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tv   Book Discussion on The Triumph and Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson  CSPAN  April 26, 2015 6:30pm-7:33pm EDT

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any evidence of guilt working at that scale.
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next the domestic policy aide to president clinton johnson. he presented firsthand account of the johnson administration's great society legislation this contains language some people may find offensive. i want to welcome you here tonight for a conversation between joe and bob schieffer.
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he was hoping to put into place many of the programs of the great society. prior to that come even a special assistant secretary of defense robert mcnamara. joe went on to serve as the secretary of health service education and welfare for president jimmy carter from 1977 to 1979 and then served as the chairman and president at the center on addiction and substance abuse at columbia university. >> he's the author of nine books including the triumph and tragedy of lyndon johnson. originally published in 1992 by simon & schuster eight has been released and is now back in publication. tonight joe will talk about the
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book and his former boss that you describe senate. it's bluntly honest and calculatingly devious. moderating tonight conversation is our old friend bob schieffer. he has won virtually every major award. while he never had the opportunity to interview lbj tapes conducted every president interview since lbj from richard nixon through barack obama.
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bob is the very best in a very competitive business. for disclosure, joe and i are old friends. i've interviewed him many times. i thought that was the best book about lyndon johnson up until that point and he just jumped off of the pages.
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the things that you put in the book back then you say that we live today in the lyndon johnson's world. why don't you talk a little bit about that? >> in education, 60% of the kids in college on the basis of his work-study grand and long loan programs called pell grants but that is a reauthorization of the original bill we have cited bilingual education and we have 70 different languages now for the bilingual education in the united states of america.
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for medicaid is about 60 million people in medicare. of course the civil rights bills of 64 and for the discrimination in employment and public accommodations. we had something called the national origins act and that limited largely to the british isles in northern europe.
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he repealed the immigration reform law and at the time that he became president, 85% of the immigrants were from the british isles in northern europe. after he opened the country to the world this past year 15% were from those places. people don't think about lbj. they wanted in the cultural center of the black city. lyndon lyndon johnson said let's name it ... can the center and give it for john f. kennedy.
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he passed that in a week. the first week of 1964 before he even gave the first state of the union message because he knew that he could get it done that way, but says the national endowment for the arts and the humanities which has spawned thousands of companies and advanced companies in orchestras popular in the chamber, and the freedom of information act which would create its own set of problems for hillary clinton and ensure other candidates. and the corporation for public broadcasting where johnson's great society was. remember we now have 300 television stations.
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the first clean-air and solid waste disposal. of all things that claiborne didn't want to name it. >> he was the chair of the subcommittee. what happened is a beaver went to connecticut and showed up joseph hershel and this indoor miss field in connecticut with all the spectacular sculptures and she came back and said linden this is fantastic. there's nothing like it in the world. he is willing to give it to washington. the only hitch is that he wants
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to have it named after him. so, johnson said okay. claiborne is in charge of the subcommittee that controls the legislation and he wanted it named the smithsonian museum and there was no way that he was going to. so he [inaudible] we come back and report and the president had a little green office next to the yellow office, he makes the pitch to him about this and claiborne says we just can't name this. we can't do that. so finally he leans over and says i want people of the country to see the sculpture and
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so does leedy bird. the only way they are green to see it is if we name it. i don't care what we call that i want the people of this country to see it. so he was kind of shaken and embarrassed and he said it's fine we will go with the museum. [laughter] >> that's just a little bit of an insight. [laughter] >> you were the closest aide from early in the morning until late at night for three and a half years and i just have a simple question how did he do this stuff. that's one of the stories that you told. but over and over again in so
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many different ways he found a way to get it done. >> he wanted the staff there at every moment. i was only there for a week or so. i had an office down the hall. it was a large office and i have my own bathroom. he called one morning about 8:00 he called from lyndon johnson and said we have a line it just rang. [laughter] >> and you could never pick it up fast enough. he always made you feel like. so she said where is he? he's in the bathroom was appraisingly. isn't there a phone in their? and she said no. but a phone in there. [laughter] so i came out and she said the
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president wants a phone and i said forget about it. the next morning same time i'm in the same place and he shouts out and says i told you to put a phone in there and she said yes, mr. president. secondly, he saw things come always a way to do something. one of my kids.
