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find? Precious little, if any, that I can detect. Sure, he got an interview with Luis Salas, an election judge who presided over the infamous Box 13 in Jim Wells County where the 87 victory votes came from, and Salas admitted the thievery. But the evidence of that thievery had been so thick and so deep, and had been on the record for so many years at least 40 that if Salas had made his confession in triplicate and signed it in neon, it wouldn’t have added one iota of “newness” to the evidence. And if one wants to waste time with legalistic quibbles, one should acknowledge that Salas’s testimony, coming as late as it does, would be laughed out of history’s courtroom as totally biased and impeachable. What Caro does not tell his readers, among the many things he does not tell them, is that Salas had come to hate Johnson perhaps not as much as Caro obviously hates Johnson, but pretty heartily nonetheless because after he had played his flunky’s role in stealing the election he had asked Johnson for help on a couple of occasions and been turned down. THAT DOESN’T mean what Salas told Caro was untrue. But surely a historian of Caro’s prominence should let his readers know all pertinent details of the character and motivation of the people he relies on. However, if you want to know about Salas’s joining the hate-Johnson \(and crowd, you’ll have to go to Ronnie Dugger’s first volume of his biography of Johnson, The Politician, published eight years ago, which covers LBJ’s career to 1952. It was Dugger’s great misfortune that his book came out at the same time as Caro’s first volume. The incredible amount of press coverage and industry puffery that accompanied Caro’s book just swept Dugger’s away, as hurricane Hugo did Charleston. A careful analysis of the two books would have shown that Dugger’s was much the solider of the two. But hype allowed no such analysis. And the way the two books were structured also put Dugger at a hopeless disadvantage. Caro displayed all his research in the body of the book; Dugger, for some strange and suicidal reason, stuck much of his best research in the footnotes at the back of the book. It is in a footnote, for example, that you will find the dope about Salas’s turning Republican. Anyone who wants to carry enough sandbags to keep from being swept into the stratosphere by Caro’s often gaseous romanticism should keep Dugger’s book at hand. Caro’s second volume covers only seven years, 1941 through 1948, “seven years of despair” during which Johnson showed absolutely zilch interest in his job in the House of Representatives. Caro says Johnson rarely offered a bill and almost never opened his mouth on the floor. But outside Congress Johnson conducted himself in ways that give Caro grounds for portraying him as a bully, a chronic liar, a hypocrite, a cheating husband who insulted Lady Bird publicly and privately made her shine his shoes, a hustler, a coward, and such a tyrant to his staff members that he sometimes left them in tears. That’s for starters. Since Johnson was of no importance as ,a Congressman in those years, Caro is left with only three episodes to hang his book on: Johnson’s concoction of a fraudulently “heroic” war record; his somewhat questionable way of acquiring KTBC’s license; and his razzle-dazzle campaign to win a U.S. Senate seat in 1948. As everyone knows who has made even a half-hearted effort over the years to keep up with biographical stuff about Johnson, those three episodes have been written about again and again and again, going back at least to J. Evetts Haley’s A Texan Looks at Lyndon in 1964, and quite often the material has been handled by writers of skill. Although the New York Times’ Toichin accepts it as gospel, knowledgeable readers will hoot at Caro’s claim that Johnson’s finagling the KTBC license out of the FCC is a “a subject that had been endlessly discussed but little understood, at least partly because of the dearth of detailed information,” and it is quite amazing that Caro would have the gall to argue that “the Johnson fortune has been shrouded in secrecy and surrounded by carefully cultivated myths. … In this volume, the birth and”” early growth of the Johnson fortune are examined and, under examination, the myths collapse.” The biggest myth is Caro’s claim that whatever myth ever existed about the way KTBC was obtained and how it prospered wasn’t exploded years ago. Indeed, this yarn has been a part of Johnsonana, touched on by newspaper, magazine, and book writers for two decades; it was told in considerable detail in Dugger’s book in the section “Turning the Golden Key,” subheaded “The Congressman and the Radio Station.” Johnson wanted independent wealth because, on his congressional salary of $10,000, it was pretty obvious that to afford the solid gold cufflinks, the custom-made shoes, and the $195 suits he was wearing, he must have his hand pretty deep in the pocket of special interests. His way to riches was to exploit his political power, and the financial power of his pals, to squeeze out the owners of KTBC, then manipulate the FCC to give him a better wavelength, and then use strong-arm tactics on CBS and on advertisers. Nicely told by Caro, but old stuff. ARO DOES a good job, though not an exceptional one, in retelling Johnson’s war record. When the United States entered World War II, Johnson promised to leave Congress and go fight “in the front lines, in the mud.” Instead, he joined the Navy as a lieutenant commander, spent the first six months having a good time in West Coast night spots, and then, feeling it was “politically essential” to show up at the front lines, had himself sent off as an “ob server” to the South Pacific. There he made one flight on a bomber that had mechanical trouble and never reached its objective. After that single mission, Johnson hurriedly caught the next plane out, resigned from the Navy, and went back to Congress, where he spent the rest of the war as he also would spend the rest of his life concocting bigger and bigger fantasies about his wartime experience. Although he had been in actual combat a total of only 13 minutes, he told reporters he had been under fire for many months. The squadron in which he was riding shot down one Japanese plane on that mission; Johnson told reporters, “I saw fourteen of `em go down right in front of me.” \(Fourteen was as high as Caro got Johnson’s makebelieve number, but David Halberstam, in The Best and the Brightest, says Johnson finally got the figure up to 20, and claimed that he had personally taken a hand in shootAlthough nobody else on the plane got a medal, General MacArthur, strictly for political purposes, awarded a Silver Star to Johnson “the least deserved and most publicized medal of the war,” Halberstam calls it. MacArthur didn’t have a medal on hand at the moment, but Johnson later bought one at an Army-Navy store, says Caro, and had it presented to him “for the first time” at numerous ceremonies in Texas. About this farcical episode and its aftermath, Caro misses several points that can be found in Dugger’s book. Dugger reports that when Johnson was in Australia sucking up to MacArthur, he ran into Robert Sherrod, a Time magazine reporter, who, wishing to avoid military censorship, asked Johnson to take a long memo back to Sherrod’s colleagues in the states. The memo was critical of MacArthur. On the way home, Johnson opened the memo, read it, didn’t. like its criticisms of the man who had just given him a medal, and flushed it down the toilet. ARO ALSO fails to point out the heavy political fallout from Johnson’s ducking military service. Dugger points out that in 1944 Johnson’s campaign opponent, Buck Taylor, often ridiculed “his failure to keep his promises to serve his country in the trenches beside the good soldiers he helped to send to those trenches.” But the most cutting remarks, says Dugger, came in the 1946 race, from Hardy Hollers, who accused Johnson of going to war “with a camera in one hand and leading his publicity man with the other” and of quitting the service as soon’ as possible “to return to an air-cooled fox-hole in Washington.” In 1948, our newly rich, bemedaled hero finally got another chance to cheat his way into the United States Senate. This contest consumes more than half of Means of Ascent. As usual, Caro pours forth an ocean of details, and I advise readers to come equipped with an inflatable raft. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15