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Cheerleader of the Week: Texas Monthly’s Embarrassing Politics

Texas Monthly is a magazine that exists to hawk Bentleys, resort properties, and haute cuisine to Austin technology millionaires, but it maintains a healthy sideline in Democratic cheerleading, including a decades-long project to rehabilitate the reputation of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

This month’s Johnson-rehab sally is an interview with Luci Baines Johnson, the president’s daughter, currently operating a family business and best remembered for her unbelievably gauche wedding on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. (The timing did not go unnoticed by those protesting the Vietnam war.)

The tone of Texas Monthly’s questions is reverential, and Johnson’s answers hagiographic:

At that point, the two people in the primary were Hillary Clinton and Senator Obama. Lyndon Johnson felt that womanpower was America’s greatest untapped natural resource. And, of course, he was a man who spent his political life trying to right the wrongs of segregation and open the doors of opportunity to all of us, regardless of the color of our skin, our gender, our ethnicity, our religion.

This is weapons-grade dishonesty, but Texas Monthly cannot be bothered to challenge it. LBJ fought against much of the most important civil-rights legislation of his time, including Truman’s civil-rights initiatives and anti-lynching laws. How did Johnson feel about civil rights? Take him at his own word: “The Civil Rights program is a farce and a sham — an effort to set up a police state.” Johnson’s later embrace of legislation on behalf of the people he continued to refer to by an epithet unprintable in this space was entirely cynical. His sympathetic biographer, Robert Caro, could write only this: “There were times when [Johnson’s political] interests coincided …with the highest of America’s interests, the great liberal cause, the cause of social justice. And when they did, the cause advanced.” And when they didn’t coincide, the little people didn’t matter.

One wouldn’t expect a daughter to talk badly about her father, but given LBJ’s record — a bigot, a boor, an abuser of women, politically corrupt and the source of corruption in others, &c. — an outfit posing as a source of political journalism has a responsibility to temper this stuff. (Small world: A Democratic candidate for sheriff of Duval County, Texas, sued for election fraud in the 1888 vote after the region’s Republican machine denied him office through ballot-rigging. He died in 1903 but was still showing up at the polls decades later, swelling LBJ’s margins of victory; his grandson founded National Review.)
But Texas Monthly’s Democratic cheerleading doesn’t stop with the project to canonize LBJ. Consider this bit from Texas Monthly’s political columnist Paul Burka:

Dallas and Tarrant counties have become major battlegrounds in the fight for control at the Capitol; as is the case throughout metro Texas, a big Obama turnout is key to victory.

That “key to victory” is a small but telling thing: not “key to victory for Democrats” but “key to victory,” period, as though Burka were writing for a Democratic party newsletter (which, I suppose, he is) rather than a publication purporting to serve the entire state of Texas, which has not lately defined “victory” as “Democrats win.”

That sort of thing is all over Texas Monthly, from little snide asides to Jason Cohen’s ill-informed assumption that Republicans are usually better-funded by fat-cats than Democrats, which anybody who can read should know is not true.

For a magazine that is mostly known for its restaurant reviews, Texas Monthly has an awful lot of Obama rah-rah. And that is why they are our new Cheerleader of the Week. Unfortunately, our budget does not allow us to send them a pair of golden pom-pons.

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