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my son had swallowed a bottle of aspirin and the president called and of course i didn't, i didn't leave a phone number. my son swallowed a bottle of aspirin, he was 2-years-old. he said that's terrible. we should make these people have bottles bottles so that the little kids can't open them and that's where most of us in this room have trouble opening the medicine. [laughter] he knew how to take care of it. >> elementary and secondary education. we had federal aid to schools.
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the evangelicals and the early secular jews were able to block it. it could make progress and they started working on and working on that and it got more complicated with the civil rights act of 64. now then we got discharged that this is going to be more money for blacks. adam clayton powell was the chairman of the house education committee. he finally says adam, you have to leave town and you have to turn this over to somebody else. some of you will remember that when they went to germany and he never quite got back. and he said why don't you carry the congressman from brooklyn to
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try to put the bills together? he was in the district in brooklyn that had orthodox jews. it wasn't clinton's area and the fact that johnson knew that was incredible. they were standing outside the white house pool in their close. that was the hottest room on god's earth. you've seen this way through it
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is just incredible. [laughter] hold the bill up. >> how did he know so much about so many people? i'm told that he had a phone number and the number of every member of congress on his desk in the oval office. how did he assemble all this and get all this information.
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>> it was absolutely stunning and it was invaluable. he loved politicians and spent a lot of time with them. he knew when he had a problem or dividend and he knew what would move them. it wasn't always xoxox. we needed to raise the debt limit. johnson used to have these long sheets of everybody's name.
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they said it was taking money away from people that needed it people that needed housing and johnson said call him up and tell him we are going to put the biggest public housing project in the history of this country in the middle of his fancy district. [laughter] to show them there's plenty of money for housing. i did, and we did get his vote. [laughter] >> he had a tremendous ability to not only explain to people what was in their interest to be on his side. but they had the ability to explain to people why it was not in their interest to be against
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him. there is a wonderful anecdote in your book. the senator was talking to us one day about all of the things that walter thought of. >> as the chair of the foreign relations they think when you go all this way or that way and what have you and johnson listened as long as he could and he said let me tell you something. the next time you need a dam on the river, call alter with men. [laughter] >> he did have that sense and also in the situations he would figure out a way to do something. it was chaired by william martin who was the great oracle from
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wall street. they had four board members basically there were three low interest rate people as johnson used to call them all the time. he was starting to raise interest rates and one of the conservative members that was with him on high interest rates. they called him a dataset i just want you to tell the president if you will find a liberal to the going to have to re-sign. so i told the president that. i knew that it would make him happy. it took about two days and the president says i think we know what to do about the fed.
