tv QA Julia Sweig Lady Bird Johnson CSPAN April 11, 2021 8:00pm-9:04pm EDT
u.s.. in the very narrow confines of the plane, where jackie on his left. her hair floating in her eyes but very composed. i was on his right. there was a bible in front of them. they were secret service people and congressmen we had known a long time. host: julia sweig that is lady bird johnson reading her dire entry from 1963 describing the scene after the assassination of john f. kennedy. you've just published a new book based on her diaries, " lady bird johnson: hiding in plain
sight." tell me about these diaries. when did she make them? guest: her very first diary entry recording her experience of the fascination on november 22 1953. she made this recording eight days after the assassination. she began with that moment and continued throughout the johnson presidency is all the very end of january, 1969. after nixon was inaugurated in until the 31st of that month. her recordings, and as we say, she is dictating from a variety of sources that she has arrayed in front of her, that she is synthesizing and telling her story from. anyway this is her first draft of history. she is recording it and for the most part, is not going
backwards and rerecording. what we are hearing is her first draft. host: how many did she do altogether? guest: she did 850 depending on how you counted. i have heard two different numbers. approximately 850. 123 hours of recordings. host: you write that post johnson's were -- both johnson's were meticulous curators of their records. lyndon johnson recorded all his phone conversations. why do you think they did this? what was their attitude about the struggle record versus the daily tug and pull of politics? guest: lady bird was a journalism and history major at the university of texas at austin. she was trained have a predilection towards documenting and recording. she always kept these small spiral notebooks with her wherever she went and took notes in shorthand, including on air force one going back from dallas
to washington dc she was able to have the presence of mind to keep some notes, that she then used to make the recording. i think she was very devoted to keeping records from the very gecko. it was in her dna. in lbj's case, he shared that and also had a very long political career. by the time he gets into the presidency, especially as he becomes conscious of the challenges and controversies and criticism of his presidency, his inclination is also to document so that down the road, historians have some opportunity to look back at his presidency in a documented way and make some sense of it, rather than very much in the moment. he also had, you're talking about the secretly recorded tapes.
he had massive distrust of the press and of those around him -- his political adversaries, especially. he kept that record in order to also be on the record himself and have some control over the historical record. host: what does one learn about lady bird johnson from listening to her own voice, recording her days, that is different from the public record or persona of her? guest: the public persona that people thought of was a bit more two-dimensional. that is an understatement. then what comes out in her recordings. at the time, in the 1960's, what we saw -- well, i was not alive at this time, but what we have seen, curated image of her that her press strategy put out was of a very conventional political life. she had roles that went beyond those conventions, but we do not
see that until we dig more deeply into her diaries. her role enter influence on lbj and in shaping the course of the presidency is something that comes up very much so not only in the diaries, but also in the vast archival material she left behind at the lbj library. we also see -- here somebody -- hear somebody who is an excellent writer. she writes about nature. she's a great character study. she's very open about the difficulty of living with and supporting and being partners with such a complicated individual as lyndon johnson. she writes about her own and emotions. she's not someone we see a broad smile in her publicly, privately she is confronting the process of aging, the controversies of the administration, she is a
total human being in these diaries, and meyer. host: what's the back story on this book? this is a very different project for you. how did you get interested in lady bird johnson? guest: the truth is, after working in washington dc and new york and traveling globally, working in foreign policy in a world where the gender imbalances is very pronounced, i got to a point where, number one, i had maxed out on my intellectual curiosity about american foreign policy in latin america, and number two, i wanted to get my arms around the topic of women and power. but i did not have a subject. i needed the compelling character that lady bird johnson turned out to be. it was not until i discover that she had kept this diary -- she had published a huge portion -- a 780 page book, which was a portion, although not a huge one, of the diaries, in 1970.
