Last episode we learned about Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK. This week we’ll learn about the 2016 film LBJ that covers President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the man who became President the moment John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
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KEEP LEARNING WITH MORE RESOURCES
- LBJ (2016) – IMDb
- LBJ Synopsis | Fandango
- LBJ Movie: The True Story Behind Lyndon B. Johnson Biopic | Time
- LBJ Movie Review & Film Summary (2017) | Roger Ebert
- Amazon.com: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President eBook: Robert Dallek: Kindle Store
- Woody Harrelson Hated Lyndon B. Johnson. But He Found His Humanity While Playing Him Onscreen.
- What the New LBJ Movie Gets Right—and Wrong – POLITICO Magazine
- LBJ Movie: The True Story Behind Lyndon B. Johnson Biopic | Time
- You’ve got Lyndon Johnson all wrong: The real story of how a conservative Congress passed the Great Society | Salon.com
- When the President and His Chef Feuded Over Cold Beans – Gastro Obscura
- Let Us Continue – Lyndon B. Johnson 1963
- LBJ Movie Script
- Timeline of the John F. Kennedy assassination – Wikipedia
- Lyndon Johnson opposed every civil rights proposal considered in his first 20 years as lawmaker | PolitiFact Texas
- Johnson Urges Farm Bill – The New York Times
- Lyndon B. Johnson – HISTORY
- Three New Revelations About LBJ – The Atlantic
- Three More Years – Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #3)
- The Real Reason LBJ Didn’t Run for Re-Election in 1968 | History News Network
- The most vulgar American president ever? It sure as #$@!%* isn’t Donald Trump | National Post
- The Woman Who Swore In LBJ After JFK’s Assassination | Time
- Amazon.com: The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson IV eBook: Robert A. Caro: Kindle Store
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission | National Archives
- File:Lyndon Johnson signing Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964.jpg – Wikipedia
- Rare Video Released of President Johnson Rehearsing Historic March 31, 1968 Speech – LBJ Presidential Library
- THE PRESIDENCY: L.B.J., Hoover and Domestic Spying – TIME
- The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives, by Robert A. Caro | The New Yorker
- President Johnson’s Address to the Nation, 3/31/68. MP600. – YouTube
Learn the true story behind LBJ
Our movie today begins on November 22nd, 1963. Announcer Bob Walker provides voiceover as we see Air Force One at Dallas’s Love Field. First to get off the plane is Kim Allen’s version of Jackie Kennedy. The crowd gathered nearby cheers. Then it’s President John F. Kennedy, who is played by Jeffrey Donovan, who descends from the aircraft.
We also see Woody Harrelson’s version of LBJ—Lyndon Baines Johnson—on the tarmac. He’s there with his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. She’s played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.
As the President and Vice President are getting into their motorcade, the movie cuts away to four years earlier.
Before we continue, though, I want to point out that here in LBJ the movie cuts back to November 22nd, 1963 throughout a lot of the film. However, since we just covered the movie JFK, I won’t go much into the details of President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22nd, 1963 as they’re depicted in this movie.
Oh, and as a quick side note, Lady Bird isn’t her real name. Her real name was Claudia Alta Johnson, but everyone called her Lady Bird—and since the movie does, that’s what I’ll call her throughout the podcast, too.
So, back in the movie’s timeline, four years earlier would’ve been 1959. The text on screen tells us we’re in the office of the Majority Leader. Based on the conversation, it’s clear that Lyndon Johnson is trying to get people to vote for a farm bill.
The farm bill itself isn’t that important to the grand scheme of things, but the movie is correct in showing that Lyndon Johnson was the Majority Leader for the Democratic party in the U.S. Senate in 1959.
For a bit of context in case you’re not familiar with what that means, basically there are two key political parties in the U.S. government—Republicans and Democrats. There’s 100 seats in the Senate, two for each state in the U.S. So, when one of those two political parties has 51 or more seats, that party has the majority.
