American politician, also known by the initials LBJ, Vice President under the Presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961-1963) and thirty-sixth President of the United States of America (1963-1969). He was born on August 27, 1908, in Stonewall, Gillespie County (State of Texas), and died January 22, 1973, in San Antonio (State of Texas). During his presidency, Johnson had to endure harsh criticism by sectors more progressives in his own party after the assassination of Kennedy. His presidency was based on an ambitious agenda, called the Great Society ('great society'), with which it was proposed to carry out reform internal proportions very similar to the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, target could not satisfy entirely due to internal instability in the country, bloodied by racial conflicts and political assassinations of Martín Luther KingRobert Kennedy and Malcolm X. His big political mistake was to involve his country in the Viet Nam war, circumstances that contributed to its final abandonment of the policy in the year 1969.
Member of a family farmer of modest origin, but of a long political tradition in the State of Texas (both his grandfather and his father were members of the State Assembly), Johnson completed his first studies in a public school in Johnson City. After a period in which played several works in California (shoe shine, hairdresser, waiter...), in 1927 joined the Southwest Texas State College in San Marcos. Graduated, three years later, with the title of master, which allowed him to work as such in the Sam Houston High School in Houston, in which was only a few months because, at the end of the year 1931, he began working in the political campaign of Richard Kleberg to the Washington House of representatives. Once elected, Kleberg Johnson appointed personal Secretary in Washington, period that Johnson took the opportunity to engage in a deep friendship with the then President of the Congress, Sam Rayburn. Back to Texas, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945), appointed director Johnson of the National Young Administration (Administration National Youth), position where he remained until 1937. Earlier, in 1934, Johnson married Claudia Taylor, better known as Lady Bird, woman with a great personality who worked closely with her husband in all political campaigns in which participated.
Johnson got his first since politician of importance in April 1937, to be elected member of the House of representatives for the Democratic Party. During all the Roosevelt administration, which was unconditional supporter in his new political project, it became one of the most influential politicians in the presidential environment and, in 1942, he was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs.
Despite its status as a Congressman, during the second world war, Johnson enlisted as a volunteer in his country's naval forces, with the rank of soldier. He developed his work in the war of the Pacific, where he had an outstanding and heroic action in New Guinea, which earned him to be awarded the Silver Star value by Congress in 1942, in addition to being promoted to the rank of Commander of the frigate.
Once the war was over, Johnson presented himself as candidate for a seat in the Senate in 1948. Beat, after a grueling struggle, the Democratic candidate, Coke Stevenson. In his new career as a Senator, Johnson specialized in matters of Defense and human rights. Due to his great qualities as a speaker, his enthusiasm and willingness to work and, especially, its great power of communication, Johnson went out gracefully in all discussions in which he participated, circumstance that made him, first of all, leader of the Democratic minority in Congress, in 1953, and, two years later, the majority, following the Democratic victory in congressional elections. Once he recovered from a serious heart attack, suffered in 1956 that moved him temporarily from politics, Johnson returned to the political arena with more forces: he participated in the presidential campaign of democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson and got, with its strong support and defense in the Tribune, the passage of the first law on civil rights since the end of the American civil war, in the year 1865.
Installed at the top of its political prestige, this was confirmed when, in 1958, the Republican President Dwigh Eisenhower (1953-1960) appointed Johnson, despite belonging to the Democratic Party, Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations.
During the Democratic National Convention of the party of the year 1960, Johnson was presented as candidate to the Presidency. But, against all odds, both he and the other democratic candidates (Stuart Symington and Hubert Humphrey), ended up being defeated by unknown Congressman for Massachusetts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who, to ensure the support of the Democrats ruling classes of the South, invited Johnson to be part of his candidacy as Vice President. After an initial refusal, consequence of the rejection that felt by the young Kennedy, which he considered Playboy, little serious politician and rich boy, Johnson ended up accepting the proposal of this one, with which it collaborated closely in the campaign that took him to the White House, defeating Republican candidate Richard Nixon.
His short political period as Vice President came in Johnson a great frustration by the lack of their own initiatives and the secondary role was relegated to that in the surroundings of President Kennedy, especially by brother, Richard Kennedy, who was considered an intruder and tried that ill with the President, to the point that Kennedy was willing to replace it in front of the Vice President if he could be re-elected.
However, despite the obstacles and the political vacuum which was the subject, Johnson won a key role in important space programme that Kennedy intended to carry out: was appointed director of the National Council for Aeronautics and space. It is also nominated him Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Department of la Paz and the Presidential Committee for the employment opportunity, organisms that amply demonstrated his organizational and political capacity. In 1962, Johnson made a trip to the far East and Southeast Asia to address economic, social and military issues with the Presidents of several countries (Viet Nam, Philippines, nationalist China's Taiwan, Pakistan, Thailand, and the India).
That same year, Johnson acted as representative of the President to treat the delicate situation of Berlin, interviewing with the germano-occidental Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer and the Mayor of the city, the Social Democrat Willy Brandt.
In the fall of 1963, Kennedy embarked on a long tour through several States of the South in order to get the necessary support from the leader southerners of the party in the upcoming elections to the Presidency and thus to achieve the necessary majority in the Congress. Johnson accompanied him for its quality of southern and great ascendant in the Democratic Party. On November 22, while the President was driven by car through the streets of Dallas (Texas State), he was killed. Before returning to Washington, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in his new position, at two in the morning, at the airport of the city.
