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After the House rejected the aid on February 3, 1988, the right wing turned up the rhetoric. On the eve of the vote, a Washington, D.C., group called the Council for Inter-American Security published a fullpage newspaper ad in Wright’s home district accusing him of using his position as Speaker “to appease the Communist leadership of Nicaragua.” The ad also called for a House Ethics Committee investigation, of Wright. Wright states that the complaints not only distracted him from his official duties, but when the Ethics Committee hired a special prosecutor who expanded the inquiry into other areas of Wright’s public and private life, he had to raise more than $500,000 for legal fees and spent a year defending himself. Meanwhile, right-wing groups were conducting mailings urging denunciations of Wright. After the Senate rejected President Bush’s nomination of John Tower as Secretary of Defense in March 1989, Wright said, the Republicans hardened and his ouster became a test of party loyalty. John Barry, in The Ambition and the Power, wrote of the GOP orchestration of the attacks against Wright, as Georgia Representative Newt Gingrich assigned a staffer to dig up dirt on the Speaker and worked to get those stories into the news media, which of course cooperated. In late May 1989, the special counsel for the Ethics Committee boasted that he had enough votes to keep the investigation going. Fearing that it would cost him upwards of $1 million to continue the defense, Wright resigned on May 31, 1989. Although Wright rather blithely dismisses the scandals that took him down as sloppy business dealings and constituent services, his experience demonstrates a lesson of power politics: When you spend enough time in Congress and get into leadership positions, you get to know people who are willing to spread money around, and politics is about raising money to get elected to raise more money. Under those circumstances, few could welcome the prospect of a special prosecutor poring over their business. Occasionally you get a rare bird like the late House Speaker Sam Rayburn or Representative Henry B. Gonzalez who can get re-elected without putting the arm on bankers or political action committees; there is no better proof of Gonzalez’s integrity than the fact that after six years as a crusading chairman of the Banking Committee we have not seen any embarrassing leaks about his financial dealings. But there is a price to pay, one way or the other, for the freedom to criticize the bankers, the military-industrial complex, the national security apparatus or any other center of money and power. Now the Republicans are going after President Bill Clinton. Coincidentally, he happens to be heading into a reform of the $1 trillion health care industry. He should read Wright’s book. Maybe Bobby Ray Inman read the book before he decided an unexamined life in Austin is preferable to three years of trying to reform the Department of Defense while ducking slings and arrows from Bob Dole and William Sat -ire. Life and Times of John Henry Faulk BY GEORGE N. GREEN JOHN HENRY FAULK The Making of a Liberated Mind. By Michael Burton. 220 pp. Austin: Eakin Press. $19.95 Eill OHN HENRY FAULK HAD a superb knack for conveying humor, for expressing the grotesque disparity between human aspirations and performance. His talent gave a special vitality to wisdom and made it more comprehensible and memorable. He rightly believed his greatest legacy was helping protect the first amendment to the Constitution, especially the right of dissent, during a time when it was endangered. Michael Burton has crafted a well researched, well written biography of this modern hero. And as Burton makes clear, John Henry’s courage was extraordinary. John Henry Faulk, born in 1913, was reared in South Austin by a Methodist family headed by respected lawyer Henry Faulk. But Henry Faulk was considered a mighty eccentric man as he ran for offices on the socialist ticket, maintained a home in a minority sec George N. Green is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Arlington. tion of town, and dispensed food and free legal services to poor blacks. Henry Faulk was somewhat detached in dealing with the lives of his own children, but he succeeded in arousing them to social injustices. His spirited wife Mattie also practiced the social gospel, maintained a huge vegetable garden, and governed the seven-person household. Johnny’s constant companions until he went to high school were the black children who lived in shacks behind the Faulk home. He learned as a child, while attending Fulmore School, that he had a great knack for mimicking people’s speech. Johnny was such a hellion that his father warned him when he was 12 that he might well wind up in the penitentiary. By the time he attended Austin High School he was renowned for his mimicking and storytelling, but not his academic preparation. Burton is especially adept, I think, in recounting Faulk’s early years. At the University of Texas in the 1930s the regional folklorist J. Frank Dobie became Faulk’s mentor. As a graduate student and part-time English professor, 1939-1942, Faulk joined the famous storytelling and drinking coterie that included Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb, Roy Bedichek, Mody Boatright, and other occasional Texas literati. Faulk was sufficiently concerned about the plight of black Americans in 1941 that he joined the NAACP and spoke out in Austin against segregation. If there was ever any period when John Henry might have been tempted to join a left-wing party, it was during this era, when he was married to Hally Wood, when he first knew a number of Communists and Socialists, and when equal rights first became a passion for him. Having lost his sight in one eye, John Henry spent the war as a non-combatant in the Merchant Marines, Red Cross, and Army. After the war Alan Lomax, another old friend from the Texas intelligentsia, was working at CBS Radio in New York and steered Faulk into the media world. John Henry was on the air from April, 1946 till August, 1957, on various New York radio stations. Most of the time he had his own program and could portray characters as he wished. He came across as an impersonator, satirist, homey philosopher, storyteller, wit, and cowboy. He loved to portray such rural folk characters as the puffed-up Congressman Guffaw, sentimental yarn spinner Jim Clark, frustrated spinster Aunt Effie McDoo, and redneck ignoramus Ed Snodgrass. One New York newspaper labeled John Henry’s characters as “uproariously funny, but underneath the wit and humor THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17