was the most junior Senator ever elected to this position. One of his first actions was to eliminate the seniority system in making appointments to committees while retaining it for chairmanships. LBJ was re-elected to the Senate after the 1954 election. By this time, Democrats won the majority of the Senate. Johnson was now the majority leader.  Former majority leader William Knowland became minority leader. Johnson's duties were to schedule legislation and help pass measures favored by the Democrats. Johnson, Rayburn and President Dwight D. Eisenhower worked well together in passing Eisenhower's domestic and foreign agenda. During the Suez Crisis, Johnson tried to prevent the U.S. government from criticizing the Israeli invasion of the Sinai Peninsula. Johnson was upset at the Soviets flying its first artificial Earth satellite Sputnik 1 in space. Back then, many had a paranoia that the Soviets wanted to take over the whole world. This reality caused the passage of the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act, which established the civilian space agency of NASA. Historians Caro and Dallek consider Lyndon Johnson the most effective Senate majority leader in history. He was unusually proficient at gathering information. One biographer suggests he was "the greatest intelligence gatherer Washington has ever known", discovering exactly where every Senator stood on issues, his philosophy and prejudices, his strengths and weaknesses and what it took to get his vote. Robert Baker claimed that Johnson would occasionally send senators on NATO trips in order to avoid their dissenting votes. Central to Johnson's control was "The Treatment." The Treatment was about LBJ using persuasion by intimidation, talks, and movements of his body in order for him to convince congressional people to vote his way. A 60-cigarette-per-day smoker, Johnson suffered a near-fatal heart attack on July 2, 1955. He abruptly gave up smoking as a result, with only a couple of exceptions, and did not resume the habit until he left the White House on January 20, 1969. The 1960 Presidential election in America changed the world forever.

By Timothy

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