The tragic circumstances that led him to the White House placed Johnson in an extremely difficult situation. Conscious of being a substitute for Kennedy, lacking the poise and intellectual approach of its predecessor and knowing was unable to inspire the same degree of sympathy and devotion of the people, his Government was characterized by living under the long shadow of the late President, even after having achieved a landslide victory over his Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater in 1964,that he made him President in their own right.
To alleviate the feeling of guilt after the tragic assassination of Kennedy, Johnson was dedicated, in the first months of his presidency, the task of convincing Congress to accept all the proposals of the political program designed by his predecessor, as well as some laws of their own harvest. With unusual speed, Johnson was able to bring forward laws on tax reduction and immigration and promoted the creation of new centers for higher education.
During his first term, the two most representative achievements were the approval of the Civil Rights Act (the Civil Rights Act), in August 1964, which was guaranteed to blacks and other minorities in the country the full exercise of their rights as citizens and put end to racial segregation, and the Economic Opportunity Act (law of economic opportunities)also the same month, which was allocated the amount of $ 100 billion to provide work experience and training to the unemployed, increase educational opportunities for poor children and put an end to job discrimination for reasons of sex, religion or race.
At the end of 1964 presidential elections, Johnson literally coils to the Republican nominee Goldwater thanks to its tempting political program, which was baptized with the name of "Great Society", in a clear reference, both quantitatively and qualitatively, to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal". Such victory and consolidation in the Presidency enabled him to have the hands free to translate its revolutionary program. But two issues of paramount importance made difficult electoral compliance: Viet Nam and the radicalization of racial conflict in the interior of the country.
Despite the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, this soon proved to be sterile in terms of the economic upswing of the minorities, which caused the dissatisfaction of these communities and the emergence of tensions which led to serious disturbances in the main cities of the country. The panorama was exacerbated by the preferences of the black leaders to fit in organizations extreme and radical, such as Black Power and the Black Muslims, and with the emergence of true leaders, capable of mobilizing large crowds unhappy: Stokely, Malcolm X and Martín Luther King. The murders of the last two did rather than increase tension and force the army to intervene with hardness. To try to alleviate the situation, he attempted to approval by Decree Law of open housing, prohibiting racial discrimination in the sale or rental of apartments. Although he achieved something calming tempers, the truth is that it hardly contributed anything positive. The issue of civil rights was relegated by another big problem: the Viet Nam.
The complicated war in Viet Nam had not found a satisfactory solution to the United States. Johnson, trapped under the ideological orthodoxy of the cold war, chose to carry out a progressive escalation in operations to prevent, in his own words "the propagation of a second Cuba in the East". He sent 30,000 soldiers to the area. Viet Nam eventually became to the country and to Johnson an irremediable wrong. At the end of the year 1968, the cost of the war had risen to 30 billion dollars a year, more than 200,000 casualties, dead and wounded of gravity, and 35,000 men fighting in the conflict zone. As United States is more involved in the conflict, a similar process of opposition appeared in the interior of the country. As of 1965, there were mass demonstrations against the war in Viet Nam, in which college students stood out, along with a large group of Congressional Republicans and Democrats (known as the "pigeons"). The increase in the rejection of the strife and the growing internal opposition from his own party to its war policy, headed by Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy, made that Johnson gave a radical shift in his policy. On March 31, 1968, Johnson publicly announced the temporary cessation of the military operations in Viet Nam and his decision not to stand in a second presidential reelection.
It was not very fortunate when ordered, in April 1965, the intervention of the army in the Republic of Panama, with the excuse of protecting the interests and lives of American citizens, when what they really wanted was to avoid installation in that country of a progressive government. Under pressure from Congress and his party, was forced to seek a compromise solution to withdraw troops from the Caribbean country.
In its relations with the Soviet Union, Johnson dismissed does not reach an understanding with the Kremlin. During the brief of the six-day war, Arab-Israeli, in June 1967, Johnson conducted the first test of the famous red telephone between Washington and Moscow. The Vietnamese issue was addressed in an interview held in Glassboro (N.j.) by Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kossiguin, in June of 1967, in which both countries pledged to not intervene in the problem of the Middle East, but not in relation to Viet Nam.
After his public resignation to stand for a second re-election in favor of his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, Johnson started the preparations for the peace talks in Paris between U.S. and Vietnamese representatives. When he left office, January 20, 1969, disappointed and seriously worn, Johnson retreated to his ranch in San Antonio where he wrote some interesting memories, in which exposed their particular points of view on its difficult and complicated presidential.
Johnson died of a heart attack, on January 22, 1973. Left a legacy of struggle against poverty and legislation on social assistance that took advantage of later Presidents.
COOKE, Donald: E: Atlas of the presidents. New Jersey: Hammond Incorporated, 1977.
FERNÁNDEZ Sánchez-Barba, Mario: History of the United States of America: the bourgeois Republic to presidential power. Madrid: Marcial Pons, 1997.
JONES, Maldwyn. A: history of the United States (1607-1992). Madrid: Cátedra, 1995.
MORISON, Samuel Eliot: Brief history of the United States. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1993.
C. Herraiz García