Obama’s defenders have fastened on a case where LBJ’s White House offered a job to Congressman Joe Kilgore to get him out of a senate primary against Sen. Ralph Yarborough. Fair enough. This shows that this kind of horse-trading has a long pedigree. It’s also a sign of what’s become of Obama’s promises of a new kind of politics that his supporters are running back to LBJ for precedent. Here’s an interesting passage in one of the conversations between Kilgore and LBJ aide Walter Jenkins that shows they didn’t consider such a deal entirely appropriate, even back then:
Kilgore: Yes, but I think that there’d be an awful lot of people who would remember. I just don’t believe I could do it [accept an appointment]. I think then I couldn’t ever convince some people that there wasn’t some sort of a quid pro quo.
Kilgore: And while you and I would both know that wasn’t true, I just don’t want to run the risk of living my life having people thinking it was true—
Jenkins: Well, there wouldn’t be. But . . . I’m sure that you trust us and we trust you, and there wouldn’t have to be.