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he said we will appoint andrew bremmer who was a good harvard mit and from the commerce department he said i don't think that bill martin would want to resign because the president has nominated him for the fed into because it would be so much conversation about his racism and what a terrible person he was. in any case, but then there was a problem with bremmer. we had to get him through the senate finance committee. the senate finance committee was a staunch segregationist senator from louisiana and andrew bremmer had been born in louisiana and they called the
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white house had said i've got the man for the vacancy and he said i have some ideas and he said he's from louisiana. i want you to introduce them to the committee and i want you to propose them and johnson shakes hands with russell and he has a wife now a folder and he handed to him and said here's some information about it right up to date. he takes before and the first thing in the folder is a picture of andrew bremmer. [laughter] russell kind of gag a little bit, but he did it. [laughter] and in those days a handshake with the contract and that was
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it. johnson wanted to do something like that. >> i wondered if it was possessed for making video in washington today. nobody seems to be enjoying about lbj and how he did these things and they are always a little defenseless about it and say lbj had some problems but they would say it was a totally different kind of way that johnson operated. the tea party republicans won't do anything. they controlled the senate and
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most of the committees in the house. it wasn't just on civil rights, it was on the great society programs and the government intrusion. it was on budgets and funding and he managed to work around it. it may be a good example compared to the affordable healthcare. medicare and medicaid roosevelt student health care and a social security bill so it could never pass. truman tried to do it and was just clobbered by the american medical association. >> johnson worked on it and worked on it. the bill that we started with was not the bill, the first thing we had to do he kept
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saying we have to have half the republicans. but to do this we have to get past the republicans for two reasons. one, we needed their votes but number two he said if we do not get the republicans, they will kill us in the appropriations committees and the republican governors would want to rent medicaid so we gave doctors their usual fees, we gave the hospitals a reimbursement. we gave a lot of things but we did get the bill passed. after it passed the medical association still indicated that they didn't think doctors should take part in medicaid or medicare. so the president invites them
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in the cabinet room and the other members there and before they can say anything he says i have a terrible war in vietnam i have an awful problem. i have the doctors in the military. i want you to start a program to help take care of the civilian population and send them over for three months or six months. the president and the country needs you. will you do if? of course mr. president. >> lbj announces the program and the first question from the reporter is well they support medicare into because it didn't
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look surprised at the question and he put his hand over the head of the ama and says these men are willing to put their lives on the line for the country. medicare is the wall of the land of course they will support it. to give the expression he was willing to take chances like that and how it would turn out. >> you one of the first to criticize and you said that it was historically inaccurate because they were trying to make lbj one of the obstacles which was simply not the case. talk about it about that.
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>> i got a call from a couple of people in california actually two of them that won oscars saying they had seen a screening of the movie and that it was a terrible portrait of lbj. it wasn't what he was like and he was presented as an obstacle and looking down on the meetings then i got a call from a couple of people in new york and with whom was a black actually. so i was revved up and i went to see the movie the morning after christmas and i was serious. one of the meetings with king as johnson, johnson was portrayed as not wanting to do this and having to be shoved into it. number two there was a scene in which johnson is sitting at his desk and j. edgar hoover is there and he says you know mr. president, we can take care of this guy permanently or
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temporarily meaning we can knock them off. and a couple of other scenes in which johnson was really nasty and condescending to doctor king. so i wrote a column about it and i have to say andrew young the first meeting is then december 14, 1964 at that meeting between the president and martin luther king and he said it was a meeting there were too respectful people trying to figure out what to do. neither of them knew and then julian bond they went on the cbs evening news one night and said nothing would have happened and most importantly, on
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january 15 1965 president johnson called doctor king and i would urge everybody here to listen to that conversation. it's about a ten, 12 minutes conversation. and it starts with a discussion of the high positions in the johnson tuning the first cabinet officer. it's something they didn't know until year later and that would be bob weaver. they then said we have millions for health and education and the most important thing, doctor mac come is to vote. if we get them to vote that will take care of so many problems. if you find the worst place to recite amendment in the constitution of this or that and you go down there and get the
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leaders down there and get a vote on the radio and television and that will build up to the point where a guy that drives the tractors as it isn't fair. it's not fair. and that will help me shoved through congress would i want to shove through. ..
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he won't be able to protect marches and let them out to the press corps and he recites all of this stuff and then johnson sends a federalizes the national guard. i was depending on them. and was order today report every couple of hours, to the white house. the guard was protecting the marches and what is the glorious march that ends it. the movie was just wrong. and was terribly unfair. and i think that i was right to do that. and i was just wrong about it lbj. you know. [applause] the truth is that linden johnson and martin luther king jr. were both very good politicians. they used one another.
