None of this is to say that LBJ was not flawed. He was. He made grievous errors. Of these perhaps the worst was to keep JFK’s amateurs the Bundys, etc. as advisors. Perhaps they would have worked had JFK lived. Perhaps had Mr. Sam lived, he could have counterbalanced them. Perhaps not. Neither Halberstam’s The Best and the The Brightest nor Wills’ The Kennedy Imprisonment are bullish on this matter. The late T. Harry Williams supposedly was at work on a biography of LBJ at the time of his death. Both Dugger and Caro give evidence of how great a loss to our understanding of LBJ that death was. G. L. Seligmann, Jr. , Department of History, North Texas State University. LBJ: The True Story A “New Release” announced by Elroy Bode: Just Folks: The Early Years The True Story of Lyndon B. “Bubba” Johnson Written by Stephen Oates and Published by the Norman Vincent Peale Home Enrichment Library. . READ about Lyndon and Penrod and Huck smokin’ cornsilk . READ about clever Lyndon outwitting the crawdads . READ about fun-loving Little Lyndon and his Outhouse gang . READ about spunky Lyndon protecting his lemonade stand from neighborhood bullies COMING SOON! Vol. II Lyndon Coaches Little League Vol. III Lyndon Enters the Ministry Vol. IV Lyndon Visits the Holy Land STILL IN PREPARATION!!! Vol. V Lyndon in Lambarene Vol. VI Lyndon and Gandhi Vol. VII Lyndon on the Cross Vol. VIII Lyndon Ascends Vol. IX-X The Millennium LBJ as Rosemary’s Baby? Lyndon Johnson reminds me not so much of Faust as of Rosemary’s Baby. It’s hard to believe he ever had a free soul to sell. If Robert Caro abhors his subject, he does so because of what he found in his research. He says he went into the project expecting to like him. Ronnie Dugger, on the other hand, observed Lyndon for over twenty years. If he abhors him also, that gives us abhorrence from two widely different perspectives. Isn’t it much too early to tell whether either of these writers will give Lyndon the credit for good works Stephen Oates thinks he deserves? There are two more volumes to come in each biography, and while it doesn’t seem likely that Lyndon will emerge from these volumes as an idealist who shared Martin Luther King’s dream, I don’t believe Dugger or Caro will try to make him “a scapegoat for our collective guilt over the war, and all our woes and shattered dreams that followed” either. On the contrary, Dugger emphasizes that Lyndon was a reflec tion of American politics in the years that he had power and a victim of the myths of our society. Caro does not call Johnson an American Hitler, but there is evidence the Johnson thought of himself as one, and bragged about it. On page 190 of the first edition of The Path to Power, Johnson is quoted as saying on a tape recording made in 1970, about something he had done forty years before: “It was my first real big dictat Hitlerized operation, and I broke their back good. And it stayed broke for a good long time.” About caricature: Aren’t there people who, when seen clearly, look like caricatures of the rest of us? I recognize that a psychopath doesn’t have anything I don’t have. He just has a lot more of some of it and a lot less of some of it, which is what a caricature is, isn’t it? Is there a biographer which the empathy of Francis of Assisi who could draw an accurate word portrait of Hitler or Joe McCarthy that shows the subject’s idealism and humanity? Maybe that’s the biographer who could give Mr. Oates the picture of Lyndon he wants. Ann Adams, 4366 N. Diana Ln. , Oak Harbor, WA 98277. LBJ: Man of Action Biographies are difficult to do under the best of circumstances. Under contemporary circumstances objective biographies are virtually impossible. Author bias, dollar considerations, and fresh emotions tarnish the most honest and sincere efforts to recall a recent, controversial and significant life. Reedy, Dugger, and Caro represent only three of the kinds of writers in the spectrum of biographers. Reedy was there, on the scene, inside the momentous events in LBJ’s Presidency. His task as press secretary was to present the events to the world. Dugger was on the outside; an intellect; a liberal. Caro is a competent journalist trying to sell a book and make some money. He is similar to the song writer trying to catch the mood of the time and cash in on what is selling. Reedy and Dugger really care about the impact of LBJ’s life on the times. Caro could not possibly be trying to make a historical contribution with his shallow vilifications and contrived psychological analysis of LBJ. Biographers, just as anyone else who observes and thinks about events, causes and effects, have biases, preconceived notions, rigid philosophies and ideas about the world, their country, the Presidency, how things should have been done or how they should be done. Reedy lived very close to part of the LBJ experience. Dugger and Caro only observed the events from a distance. Dugger did have the opportunity to interview LBJ but he heard as a liberal and he responded as a liberal. These writers all have had a chance to look back at the LBJ Presidency and political career, glean through the files and sift through the facts with the benefit of hindsight. LBJ, as President, had to act on what he was told by his staff, what he saw, his instincts, and what he hoped to accomplish in the vast complexities that no human could hope to cope with, much less master. Moreover, Presidents have egos, biases, personal philosophies, hopes and dreams that co-exist, in the context of the realities and the dynamics of a mad, mad world. LBJ had all of this to contend with, and he had to act without benefit of hindsight. He couldn’t sit back and compare this event with that event in history and then make a move. Hesitation was impossible. He had to deal with his now, his present; not the yesterdays that writers report or comment about. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.