luckily, for me, when i started thinking about considering her as a topic, she's married to the man, of course, most identified with the concept of power in the presidency in the 20th century. when i discovered that the diaries existed, that coincided with the lbj let -- library beginning to release them entirely to the public, not just the transcript, but also all of the audio. i discovered incredibly compelling woman who lived through and documented and tells us her experience of the tome old -- tumult of the 1960's, including three political assassinations and war, and tribes of the great society, and civil rights. it drew me in. they kept my attention almost as much as foreign policy had in the past? host: where does the title,
hiding in plain sight, come from? guest: it is an effort to play with the idea that this is a person who is very significant -- who's very significant influence on lbj's presidency, on shaping the ark of it, whose very significant role as a political partner was primarily mess. that is the story that has been hiding in plain sight. the second thing is that the source material for telling that story has been sitting at the lbj library and largely missed. the sources and to story itself. given what -- host: spending your last few years of your life with lady bird johnson and digging so deacon -- deep into the archive and understanding her all, is impossible for you to say how influential she was among modern first ladies, if you were to rank them, for example?
guest: i know you will probably have a view of this, given your own work on first ladies, but i see her -- instead of rank ordering them, and we can do that too, i see her as the bridge between eleanor roosevelt and hillary clinton. she has the commitment to developing policy agenda that reinforces and elevates her husbands that eleanor had. she has the public role not quite as broad because she did not have a radio program, she did not have a column like eleanor did, but this was a woman who was out campaigning for her husband and working hand in glove to elevate his presidency. eleanor roosevelt was in the white house much longer than lady bird was, but i see lady bird then coming in and modernizing the office of the first lady, really the first person to do that since after
world war ii in my view, with a policy staff in the east wing, with a communication strategy and staff in the east wing. really becoming part of the political operation of the west wing. which of course brings to mind the office -- the way hillary clinton operated when she was first lady. as far as rank order, that's a tougher one for me to answer. i do think she is one of the most significant, certainly of the 20 -- 20th century first ladies we had. host: in the book she refers to it as our presidency. she only do that in private? hillary clinton paid cash faced criticism for the two-for-one concept. why did it succeed for lady bird johnson, in this instance? guest: she did it carefully, only in retrospect. it was not something she talked about while she was in the white house. in practice, -- i do not know
she had a security clearance, but in practice, she was in the room quite a bit, the room being lyndon johnson's bedroom where he conducted business quite a lot, west wing staff meetings not only in his bedroom, but also the oval office. the photo record tells the story but also does lady bird, where she is in and out of the oval office all day long or sending messages back and forth between the president and the first lady. i think liz carpenter's role is really key to that. she was one of the texas and washington inner circle members of the johnson world for a couple of decades before they reach the white house. she was perhaps closest to lady bird and lyndon of anyone in the white house and had the standing to broker and be the interlocutor between the east wing and west wing.
in practice, it was more of an hour presidency then a his presidency, but she did not say that. she was very mindful of the times. very mindful of a test as a woman and conscious of the amorphous role -- she's a caution to not step out in front of lyndon even while she had a separate and independent, but connected agenda to his. host: a little bit of back story on claudia taylor. you told us she was a graduate of university of texas in austin. what else should we know about her that really affected the women she would grow to be? guest: i think there are three elements i would .2. one, she was orphaned when she was five years old. not orphan, excludes me -- excuse me. she lost her mother.
