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.