Powerful yet incorruptible, folksy yet a master legislator--surely this image of the longest-term Speaker of the House of Representatives is geared to evoke nostalgia for a time when men were men and politics was politics. And it does, despite Steinberg's partisan selectivity. Ray-bum entered Washington politics at a youthful age, without tremendous sectional or business obligations of the kind which made the oil barons' Tom Connally one of his opponents. Sam admired Woodrow Wilson and learned the Congressional ropes; he learned them so well that he became the New Deal braintrusters' legislative amanuensis, and contrary to the wishes of his own farming constituents and most Americans, he pushed for what Steinberg frankly calls the ""planned scarcity"" of Roosevelt's farm legislation. By the time of the London blitz, Rayburn was Speaker of the House, and engineered an unpopular renewal of the army draft. Given Rayburn's unqualified devotion to the policies of the national elite, it is ironic that, according to Steinberg, he was barred from a Presidential bid by his Southern origins. Instead he coached and protected Truman, then collaborated with Eisenhower. Steinberg threads in the down-home theme with some delicacy: the literal log-cabin birthplace, the political speeches delivered by young Sam to the backyard hens, the perennial fishing and ranching. Rayburn himself was no cornball, even at his most proverbial; his dignity is appealing, especially in contrast to his protege Lyndon Johnson (Steinberg explains the relationship as surrogate paternity). The biography is weakest in its shallow if lengthy glosses on congressional intrigues, which actually underrate Raybum's cleverness--the FDR court,packing question and the Taft-Hartley staging are two examples where Rayburn was far more devious than this book would indicate. He was a pro. Expect demand.