Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Politics and History Corner: Profiles in Scrotal Courage: Like Riding a Wire Fence: The LBJ's Slacks Years

People often, in my imagination, ask me, "Hey Colicky, hey Mr. Obama's Not Good Enough, has there ever been a President you've liked? Do you have a favorite?"

Well, pretend questioner person, that one's easy. Yes! My favorite President of the USA is the one who was (purely coincidentally) occupying the White House when I was born -- and that would be Mr. Lyndon Baines Johnson, of Texas.

Yeah, I know. Nobody but history profs looking for something contrary to say in a bid to get attention defend LBJ's presidency. LBJ escalated the Vietnam War, was a lifelong racist, and probably ordered the hit on JFK, but he made some really excellent tapes of his own private phone conversations. Much better than the Nixon tapes, even.

Everyone knows all about the wacky LBJ tapes already -- at least they do if they've listened to about five seconds of NPR in the last 10 or 11 years. But that fact doesn't diminish their total brilliancy and sublime geniosity.

Below is embedded a YouTube rendering of my favorite LBJ tape. Nope, it's not the "goat glands" tape, although that one kicks zany ass, too. And it's not the really creepy one where he hits on Jackie Kennedy. My favorite LBJ tape -- I've summoned recollection of bits of it often for more than 10 years now; as such, it's been an invaluable source of inspiration and wisdom: you might say it's my bright shining beacon in a dark and stormy world -- is the tape of the phone call he made to the Haggar people, ordering six pairs of lightweight pants for casual summer wear.

Among the things we learn from this recording is that LBJ carried his own money -- and a pocket knife. Imagine that -- I don't think John McCain has even set eyes on cash money in at least 25 years, let alone toted his own supply. The Secret Service would probably never allow any President or candidate to carry around a knife. The current Preznit might have allegedly prodigious brush-clearing skills, but I suspect that if he'd ever been permitted the possession of his very own keen Victorinox Swiss Army model, he wouldn't have choked on a pretzel a few years ago -- he would have gouged out his hard palate with the sewing awl. If LBJ were still alive, he'd probably be brandishing a Leatherman Juice Xe6 multi-tool -- or two -- Secret Service be damned.

We also learn at right around two minutes into the excerpt that when LBJ gained a little weight, he suffered from ... a specific variety of physical discomfort. As a guy who's made the mistake of over-hasty and over-thrifty trouser selections, I gotta admit, I can sympathize. If I could get Haggar on the horn and make them throw in an inch here and two inches there, I would.

He does seem very pleased with himself when the gentleman at Haggar asks where he wants them sent, and LBJ replies, "White House," but wouldn't you? Sure, we're all humble and lovable shoe-shine boys and girls in our humdrum lives here, but I defy any one of you to become leader of the Western world without revealing a little pride when you give your address to catalog retailers. Although I like to believe I'd temper it a little bit -- "Yeah, send them to the White House -- basement apartment." Besides, I wouldn't really need to impress anyone -- I'd just be happy that my balls finally felt really good.

So, please enjoy. There's also a Real Media version and a real nice transcript hyah.

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