she was raised subsequently by her father and aunt and by the staff of the household where she grew up, who were descendants of enslaved people. she talks a lot about the solace she took from nature. she spent a lot of time by herself as a young girl and in nature and in the natural environment. she became in her bone somebody who felt very connected to the way access to nature can shape all for the good who we are and make us feel fully human. the second thing about lady bird's childhood is that she is from the south. her mother and father were both from alabama. she spent her summers going back to visit her family in the deep south in alabama. when she gets into the presidency with lyndon johnson -- and before, but especially as the civil rights agenda picks up, she really is a deep feeling for the potential for backlash
against the democratic party and johnson among southern white voters. host: you said she was essentially raised by like women in texas. there is scene in your book that similarly, intention. the trip she is to take back and forth between washington dc and austin, where she was helping to run the families broadcasting business. austin and the accompaniment of african-american staff members and experience firsthand the prejudice of the dream crow south they faced as they several -- as they travel -- of the jim crow south they faced as they traveled. do you think she helps the burgeoning civil rights movement? guest: if we think about the experience she -- as you say, was driving back and forth, she and lyndon -- we know lyndon
talks about this a great deal. i think when she came into office she was very committed to leveling the racial playing field. there are two components of that from her formative years. one is growing up in alabama over the summers with her family members and are being exposed to the sickness of white supremacy there. the other one was, as you say, driving back and forth with her african-american staff and seeing the jim crow laws affect their lives so directly. year after year. host: lyndon johnson proposed right after he met her. why did she say yes? what did she see in him? guest: that was in 1934. i think she saw a charismatic, ambitious, sort of overwhelmingly -- a man that
took up a lot of space but who saw her and elevated her. she always talked about the fact that he proposed to her on the day they met and that this took her aback, but at the same time, it made her feel like her intellect was being recognized by men of great ambition. host: he was a congressional aide at that point. i was surprised to read in your book that shashi begged him not to run for congress early on. but then you said she became a full political partner. so there is a progression here in her thinking about politics. guest: i think she initially did not imagine herself married to a political animal the way lyndon was. but especially once they moved to washington dc, she became a political animal herself. she absorbed through osmosis the sort of ecosystem of washington dc, which is constantly -- the
to build networks and raise fine mixes -- finances and do the intelligence gathering he was very good at and she was very good at. she did evolve over time. especially by the 1940's. before she had children, when she went up running lyndon's office while he was in the pacific or in california during world war ii. and really, ever sense. -- ever since. host: it also meant managing his depressions and black moods and his ongoing health problems. how did she approach her relationship with him in these areas? guest: she really love the man a lot. -- loved the man a lot. she appears to devoted herself totally to using her incredible
energies to boost him up. the depression that he was prone to was something that -- you know -- she wound up becoming quite sensitive to. and learned to expect. it had certain rhythms. often, he would become depressed after a great achievement or at the end of some big push of adrenaline or political success or political failure. she learned to anticipate those, for the most part. in terms of his health, there is a turning point after his very significant heart attack in 1955. that is a heart attack that almost killed him and it was after that point that she becomes intensely vigilant over his smoking, over his drinking, over his eating. the two of them almost start to compete with one another in terms of body and diet and
nutrition and exercise. the specter of possible death looms over them really until he actually dies and it is very consuming for her. it is one of the reasons also that she -- she figures out a way to navigate -- to do something for herself. i'm talking about a person who was totally devoted to him, but she also managed to keep some space and solitude in keep yourself healthy. host: lyndon johnson we learn, and perhaps it was reported at the time, was what would be called today a philanderer. he was unfaithful throughout their marriage. how did she reach accommodation with the aspect of lyndon johnson? guest: hear my answer is going to be based on what i am able to surmise. this is a marriage of many decades and anybody who has been in a marriage of many decades really cannot -- can attest to
the fact that outsiders cannot tell the whole story or even part of the story. having said that, i will say something else. that question about his infidelity and philandering has been so present in shaping how we think of lady bird johnson that it has almost diminished her. i do not want to at all excusing for it, but simply to say one of the things i've tried to do with this book is to show how much more to her and to their partnership there was then that. having said that, it seems to me that she did make some sort of accommodation and that she was the first among equals. she knew it. the in the vast majority of cases, she chose to ignore what he was doing at some level. and to be reminded that the increasing dependence she felt
