Page 9


“Now that’s my kind of Gringo imperialist!” There are a lot of one-sentence paragraphs in her book. Apparently, she is of a temperament easily thrilled. When something offends her fine Texas sense of honor, terseness falls by the wayside. Here is the longest of the elegiac might-have-beens listed toward the end, when she speculates on how things could have been made easier for poor President Johnson. Up until this point, I’d received few indications that anything could have been improved or needed improving in his administration, but I may be disqualified by sex and philosophy. Certainly I would never have detected as callous the Kennedy family’s refusal to put in a good word for the man who was, at the time, doing his damndest to keep RFK off the ’64 ticket: “Perhaps if there had been some public words of encouragement from the bereaved family after the assassination … He never mentioned it, but being a woman and a partisan, I was conscious of the silence. “Lyndon Johnson had come on stage before a black curtain, and the Kennedys made no move to lift the darkness for him, or the country. He had gone to the well for them so many times. ‘Lyndon would like to take all the stars in the sky and string them on a necklace for Mrs. Kennedy,’ his wife said softly in the dreadful days that followed Dallas. “But the Kennedys looked at the living and wished for the dead and made no move to comfort the country.” THIS SEEMS AS good a point as 24 The Texas Observer any to take leave of warmth and tenderness and concentrate on simplicity. Miz Liz is never as simple as when admiring Johnson, which rather makes simplicity a constant within these pages. His sadistic browbeating of his underlings, noticed even by Goldman, gets little attention. Instead she concentrates upon what a Dickens character called “amiable weaknesses,” like inviting extra guests to a White House dinner at the last moment. Ignoring any psychological explanation for his manic urge for secrecy, she assures us that his refusal to tell anyone anything about what he intended to do arose from purest consideration: If he somehow couldn’t appear, say, at some place where he’d been expected, why, all the folks would be as heart-broke as he’d been, years ago in New Braunfels, when Gov. Dan Moody hadn’t showed, as promised. I have no idea what justification she could make for Johnson’s grinding delay in telling Hubert Humphrey that he had, indeed, selected the poor booby to be his running mate \(a bit of considerate secrecy that Goldman said made Humphrey, during the wait, look like “a man who was being to it. According to her, The Real Lyndon was never even suspected by reporters until It appeared unto them in Its final hours as president, to crack joke after joke at the National Press Club. Indeed, that was a different LBJ from the one that had glared down at them during his increasingly infrequent press conferences at the White House. Miz Liz is probably correct to blame them for having never discovered It. They had apparently pulled that most elementary of journalistic blunders, asking the wrong question. Instead of demanding information about Vietnam or ghetto riots or which Great Society program had started drying up that ‘week for lack of cash, reporters should have said, “Been fed any thigh-slappers by your staff today, Mr. President?” All The Real Lyndon did that day It appeared unto them was repeat gags ground out for It by Miz Liz and others. Miz Liz, herself, is none too good at fielding questions about Nam and riots. She’s spared us any Index \(“Due to the intense desire of the author to sell every book possible, no index has been included. You will have to buy and hunt for your many times Nam is even mentioned. I caught only eight and all were blissfully innocent: “Korea was backing us to the hilt in Vietnam with troops.” Mighty Korea! \(Incidentally, Walter Jenkins, if you’re reading this, don’t buy Ruffles and Flourishes; Eartha Kitt is mentioned more than one of the chief architects of our collapsible Vietnam policy. But then she had embarrassed Lady Bird by being rude at a White House luncheon. Apparently as a reward for having never allowed to be heard a discouraging word about how things were going Over There, UT’s own W. W. Rostow gets mentioned exactly once: “To see Walt Rostow in a red checkered shirt and blue jeans is to get a new insight into the whole international situation.” It’s a rather familiar insight Liz Carpenter offers into the Johnson Administration, that of the Texas Homemaker who thinks she’s accomplished something if she’s planted azaleas around town, got her menfolks’ names in the papers, put a few Easterners in their place, and seen the girls safely married. Miz Liz does have her uses. Thanks to her, I now know that “Chuck” Robb’s middle name is “Spittal.” Above all, she’s secured a nice spot on the best-seller list, and if she stays there long enough, she can make it all nice and Texan for Lady Bird when she starts to inch her way up with the ultimate in this genre, her very own memoirs. With her business acumen, she’ll probably corner the markets for warmth, tenderness and simplicity all at once! IDialogue Inequal justice An additional and more profound irony which Ronnie Dugger missed in his article on Gary Cartwright’s trial on marijuana charges \(Obs., advertisement \(paid for, I assume, by the p. 12 of the same issue. Lee Otis Johnson, who happened to be black and militant and articulate, got hit with the same charges under circumstances of deception and treachery even more shocking than in the Cartwright case. Lee Otis Johnson is in jail and has been sentenced to be locked up for the better part of his remaining life. How many years is that sentence? Did the press give much attention to the trial of Lee Otis Johnson and the circumstances surrounding it? Easy to forget, isn’t it? Maybe some reporter or writer not too busy with novelists, big-time lawyers, party and corporate politics and academic injustices important as all these are could find the time and take the trouble to interview Lee Otis Johnson, wherever he is in prison. Perhaps the Observer would print it. In the midst of all the incidental “issues” in this country, it’s too easy to forget our older and more crucial social problems and the people who continue to commit their lives and their freedom to that struggle. Erbin L. Crowell, Jr., Sperryville, Va. 22740