While preachers preach of evil fatesI'm not sure exactly where Bob Dylan was picturing the President of the United States standing naked — literally or metaphorically — but the President at the time was Lyndon Baines Johnson. He had to stand naked to take a shower, and there's something I want to tell you about that shower, and it connects to Barack Obama, but first I have to tell you about the time LBJ didn't have to stand naked but chose to:
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked
On a hot, sunny day in 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson had just delivered a stump speech during his campaign for the presidency. According to white House reporter Frank Cormier’s book “LBJ: the Way He Was,” once on board Air Force One, the President started taking questions about the economy from the press. In the middle of the Q&A session, Johnson took off his pants and shirt, then “shucked off his underwear… standing buck naked and waving his towel for emphasis” as he continued talking.Now, about that shower. According to Robert A. Caro's "The Passage of Power," 2 days after he moved into the White House, LBJ told the White House Chief Usher J. B. West, "Mr. West, if you can’t get that shower of mine fixed, I’m going to have to move back to The Elms."
“He didn’t sound as if he were joking,” West was to say. And after the President explained that the water pressure was inadequate, and that he wanted the same elaborate, multi-nozzle arrangement that he had had at his former home, he repeated his threat to move out. Then, “without a smile, he turned on his heel and walked away.” A few minutes later, Mrs. Johnson asked West to come by the room she had chosen for her office, a small sitting room with one door. “I guess you’ve been told about the shower,” she said, with a smile, and repeated to West what she said to all Johnson employees.I remembered that as I was watching "State of the Nation" last Sunday. Jake Tapper was doing a segment on the process of moving a new President into the White House, and he was interviewing the current Chief Usher, Stephen Rochon.
“Anything that … needs to be done, remember this: my husband comes first, the girls second, and I will be satisfied with what’s left.” As he became acquainted with the Johnsons, West was to write, “I soon could see that had been her life’s pattern.” Nothing, he came to see, could “faze her.”
ROCHON: One thing that we were very aware of is the new president wanted a special shower head. And so we had to scramble to make sure we had the perfect rain shower head for President Obama.Tapper awkwardly shifted the topic to Trump. It seemed to be implied that we must think Trump will be ridiculous, demanding a White House suited to his taste. You've seen the jokes. Things like this:
But when he was asked whether he would redecorate the White House "Trump-style," Trump gave a sober answer:
No, I wouldn't. I would -- I do just want a place, honest, look it's this very special place. It's a very special building. I'm going to be working, I'm not going to be decorating.Tapper played that clip and returned to the subject of the Obamas leaving the White House. We see Michelle Obama, saying:
I find myself choking up because we have raised our kids in the White House. We've had so many amazing experiences. We have a phenomenal staff. We live in a house with people who love us and care about us and, you know, we're going to be walking away from all of that.They were loved. They had phenomenal staff. They had so many amazing experiences. I was going to say Trump won't be able to talk like that but I realized those sentences sound like Trump sentences. Amazing. Phenomenal. All that love.
And yet... when it comes to taking over the White House, Trump had the political wisdom to say he was going there to work. It's not his personal playground. And you won't hear about what he expects from a shower.