-- that he felt towards her, was increasingly total. the fact that she was in the room where it happened in terms of policy and politics might clearly have compensated at some level for the philandering. the second thing i would say is perhaps -- perhaps the third thing is, lady bird herself said something very instructive when another person was writing a book about her. she said, you will not understand either of us unless you understand how totally intertwined our lives are with one another or were with one another. she said it when he was dead. i think that goes to the point that this is a layered and complicated marriage and relationship and partnership in the philandering was elements of it -- was an element of it that should not color it all. host: i will jump ahead in
history to demonstrate the political partnership. go to one of those phone calls we talked about. march 7, 1954. a phone call between lady bird and lbj. let's listen in happy talk about what it illustrates in their relationship. >> one minute to my critique? >> yes, ma'am. >> i thought you looked strong, firm, like a reliable guide. you looked splendid, the close-ups were much better than a distance ones. there were more close-ups than there were distance ones. during the statement you are a little breathless and there's too much looking down and i think it was a little too fast, not enough change of pace. dropping words at the ends of sentences. there was a considerable hick up and drama and interest when the
questioning began. your voice was notably better interfacial expressions were two. i thought your answer was good. i thought your answer on vietnam was good. i did not yell -- i did not like the answer on the because i heard you say in your said aloud, they do not believe the country this year. host: it is hard to imagine anybody speaking that candidly to lyndon johnson. what are you hearing there? guest: first of all, this is march of 1964. they have not been in the white house for very long. this is a time when lyndon and lady bird are both thinking every day about the narrative that they are trying to create in terms of lyndon being someone who could unify the country and
they are both also aware that lyndon does not do so well in front of the cameras. they do have a media company themselves, that he is not a telegenic guy. his consciousness of that -- they too are meticulous and monitoring how he is being read publicly. and of course, that's directness you here, that critique you here, it means he trusts her totally, her judgment as an advisor and the knowledge she has his interest front and center is what you there. that was a press conference she was talking about. it was on a speech. that press conference -- you do not have to read the transcript, but i have. in some ways he sounds like he is reading the phone book. it is very dull and dry because he is announcing the appointments of lots of people into his administration, different agency appointments.
she was also reading off of notes she took on stationary from the office of the vice president. which i love, because he was the vice president. she is using is stationary. but in 1964, and this reinforces a point about their partnership, there was no vice president. there is no vice president until hubert humphrey was inaugurated in 1965. what you hear there is lady bird stepping on and not just this thing on delivery but on substance and picking up his contradictions. that is the essence of their partnership. host: lay back up and spend a little time on the 1960 campaign and divide -- and the vice presidency. talk about how involved she was in that campaign and what her contributions were to the old summit success of that ticket. -- to the ultimate success of that ticket. guest: lyndon johnson ran in the balloting process at the
convention in los angeles, but he lost in the first round of ballots. there is a well-documented, painful story about the process by which jfk asked lyndon johnson to join as vp. the power dynamic flips right away when, as lady bird talks about, how difficult it was. like a nettle in their throat, they did not see a way not to accept. once that happens, by the summer of 1960, lady bird jumped in as surrogate to lbj and surrogate ticket -- to jackie. jackie had been battling miscarriages for some time and was pregnant during the 1960 campaign. so she did not want to risk traveling. waita bird traveled by herself -- lady bird traveled by herself with jackie's sisters and
sisters in law and rose kennedy, especially in texas to win the south for kennedy. it is the printable reason why they brought lbj on. host: her amount of travel seems very impressive, i would say. almost staggering the number of trips he took during the tramping -- during the campaign and even during the vice presidency. you write that during the years of the vice presidency she flourished while lyndon johnson struggled. what was it about those years she was able to do that she had not perhaps as the wife of the senate majority leader? guest: as the wife of the senate majority leader, she did not have an international schedule much. although she was queen of the senate spouses, that was limited to washington dc. once she moved into the position of second lady, and as you said, the vice presidency for a man who totally dominated the u.s.
congress and the legislative process as per -- as majority leader, moving to the vice presidency was incredibly debilitating. it stripped lbj of the power and prerogative he had become used to. under jfk, his portfolio was not nearly as robust. but lady bird -- and so often he traveled abroad and lady bird went with him. that began a. of international travel that she really enjoyed. and likewise back at home in washington dc, lady bird's -- lady bird stepped in quite a bit for first lady jackie kennedy who was not the kind of political animal that lady bird was, did not love the rope line, did not thrive on so much ceremonial activity. lady bird stepped in for her quite a bit. it was energizing for her.