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i think that enlisting in the other stories that you have told, it unlines to me the way johnson always found a way to use events to get people. to see his point of view. he never let anything go. >> he was opportunistic. and no better example of that then actually the fair housing act. king was assassinated. it was the worst week. it was the worst week in washington. the night of the assassination he had me call up the black leaders he wanted to get them to the white house the next morning. they came and he talked to them. and we were having riots. they left. and he said joe we are going to get something out of this terrible tragedy. we are going to get our fair housing act.
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we had not been able to move the fair housing act which basically prohibited discrimination so anybody could buy a home where they could if they had the money. what have the most -- we have more nasty mail over that piece of legislation more than anything we proposed. we finally in january of 68 before kings. to get it through the senate i think that is it was january or february this. is the middle. we remember tet. the president calls up phil hart. liberal congressman from michigan. and had been reported out of the committee and says phil take this to the floor. take it to the floor. this week. we will get it passed. gets it passed. no chance in the house. manual seller, chairman of the house judiciary
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committee. was the congressman from crown heights. where i grew up in brooklyn. crown heights is was a lot. now jewish district and blacks were moving in. and seller is was worried that if he were any part of the fair housing bill he would have opposition that he may not get reelected. >> the day after kings sas nation johnson sends a letter to the speaker mccormick and jerry the minority leader asked them to pass the fair housing bill. and the question is how? johnson says take it directly from the senate to the floor of the house throughout rules committee. will never have to go through the sellers committee. and seller will never have to say that he reported it out. and we will get it passed. that is exactly what happened. you noept he was willing to
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do that. those things are very important. also he has bob a terrific sense of humor. in the worst circumstances, johnson could have a light. he had a good sense of humor and the worst was that week. was that week. we had riots. riots in a hundred cities. troops in six cities. and johnson and i would bring him every couple of hours, reports from hoover and the fbi. mobs here. mobs there. and one night i bring him this report. it says stokely carmichael the black fire brand organizing a mob at 14th and u street in washington to march on georgetown and burn it down. georgetown was of where bob
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shafer's predecessors lived. all of the television people. all of "washington post" people. we had all of the columnists and he read this message and he reads it allowed and he says god damn i waited 35 years for this night. [applause] [laughter] >> what do you think that it was that turned johnson around on civil rights? i don't know at the time i was in the white house it was in his blood and jack valenti said that is he was talking about civil rights the night of the cap kennedy assassination. and he $used to say you know, you're going to get a chance of the everybody gets a chance in life to make and
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correct their mistakes. i got that chance. i am doing it. he would say you know you is that chance. do you it. and i think that texas teaching the mexican kids. because he always would say, you are looking into their eyes and you would see their sadness and puzzlement. they knew that they were hated because of the color of their skin. and they did not know why people would hate them for that. and i this i that the raw poverty of the hill country here you know. johnson was elected to congress in 1938. there was no running water. and there is was no electricity in the hill country. hard to believe. i think that it had an impact on them. and i think that he took out his driver and his cook would have to drive from washington to texas and they could not find places to stay.
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they couldn't find toilets. they would have to use the side of the road. and how awful that is was. i think that all of that accumulated. and in bob carrows book he wroo its that in late 1963 before the first state of the union, johnson said we propose the civil rights act rewe prohibiting employment and accomodations in 6 of 4. and they said no. that is an election year. wait a year. that famous remark of his was what the hell is the presidency for? i think that -- he knew we were paying a price for this. the civil rights act of 6 4 was passed we are turning the south over to the republican party. from my lifetime. and yours. to bill moyer's. he knew the price we were paying on every one of those bills and he had i tell you
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how he had changed, in 66 we lost 47 seats in the house and lost four or five seats in the senate. and the southern governors and the border state governors, democrats came to the ranch to see him. they wanted had him to end the school deis heing daying. and the voting rights. and there. and eggs clang it had and gardner said to the president. you will never get through to these guys. and arrived there the next morning. i will never forget this i
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said. and johnson said nigga, nigga, nigga. that is all that they said for four hours. and i will drive that word out of english language. [applause] we want to take questions from the audience i will just ask you one more question here. what do you think he would see as the civil rights issue of the day? i think that he would certainly see the gutting of the voting rights act as a major civil rights issue. i think that he we never did
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enough for latinos and for mexicans. we had them up to the white house once. a group of all of the leaders. would were so focused on the black problem in the country. i think that he would be pleased of the speed which society has ingested on issues like the aids crisis. he. people somebody said in a contest a couple of weeks ago. he did not do enough for women. there is actually, as i mentioned the interductry essay the book by distinguished female historians. that he did have otheres to appoint.
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more women and he passed a bill to promote equal opportunity for females. officers in the armed forces. when he signed the bill he said some day we will have female admirals and female generalses and maybe even a female commander in chief. [applause] that is a direct quote from his message that day. i think that he would be working very hard on the hard core poverty. the hecation system linden johnson gave a speech and
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affirmative action. and a whole section talking about the phrase in the negro familiarly, the fact that if you look over history slaufry. and whether married or not who of stronger who was of better. and the man's nation proclamation. a better jobs. they they have taken on women up to the north. they didn't marry them. and passed a welfare act. passed the roosevelt years. of which we is he you can get that welfare if there is no man in the house. and this is for the mothers
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and children so we provided this 150 years of breaking things up and that used to say with all the education. opportunity. health care. and we will have to do something to newer issue that family. yeah. very much so. a question that i have a had a? my mind. john kennedy. he was the most reluctant warrior. and the notes of jack
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valenti. there is a chapter in my book the decision. the decision to the one chapter that was written largely on the basis of jack valenti's notes. i was not in the white house for a good part of it. it shows you how eisenhower was of president, john forced the french were in trouble. and forced one today send troops. and um the majority of the senate linden johnson was totally opposed to that. everybody in the administration would have to remember to put perspective. assassinated in september
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late september. with the approval and the independence gas station. 63. johnson becomes president. and chaos in south vietnam. and in the pentagon then. i know that. great pressure from secretary mcnanera. he would come back from the white house and say the president is not going to make a decision in the misof a presidential campaign. the day after the election mcnamera had five alternatives built up and thought that johnson would approve of them. instad he sent bundy to vietnam twice. he sent bob over the next several months. not you know. always reluctant to do it. and finally, he does a greechl the only person that
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would oppose is george ball in the government. and clark clifford. of the washington lawyer who wrote the toughest memorandum of why she we should not do it. in the book. in that chapter. and then with everybody else pushing he finally does much less than what was recommended and 75,000 men. was not a few. and a constant constant. constant buildup. by the end of 67 he was really determined to enthe war in his presidency. and in retrospect. i didn't know it was vehement opposition at the time. and would make it. and when it left.
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and he was not the only person that said that linden johnson. he wanted to. when he pulled out of the race. he thought that would get the north vietnamese to the table. it did among other thing in the bombing that they got the pope involved and read to go to france and negotiating in france hopefully he had every chance and the russians would invade check check. that changed the whole international atmosphere. and then we have what we now know more about the tapes, the nsa tapes of talking to the south vietnamese on behalf of president nixon.
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the deal that johnson is making with the north vietnamese and you get a better deal with richard nixon. it is just not to be. so the notes of the meeting all of the meeting that's took place during the years tom johnson who is not only deputy press secretary but a note taker. urged and urged and urged that he was right and to get all of the notes out there. i think that he was really really very reluctant. and that did not make him. didn't make him think anymore highly than people who opposed him. the chair.
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senate foreign relations committee. and i must say in all fairness he said to me. . every issue. and within day. a friend said to me. full bright is a revolving son of a bitch. you know what that is. that is a son avenue bitch no matter how you look at him. [applause] [laughter] . i mean. time for a couple of questions. anybody out there that want to answer this. there is a gentleman right there. >> hi i am curious. august 1st 1966 there was a shooting here on campus. and i knew that president johnson responded to the shooting the next day in a press conference. and wrote a letter to the congressional candidates.