The parties then choose who will be the Majority Leader and Minority Leader, respectively. As of this recording, the Republican Party has the majority in the U.S. Senate, so a Republican is the Majority Leader while a Democrat is the Minority Leader.
In 1959, the Democratic Party had the majority in the Senate, and the Democrat from Texas, Lyndon Johnson, was elected to be the Majority Leader.
Well, he wasn’t elected in 1959—he was actually elected to the position in 1955—but he held that position until 1961, so the movie’s timeline showing him holding the position in 1959 would be correct.
And speaking of the movie’s timeline, heading back there now, the next bit of text we see says that we’re on the Johnson Ranch in Texas. It’s still 1959. Lyndon is hunting with Bobby Kennedy.
Bobby is played by Michael Stahl-David in the movie.
As they’re hunting, Bobby asks Lyndon if he’d consider supporting his brother for President. Lyndon says of course, he’ll support whomever is nominated.
“Even if that’s you?” Bobby asks a bit indignantly.
Lyndon turns to him and clarifies, “I have no intention of running for President.”
After this, the movie cuts to a scene where we see a “Johnson for President” poster hanging up. Even though we see Woody Harrelson’s version of Lyndon get upset on the phone with someone for making the poster despite his not having announced, the implication is clear.
Then, after Lyndon storms out of the room, we overhear a couple of his men are wondering why he’s so hesitant to announce he’s running for President.
“Is he afraid that people won’t vote for him?” one asks the other.
Lady Bird happens to hear the conversation as she walks by and responds to the question, “He’s afraid that people won’t love him.”
The specifics of these scenes are made up for the movie, of course, but the overall concept that Lyndon Johnson was hesitant to announce his candidacy for President is true. It’s even true that Bobby Kennedy visited Lyndon Johnson on his ranch to find out if he was going to be running for President. Bobby was the campaign manager for his brother, John.
But, Lyndon wasn’t interested in running quite yet.
There were others who urged him to run. Probably the most notable of these was a man we see in the movie, Jim Rowe. He’s played by Bryan Batt.
With the 1960 Presidential election around the corner, the people in the Democratic Party were trying to find out who the best nominees would be. In the beginning of 1959, there were six men who were front runners. That’d be Stuart Symington, Averell Harriman, Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson and John Kennedy.
Unlike some of the others and against Jim Rowe’s insistence, Lyndon remained resolute—he wasn’t interested in trying to push for the nomination.
However, it’s not because he wasn’t interested in becoming President. It’s because he didn’t think he could win the nomination. Another factor for his denying the nomination was that kept people from trying to undermine his leadership.
As soon as he announced he was running, he’d have a new onslaught of political opponents he didn’t have before—so, rather than try and fail, he believed his best political move was to be patient.
Back in the movie, it’s July 11th, 1960. Text on the screen tells us we’re at the Biltmore Hotel. We can see from signs around the room that there’s a debate going on.
Lyndon Johnson has decided to announce, and he’s alongside the other potential candidates. Is this a debate? We don’t really see much of what’s going on, but later we do see Lyndon and Lady Bird watching the results on TV.
If you pause the movie, on screen you’ll see the results:
1st Ballot. 761 to nominate. Johnson 405, Kennedy 750.
On a second line, we see the others, Stevenson 9 1/2, Symington 86.
As Lyndon and Lady Bird are watching, the screen updates: Johnson 405, Kennedy 765. Kennedy has won the nomination!
This event the movie is showing wasn’t a debate or anything. It was the 1960 Democratic National Convention. It was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and lasted from July 11th until July 15th.
It was, like the movie shows, at the Biltmore Hotel where the politicians and their teams set up temporary offices for the convention.
And the end result we saw from the convention in the movie was correct, even though those weren’t the final numbers—or all the numbers.
In all, there were 12 candidates who received votes to be the next Democratic candidate for President. As you can probably guess, John F. Kennedy won the ballot with a total of 806 votes. Lyndon Johnson came in second with 409.
