Page 3


Billie Lee Brammer VALERIE FOWLER, FROM A FILE PHOTO couraged his kids to aspire to fame and fortune, but rather to greatness of spirit. Nor did he expect us to limit our horizons to only one “career.” As a war-movie obsessed youngster, I was told that I could be a Green Beret when and if I so desired. Later in my life, he urged me to “stop being an overachiever and become a blissfully happy and reasonably well-adjusted hedonist like me.” Some have suggested that Lyndon Johnson’s rejection of Bill after publication of The Gay Place robbed him of his identity and sense of purpose, broke his faith and maybe even, as Al Reinert \(his friend and piece of his heart. Surely there was a rejection of sortsdenial of the press credentials Bill would need to work on his biography of Lyndon after he became Presidentand it certainly frustrated Bill in his pursuit of the legal tender. But Horace Busby, a longtime Johnson confidante and friend of Bill’s from that era, hardly thinks it amounted to a deeply felt betrayal. Busby observed a disapproving, ethical “distance” that Johnson placed between himself and the writers who passed through his life, from Bill Brammer to Evans and Novak. “Lyndon had an identical attitude about all writers. I don’t think he ever read a book that was written about him. Mrs. Johnson may have, but not Lyndon. He read books, but but not that kind of book. And Bill Brammer knew that about him. I don’t think Bill’s decline had anything to do with Johnson.” Halberstam agrees. “I know that LBJ was furious about the book. He was really angry that it was written ‘on his time,’ so to speak [after hours in LBJ’s Senate offices.] But Bill was amused by Johnson. He saw him as a great circus performer, and understood completely that beyond LBJ’s liberalism was egotism, narcissism and power lust. Bill knew Johnson ‘back to the bed he was born on’ as Dylan Thomas wrote. Bill never lived in the shadow of LBJ, because he never took him all that seriously.” Longtime Johnson insider Harry McPherson recalls Bill’s ambivalent view of LBJ. “He was quite admiring of LBJ, but in a way that one would admire Paul Bunyan … an outsized outrageous character capable of great triumphs. But Bill was always well aware of Johnson’s other sidethe dissembler, the manipulator and user of people.” Sarah McClendon, Dean of the White House Press Corps, describes Bill Brammer as “brillianthis analysis of politics was extraordinary.” But Bill was never caught in the emotional net of politics, nor was he ever inclined toward an emotional reliance on any one politician. “I’ve always thought of Bill as being THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21