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leaders. and i am curious. do you remember that day? do you remember what his reaction was as the news came in with the shooting? i don't. i remember that he was really very much for gun control and a very big way. i remember that he proposed the licensing of every gun owner and the registration of every gun. along with saturday night specials. no sales to minors or sales of course. state lines. we couldn't do anything with it. we did try 19 the opportunity part when robert kennedy was killed. may we get gun control bill. and it was locked up in the
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senate. he said we have a week to ten days we have to move right away. or the nra will roll over us. the senator who thought that he had a different type of bill that was bed better. he did slow it down. as a result we would have the end of the saturday night specials and the no sales to minors. and the interstate stuff that we could not get big pieces of it. when he signed the bill. he issued a very, very tough statement about this is just the beginning. i did apiece on this you may recall newitt connecticut. urging president obama to go for gun control immediately.
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the lame-duck session and they didn't. they went into commission. they were unable to do it. i don't remember. i am sorry. i do remember incidentally the university of texas. the president said. one of the jobs is to make sure. all of the grants and everything that we are doing that you are feared in the university of texas. jake, jacobson was you no he what he means by fair. damn sure. we did. we did. my question is. in the last election we heard a governor from a southern state proposed to eliminate three agencies of
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government. couldn't remember which agencies to get rid of it. and the sentiment of wanting to really eliminate so much of the government. we heard a lot of in the last couple of decades. that drives people that may be would aspire to public service away. oh you would you comment on that? well, i don't know. i mean. can you make the government more efficient? sure you can. there is no question about that. and there is a lot of duplication. i think that the real damage comes when you don't speck commitment of the people in public service. [applause] it is as high a calling as you can have. you know. i went down there.
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and i should tell you this is an incredible country. i didn't know anybody in washington. general council defense department. one job led to another. and general count civil the army. i did not know president johnson when i with went to work for him. and when i went over there. to be the left-hand lanes lative program and the domestic crisis. you know. and help coordinating. the policy. i said my god, what a job. he said it is not a job. it is ven even a job description. and if it will not work out with this guy. he will be gone. i would i just say after
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president johnson was sworn in. he gets on the plane and he is the first to kennedy. and the second call was to dwight eisenhower. and 'emch faas size today meet in washington the next day. to come and talk to him. he had been president. and eisenhower did come. eisenhower did a memo. that all was his copy. and one to the president. which is the full text of which is attached in this book. it is hard to imagine in this day and age, obama for example calling gob or off of the bat calling bill clinton. i mean it just -- it is. that part of the world is different. there is a level of
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partisanship that i think is unfortunate. as a personally a personal opinion. it is a killer. killer problem and maybe. there are 2. this is 1967. johnson proposed public financing of campaigns and we will spend what this year. he said and i quote. more and more men and women of the limited means will refrain from public office. private wealth will become an unrealistic qualifications and the source of the public leadership is thus severely
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narrowed. from public obligations and detracts from the energetic ex-position of the issues. we all watch this on television. and i mean. i think that bob and the rest of the press is. the money primary. whatever. i forget what it is being called. the money primary for the next several months. and the other thing that is in the book that i mentioned is another very warm. i mean. warm moving letter from lucy bains johnson who wrote this. when the book was first published that maybe the best piece of write north book. i would not want to end
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without. i am always asked about the johnson treatment. and the best description of treatment comes from hubert humphrey. and again. i am quoting from the book. he of subjected by the persuasion treatment of humor and statistics. then analogy. with the hbj pulling a support of clipping and machine owe out after another. it was had up free said. i quote. almost help knot i can experience. i came out of the session covered with blood, sweat. tears. and spit. and sperm. ladies and gentlemen.
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