After him was Stuart Symington with 86 votes, Adlai Stevenson with 79.5, Robert Meyner with 43, Hubert Humphrey with 41, George Smathers with 30, Ross Barnett with 23, Herschel Loveless with 2 and last, but not least, Pat Brown, Orval Faubus and Albert Rosellini each had one vote.
Going back to the movie, Lyndon and Lady Bird are sleeping when the phone rings. Lady Bird answers it, but immediately wakes up Lyndon.
“It’s John Kennedy!” she says, nudging him awake.
The scene cuts to Kennedy’s campaign office. Bobby Kennedy is there with a bunch of other men as they’re busy planning for JFK’s campaign.
One of Bobby’s aids is on the phone. Putting his hand over the mouthpiece, he tells Bobby the media’s already calling to find out who his brother is going to choose as his VP candidate.
The camera cuts again and we’re back in the Johnson’s room. After getting hastily dressed, JFK arrives at their room. After some initial small talk between JFK and LBJ, Jeffrey Donovan’s version of Kennedy says, “Do you mind if I ask you a question, Lyndon?”
Before hearing an answer, the camera cuts back to Kennedy’s campaign office. Another aid comes up to Bobby, “You won’t believe where your brother is!”
A little while later, we don’t know how much time has passed, Bobby stops by the Johnson’s room to try to convince Lyndon that he shouldn’t accept it. That doesn’t make Lyndon very happy, but when pressed, Bobby admits his brother didn’t ask him to decline—he’s there on his own.
This is probably true.
By that, what I mean is that there are some conflicting reports about what exactly happened. Remember, a lot of this was behind closed doors and not the type of thing that gets documented.
There are some reports that Bobby Kennedy went to Johnson’s room to try to get him to turn down his brother’s offer of VP nomination. But there’s been others who have disputed that.
What we do know, though, is that on July 13th, 1960, John F. Kennedy won the Democratic nomination for presidency. The next morning, at about 10:15 AM, Kennedy paid a visit to Lyndon Johnson’s room—and offered him the VP nomination on his ticket.
This was done against his brother, Bobby’s, advice and against the advice of a lot of other party leaders.
According to a lot of political historians, the reason for JFK asking LBJ to join his Presidential campaign had a lot to do with LBJ’s influence in the southern states. With JFK from Massachusetts and LBJ being from Texas, they thought that could be a winning ticket for the presidency.
And, as we know from history, they were right.
But just barely.
There were 66,832,818 votes cast in the 1960 Presidential election. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson won that election by a total of 112,827 votes and 84 electoral votes. It was one of the closest U.S. Presidential races in history.
Heading back to the movie, there’s a brief moment where we see the now-Vice President Johnson talking with a couple of his staffers. There’s two of them sitting at a table and Vice President Johnson is sitting…well, he’s sitting on the toilet in the adjacent room. The door is wide open as they’re talking about strategy.
This particular scene may have been made up, but it’s something that certainly could have happened. Most historians agree that Lyndon B. Johnson was the most vulgar of all Presidents.
Not to get too far ahead of the movie’s timeline, but when Johnson was President, there’s one story of a United Nations official named Arthur Goldschmidt who was meeting with President Johnson in the Oval Office. All of a sudden, Lyndon went to the washroom and proceeded to go #2, shave and shower—the entire time still talking to Goldschmidt as if it were normal.
Or there’s another story of a reporter who was touring LBJ’s ranch in Texas one time. They were outside talking when all of a sudden, Lyndon just started urinating right in front of the reporter.
But surprising people by relieving himself in front of them wasn’t the only thing he did.
According to people close to him, Johnson invaded the personal space of whomever he was talking to. Unfortunately, that included women, and even though there’s never been any official reports of harassment, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
In fact, there are many who claimed it did.
Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee put it into words once. He explained what it was like to have a conversation with Johnson by saying, “You really felt as if a St. Bernard had licked your face for an hour, had pawed you all over.”
And, of course, there was the language. To put it mildly, Lyndon Johnson had the mouth of a sailor.
Back in the movie, one of the guys we see Woody Harrelson’s version of Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson go toe-to-toe with is Richard Jenkins’s version of Senator Richard Russell.
It starts when LBJ mentions to Senator Russell that Kennedy has a new transport airplane he wants to get made. LBJ offers to help make sure the Lockheed plant in Atlanta, Georgia can get the contract. That’d be a billion dollars for Russell’s home state—something he likes. But, LBJ insists that Russell has to ensure the plant makes some changes.
It’s a racially segregated plant. Can’t have that while working on a project for President Kennedy, who was pushing for civil rights.
Senator Russell isn’t happy about that.
That’s true, but I couldn’t find anything in my research to tie Russell directly to the Lockheed plant plan.
In truth, what happened was that in 1961, Johnson was trying to find a way to start breaking into the racism that flourished in the south. There was an attorney in Atlanta named Robert Troutman who had been getting tons of complaints from the NAACP about a Lockheed plant in Marietta, Georgia.
It was the perfect opportunity to get started.
Or was it?
For their part, the Lockheed Corporation was more than happy to find a way to fix the issue. It wasn’t really because they were embracing civil rights, but mostly because the complaints from the NAACP were putting their contracts with the federal government at risk. Basically, it risked hurting their bottom line.
Before long, Lockheed had removed their “White” and “Colored” signs, and promises were made to start hiring more black folks.
As for Senator Richard Russell, even though I couldn’t find any connection to him and the Lockheed contract like the movie implies, the movie is still correct in showing he was heavily in favor of segregation.
In fact, Russell teamed up with Senator Strom Thurmond to write the Declaration of Constitutional Principles in 1956. More informally known as the Southern Manifesto, the basic gist of the document is a statement in opposition of racial integration in public places.
It was written as a direct reply to the Supreme Court’s ruling in 1954 that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.
There were 19 senators and 82 representatives who showed their support for the Southern Manifesto by signing it. In fact, a majority of southern states in the U.S. had their lawmakers sign it. There were three southern Senators who didn’t sign it—Al Gore, Sr. from Tennessee, Estes Kefauver also from Tennessee and Lyndon Baines Johnson from Texas.
Oh, and yes, Al Gore, Sr. was the father of Al Gore, the 45th Vice President of the United States.
Back in the movie, we cut back to the motorcade in Dallas that fateful day in 1963. There had been a few cuts back to it up until now, but this time the text on screen lets us know the motorcade is entering Dealey Plaza.
Lyndon Johnson is in a car behind President Kennedy’s when the shots are fired. A Secret Service man yells, “Get down!” and shove LBJ down as the cars start to speed off.
In the hospital, LBJ is ushered into a room while the doctors try to save President Kennedy.
A man enters with the news, Senator Connally and the President have been shot. Connally isn’t as bad, but the President…it’s bad.
After a few more moments, another man enters. The President…he’s—he’s gone. Then one of the Secret Service men says it, “Mr. President.”
Lyndon Johnson looks up…he’s now President Johnson.
As I’m sure you probably already know, that happened. On November 22nd, 1963 at 12:30 PM President John F. Kennedy was shot. Senator John Connally’s seat was in the same car right in front of Kennedy. He was also shot, with one of the bullets that hit Kennedy continuing on and striking Connally in the back just under his right armpit.
The motorcade rushed off to nearby Parkland Memorial Hospital.
Once there, doctors tried to save President Kennedy’s life…but it was too late.
Technically, Vice President Johnson became President Johnson as soon as Kennedy died.
But, according to the movie, Lyndon Johnson not only refuses to go back to Washington D.C. without Jackie Kennedy, but he also calls up Bobby Kennedy.