host: throughout the book we see several relationships with jacqueline kennedy. how would you describe the relationship? guest: it is a very intimate and precious and complicated and emotional relationship and it has the spark that goes from lady bird being the senior senate spouse when jack enters the senate. she is already married to the majority leader and bringing jackie in, doing it in a gracious big sister way. she was almost 20 years older than jackie then moving to the campaign, stepping in for jackie , and during the campaign there is a scene in the book where jackie is looking back and trying to get her arms around the relationship between lady bird and lyndon and said lady bird could sit on the couch on one side of the room when the campaign teams met talking with
the sisters and jack's sisters and jackie and keep her ear on the conversation lyndon was having across the room, and jackie at one point said it was a funny way of operating. she was almost like a trained hunting dog. that is of course not what she was, but they came from very different backgrounds and very different ways of operating in terms of the partnerships with her husband. the assassination, which we started with in this conversation, does for a time bring them together, and the two of them together orchestrate the most excruciating and seamless transition in the 14 days between the assassination and when jackie and her two children move out of the white house on december 6, 1963, so in that period of time i see a jackie
-lady bird relationship that is careful and respectful and jackie reads many notes to that effect trying to help lady bird ease into the role of the white house first lady now, and we hear lady bird's marination -- narration over several days of that process, but once jackie leaves washington and moves to new york the distance it does begin to sink in, and there are lots of public and private snubbing and rumors, and it becomes more tense and cold and takes lady bird a while to feel like she is not walking on eggshells and the white house herself, and it sort of culminates in a very difficult, powerful scene that lady bird garrett in 1968 at bobby kennedy's funeral after he has been assassinated, so really the two of them do not recover that
intimacy and real love that they felt for one another until the 1980's when they start meeting in martha's vineyard when you both are there every summer and they begin to reconstitute that relationship. host: one of the documents that you spent a good bit of time on in the book that seems key to many aspects of their relationship is the heartland -- huntland's memo that centers around the question of whether or not lyndon johnson having assumed the presidency would run in its own right in 1964. why did you see this particular document is so important to the story? guest: the memo is a document that i found in the lbj library in a folder called letters, misses johnson to president johnson dated may 14, 1964. it is much more than a letter
and i like to call it a strategy memo, because in fact it lays out a strategy, lady bird's strategy whereby -- it is a pro and con analysis of whether lyndon should run in november of 1964 in his own right or step down and announced that he is not even going to run for a proper term himself at that time in may of 1964 that is what he was thinking about. he was doubting his ability to keep the country unified. he felt the pressure of vietnam, the escalation pressure of vietnam, and civil rights were stuck in congress, so in the memo what we see is lady bird being very analytical laying out for him the consequences for not running for the alternative for running and winning and one of the reasons i see this as so important is she says in the
memo i think you should run, and just probably when -- win. and at that point we could have three years and several months of a great presidency and announced in february or march of 1968 that you will not be standing again for candidacy of the president. and that is in fact precisely what lbj does. he runs in 1964 ended in march she announces that he will not be running again, and the document itself has been barely written about, although it has been in the archives since 1970, but it really become significant when i tracked it against the sweep of her diary entries, because starting in the fall of 1967 especially, but even
before, she starts writing about how she is going to get lyndon to focus on his exit strategy that they have already agreed to, and we see over and over her recounting the two of them talking about it and an opportunity that he does not take, and finally the lead up toward the decision and drafting of his statement and its announcement, so i feel like the ark of the lbj presidency and rationale for not running a second term is laid out way earlier than i think anybody ever assumed. the assumption was that it was vietnam and bobby kennedy and mccarthy and the embedded nature of his presidency as a whole that compelled him to walk away from power, but in fact it had been a part of a strategy that they had been executing for the previous four years. host: earlier we mentioned the
