Film offers insight into 'good old days' in Washington

Monday, May 23, 2016

Depending on how many elections you've lived through, the HBO film "All The Way" will bring back memories or add to your knowledge of political history.

It also draws an important distinction between today's congressional gridlock and change by "executive order" instead of the old-fashioned glad-handing, arm-twisting and horse trading that resulted in landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Portrayed by Bryan Cranston in a reprise of his Broadway role, LBJ, employs every skill he learned in his long congressional career to win the 1964 election ("All the Way With LBJ") while beating down a Dixiecrat rebellion. At the same time, he has to give Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. enough concessions to keep civil rights leaders like conservative Roy Wilkins and militant Stokely Carmichael in line.

Voting rights were stripped from the 1964 bill to get it through Congress, but were passed the following year as Johnson kept his promise.

Portrayed as emotionally needy, occasionally crude and politically ruthless, LBJ puts Hubert Humphrey to work with the promise of the vice presidency and quickly abandons a good friend when he becomes a political liability.

Such maneuverings have fallen out of fashion with the hungry 24-hour news cycle, social media and the demonization of earmarks, but they are certainly preferable to today's Washington paralysis and the choices we face in November's election.

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