Today in ethics history, on March 15, 1964, President Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress to urge the passage of a voting rights bill. Johnson declared that “every American citizen must have an equal right to vote, a right supposedly guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment, passed after the Civil War but foiled by many states that erected barriers based on race such as literacy and character tests and outright intimidation. “Their cause must be our cause too,”Johnson said, referring to Africa-Americans. “Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”
It is a propitious time to consider LBJ, because a newly published book has revealed that his wife Lady Bird had to talk him out of quitting not long after his voting rights bill had become reality.
Johnson dictated his ideas for a withdrawal statement to his friend, Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas while in the depths of depression. “I want to go to the ranch. I don’t want even Hubert to be able to call me,” he told his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. “They may demand that I resign. They may even want to impeach me.” The First Lady ultimately talked her husband him through that period, allowing him to complete the final three years of his term. She wrote about the episode in her diary, she ordered the entry kept secret for years after her death.
I was not aware that Johnson was prone to clinical depression. Now I’m curious about how many of our other Presidents were. I was aware of three before Johnson—Pierce, Lincoln and Teddy. I’m sure there are more. Leaders, however, must not reveal their doubts and failures of confidence.
1. I believe this is called “putting the cart before the horse...” From the Boston Globe:
US officials have arrested and charged two men with assaulting US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick with bear spray during the Jan. 6 attack, but they do not know yet whether it caused the officer’s death.
Ah, how they want to be able to say that the rioters in the “armed insurrection” in which nobody had a gun (and that wasn’t an insurrection) killed Brian Sicknick. This mission has taken on extra urgency since the mainstream news media keeps saying, even now, that Sicknick was “killed” in the riot or by rioters. Yet as the Globe admits, as of today, this claim remains a lie, or if you prefer, fake news.
My experience is that reminding Facebook friends of this fact drives them bonkers.
2. Now here is the most incompetent debate I have heard in a very long time. Republican Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh wants to stop voters who hadn’t participated in recent elections from automatically having absentee ballots mailed to them. The reason, he told CNN., is that
“Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they’re willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn’t be voting. Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues,. Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.”
Gee, well said, John! You’re an idiot.
Having teed up this softball for critics to whale on, Kavanaugh got what he asked for. He was denounced as channeling Jim Crow, as Gloria Browne-Marshall, a constitutional law professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, accused him of using “language from the 1800s” to justify “voter suppression.”
“When we see states like Arizona that have wanted to suppress the right to vote and found different ways to manipulate law and violence, it’s a slap in the face to democracy at its core,” she said. Browne-Marshall, is the author of “The Voting Rights War: The NAACP and the Ongoing Struggle for Justice.” “This is just another level of American hypocrisy.”
No, actually Browne-Marshall’s position is hypocrisy. Kavanagh’s point, which is valid but he is so inarticulate that he can’t make it clearly, is that citizens who don’t follow the issues and are ignorant of how the government works shouldn’t vote, because it’s irresponsible. They still have a right to vote, and vote stupidly. The government shouldn’t obstruct such people from voting, but it shouldn’t actively push incompetent and apathetic voters to participate either. The “slap at the face of democracy at its core” is the perpetual effort by the Democratic party to facilitate voting by uninformed citizens it can manipulate to warp the democratic process, which was created and predicated on the presumption of an engaged and informed electorate. Democracy does not work without one.
As we have seen…
3. Great second act, Fanne! One of the most fatuous quotes in American letters is the F. Scott Fitzgerald observation that “there are no second acts in American lives.” To anyone with a knowledge of history, this is obviously nonsense. Many Americans, famous and otherwise, had spectacular “second acts.” This nation, in fact, allows its citizens to rise up from failure and setbacks again and again. Among the citizens taking advantage of this was the “the Argentine Firecracker,” Fanne Foxe, the D.C. stripper who leapt from the limousine of Representative Wilbur D. Mills one night in 1974 to plunge into Washington’s Tidal Basin after a night of carousing. The resulting sex scandal brought down Mills, then one of the most powerful politicians in the Democratic Party. By the time Foxe died on last month at the age of 84, most had forgotten that scandal—there have been so many since. Nobody had heard from Foxe in decades, though she had parlayed her fame into a huge increase in her stripping fees, some soft-porn movies, and a book.
She also had children and grandchildren, and late in life surprised family and friends by earning a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Tampa in 1995, a master’s in marine science (in 2001), and a master’s in business administration (2004) from the University of South Florida, all with magna cum laude honors. “The Argentine Firecracker” wasn’t just a bimbo after all; she was, it turns out, a smart and ambitious woman who was capable of authoring a terrific second act. Brava, Fanne!
And it turns out that F.Scott never said that quote as it is usually repeated. What he wrote, in an early short story and later again in his unfinished novel, “The Last Tycoon,” was, “I once thought that there were no second acts in American lives, but there was certainly to be a second act to New York’s boom days.” In other words, “I once thought there were no second acts, but I was wrong.”
As Fanne Foxe nicely demonstrated.
There is hope.