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Saturday, July 23, 2011

LBJ and the Debt Limit

In April, the New York Times reported:
At the White House, the president was lamenting the prospect that Congressional Republicans were digging in against an increase in the federal debt limit.

“And it’s pure demagoguery,” the frustrated president told a sympathetic journalist. “Nothing you can do about it: you’ve got to have the debt limit.”

While it might sound like current events, those words were actually spoken in a June 17, 1964, phone call between President Lyndon B. Johnson and James Reston, the columnist and Washington bureau chief for The New York Times.

The recording and transcript – included in the new volumes of L.B.J. tapes published by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs – are further evidence that nothing much ever really changes in Washington.

In the conversation, the president notes sourly that the word from Capitol Hill is that all Republicans are going to oppose the debt limit request. “Every one of them as a man,” President Johnson, evidently meaning “to a man,” said. “They say we won’t get one Republican vote.”

“Oh, my gosh,” replies Mr. Reston, who earlier in the call had noted that Republicans appeared to have “lost their way, these guys — they’ve got a death wish in that party, I think.”

Mr. Johnson put it another way. “You talk about blind opposition.”
One might add the the tape reveals a surprisingly cozy relationship between the White House and the press.