In January of 1965, U.S. Sen. Russell Long heard the Appropriations Committee, when preparing the upcoming congressional budget, had killed his pet project.
Long had wanted to build a new post office in Shreveport, bringing federal jobs and money into the city. When he was told the cut had been ordered by the White House, the senator picked up the phone and called President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In between appointments in the Oval Office, Johnson took Long’s call. Their conversation, which was secretly recorded, is a powerful example of LBJ’s domineering personality and brash political style.
After exchanging pleasantries, the senator explained his predicament. The president, fresh off of the largest electoral victory in American history and days away from his second inauguration, was not in a conciliatory mood. The president immediately made it clear that the removal of the post office project in Shreveport was made out of political animosity. Despite winning 44 states the previous fall, he had lost Louisiana to Barry Goldwater by a wide margin.
“Those are some of the meanest, most vicious people in the United States,” Johnson told Long. “Now you help those folks that vote for you and stay with you. You don’t reward Shreveport.”
Long tried to reason with the president, telling him that getting the post office built had been his own campaign pledge and therefore could hurt his chances for re-election.
The president was undeterred — he would be happy to approve federal projects in Louisiana to help the senator politically, he told Long, but anything in Shreveport was out of the question.