There’s a bit of sneakiness going on here in the movie, because we see Lyndon Johnson ask someone to take notes during his call. But she can only hear one side of the conversation. So, when he’s on the phone with Bobby he manages to get the conversation to a point to where it sounds like Bobby is insisting that Lyndon get sworn in there in Dallas.
But hearing both sides of the conversation in the movie, we can tell that Bobby wanted JFK to return to Washington D.C. in Air Force One as the President—as a final act of courtesy for the man.
That phone call actually happened. Although, it’s something that we don’t know exactly what was said because Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy were the only ones who heard both sides of it.
That took place at 1:56 PM in Dallas, or 2:56 PM in Washington D.C.
Although, that’s not where Bobby Kennedy was. He was in Hickory Hill, New York having lunch with his wife, Ethel, and meeting with a U.S. attorney there. But the time zone between New York and Washington D.C. is the same.
About 30 minutes earlier, at 2:25 PM New York time, Bobby had gotten another call. That call was from J. Edgar Hoover, confirming that President Kennedy—his brother—had been killed.
According to a great book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Caro, the recollections of those witnessing either side of the conversation portray a picture much like we saw in the movie. By that, what I’m referring to is that Lyndon Johnson seemed to know what he wanted to get out of the conversation while Bobby Kennedy was so overcome with shock and grief on the news he’d heard less than an hour earlier that he couldn’t even hardly comprehend the world around him.
But, according to those recollections, things seemed to happen like the movie shows. Bobby didn’t know what the rush was to have the swearing in happen in Dallas. He thought it would be nice if JFK’s body could fly back to Washington D.C. as President Kennedy.
Johnson apparently disagreed because, as we now know, President Johnson was sworn in on board Air Force One in Dallas.
According to Judge Sarah Hughes, which the movie is right was the woman who swore Johnson into office, she recalled that Johnson mentioned Mrs. Kennedy wanted to be present for the swearing in. When one of the aids went to get her, she said she felt she ought to be there for historical purposes.
And so we have that famous photograph by White House photographer Cecil Stoughton. Alongside Johnson was Lady Bird Johnson on one side and Jackie Kennedy on the other. She refused to change beforehand, insisting that she still wear the blood-stained clothes that she had been wearing when her husband was killed.
As soon as the oath was finished, President Johnson ordered the plane take off and head back to Washington D.C.
Going back to the movie, back in Washington, we see Senator Richard Russell with a whole group of other congressmen. Senator Russell is all smiles and say something to the effect of, out of a despicable act of assassination, a new leader has emerged.
He goes on to say that after 100 years of being treated as inferior, finally we have one of our own as a leader—America has a Southern President!
That’s well, not really true. For example, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President—he was the President just before JFK, and Eisenhower was also from Texas just like LBJ was.
But I suppose if you don’t count Ike, then there was a long line of Presidents who were primarily from Northern states.
As for whether or not Senator Russell was at the White House soon after LBJ’s arrival from Dallas on November 22nd, I couldn’t find anything to suggest that he was. Although, there was a group of congressmen who met with Johnson at the White House that afternoon, so it’s possible Russell was among them.
However, I’d doubt it was anything orchestrated by Russell like the movie implies.
The purpose of that meeting, as far as I could tell from my research, was to try to get support from both sides of Congress. No matter the party, LBJ wanted to try and convince everyone that there wasn’t going to be a change in America’s foreign policies after the assassination. To do that, he felt the entire government needed to put on a unified front.
Oh, and you know that phrase that LBJ keeps saying to staff members around the White House in the movie? It’s different sometimes, but it’s always something like, “Thank you for your service to President Kennedy. I’ll need you now even more than he ever did.”
A lot of staffers have recalled LBJ saying that to them soon after the assassination, so it seemed to be the go-to line for Johnson as he was trying to get everyone to work together.
Back in the movie, the next morning after the assassination, we see LBJ walking into the Oval Office. He says he has a meeting at 9:30 AM, but the staff is still cleaning out Kennedy’s things.
