The Free Press, America in 1967 A couple of months ago one of the nation’s largest book factories contracted with the Grossman Publishing Co. to print The Accidental President, by Robert Sherrill, one of the Texas Observer’s Washington contributors. Everything went fine until the page proof copies had been sent out to 200 newspapers for reviews. Suddenly everything caved in. Officials of the book factory, for some reason, had changed their minds. They did not want to print the book. They said some portions might be found especially offensive by some people. Publisher Grossman \(who put on specifics. Well, they said, they didn’t like the scene where Mrs. Henry Ford lost part of her clothing while dancing with President Johnson. They wanted to break a contract over that? No, they said, there were other things, but they couldn’t get very specific. Grossman went to four other printing houses and was turned down by each. Officials of each of the four companies said they feared economic reprisals from government contractors. Grossman finally found a printer that would go with him, but the book was late in coming out. ACCIDENT PRONE The Accidental President, by Robert G. Sherrill, Grossman Publisher, New York City, N.Y., $5. New York City Grossman Publishers has done it again! Last year, it published Unsafe at Any Speed in which Ralph Nader, a young man about Washington, put on public view some unpleasant, but stimulating, facts that proved the auto industry was irresponsible, devious, crass, and only fitfully concerned with public good. Now Grossman has pub lished a book by our very own Robert mer Texas journalist and educator, who is an Observer contribuuting editor and The Nation’s man in Washington. It’s called The Accidental President. It’s about Lyndon. Another book about him? Yes. Like Kennedy, now he belongs to the agents. The Johnson Saga is fast acquiring some of the patina that comes with much use; it has the gleam of legend, like The Gosspires either religious awe or inquisitorial fury, as witness the pieties of William S. \(“Parson Weems” White, who could look upon a colossal boondoggle like Project Mohole as an immaculate conception, and the fire-and-brimstone of J. Evetts Haley, who viewed Johnson as both a crypto-commie and a toady-up to the Big Rich \( sort of hard to make out what he Sherrill presents the liberal Texan, or atheistic, view of Lyndon Baines Johnson. It’s not exactly a revival spirit that’s about to sweep the nation, but it’s catching on. A Texas upbringing best prepares the mind, for receiving it. We realize that the Johnson career is nothing but Texas politics writ large on the vulgar-bumpkin scale that is the Johnson Style. For years now, the biggest cash crop in the state has not been harvested from oil or cattle or cotton or sulphur but Texas youth, in particular a winsome, halfeducated variety, bred to bend the knee and crook the spine in the service of the Big Rich. This servile stock has tended to the state’s business for decades. Johnson, Texas’ gift to a sullen nation and an astonished world, is the prizewinner, the best of breed. Well, plenty of good men don’t like to face up to what Johnson is. They praise him but can’t close their mouths before they find themselves gaping in astonishment. Richard H. Rovere had just announced the end of “anti-communism” as Harris Green an official U.S. policy and off we went awhoopin’ into Santo Domingo. “T.R.B.” sighs about the rancor of us Johnson hatif he were ever to read past his generally indispensable page in The New Republic, he would find the wars of his choosing against poverty, urban blight, pollution, corporate greed are being fought as rear-guard actions, under Johnson’s generalship, by half-strength armies of bureaucrats, armed with flintlocks loaded with blanks, while the heavy equipment off to Vietnam ah, Vietnam! and moon-landings and Progress’ gift to insomniacs and the aircraft industry, the SST. I. F. Stone knows all this. So does Dwight Macdonald, who considers LBJ “frightening.” And so do we. S HERRILL, with his nose for Texas-style double-dealing, points out the hidden unpleasantries in the Johnson career throughout The Accidental President. Naturally, it can only be a hatchet job, but let me assure you that it is a hatchet job of almost surgical precision, cut cleanly and deftly along the dotted line of Fact. When he resorts to supposition, he always has a very sharp point. Rarely has so depressing a topic been presented with such heartening artistry. I would almost call it “Shakespearean” but ever since that sub-adolescent MacBird!, there’ve been too many wobbly parallels drawn between LBJ and the Bard’s creations. \(Imagine! Lyndon Johnson influenced by Mrs. Carson’s coalition of “witches” a Nigra, a Beatnik, and A Old Leftist the very types he’s scorned all his career. Now had those witches been pollsters, “The Weird Sifting that Sherrill is an assured master of Ironic Paraphrase \(“Come, let us admit it together: we do not like Lyndon JohnThe Telescopic Cite, that is spotting the unpleasant fact that the optimistic would just as soon overlook \(“After twenty-three years in Congress, Johnson left not one progressive piece of legislation with his name on it . . . that measurably advanced the nation beyond the stage in which he discovered it at the time he entered Conas mean as any dentist \(“When he hears that people really want peace, he’ll give it Can Sherrill say anything good about the man? No. But all that glorious Great Society legislation! In a burst of statistics of optimism: the brightest programs are now dimmed by budget cuts, go-slow administration \(particularly when local policontent with bringing the nation up to the level it should have reached in 1956. I wished Sherrill had given some debunking consideration to the possibility that this legislation was “laws whose time had come,” regardless of who was in the White House. \(I recommend Richard Harris’ books The Real Voice and A Sacred Trust for further coverage on this. But he does make much of the fact that, after the Kennedy assassination, the country was in a mood to move forward \(in spurts, him, I take cautious pride in this neoHarding climate of Adequacy that Johnson thinks good enough. Really very familiar, isn’t it? Rather like the achievements of all Texas governors after Allredand what a helluva time he’d have getting elected today with a name like that who have done little except leave the state in a somewhat less inadequate shape than when they found it. Thanks fellas. Let me indent to insist that Sherrill has not written something that should be April 28, 1967 7
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