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Paramount // Unrated // February 14, 2006
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted March 2, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Born on August 27, 1908 in Texas, near Johnson City (which his family helped to settle), and growing up was the eldest of five children. LBJ grew up in some degree of poverty, working his way through Southwest Texas State College, graduating in 1930 with a bachelor's degree in science and was a teacher for a short time before entering politics. In 1934 he married Claudia "Lady Bird" Taylor. In 1937 he succesfully ran for the House Of Representatives on Roosevelt's "New Deal" platform with the help of his wife, eventually being re-elected to the office five times. FDR showed a personal interest in the young Texan, appointing him to the Naval Affairs Committee, an impressive appointment for a first term representative. In 1941 he made an unsuccessful run for the Senate in a special election. Shortly thereafter the United States entered into World War II and Lyndon asked to be called up for active duty, which was granted him, the first member of the House to put on a uniform. He was assigned to the Pacific Theater throught most of the war, holding the rank of lieutenant commander and awarded the Silver Star medal.

In 1948 Johnson ran once again for the U.S. Senate and won; in 1950 at the time of the Korean War he helped to establish the Preparedness Investigating Committee, in time becoming its' chairman and conducting investigations on defense costs and efficiency, gaining national recognition in the process. In 1953 he became the youngest man to be chosen senate Minority Leader by either political party. After winning re-election in 1954 the Democrats became took control of the Senate and in turn Johnson became Majority Leader. His rise in the party and national recognition began giving LBJ prominence and some degree of mention as a presidential candidate for the Democrats, running as a nominees in 1956 and seriously making a presidential nominee bid in 1960, attaining 408 votes and in turn being asked by Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy to be his running mate on the national ticket. What ensued was a close winning election for the Kennedy-Johnson team. Upon taking office LBJ stayed busy, touring nationally and internationally making speeches to clarify and gain support for administration policies. He sat in on National Security Counsel meetings as well as JFK's cabinet sessions, and served as chairman of both the National Aeronautics and Space Council as wellas the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.

Johnson was in Dallas on a political trip on November 22nd, 1963 when John F. Keendy was assassinated. He was sworn in 29 minutes after his murder, becoming the 36th President of the United States. Taking the helm after the shocking, brutal murder of Kennedy would without question be a formidable task for any man- decades after the last such attempt on a president's life, Kennedy was seen as young, energetic and charismatic, his family viewed with the kind of revery reserved for royalty. After the Cuban Missile Crisis Kennedy's popularity rose, and in death soared.

His first obvious job at hand was to try to calm the nation during a period of incredible grief and fear. In his first address to a joint session of Congress he called for the passage of Kennedy's legislative program. In an effort to promptly investigate the assassination, he created the assassination investigation commission headed by Justice Earl Warren. In January 1964 he proposed a wide range of legislation to Congress which was paased, proposals among them being a reduction in taxes, a wide reaching civil rights bill and an anti-poverty bill.

Johnson easily won the election of 1964 in the most one-sided election since 1936, likely in no small part because of the Kennedy legacy left behind. He chose reliable Democrat Hubert Humphrey as his running mate and they were matched against the conservative Republican ticket of Barry Goldwater and William Miller. What Johnson had in mind was the implementation of "The Great Society"-aiding the poor, elderly and deppressed areas of the nation as well as strengthing the rights of African- Americans. In 1966 he endorsed a new branch, the Department of Transportation, as well as raising social security benefits and passing an air pollution control bill. In 1968 a civil rights bill with stronger open housing provisions was passed.

Johnson's obvious problem area in his presidency was the Vietnam conflict, increasing the number of American troops in North Vietnam as well as increasing bombing. With a country increasingly torn over justification for remaining in Vietnam, Johnson not only suprisingly announced a halt to bombing in North Vietnam and almost shockingly amde public his decision not to run for a second full term as President. Vice-President Humphrey became the Democratic nominee, losing the 1968 election to Richard M. Nixon. LBJ retired from the political scene and spent much of his final years at his Texas ranch, passing away on January 22, 1973.

Narration here is by the always fine voice of David McCullough. Had there been no Vietnam War for LBJ to deal with while serving his years as President, his politics and accomplishments would probably be seen in a far more forgiving light, but the decision to not only remain in Vietnam but escalate the conflict came at a time the nation had strong misgivings as to whether U.S. involvement was desirable.


Prsentation is in 1:33.1 fullscreen. The picture is clean and colors accurate, fine overall for documentary purposes.


Audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 and clear and easy to understand.


No extras here.

Final Thoughts-

As has been the case with the previous American Experience DVD installments I have reviewed, this telling of LBJ's life is compelling, informative and filled with insight rendered by several sources. Recommended.
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