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.