“Hey, Hey, LBJ…”: President Lyndon Baines Johnson in Poster Art: 1962 – 1968

David Levine. Pen and ink. 1966.

“On December 1, 2009, in an address to the nation delivered from the United States Military Academy at West Point, President Obama announced the sending of an additional 30,000 U.S. combat troops to Afghanistan in order to wage what he calls a ‘war of necessity’ – and by doing so he stepped into the abyss that previously swallowed-up President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Like many others from my generation, I remember Lyndon Baines Johnson, or L.B.J., mostly for one thing – America’s war on Vietnam. … While there are those who peddle Johnson as a strong ‘hands-on progressive‘ who knew how to rally the Democratic party base to ‘get things done’, what I remember most vividly about the Johnson presidency was the chant his antiwar opponents made popular from coast to coast; ‘Hey, Hey, L.B.J., How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?’ … In an interview with director Emile de Antonio regarding his powerful 1968 anti-Vietnam War documentary In The Year of the Pig, the filmmaker commented, ‘I don’t think history is Kleenex, it is not a disposable item you put to your nose and chuck out. History has to be recaptured – history dies unless we recapture it.’ Here then through the antiwar poster art of the 1960s, along with some of my personal recollections, is an attempt to recapture a bit of the forgotten history surrounding L.B.J., a liberal Democratic President who ended up destroying his presidency – along with a good number of people – by escalating an unpopular foreign war. To my knowledge this is the first comprehensive illustrated essay on historic U.S. posters that were critical of L.B.J.; a presentation that no doubt holds timely lessons as President Obama spends hundreds of billions of dollars on expanding the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan while sending ever more combat soldiers into the quagmire. … David Levine’s ‘Surgery Scar’ Cartoon, When L.B.J. underwent gallbladder surgery at Bethesda Naval Medical Center on Labor Day weekend in 1965, U.S. troop levels in Vietnam had reached 184,000 and the average monthly death toll for U.S. soldiers was 172 (U.S. troop levels would reach 200,000 by year’s end). …”

Guilty Of Murder. LBJ-USA. Poster circa 1968. Mexican printmaker, José Guadalupe Posada.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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