It was really an impossible task for anybody. Especially for Jack.
Except for him.
There he was in the small room — secret service keeping him there, he, not knowing what was happening.
Jack had essentially had cut him off from power for three years.
Powerless. A Fox on a Leash.
The first Vice President, had described it as “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”
But then one of Kennedy’s aides, came to him in that small hospital room, and said with some solemnity — “Mr President..”
Lyndon Johnson, Vice President of United States, became transformed in that small Parkland Memorial Hospital room in Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963. He had power again: he had just become the President of the United States. And as Robert Caro, Johnson’s biographer, notes in his interview with Charlie Rose : Power Reveals.
But, what Robert Caro and Charlie Rose don’t realize — Power Reveals: Temperament.
Robert Caro’s latest book on Lyndon Johnson is a revealing book.
Jack Kennedy was a handsome guy and was rich — filthy rich actually. Lyndon Johnson grew up dirt poor and, well, nobody ever called Johnson handsome. But Jack and Lyndon understood each other because they were the same — Temperament and Type: Promoter Artisan, ESTP. Two competitive guys.
The Operator Artisan [STP] has a special fondness and talent for manipulation. Whether dealing with people or with tools, the Operator inevitably operates on them, or operates with them, on anything and on anybody. Sometimes he will operate with an agenda in mind; both Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt operated beautifully on the reporters who surrounded them, and both used the press as if it were their own publicity machine. They are the experts in expedience, seeing instantly the quickest route to whatever payoff they are interested in. Literally, they can expedite almost any activity more quickly and decisively than anyone else. In prison populations they will be the masterminds, the maneuverers, the scroungers par excellence. But even if there is no particular purpose being served the Operators are still likely to maneuver and manipulate, simply because of their love of operating. Lyndon Johnson couldn’t resist cajoling, arguing with, and smooth-talking even unimportant visitors to the White House or to his Texas ranch. [Presidential Temperament, page 27]
That Impossible Task?
Passing a Civil Rights bill.
Don’t press for civil rights, his advisors were advocating: it’s a lost cause, the Southern Democrats control Congress, they have bottled it up.
“Then, what the hell is the presidency for!” “I have the power, now, and I intend to use it.”
Before he was Vice-President, he had been the second most powerful man in Washington, the Senate Majority Leader of the United States of America. A Southern Democrat.
November 22, 1963: John F. Kennedy was dead in Dallas, killed by an assassin. Jacqueline Kennedy, her clothes still spattered with her husband’s blood, stood beside Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson as Johnson took the presidential oath of office. Camelot was suddenly and shockingly gone. In the passage of a few jolting hours King Arthur had been replaced by the crude, graceless, but no less energetic Lyndon Johnson, the professional politician from Texas. [Presidential Temperament]
No, Johnson now had the power, and he knew what to do.
“The most powerful Senate Majority Leader ever” — Robert Caro.
A Legislative Genius. Now President.
The contrasts between the lives and manners of Lyndon Johnson and the charming, charismatic, socially and economically privileged Kennedy were obvious. Johnson was born to a Texas family that had fallen on hard times. He worked his way through high school and then left for California to find a decent job. Finding only poorly-paid laborer’s work he soon returned to Texas where he ended up doing heavy manual labor for a while on a Texas road gang. Eventually he decided to begin college, beginning with $75 he had available and working again to pay the rest of his tuition. His was not the prestigious education of the Eastern elite; he graduated from Southwest Texas State Teachers College. Nor was his education paid for by his family; Johnson had to leave college for a year in order to earn enough money to complete his education.
During that year he was a teacher for the Hispanic children of the small town of Cotulla, Texas. His experience there taught him much about the plight of minority groups and seemed to touch him in some special way. Perhaps it helps account for the vigor with which he pursued the civil rights legislation about which Jack Kennedy had done little more than speak eloquently. [Presidential Temperament]
Charlie Rose: How smart was he?
Robert Caro: Unbelievably smart, unbelievably quick.
Johnson loved politics. It was for him the greatest, most exhilarating and fascinating game to be found anywhere. He loved to persuade, to blandish, to maneuver. He had an insatiable appetite for using the machinery of government, employing the rules and regulations as his own personal tools. His natural style was to attack, overpower, and bury his opposition, whether it be a person or an idea. It didn’t matter whether it was a major matter or a trivial one. He loved contest and he had to win. In spite of his fondness for steam roller power plays, however, he recognized with the Artisan’s special tactical prowess the importance of subtlety and dexterity, of deceit and seduction. And recognizing them, he used them. [Presidential Temperament]
Charlie Rose: His genius was he knew — people… He knew their strengths, he knew their weaknesses. He knew their fears and he knew what it took to reach inside them to find out what button to push to bend them to his will.
“As I am writing about him, I can’t believe he is doing this.” — Robert Caro, “I am in awe of him.”
I’m just like a fox. I can see the jugular in any man and go for it, but I always keep myself in reign. I keep myself on a leash, just like you would an animal. — President Lyndon Baines Johnson