Bill Murchison

As Lyndon Johnson told it -- or allowed it to be told in his name -- this Goldwater guy, if given half a chance, would blow up the world. In which case, why shouldn't the voters back in '64 not play it safe and keep LBJ in the White House?

Memories of the infamous Johnson television spot, with its daisy-leaf-plucking-about-to-be-incinerated-by-bad-Barry, cuddly, little girl, cause some of us old-timers to reach for the Maalox. (Small wonder that Barry would later say, talking of Lyndon, "Don't get me started on that SOB.") The debasement of presidential discourse wasn't the only public offense Johnson committed, but he sure set a vital precedent -- one that came to mind as Mitt Romney was expatiating on Barack Obama's "campaign of personal vilification and demonization."

I might in the foregoing sentence have written "President Obama's," rather than "Barack Obama's" campaign, inasmuch as a certain Barack Obama serves as president. The context puts one off just a bit from diligent assignments of respect. Presidents have an implied obligation to behave presidentially rather than in the manner of, well, Chicago community organizers. The obligation prevailed in politics for a long time. How many malcontents did President Washington slay with his tongue? Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to take a more modern example, might assail "economic royalists," but he laid off the moral bona fides, however he may personally have discerned them, of Herbert Hoover, Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie and Tom Dewey.

Barack Obama, you're no Franklin Roosevelt, Romney seems to be saying. More like a Lyndon Johnson perhaps?

Romney, the other day, mentioned "The Harry Reid attack. 'Oh, he hasn't paid taxes in 10 years.'... The attack about how Romney's responsible for this woman who died (years after Bain Capital closed a steel mill for which the woman's husband worked, costing the family their health insurance) ... and the vice president's comments (to a mostly black audience) about 'chains.' Really? The White House just keeps stepping lower and lower and lower ..."

I suppose an Obama partisan could -- probably has already -- accused Romney of "whining." Poor baby just can't take it, you know? Nor has the political trade some ethereal reputation to defend anyway for delicacy of expression. Oh, and this, too -- none of the stuff to which Romney alludes came out of Obama's own mouth; it issued from the mouths merely of people who support Obama. Not Obama's fault!

I guess that clears everything up. Except for two things:

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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