Then, Bobby Kennedy arrives.
“That didn’t take you long,” Bobby says to President Johnson as he enters the Oval Office.
“I was told to use this room,” Johnson explains.
“Just like you were told to take the oath in Dallas?” Bobby retorts.
The movie does a pretty good job of showing the basic gist of what happened, actually.
When LBJ woke up on Saturday, November 23rd, 1963, he was under the impression he should be working out of the Oval Office. The day before, he’d been working out of an office across the street from the White House. That evening, he had been told he’d be working out of the Oval Office the next day.
But between Friday night and Saturday morning, the national security advisor decided that wasn’t a good idea yet because they hadn’t gotten everything packed up. So, at about 8:00 AM, he left a note at the Executive Office Building with instructions for LBJ to work out of a different office but that the Oval Office would be ready for Monday.
President Johnson never got that note, because he never went to the Executive Office Building. He went straight to the West Wing with the intention he would be working out of the Oval Office.
So, the movie is correct in showing that when LBJ showed up at the White House that morning, he was expecting to work out of the Oval Office.
Bobby Kennedy showed up that morning, too, and wasn’t too happy that LBJ was moving into the Oval Office so quickly—while his brother’s possessions were still there. Just like the movie shows, LBJ told Bobby that he was told to work there—and he had been.
Even though miscommunications like that are completely understandable, especially when you consider how much chaos there had to be after the assassination, the wounds were too fresh.
And considering that Bobby and LBJ didn’t really like each other too much before, this little miscommunication did not help their friendship.
Back in the movie, we see President Johnson have what seems to be a change of heart. This gets vocalized in the film when the President walks into where some of his staff are talking about policies. In particular, the Civil Rights Act that Kennedy had proposed is the hot topic.
Johnson walks in and tells them he wants to support the Civil Rights bill—the entire thing. He continues to tell the story of his personal cook, a black woman named Mrs. Wright.
According to the movie, after the assassination Mrs. Wright was driving back to Washington D.C. Since she’d be passing by LBJ’s ranch in Texas anyway, he asked if she’d stop to get his dog—Beagle Johnson—and bring the dog to D.C.
Woody Harrelson’s version of President Johnson continues, saying that Mrs. Wright respectfully declined his request. She explained that it was tough enough for a black woman to drive through the South by herself, let alone taking car of a dog. He continues, saying she couldn’t find a place to sleep, to eat, or even to use the restroom—she had to squat by the side of the road.
That story, unfortunately, is true.
And it’s also true that LBJ found the story to be appalling.
Although, in truth, the story was that Zephyr Wright, the President’s chef, wasn’t coming back to D.C., but she was driving to Texas. I couldn’t find out exactly why she was going, but it was probably to get some things as the new President was going to be moving to Washington D.C.
Lady Bird had asked Zephyr to take their dog back to the ranch when she drove down. And just like the movie shows, Zephyr respectfully declined. It’s hard enough driving in the South as a black woman let alone having to take care of a dog.
That story brought LBJ to tears and opened his eyes to the importance of public accommodations for everyone. This lit a fire under him to push for the civil rights bill.
And as the movie comes to a close, that’s exactly what we see happen.
President Johnson addresses the House of Representatives in an address that, as the movie describes it, is both a farewell to President Kennedy but also a proper introduction to President Johnson. It has come to be known as the “Let Us Continue” speech by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, delivered to a Joint Session of Congress on November 27th, 1963.
The speech in the movie isn’t the entire thing, of course, and it sort of bounces around a bit, but it’s still pretty close to the overall gist of the real speech.
The movie comes to a close by giving us some final bits of text, so let’s fact-check those.
It starts by saying on July 2nd, 1964, President Johnson realized President Kennedy’s dream and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.
That is true. It might not have happened as fast as President Johnson wanted it to, but the bill was passed. In fact, there’s a photo out there of President Johnson signing the bill that day. Behind him, Martin Luther King, Jr. is watching on.
