Tuesday, June 26, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Passage of Power, excerpt ten)

from Robert A. Caro's The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson:

Lyndon Johnson's succession to the presidency, the transition in which he assumed the power that had once been John Kennedy's, had been so successful, gone so smoothly, that by March, as was apparent from the contemporary journalistic evaluation, it was becoming simply a fait accompli, an accepted fact of American political life. And as more time passed, that would turn out to be its fate over a longer term as well.

Some of those who witnessed the succession up close, appreciating the magnitude of his accomplishment, were certain that eventually it would be given the credit it deserved. "History will record the great contribution Lyndon Johnson made in taking us through the transition," Hugh Sidey wrote in 1969.

That has not happened, however. The success, the smoothness of Johnson's succession has come to be viewed--to the extent it is viewed at all--as simply yet another example of the efficacy of the American Constitution's provisions for the orderly transfer of presidential power in a democracy, of the efficacy, as one of the most detailed studies of vice presidential succession puts it, of the "recognized rule which made him President upon the death of the President." The "smooth manner in which presidential power changed hands upon that death of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was not entirely unlike what had happened on seven other occasions in American history," this study state. "Each time a Vice-President became President and led the country safely through the tragedy and crisis of losing its leader."

Not that history has forgotten the assassination of President Kennedy and the three subsequent days of his funeral ceremonies, of course. The very opposite is the case. Those four days have become enshrined as among the most memorable days in American history. But the achievements of Lyndon Johnson during those four days and the rest of the transition period--the period, forty-seven days, just short of seven weeks, between the moment on November 22, 1963, when Ken O'Donnell said "He's gone" and the State of the Union speech on January 8, 1964--have been afforded so little attention that his succession to the presidency has become, to considerable extent, an episode if not lost to, then overlooked by, history.

No comments:

Post a Comment