You can say a lot of things about LBJ, but for all his faults he at least did us all a favor by taping tons of his phone conversations.
Popular historian Michael Beschloss has put out two books with transcripts and CDs from the calls, tracing everything from screaming about Vietnam to Johnson telling his Dallas tailor that his pants are too snug around his balls.
Now the LBJ Library in Austin has released the last of the tapes it has on hand, and they're as fascinating as ever.
Highlights of the newly released tapes are here.
Sometimes the audio sucks, but there's moments of raw personal history -- Johnson calling Ted Kennedy after the RFK assassination, saying "If there's anything you need, we're as close as the telephone...You whisper will be our command."
There's Chicago Mayor Richard Daley bitching about how the news networks have been bugging his office; LBJ responds by comparing CBS anchor Walter Cronkite with the anti-war demonstrators: "That goddamn Cronkite crowd...You got some pinks in both outfits."
It's great stuff all around. LBJ, of course, is fully aware he's being taped, so he often speaks with an eye to history; the people at the other end of the line, believing they're having a private conversation, are often more blunt than they'd ever be in public.
If you like this kind of thing, by the way, Richard Nixon's tapes are also well worth checking out. We especially like the rambling evening calls when you can hear the ice tinkling in the glass of scotch.
-- Richard Connelly
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