In an earlier post, I mentioned how important it is that we stop treating presidents like gods and recognize they’re just ordinary jerks.
In that spirit, here’s a transcript (and audio) of LBJ ordering some pants, belching, and talking about his “nuts” and “bunghole.”
It’s not as good, though, as the incident Gene Healy recounts in The Cult of the Presidency, in which “asked by a reporter why America was in Vietnam, LBJ unzipped his fly, wagged his member at the audience and exclaimed, ‘this is why!’”
Healy suggests LBJ’s behavior there was the result of being intoxicated by power, but maybe it was just those uncomfortable pants.
In any event, perhaps it says something encouraging about the present times that the press would no longer suppress such a story. (Would they?)
Last week, Lew Rockwell posted an item about officers “subduing” and arresting two people who had the audacity to stand where President Obama’s motorcade wanted to go.
I recalled this yesterday as I read an October 1900 newspaper article, which reported an indignity that VP candidate Theodore Roosevelt suffered when newsboys threw mud at him “and greeted him with insulting language . . . as he departed from the church at which he had attended.” The story was a small item several pages into the paper and there is no indication that the boys were “subdued” or arrested, or that they got into any trouble at all. Instead, the mud-spattered TR just huffed off on his way.
The story included no quotes from experts on how terrible it is that our youth would show such disrespect for a great political leader and no editorializing.
Today, of course, this would be the top news story for a week, Chris Matthews would rend his garments over the blasphemy against our civic religion, and the kids would likely be tazed or killed, and, if they lived, charged with felonies.
Another newspaper article from the same month mentioned that trick-or-treaters stopped by the White House and were greeted by President and Mrs. McKinley. The kids weren’t participating in a photo op, but were just knocking on the front door as they would at any other house. Because you could do that, because the president was not a god.
For more details of the good old days when people treated presidents like the ordinary jerks they are (and how far we’ve fallen), I highly recommend Gene Healy’s The Cult of the Presidency.
(Cross-posted at The LRC Blog.)
UPDATE: Norman Horn points out that The Cult of the Presidency is now available online for free in PDF, Kindle, and ebook formats.
I’m no fan of electoral politics, and never did think Rand Paul was a consistent libertarian or even as libertarian as his father, Ron Paul–though his recent remarks on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 make me think he may be more libertarian than he feels he can admit publicly. I don’t agree with many of his stated positions, but of late he’s being attacked for what is most libertarian: his view that private businesses have a right to discriminate on their own property (see, e.g., attacks by the monstrous Paul Krugman and an editorial from the New York Times).
Libertarians can debate whether the portions of the CRA64 that prohibit states and municipalities from discriminating on the basis of race, gender, etc., are libertarian or constitutional. As for the latter, the Fourteenth Amendment was illegally ratified, making legislation enacted pursuant thereto, such as the CRA64, unconstitutional (for more on the ratification issue, see Gene Healy’s The Squalid 14th Amendment). As for the former: libertarian centralists naively favor the federal government having broad powers to supervise the states, while libertarian decentralists and anarchists fear the central state and favor decentralization (see my posts Libertarian Centralists; The Libertarian Case Against the Fourteenth Amendment; Healy on States’ Rights and Libertarian Centralists; The Heroic Gene Healy on the 14th Amendment: “If this be heresy—then make the most of it!”; see also the insightful comments of J.H. Huebert quoted here).
But there can be no doubt that the provisions of the law that prohibit racial and other discrimination by private businesses in employment or accommodation (such as hotels and restaurants) are manifestly unlibertarian and unjust. Sadly, however, some libertarians actually endorse the state’s infringement on property rights as embodied in this law. Most of the prominent libertarian defenders of the unlibertarian aspects of the CRA64 seem to be associated with the Cato Institute, and include Brink Lindsey (see Cato Scholar Scolds Rand Paul, Gives OK to Soup Nazi; Lindsay’s stance is perhaps not surprising given his pro-war views), David Bernstein, Richard Epstein, and Roger Pilon (see my post Libertarian Centralists–Pilon’s stance is not too surprising, given his defense of the Police America Act). (Julian Sanchez, in a somewhat maundering article, seems to weakly defend Paul, but I’m not sure.) I don’t know if such a major deviation from libertarianism arises from shaky foundations (such as utilitarianism), naivety about the ability of the central state to do justice, or fear of a politically-correct backlash, but it’s pretty sad that a leftist is better on this issue than some libertarians–I have in mind Robert Scheer, who gave a surprisingly good and quasi-libertarian defense of Rand Paul on KCRW’s Left, Right and Center last week–he tears apart the Rand-bashing of his co-hosts Ariana Huffington (who drops the PC racism junk) and Tony Blankley (who says he agrees “intellectually” with Paul but still calls him a kook); see also Scheer’s article Who’s Afraid of Rand Paul? (Even John Fund and Aayan Hirsi Ali, both who seem libertarianish, gave a decent defense of Paul on the latest Bill Maher show, if memory serves). See also the partial transcription of Scheer’s remarks here: