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handedly” restored dignity to the Senate. He was “the consummate political leader of his era,” Reedy says, an action man, a Patton in politics, “rash, swashbuckling, a master of the lightning thrust.” Yet there was that other side, a dark side that could make him unbearable. This Johnson had bouts of paranoia, contending that all journalists were out to get him, that Robert Kennedy above all was out to get him \(it was Bobby, he believed, who persuaded journalists to write unfavorable stories about him, Bobby who got his brother to send Johnson to the Middle East and noncommunist Asia, where journalists could portray him as a he cusses, he chases young women, he cracks jokes about the contents of the toilet bowl, he likes to watch cattle humiliates his staffers, he drives them so cruelly and relentlessly that Reedy doesn’t know why they stay with him beyond the incredible loyalty he inspires in them. This Johnson also makes repeated threats to resign he does so in the midst of the 1964 Democratic Convention, leaving Reedy astounded. In Reedy’s view, such threats revealed a desire on Johnson’s part to shun responsibility and “return to childhood.” This is an arresting insight, for Johnson had a lot of little-boy needs in him a craving for attention, a sense of being misunderstood and unloved that no doubt fueled his explosions and overreactions. In the chapter on Vietnam, however, Reedy’s Johnson is simply not believable. Why does he escalate that awful war? Because, Reedy argues, the leader has become a follower: he sends in American planes and combat troops because he thinks John Kennedy would have done that. He also fears that another Communist victory in Asia will usher in a second McCarthy era. His mistakes, Reedy says, are those of judgment, not of “deliberate misdirection.” Yes, Johnson says one thing and does another. But not because he is a liar. He simply cannot “connect public words with public action.” This is a pretty lame defense of Johnson’s Vietname policies and all the lies he told to conceal them from the public. Yet, all in all, Reedy’s is a judicious assessment, one that presents Johnson as neither saint nor devil. “He may have been a son of a bitch,” Reedy muses, “but he was a colossal son of a bitch.” FOR RONNIE DUGGER, a former Observer editor who monitored Johnson’s later career and inter viewed him extensively, the man was a good deal worse than that. In The Drive 20 JUNE 3, 1983 for Power, the first in a projected multivolume biography, Dugger sketches Johnson with black strokes, depicting him as a ruthless opportunist who “steeled himself to say and do almost anything to get more power,” to shove George Reedy his will and personality into the very center of America and the world. The Drive for Power opens with a chilling scene. It is sometime in 1967 or 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, which is part of what Dugger calls “an undeclared World War III” that has been raging in brush-fire conflicts since Korea. Dugger is interviewing Johnson in the White House, a house, Dugger writes, that is “wired for universal death.” To trigger a nuclear holocaust, all Johnson has to do is mash the button. How does it feel to have such power? Dugger asks. He wants to ask, Would you really drop the bombs? It is a forbidden subject. Johnson thinks about it. Then his anger flashes at Dugger, at all the critics and dissenters who don’t have his burden. He glowers with his power for mass nuclear killing, and he exclaims that he must decide whether to use the bomb or not, he must decide whether to send troops or not. “He shouted at me with a terrible intensity,” Dugger writes, “jamming his thumb down on an imaginary spot in the air beside him, ‘I’m the one who has to mash the button! ” Here, Dugger suggests, is a dangerous place indeed for a power-mad, jingoistic scoundrel like Lyndon Johnson. What made him that way? We are not offered many clues. Early on, back in the Texas Hill Country, Johnson rejected the humanistic principles of his Populist father and grandfather, both of whom were failures. The equation was burned indelibly into young Johnson’s mind: principles equaled failure. And he was not going to fail. From then on, Dugger’s Johnson is unencumbered by principle or ideology. From then on, he plots and schemes to advance only one thing himself. After attending college at San Marcos and serving as a congresional aide in Washington, he begins his “drive for power.” Bankrolled by his wife, he wins a seat in the House in 1937, then runs for the Senate four years later, only to lose when East Texas votes are illegally shifted to W. Lee O’Daniel. But “the master politician” is undaunted. When World War II breaks out, he serves exactly seven months in the Pacific, not because he is patriotic, but because he wants a military record that will enhance his political career. He enters into a partnership with Brown & Root, which, in exchange for favorable government contracts that make the firm rich, gives Johnson scandalous campaign contributions, gifts, investment advice, and free airplane rides. In the postwar years, Dugger’s Johnson trims his sails to suit the shifting political winds: he switches from peace-seeking idealism to militant anticommunism. He is now in “the most cynical period of his career,” Dugger writes. In 1948, with Brown & Root money, he runs again for the Senate, campaigning relentlessly against labor unions and Communists. And he wins the election because of fraudulent votes cast for him in Duval County. Johnson, Dugger says, may not have been personally involved in the chicanery there. But he did accept the illicit votes, even obstructing a judicial investigation to preserve his victory. By 1950, Dugger’s Johnson is a political monster. He is “Senator Strangelove,” a blustering militarist ready for war with the Soviet Union. To avoid another Korea, he warns that the United States might have to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against Russia. He talks about giving Russia an ultimatum, Dugger says, “much as a sheriff might hope for a final shoot-out with Bonnie and Clyde.” Here, of course, are the roots of Johnson’s fiasco in Vietnam. In fact, in various places in The Drive for Power, Dugger abandons chronology and offers opinions about why Johnson got himself trapped there. In part, it was because he succumbed to the myth of Munich, which illustrated “the folly of appeasement.” In part, it was because he was a prisoner of his frontier heritage, of all the myths about two-fisted patriots who conquered the savages and saved the West for God and civilization. “When myth becomes policy,” Dugger writes, “men who are otherwise practical, mistaking the myth for the past, enact the lessons of the myth instead of the lessons of the past.” Thus “a legendary compromiser like Johnson