name liz carpenter. as lady bird begins to establish herself as the role of first lady and tackle the big issues that were important to her liz carpenter was an important part of that strategy. we have video of liz carpenter talking about her work and that we will come back. [video clip] >> i work for president johnson. i was in dallas that dreadful day and the moment that changed everyone's life and ended up back in washington on air force one. i wrote those 58 words that the president delivered when he stepped off the plane at andrews air force base. this is a sad time for all people. then for five years, i worked at the white house as press secretary and staff director for lady bird johnson, and sometimes funny speechwriter for lbj when he was willing to use my gags. we worked very hard on poverty
while he was trying to subdue the war in vietnam, which got a lot more attention, but it is one head start was born, the job corps was born when lady bird would try to go out to inspire people to make this planet cleaner. host: how important was the partnership between lady bird johnson at liz carpenter during those five years? guest: liz carpenter's role as advisor and press strategist and operator, lady bird and liz were a total team, and it is incredibly important. host: in what way? what did she bring to the partnership? guest: she brought press savvy. she was a reporter going back to the 1930's. she was from texas and came to washington and began to cover
eleanor roosevelt when it was about colder -- called her the present for the first lady and female reporters and washington, d.c. liz carpenter had a long history of knowing how to operate with the price it washington and she helped lady bird right away to establish a very direct communication with the female press corps. this was the day when press coverage was gendered. by a large but not totally who covered the office of the president, liz was very important in helping lady bird make the transition to establish her own independent identity separate from that of jackie kennedy, so very important on breast and a very important in terms of political operation in the 19 60 campaign and at the
1964 campaign. the civil rights component of the 1964 campaign is the place where liz carpenter really shines. there was a moment in october of 1964 when liz and lindy boggs, a very important part of this story married to a congressman from louisiana, go to the south and they organized with lady bird and fort lady bird -- four -- for lady bird. it is liz carpenter generating press material, and helping with the speeches, and partnering with lady bird on the essential objective of trying to send the message to the south that the democratic party and its commitment to civil rights is something southerners ought to embrace. host: as a special issue lady bird johnson is identified most
with beautification. in the final pages you have for lamenting as she calls them lyndon's boys managed to use the title of beautification to somehow diminish the overall impact of the work. what was her program all about really? guest: beautification is a word she did not like because she thought it was pretty and a -- prissy and a euphemism at a bass when she was really about. she had an ambitious environmental vision, which going back to her early childhood was premised on the idea that human beings cannot be fully human without access to nature and it is a truth that we associate her with beautification of american highways and that is part of her legacy and planting tulips and the monumental part of washington, d.c. which is a very significant part of her legacy, but she was also in washington, d.c. and especially in the
district of columbia trying to figure out how to bring together civil rights and what we would call environmental justice today, and so she enveloped working with the secretary of the interior with the head of the national capital housing authority under the first mayor of d.c. and a very interesting landscape architect from california to develop ways to bring -- to desegregate access to nature and washington, d.c.'s most underserved neighborhoods. it was a black majority city at the time with no statehood and very little representation if any and congress, so it was a pretty radical vision in fact, but it was dressed up in this idea of beautifying, and somehow what happened is she was criticized for this ornamental
approach at a time of major social cleavage and radical politics in the country, and she was conscious of that and tried to at that beautification idea shed and become more of a more overt environmentalist by the end of her term. host: back stage there was hardenable politics involved in these issues. talk about interaction with the auto industry and also with the billboard industry, which was very lucrative. certainly a lot of racial tension about some of the ideas for changing cities. how did she navigate those politics? guest: kind of seamlessly. i mean, she was a big tent operator, so when the east wing without a budget but with standing convened these beautification committee meetings, as you say, she would
have individuals from the auto industry, up from the petroleum industry, the garden club, very well-known architects and landscape architects. she would have a sort of intent operation to build as broad a political coalition as possible, and she had philanthropists who helped underwrite the financing of the blinding or the renovation of a school playground. over time, and we see it in 1965, the pushback starts when she becomes associated in the shades of hillary clinton -- associate with something that sounds kind of fluffy but really is not, which is the highwood beautification act, which comes together in 1965, but the larger pressures she is against start in the 1950's.
