Cult Accusations; NATO at 70; LBJ and Jackie

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Good morning, it’s Monday, Dec. 2, 2019. Fifty-six years ago today, a man who had been in the Oval Office for less than 10 full days placed a phone call to the wife of the slain president he replaced. The call comforted the young widow, however briefly. The new president -- a politician not known for gratuitous sentimentality -- seemed to get something from it, too. By the end of the call, Lyndon Johnson and Jacqueline Kennedy had actually made each other laugh.

In a moment, I’ll have more on this touching respite from the political violence that wracked this nation in the turbulent 1960s.

First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

* * *

Is the Democratic Party the Real Cult? Frank Miele counters an anti-GOP meme making the rounds.

Why “Money Multiplier” Theory Is Absurd. RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny takes aim at economists’ beliefs regarding banks and their alleged ability to compound the money deposited with them. 

U.S. Should Sell M-1 Tanks to Poland. In RealClearDefense, Daniel Goure explains why the sale is in NATO’s best interests.

Challenges Remain as NATO Marks 70 Years. Also in RCD, Iain King previews this week’s meeting of member nations.

 * * *

Although Jacqueline Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson had never been close, and were as different as people could be, the assassination that made LBJ president and Jackie a widow had bound them forever in history. Their mutual realization of this grim reality is apparent during their poignant Dec. 2, 1963 exchange, captured on tape and stored at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

The conversation reveals both of them at their most charming. Although Lyndon Johnson could be crude and bullying, on this occasion he sounded paternally protective. And the often-shy Mrs. Kennedy came out of her shell to make a subtly risqué witticism that she knew LBJ would appreciate.

President Johnson began the call  to Jackie Kennedy by telling her, “I just want you to know that you are loved by so many -- and so much -- and I’m one of them.”

Jackie, who had sent Johnson a letter days earlier, explained that she didn’t want to bother him with too many such missives. He cut her off gently. “Listen, sweetie. Now, first thing you’ve got to learn … is that you don’t bother me,” he said. “You give me strength.”

When Mrs. Kennedy suggested that it would be an imposition on Johnson’s time to write her back, he reassured her again:

“Don’t send me anything,” he told her. “You just come on over and put your arm around me. That’s all you do. When you haven’t got anything else to do, let’s take a walk … around the back yard and just let me tell you how much you mean to all of us and how we can carry on if you give us a little strength.”

But Jackie was thinking of something else, namely how much she cherished what Johnson sent her -- and that she wished she had more letters from her husband. “I know how rare a letter is in a president’s handwriting,” she said. “Do you know that I’ve got more in your handwriting than I do in Jack’s now?”

This confession seemed to throw Johnson off, and reminds him of the women in his own family.

“I just want you to know this: I told my momma a long time ago, when everybody else gave up about my election in ’48. My mother and my wife and my sisters and you females got a lot of courage that we men don’t have,” Johnson said. “So we have to rely on you and depend on you, and you've got something to do. You’ve got the president relying on you. And this is not the first one you've had! So there're not many women, you know, running around with a good many presidents. So you just bear that in mind. You've got the biggest job of your life!”

This comment made Jackie laugh. “She ran around with two presidents,” Mrs. Kennedy quipped. “That’s what they'll say about me! Okay, anytime.”

Then it was the president’s turn to chuckle, and he signed off: “Goodbye, darlin’”

“Thank you for calling, Mr. President,” she replied. “Goodbye.”

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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