Useful Notes: Lyndon Johnson

"Like a jackass in a hailstorm."

"If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: 'President Can't Swim.'"
Lyndon Johnson

"Hey! Hey! LBJ!
How many kids did you kill today?"
Popular anti-Vietnam War protest chant

Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908 — January 22, 1973), often known as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States (1963-1969). The thirteenth President from the Democratic Party, he inherited the office following the tragic assassination of the young and inspirational John F. Kennedy and was followed by the honest and lovable Richard Nixon. He managed to be both incredibly good for his domestic reforms and horrendously bad for what he did abroad.

Johnson was a colorful figure, whose rough-edged Texan demeanor contrasted strongly with Kennedy's elegant image. One incident had him exposing his appendicitis scar to the public; in another he picked up his pet beagle by the ears, assuring the onlookers, "He lahks it!" He had odd eating habits, eating quickly and, if someone near him hasn't finished eating yet, taking their food to eat, as if it was nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps his oddest habit was conducting meetings on the toilet (Perhaps one of the best nonsexual examples of Coitus Uninterruptus). Or maybe his oddest habit was pulling his penis - named "Jumbo" - out in front of the White House Press Corps, and waving it around. Still, he sometimes had moments of sympathy that shocked those close to him: After he was sworn in on Air Force One, he called Kennedy's mother to try and comfort her. Satirical portrayals in media usually focused on playing up his Texan-ness to a comical degree. Oh, he was also a big fan of Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge over Troubled Water.

Here, he orders pants.

Appears in the following works:

  • Frank Zappa attacked Johnson's Great Society utopia on his album Freak Out, added an imitation of him during Plastic People on Absolutely Free and Johnson is also featured twice as a cut-out on the album cover of We're Only in It for the Money. In a 1990 interview Zappa did say that his opinions about Johnson had changed over time. Whereas he felt the man blew it in the 1960s he came to see him in a more favorable light after all the far worse US presidents that followed.
  • Unsurprisingly, Oliver Stone's JFK paints him as a supervillain who rubber-stamps the Vietnam War in order to get elected. The plot relies on the so-called "Wise Men", fourteen unofficial 'advisors' from the World Bank and other organizations who oversaw the war from start to finish, as the real leaders; Johnson is just a Puppet King in the movie.
  • Played by Liev Schreiber in Lee Daniels' The Butler
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater opens with a tense conversation between Johnson and Premier Khrushchev. The latter is preparing to be overthrown by Brezhnev and is no mood to cut deals. Johnson bestows the code name "Big Boss" unto the hero in the ending sequence.
  • In Forrest Gump the title character moons Johnson. In the book, Gump and Johnson were sharing the stories of their respective surgical scars — Johnson from gallbladder surgery, Gump from being "wounded in the buttocks." A photographer just happened to walk by at the inopportune moment, and spun the story.
  • A lot of other works set in the Vietnam era, such as Across the Universe, usually mention him in a big protest scene.
  • An unnamed Johnson is seen from behind, petting his beagle, in Batman: The Movie, as he announces the fate of the representatives of the United World Organization.
  • In Seinfeld, when asked if an (apparently very ugly) infant more resembles the mother or the father, Kramer replies "Lyndon Johnson."
    • In "The Outing", the characters argue who was the ugliest world leader of all time. George suggests Johnson.
    • Also, in one episode, George misses his boss' instructions because George failed to follow him into the restroom where he continued to talk, unaware that George hadn't followed him. Jerry says: "He pulled a Lyndon Johnson on you," adding that apparently an entire Vietnamese bombing campaign was planned as Johnson recovered from some bad Chinese food.
  • In King of the Hill, Buck Strickland is physically based on Johnson, and shares many of his more unflattering traits.
    • Hank hero-worships both of them; among the presidents, only his appreciation for Ronald Reagan rivals that of LBJ. In addition, Hank's prize bloodhound Ladybird is named after Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson, the President's wife.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Dog of Death", Santa's Little Helper is forced to watch violent images to make him become a more aggressive watch dog. One of the images he sees is Johnson yanking his dog's ears.
    • In "Homer Bad Man", one of the mistakes corrected by the sensationalist news show Rock Bottom is"'Lyndon Johnson did not provide the voice of Yosemite Sam".
    • In "Bart The Fink", Marge says to Bart that going through a period of remorse after someone you love has passed away is normal: "I had the same experience after Lyndon B. Johnson passed away."
  • During the Kennedy administration, Vaughn Meader recorded a comedy album entitled The First Family. Johnson appears in only one sketch:
    Johnson: Ah'd like to say somethin', if Ah might!
    JFK: Must you, Lyndon?
  • In The Right Stuff, Donald Moffat gives a compelling portrayal of LBJ. "You know what the Russians want?"
  • In the film version of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Ponty is seen leaning in to the White House windows to say, "Good morning, Mr. President!" to an LBJ lookalike.
  • Dino Spumoni "caught his ear" in an episode of Hey Arnold!, a possible reference to a controversial incident in which Johnson was photographed picking up his dog, Little Beagle Johnson, by his ears.
  • Archive footage of Johnson appears in Call of Duty: Black Ops, which takes place during the Vietnam War. Members of his cabinet appear in a in-game cutscene, though the scene takes place back when Kennedy was still in office.
  • Appears in the Mary Shelley's Frankenhole episode "LBJFK", asking the good doctor to put his brain in JFK's more appealing body.
  • Never seen or heard in The President's Analyst, but it's him. A self-described 'typical American' proclaims that he's a liberal in the same tradition as the President: "You know — we're for civil rights!" In a location shot outside the White House gate we see his beagles being walked.
  • We Were Soldiers references Johnson's administration obliquely; Johnson comes off as something of an Obstructive Bureaucrat. This appears to be more or less what Joe Galloway, the co-author of the original book, really thought of Johnson.
  • In HBO's Path To War he is portrayed by Michael Gambon as a tragic hero whose noble and compassionate domestic goals end up being destroyed by the Vietnam War.
  • He gets a shout-out in The West Wing:
    Josh: LBJ never would have taken this kind of crap from Democrats in Congress! He'd have said "You're voting my way, in exchange for which it is possible that I might remember your name."
  • The Tony-Award winning play All The Way is based on his first year in office, with a focus placed on his reelection and the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Bryan Cranston (he of Breaking Bad fame) won a Tony for the portrayal. A follow-up play, The Great Society, covers the rest of his Presidency, but hasn't made it to Broadway as of yet.
    • HBO will be shooting a TV movie based on the first play, with Cranston reprising his role and Jay Roach directing.
  • Portrayed by Tom Wilkinson in Selma, though there's been significant controversy about whether the film exaggerates Johnson's tensions with Martin Luther King, Jr. and incremental approach to Civil Rights. In fairness, it does show Johnson siding with King at film's end, repudiating George Wallace, and moving forward with the Voting Rights Act.
  • Woody Harrelson will be playing him in LBJ, an upcoming biopic directed by Rob Reiner.