the highway system under eisenhower began to be constructed in the country was done with very little regulation, very attention for which neighborhoods were being destroyed as entrances and exits for cities were being constructed. certainly no i toward -- eye toward aesthetics so the automobile industry and concrete industry are having diversity of united states and regulate what one sees when one drives down the highway to get junkyards screened and the scale of billboards managed so that they were not these hideous towering screeching ads. all of that was quite threatening. by the time that legislation passes, the republican party spokespeople in the congress are
attacking her and attacking lbj for having a wife who is putting herself out there so much. host: another area of interest was women's rights. you described washington as a city separated by both race and gender. how did she use her dewar's luncheons to advance the cause of women's rights? guest: i love this aspect of lady bird johnson. it is not a very bold all caps approach. it is a subtle approach. 1963 is when the feminine mystique is published and the women's movement is just beginning to pick up steam. she is from a different generation, i did this conflict of the luncheons is another euphemism for highlighting professional women, and the first few people she has -- not
quite two dozen of these luncheons in the course of her time in the white house, but the first two people gsp are very instructive. one of them is barbara solomon who at the time and started to put together this lesson your library at radcliffe. she is a professor at harvard and comes to the white house to talk about the importance of documenting one is history and keeping all of the material and ephemera by keeping a record and diary and of course lady bird has started this and she does it with incredible visit with about the presidency, and it goes to lady bird's own ear and eye and documenting the johnson presidency as a whole. the second is jane jacobs, who is of course the pioneering advocate in american cities and new york city for humane cities and jane jacobs comes and speaks
. lady bird called her a somewhat salty and controversial speaker. when she is talking about is her critique of the urban renewal projects all around the country that had really laid waste to poor communities in american cities, and that is of course a seed that is planted with lady bird and one that she begins to follow and nourish in washington, d.c. host: we have 50 minutes left and there is a much to talk about. she stopped those luncheons. you divided your book chronologically. the first two years of success and other programs being passed and the rising number of deaths coming out of the vietnam war and also the racial strife going around the country, polls started to drop and being a
champion for other issues got superseded by troubles in the country. she wrote in her diary lyndon lives in a cloud of troubles and there are boiling masses of humanity on the streets. i want to do very quickly tell a story about her last luncheon because it brings all of these together. she invited her circuit -- ursa from the white house. we have are talking about how this turned out from her perspective. [video clip] >> i said i think we forgot with the subject of all of this lunch it is all about. i recited the subject. she said one of the reasons our boys are running from the united states because they come to me wherever i am in the world and they tell me what they feel. our position in vietnam, they do not like it. realize we cannot win this war. it is a silly war, an unwinnable war and we do not want to go. we do not want to be involved
with at work. i told her with the kids told me. suddenly the meeting was over. >> i understand she started to tear up. >> i do not know. i was not close enough to see that. i had a car the hotel desk at the hotel the white house and sent for me but now all of a sudden i do not have a car and all of the sudden i'm walking around waiting for the car. i am trying to hitchhike my way back to the --. host: the timing was january, 1968. he had not announced his intentions but they are following the johnsons everywhere at this point. why is this luncheon an interesting point in time in that story? guest: well, the other aspect of what is following for johnson's everywhere are riots in american cities beginning in 1965 but
especially at 1967. the political uprisings against some of the very same issues we are seeing raised today. police brutality, lack of job opportunity, and housing discrimination. these are the issues of black americans are demanding get more resources, and so what she does when she comes to the white house, and this is a luncheon focused on the crime bill that lyndon johnson as just announced the night before in the state of the union address, now we are rooting into political election season. he has not announced he is not going to run again yet, but the law & order backlash is rising and we hear people like richard nixon and george wallace putting -- pushing on the johnson
administration to take a stronger stance on law and order. fighting crime is the theme of the luncheon, and she is invited by the white house to attend because she has been an activist for civil rights in los angeles and washington, d.c. to try to do what we would think of as basic youth empowerment. how to empower local kids to feel that they actually have an opportunity and possibility, so she is putting her wealth by dance classes and training programs, and she has testified before congress about it. that is why she is invited to come. what she does it that is treated with such controversy is a couple of things. she said what we heard her say just now. people are in the streets. she brings the critique of
