Confusing LBJ with Robert Kennedy

Confusing LBJ with Robert Kennedy January 7, 2015

We’ve blogged about how the movie Selma villainizes Lyndon Johnson, even though he was the president who pushed through the Civil Rights laws that Martin Luther King was marching for.  The movie shows LBJ ordering the FBI to spy on Dr. King to collect dirt on him.  But, as (liberal) columnist Richard Cohen points out, it was Attorney General Robert Kennedy who gave that order during his brother’s administration!

From Richard Cohen, ‘Selma’ distorts the truth about LBJ – The Washington Post:

In its need for some dramatic tension, “Selma” asserts that King had to persuade and pressure a recalcitrant Johnson to introduce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The movie also depicts Johnson authorizing FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to smear King and — as King himself suspected — try to drive him to suicide. It is a profoundly ugly moment.

But a bevy of historians say it never happened. It was Robert F. Kennedy, the former attorney general, who authorized the FBI’s bugging of King’s hotel rooms. Yet, for understandable reasons, Kennedy appears nowhere in the film. By 1965, he was no longer the AG and, anyway, he remains a liberal icon. But LBJ — Southern, obscene and, especially when compared to the lithe Kennedy, gross of speech and physique — was made the heavy.

“For understandable reasons”?  Isn’t it interesting how liberals give the Kennedys a pass for their many illiberal policies, while demonizing LBJ, who gave us Medicare, the War on Poverty, Headstart, the Civil Rights Act, and a host of other liberal accomplishments.  To be sure, liberals cannot forgive LBJ’s escalation of the Vietnam War (another gift of the Kennedys).  But I think it illustrates a major change in American liberalism.

The Old Left championed the lower classes.  It was comprised of factory workers, unions, farmers, and poor white Southerners.

The New Left, emerging out of the anti-Vietnam War movement on college campuses, consisted largely of the intellectual class, in effect an aristocracy that looks down on “Rednecks,” the uneducated, and the vulgar masses (including Lyndon Johnson).

This is still largely the case today, though a populist wing seems to be emerging, which I think would be healthy.


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