As a fun little fact, the only time Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X met in person happened on March 26th, 1964, when they were both in the U.S. Capitol building to hear the Civil Rights Act being debated by the Senate. It was a brief meeting, lasting less than a minute.
The next bit of text in the movie says that on November 3rd, 1964, Johnson defeated Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona for the presidency. Unlike the ticket with JFK as President with LBJ as Vice President, LBJ won his election by winning 44 of the 50 states and receiving 61.1% of the popular vote—making it the largest victory since 1820.
That is true.
That 1820 election was James Monroe. It was the second term for President Monroe, and for the most part he didn’t have anyone running against him in that election. The only other person to receive an electoral vote was the Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams—a man who would end up becoming the President after Monroe’s second term ended in 1825.
As for the election in 1964, President Johnson and his running mate Hubert Humphrey received 486 electoral votes while Senator Barry Goldwater and his running mate William Miller only received 52. Just like the movie says, LBJ won 44 of the 50 states and had 61.1% of the popular vote.
For a bit of comparison between the 1960 and 1964 elections, JFK won the election in 1960 with 34,220,984 votes. That’s 49.72% of the popular vote. The Republican candidate who lost that year was Richard Nixon, who had 34,108,157 votes. As we learned, that’s a difference of only 112,827 votes.
In the 1964 election, LBJ won with 43,127,041 votes for 61.1%. His opponent had 27,175,754 votes for 38.5%. That’s a difference of 15,951,287 votes—quite a bit more than the previous election.
The next bit of text explains that in his next term, Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and established programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Head Start.
That’s all true, too.
While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 built on that by prohibiting racial discrimination in the voting process.
As for Medicare, Medicaid, and Head Start, those were all a part of what historians refer to as Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” It also included things like food stamps and a federally-funded program for secondary education called Work Study.
The Medicare bill was passed in 1965.
Johnson was also responsible for creating a new Transportation Department, which included the Coast Guard and the FAA, among other departments. That was also in 1965.
In 1968, President Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968. This was in response to the assassination of Robert Kennedy—Bobby—that happened in June of 1968, but also because of the assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr., the latter of which also happened in 1968.
The last bits of text in the movie explain that toward the end of his term, President Johnson started to get backlash because of his escalation of the war in Vietnam. American deaths were rising, and anti-war protests intensified.
Then, according to the movie, on March 31st, 1968, President Johnson declared on TV that he would not seek, nor accept, the nomination of the party for another term as president.
The final text on screen says that Johnson was the last sitting president to choose not to run for reelection.
That is all true.
The Vietnam War began in 1955, while President Eisenhower was still in office. When President Kennedy was elected, he escalated things by sending more American troops to the war-torn region. By the time President Kennedy was assassinated, there were about 16,000 American troops in Vietnam. He had planned to remove about 1,000 of those troops by the end of 1963.
When Johnson took office, he reversed that order. Instead, by the end of 1964, there were about 23,000 American troops. In that year alone, U.S. casualties tallied up to 1,278.
By June of 1965, there were over 82,000 American troops in Vietnam. Things only kept increasing, and there were over 200,000 American troops deployed to Vietnam by the end of 1965.
Things didn’t get better in 1966. That year saw over 400,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam. All the while, anti-war protests were growing. People weren’t happy with how President Johnson was handling the war by throwing more and more American lives at it.
By the summer of 1967, tallies estimated that about 70,000 Americans had died in Vietnam. Still, Johnson was sending more troops, and with a big boost of about 50,000, the total was brought to around 525,000.
By the end of 1967, anti-war protests were growing to an all-time high, including over 100,000 people marching outside the Pentagon in October of that year.
And so, just like the movie says, on March 31st, 1968, President Johnson addressed the nation. During that speech, which was all about the steps he was prepared to take to halt the war, he announced an immediate halt to the bombing in North Vietnam. This is that speech: