"In Plain Sight: Lady Bird Johnson" presents a surprising and original portrait of Lady Bird Johnson, told in the former first lady's own words -- from over 123 hours of her White House audio diaries, heard here largely for the first time ever. It recasts Lady Bird's role in the Johnson White House as her husband's closest advisor and most trusted political partner and provides history-making revelations about LBJ's time in office. It's the story of how one vastly underestimated woman navigated the power, politics and polarization of her era to become one of the most influential members of the Johnson administration... even if we never knew it. An eight-part series from ABC Audio & Best Case Studios. Hosted by New York Times bestselling author Julia Sweig.
Ep. 8: Claudia All My Life
It’s four in the morning when Lyndon wakes up Lady Bird to the news that Senator Robert Kennedy has been shot. This episode takes us through the tragic hours of vigil as the nation grapples with his death -- the third political assassination in five years, and just two months since the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. We’re led by Lady Bird’s experience of these days -- the nonstop TV coverage, the hushed atmosphere in the White House, and her vivid impressions of the funeral in New York, including a tense encounter with Jacqueline Kennedy. In the aftermath, it’s a bittersweet final months for the Johnsons’ presidency: a final push for their ambitious projects, last minute bids to draft Lyndon to run again. The season ends with the Johnson family at home in Austin, watching a chaotic convention play out in Chicago from their living room at the LBJ Ranch.
Ep. 7: No Exit
Lyndon Johnson has been talking about escaping the presidency almost since the day he took office. But finally, on March 31, 1968, he stuns the nation with an announcement that he won’t seek reelection that fall. This episode presents a beat-by-beat account of the day, through Lady Bird’s perspective -- it’s a moment she’s been planning with Lyndon for four years. But there’s just a brief bit of relief following Lyndon’s speech. Just four days later, Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, and violence erupts across the nation. Riots rock Washington, DC. Both Lyndon and Lady Bird seem besieged in the aftermath of this tragedy: neither attends the funeral for Dr. King in Atlanta, ceding it to a constellation of ‘60s stars like Stevie Wonder, Harry Belafonte, and Diana Ross, as well as members of congress, and presidential candidates.
Ep. 6: Blindsided
By the mid-60s, you can hear a growing distance between Lady Bird and the protest movement that’s sweeping the country. Bird’s a true believer in progressive causes -- civil rights, environmentalism -- but she’s also the product of her own generation and background. On a trip to two New England colleges to give speeches supporting their new environmental studies programs, Lady Bird is confronted by outspoken dissent from both students and faculty who walk out of her speeches, picket her presence and circulate letters denouncing the war in Vietnam. Lady Bird feels increasing under siege, even as she vows not to retreat into a bubble in the White House. But then dissent comes to lunch at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, when singer, actor and activist Eartha Kitt participates in one of Lady Bird’s “Doers Luncheons,” and delivers a fierce critique of the war and its effect on young Black men. The resulting media backlash, fueled by the White House PR machine, is swift and brutal, effectively derailing Kitt’s career for decades to come.
Ep. 5: California
Riots, uprisings and protests rock the country in the summer of 1966, and despite their progress with civil rights legislation, the Johnsons can’t seem to move fast enough. And an increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam begins to overshadow just about everything else. Luci Johnson’s wedding in Washington, DC becomes the setting of dramatic anti-war protests, and Lady Bird herself is the target of a bomb threat. Feeling the urgency, Lady Bird is looking for ways to make beautification have more impact for the people who need it most. And she finds inspiration and an unlikely collaborator in San Francisco. But just as their most ambitious, controversial project is about to get underway, tragedy strikes.
Ep. 4: Entangled
Network television comes calling for Lady Bird, as the president of ABC News convinces a reluctant first lady to host a documentary about her beautification work in DC. Lady Bird decides to use the opportunity to launch a full PR blitz to take her message to America. She’s on her way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to talk to a group of privileged conservationists about the need to bring access to nature to the inner city, when Lyndon has another health scare. Though it’s not a heart attack, he’ll still need surgery. Recovering in the hospital, Lyndon is once again gripped by crippling anxiety and depression — and this time it threatens his presidency.
Ep. 3: Renewal
Fresh from landslide victory in the 1964 election, Lyndon and Lady Bird shuttle back and forth between Washington, DC and Texas as they make plans for their first full term in office. But despite all that public support, it’s clear there’s trouble ahead. The civil rights movement is confronting a violent backlash, especially in the South, and despite LBJ’s public stance, Lady Bird knows they have “a small war on our hands” in Vietnam. Amid this turmoil, Lady Bird’s ideas about her own work are changing -- what started as planting flowers in underserved DC neighborhoods is growing into an agenda that brings environmentalism and social justice together in America’s cities. And yet, after nearly two years in office, the Johnsons still find themselves in the shadow of the glamorous Kennedys, when a high profile event at the White House brings the Johnsons their first taste of public protest and bad press.
The most intelligently-crafted podcast regarding historical subjects and a historical era that I have ever heard.
Listen to Her Voice
Even if the story was dull, I’d enjoy listening to this for the former First Lady’s voice. Her tone and cadence give me ASMR.
So it’s an added bonus that the content is fascinating, covering a complex relationship I didn’t know much about and adds heft to a First Lady’s agenda that had been downplayed in the annals of political history.
Hiding in Plain Sight
This is a fascinating view of the terribly turbulent years of the presidency of LBJ as presented by the voice of Lady Bird, his life long partner, who certainly had more than a bird’s eye view of it all.