Page 7


But Johnson has ntyw strained to break his claims to the benefits of doubt. His theory that bombing v to’ the Viet Cong and North Vietnam knees to date has pro , rong: each escalailoit, escalation. His lip-servicer negotiations has debased the j . radically corroded public and internatibna confidence in his sincerity and cando r . deeds belie his words. lie bombs and bombs. Texas Observer, July$, J *FED HOMES THAT NEED ROOFING A select number of home owners in the area will be given the opportunity to have a lifetime Erie Metal Roofing System installed on their home at a reasonable cost. I If we can use your home in our campaign to showcase the look of our new metal shingle roof, we will definitely make it worth your while. Should your home and location meet our marketing needs, you will receive attractive pricing and have access to our special low interest unsecured bank financing. An Erie Metal Roofing System will provide your home with unsurpassed beauty and protection….. guaranteed! Don’t miss this opportunity to save! INQUIRE TODAY TO SEE IF YOUR HOME QUALIFIES! 1-800-952-3743 email: [email protected] Copyright 2007 Erie Metal Roofing have been not different from a bribe by a dime. Johnson’s problem was, he would soon make public his campaign for the presidency. He knew the Observer was a novelty, conspicuous in reactionary Texas, reporting long-covered-up events and expressing unpredictable opinions; he knew that national newspeople, traipsing to and from his ranch from Austin, would often drop by the Observer offices for inside dope or just for the devilment of it, as in fact they were to do for the rest of the decade; and he knew that if his sellouts to the Texas yahoos and rednecks on the way to the White House became clear to the national Democrats, they might not nominate him for president. My problem was how to get out of there. I could have just said, “I’m sorry, senator, no deal:’ but this was not my style while practicing rebellious journalism in Texas. I extended myself and taxed my fellow Observer reporters to be fair and accurate, both in order to be fair and accurate and in self-defense, although, that done, in editorials I let miscreants and villains have it straight on. In person, in my life day after day, I was carefully polite and civil with all parties. If I was formally polite to a fault, well, it was a kind of protective coloration. On this afternoon with Johnson, I realized that the Observer and I had been misgauged and underestimated, but that for the rest of the occasion my part was to avoid any accusative remarks or implications, any incautious, offensive, or popinjay responses, and to graciously take my leave as soon as that might appear mannerly. Sitting there side by side on plastic chaise loungessomeone brought us cold drinks, I believe lemonadeswe talked along gingerly for maybe an hour. Well, senator, it’s an honor to have met you, and I appreciate your having me outdon’t want to overstay, I’d better be getting back to townI said something like this, starting to rise to head back to my Green Hornet. No, he said, why don’t you stay to dinner. No trouble, Bird’ll have plenty. Although I had nothing more to say to him, I had not said no, and he had something more to say to me. After an interim during which nothing happened, I sat down to dinner in a half-dark chamber at the center of the Johnsons’ well-staged home with Lady Bird Johnson and Johnson’s personal secretary, Mary Margaret Wiley, who had been my managing editor in high school in San Antonio when I had edited the Brackenridge Times. Mary Margaret is a beautiful person. While I had perceived no romantic flash in our friendship and work together in high school, we admired and respected each other; I was glad she was there. As Johnson sat down at my left at the head of his table, though, I realized, silently appalled, “My God, the subject is at hand, all I can do is explain journalism to him as if he actually doesn’t know what it is.” If the situation had not been unbelievable, it would have been incredible. I struck forth uncertainly, as if we were dining on a pitching log, addressing only Johnson to describe, as best I could, the role of journalism, the Fourth Estate, separation from government, providing facts and explanations, democracy’s inexpendable need for an independently informed electorate. I may even have quoted Jefferson. I might as well have been talking to the log I was riding. Johnson said to me, No, the thing a smart young reporter does, and should do, is survey the field of candidates, pick the best one, and enter into a deal to help that one win whatever office and prevail in whatever controversy, subordinating his reporting and comment to the interests of the candidate. Johnson was far too smart to really think that is what journalism is or should be. He was feigning adherence to a theory of journalism, a blend of his own practice on his college paper and his political strategy of protegeship upended for the advance of his juniors, that might work somewhat, with me and others, as a disguise for his use of journalists to serve his will to power. Later it became embarrassingly clear that he had induced some of the leading reporters and columnists in Texas and the nation to make some such a deal with him or assent to some such understanding: Leslie Carpenter, William S. White, Joseph Alsop, some of AUGUST 22, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13