vietnam. if you are asked to speak about subject eight, you do not challenge the first lady on subject b. that is one line she crossed. in the other line she crossed was the choreography of the day, and she had dropped before -- drop by before lady bird -- she stands up and stops him at the podium, and he seems fine with it, they have a conversation that it sets the tone and creates this tension so when lady bird does call on ursa and she gives a very long statement bringing together crime and riots and the youth in vietnam into the first family's
home, circle the wagons kind of dynamic in the room shift, and there are a couple of journalists there and they go out and report kind of it accurately what was said, what was not said, and the whole thing was up with the white house taking a very tough stance against ear -- against eartha and executing a smear campaign that has long-lasting effects upon her. host: with our time short, what did you learn in lady bird's diaries in the incident to understand how she approached those things? guest: she documented that incident did the usual way that she did. she gathered lots of material together, statements and transcripts and news coverage, but i think in this instance, i did this with a lot of her diaries. i would check the accuracy of
what she was reporting on. in this particular instance i think she got sucked into the spin. this is one of the lowest moments of lady bird johnson's presidency because she is very negative about eartha kitt and barry on self reflective about allowing ms. carpenter to teach eartha -- tease her in the aftermath of this incident. guest: i went to one less piece of videotape on. lyndon johnson announces in march he is not going to run for the presidency again, and it is one of the most momentous years in modern american history. martin luther king assassinated, robert kennedy assassinated, the violence of the political conventions, the last year of the johnsons in the white house. it lady bird johnson reflected on the white she thought it was
important he leave the white house in 1968. let's listen. [video clip] >> in the end, why did he quit? >> she knew -- he knew he did not have four more years left in him. they were wearing thin and costing too much and pulling up your spirit right out of your boots and going on. he would not be able to do the job as president he wanted to do. it was the picture of wilson, woodrow wilson, which was painted after he had his stroke.
it was our own time. host: define your reaction to her description. guest: it brings together all of the elements in the actual time she was in the white house she was talking about, the specter of his dying or becoming debilitated even worse while in office really did drive them. host: in the closing part of your book, and you alluded to this before, it lady bird johnson's legacy is so tied up with lbj's that the work of disentangling her contributions is complex. after spending so much time with her, what should people know about her singular contributions to american history? guest: i do not think the johnson presidency would have been possible without lady bird. her singular contributions have
to do with both that presidency's successes around the war on poverty and civil rights and the great society, and also the blinders of both she and lbj had and comes to vietnam. -- when it comes to vietnam. she also shaped an approach to political partnership in the white house and the way she used the platform of the east wing that is quite singular and really has not been fully appreciated up until now. host: can you give an example as we close? guest: that environmental agenda helped raise public consciousness in a way that allowed what came subsequently under richard nixon, the creation of the environmental protection agency, the establishment of the redwood national forests, the
celebration in 1970 of the first earth day by the american public , the second nature with which we now approach to keeping our natural environment clean and beautiful and preserving it. all of that is something that lady bird johnson put into the american consciousness during her time in the white house. host: after spending this much time with lady bird johnson, if you could have her seated right here and ask her a question, what would you want to know from her? guest: i would like to know if she was as aware -- i would like her to talk about her awareness of her influence on the lbj presidency in real time. she is such a modest person. she was so habituated to deflecting attention that
sometimes i wonder whether all of that documentation was a direct and conscious manifestation of an awareness of her insolence or not. host: that is it for our time. julie's wide, the book is called lady bird johnson. it is also a podcast. thank you for spending an hour with us. guest: thank you for having me, susan. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] >> all q&a programs are available on our website or as a >> c-span is your unfiltered view of government. >> good morning, students.
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