Battleland

U.S.S. L.B.J.?

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Navy photo-illustration by Lt. Shawn Eklund

Poor Navy Secretary Ray Mabus just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to naming ships. After a flurry of controversy for naming vessels after the like of the late congressman John Murtha, D-Pork, he announced Monday he is naming the next Zumwalt-class destroyer for President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Notes a Navy release:

“I am pleased to honor President Johnson with the naming of this ship,” Mabus said.  “His dedication to a life of public service included bravely stepping forward to fight for his country during our entry into World War II.”… As a naval officer, Johnson requested a combat assignment after the attack on Pearl Harbor and served in the Pacific theater during World War II.

The Navy announcement comes, get this, one day after Charles McGrath wrote the cover story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about Robert Caro, who has spent almost 40 years writing the definitive multi-volume biography of the nation’s 36th President. McGrath summed up Caro’s work so far – through LBJ’s tenure as Senate majority leader – in this paragraph:

In his years of working on Johnson, Robert Caro has come to know him better — or to understand him better — than Johnson knew or understood himself. He knows Johnson’s good side and his bad: how he became the youngest Senate majority leader in history and how, by whispering one thing in the ears of the Southern senators and another in Northern ears, he got the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through a Congress that had squelched every civil rights bill since 1875; how he fudged his war record and earned himself a medal by doing nothing more than taking a single plane ride; how, while vice president during the Cuban missile crisis, his hawkishness scared the daylights out of President Kennedy and his brother Robert. Caro has learned about Johnson’s rages, his ruthlessness, his lies, his bribes, his insecurities, his wheedling, his groveling, his bluster, his sycophancy, his charm, his kindness, his streak of compassion, his friends, his enemies, his girlfriends, his gofers and bagmen, his table manners, his drinking habits, even his nickname for his penis: not Johnson, but Jumbo.

Emphasis added.

Or, as LBJ might himself had said to Mabus: Dammit boy – A President who wins a Silver Star warrants a goddamn aircraft carrier, like Ford, Reagan or Bush. A man like me deserves a jumbo ship named after him.

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