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peers were of a generation that differed from that of Johnson in much more than years. “I over-reacted against the New Left in 1968,” Barnes told me. “Young people today antagonize a lot of people. They’re too impatient, too intolerant in a lot of ways. But I’ve come to learn that they have the right instincts. And if it comes down to either riding with them or riding against them, I’ll ride with them every time.” I asked him for examples. “I’ve come out strongly for reducing possession of marijuana to a misdemeanor,” he said, waving his cigar. I waited. “Look,” he finally said. “You have to move carefully in this business. If you alienate the right people at the wrong time, you’re out in the cold. Young people today don’t understand about compromise. This whole country is based on compromise. Our founding fathers didn’t just sit down and write a Constitution. They compromised from the beginning. I want to be able to get things done, and here you come back to compromise. The important thing is to be effective, to get things done. That’s what I want to do.” Does it make any difference what you get done? “Of course,” he said. “It’s important to do the right thing. But that doesn’t mean you just plunge into something that seems like the right side at the moment.” I asked him what he thought of the Dirty Thirty. “I think they’re going to sweep the state next year,” Barnes said. “I really think they can do it.” He was looking off into the distance and smiling slightly. So I asked him if he wanted to ride with the Dirty Thirty. He thought for a long time. “It would be nice to be a Don Quixote for a change,” he finally said. Then, he let out a long breath, shook his head and leaned forward in his chair. “It’s not that simple,, you know,” he told me. “I’ve worked my ass off for fifteen years to get here. First, putting myself through school and then up this totem pole. And I’m still climbing. The kids looking in from the outside say Ben Barnes has got all this power now so why doesn’t he use it to do this or that. They don’t understand that if I make my move too soon and screw it up I’ll be out in the cold and they’ll have to deal with someone like Smith or Mutscher. It looks so simple from the outside. But they don’t know anything about what it’s like inside here.” He leaned back in his chair. “They all envy Ben Barnes,” he said. “There’s a man who’s really made it. They don’t realize that during the past fifteen years I’ve had almost no time to relax. I don’t have time to read much or go to the movies. When I do get some time, I know I can’t be like everyone else. I can’t put on sneakers and go out for a beer or drive 75 miles an hour down the highway. Meanwhile, I see these kids going out to the lake at night and smoking pot and enjoying themselves. But not Ben Barnes.” I asked him if he’d ever wanted to try marijuana. The question jerked him upright. A deep flush rose from his collar to his forehead. Finally, he swallowed a few times, looked at me and shrugged. “I guess I’ve wondered about it,” he said. “Sure. I’ve wondered about it. But I wouldn’t try it.” Why not? “Well, it’s illegal for one thing. And it would sure as hell end my career if anyone ever found out.” “But what if you were completely safe, with a group of close friends?” I asked him. He looked at me for a long time. “Who can you really trust?” Ben Barnes said. “You must have some close friends,” I said to him. “Sure I do,” he said. “But even my close friends have to show me off. They have to prove how close they are to me by telling little secrets about where I scratch myself and how much I drink and what I do after a public appearance. There isn’t a private life for Ben Barnes anymore.” I asked him why he gave it up. “You know the answer to that one,” he said. His waving arm took in the entire Capitol building, and perhaps some very distant political arenas as well. “I gave it up for this.” I asked him: “What exactly do you see here? Money? Power?” He shrugged. “I’m going to be the last one to say that money’s not a good thing to have. And power is a vague kind of thing I can’t really feel. I’ve got a big ego, I guess, and I like the attention. But the most important thing and I don’t know what the psychiatrists would call it is that I really do feel a calling to politics. The Democratic Party, here and in Washington, is in desperate need of leadership. I believe I’m the one to pull it together. At least, I want the chance to show I can do it. When I think of the governorship, I think of doing things, accomplishing good things for Texas. Like, I think the greatest thing for Ben Barnes’ ego and the people of this state would be if I could bring Texas its first new Constitution in a hundred years.” “And what about after that?” I asked him. “I really don’t look that far ahead.” “Oh, but you must muse about it, now and then.” “Yeah, I do some musing,” he smiled. He hesitated, glanced at me and then leaned back again. “Sometimes I think that Ted Kennedy will be ready to run for President in 1976. If that happens, it will open the door to another Massachusetts-Texas Democratic , ticket. And you know what happened last time with that kind of ticket.” A few days before, Ralph Wayne had told me: “I think Barnes is capable of attaining any public service office he wants. I’ve dedicated myself to helping Ben Barnes go anywhere he decides to go. And once he decides, I think he’ll get there.” It suddenly occurred to me that I was sitting beside a man who could very well be ruling a nation in ten years. I wondered if that possibility had been so real for any of our Presidents at Barnes’ age. HE GOT UP and went over to the window. He stood there, looking out, for several moments. He was wearing a modishly-cut blue suit that hung from his broad shoulders in perfect press. Since I had first seen him in February, he had allowed his sideburns to grow almost to his ear lobes. “I know that young people around here aren’t happy with me,” he said to the window. “But I haven’t really been to bat yet. I know this state needs a corporate profits tax and a new Constitution and more progressive criminal laws and a big push against polluters. I can only tell you that if I become governor, you’ll see me with that drawn sword.” I asked him: “What about your home base?” He looked at me and chuckled and ran his hand through his hair. “Do you know what most of those big political contributors want for their money? Nothing to do with taxes or politics or legislation. They just want me to spend an hour or two with them in public. They want me to sit next to them at a football game or be an honored guest at a big dinner. They want my name next to theirs on the society page. That’s all.” And the others? “There will be a time to break away,” he said. “I know at least one Texas politician who got so high that his supporters were very happy just following him anywhere. He’s the one who made the decisions and got the credit and the blame for them. That’s the way it should go for Ben Barnes.” Before I could tell him that I hoped it would, the telephone rang. It was a call from Washington. “No, no, we’re all right down here,” he said into the receiver. “Mutscher’s fouled things up for himself, but we’re all right. Right. We’ll need your help in a few months, though. Right. Anything we can do for you down here? Sure thing. We’ll take care of it right away.” When the telephone conversation had ended, I asked Barnes about Mutscher. “He’s a real idiot. It’s incredible how badly he’s fouled things up. If it had been me, I The Observer presents here part of a chapter in Harvey Katz’ forthcoming book Shadow on the Alamo. Katz, who is both a lawyer and a journalist, came to Texas early in 1970 on a grant from the Stern Fund for investigative reporting. He worked at the Legislature during the 62nd session as an aide to Lane Denton while pursuing his investigative work. His book concerns corruption in Texas government and is centered on the Frank Sharp stock fraud scandal. July 21, 1972 9