Friday, June 15, 2012


As I said the other day, I've been reading the four volume (so far) biography of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro.  But late today, in Volume Three, I read something that I believe needs repeating here today.  It concerns conversations between Johnson and Hubert Humphrey in 1951 and 1952, both men then United States Senators.  Johnson had taken Humphrey under his wing and these conversations occurred.

"...Johnson would, evening after evening, play variations on the same theme:  "Your speeches are accomplishing nothing," he would say.  Humphrey should learn to compromise.  "Otherwise, you'll suffer the fate of those crazies, those bomb-thrower types like Paul Douglas, Wayne Morse, Herbert Lehman.  You'll be ignored, and get nothing accomplished you want."  Humphrey, the man who had refused to compromise, not only came to believe this -- "Compromise is not a dirty word," he would say.  "The Constitution itself represents the first great national compromise" -- but to believe it with all the fervor of the convert, the convert who is the most enthusiastic of believers.  Not only, he was to say, was compromise not a dirty word; those who refuse to compromise are a threat; "the purveyors of perfection," as he came to call them, "are dangerous when they . . . move self righteously to dominate.  There are those who live by the strict rule that whatever they think right is necessarily right.  They will compromise on nothing. . . . These rigid minds, which arise on both the left and the right, leave no room for other points of view, for differing human needs. . . . Pragmatism is the better method."  The fact that some of his fellow liberal senators were to come to look upon him as, in his own words, one of the "unprincipled compromisers" bothered him for a while, he was to say;  "it doesn't bother me any more at all.  I felt it was important that we inch along even if we couldn't gallop along, at least that we trot a little bit."

Could that not be read on the floor of the House during a joint session of Congress, read at every Tea Party meeting, published on the front page of every newspaper, recited on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News until the message gets through?

No, I doubt it.   But at least I'll do my part.


Tom Cochrun said...

Right on!!!
Wisdom, that is so lacking today. Precious history there brother and thanks for the good sense of bringing it forward as an admonition.

Lowandslow said...

These ideologues we have as our "leaders" today are dangerous. They would rather see our country go straight down the drain than to acknowldege the other side might have a good idea now and then that could be agreed on and developed into something good for us all.

They say that one-on-one LBJ was a Great Persuader. Do we have anyone similar today?


Lowandslow said...

Oops....almost forgot. Excellent post. Thanks for the history lesson. ;)


Bruce Taylor, a.k.a. Catalyst said...

Tom and Scott - Thanks.

Scott - I don't think we do. If so, I don't know who it is.

Stephen Hayes said...

Once upon a time the US Senate was filled with giant men. But no more.

Steve said...

When I hear the initials LBJ, my thoughts turn to my second tour in Vietnam with the Engineers at Long Binh. The in country jail was known as LBJ (Long Binh Jail). Strange how memories work. No, I was never a guest at LBJ.

Judy said...

Good post, Bruce!

Kitty said...

Compromise is one of the most important words (and acts) in life. But I wonder how Johnson justified his bullying and abusive behaviour alongside his promotion of the concept of compromise?

Ed Stattmann said...

It's not that I disagree about the value of compromise. But I wonder if you're looking at refusal to compromise as the cause of problems rather than a symptom of the problems in our government. Assad doesn't compromise. Putin doesn't compromise. So why should our 1 percent oligarchs or the people who identify with them compromise? As Big Brother proclaimed, "In ignorance there is strength."