WHEELING AND DEALING: Confessions of a Capitol Hill Operator by Bobby with Larry King Baker

WHEELING AND DEALING: Confessions of a Capitol Hill Operator

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KIRKUS REVIEW

One-time Capitol Hill power broker and bagman Bobby Baker discusses his rise and fall from knicker-clad Senate page boy to LBJ's chief string-puller (when Johnson was Majority Leader) to humiliated jailbird. While he was the Democrats' chief ""doer"" and ""fixer,"" discretion was Baker's strong suit; though his political favors included matching senators with comely ladies, ""I drew the line at professionals."" Financially, despite Baker's disclaimers, it's hard to say where he actually did draw the line. His personal money matters--which eventually led to 16 months in a federal penitentiary--were so tangled (at one point, he had 51 outstanding loans from 22 lending institutions) that even now he has trouble sorting it all out. But he's very candid about influence-peddling; while he enjoyed putting together deals, it was done at his political masters' bidding. Without selfpity he sees himself as a ""fail guy"" for the Senate Democrats in general and LBJ in particular. Had he told the Senate Rules Committee about kickbacks arranged for Johnson he might have ""torpedoed the vice-president,"" and Baker professes a ""too keenly felt friendship with LBJ to turn rat."" Baker's view of politics on the Hill is less cynical than fatalistic--it's a you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratcli-yours kind of place and probably always will be. By the time Baker emerged from jail to visit the slumping LBJ on his ranch, his fondness was tainted by the knowledge that ""friendship with Johnson was a one-way street."" For all that, Baker's portrait of Johnson-whom he knew intimately and quotes at his saltiest-is one of the best things about this surprisingly thoughtful and frank book.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1978
Publisher: Norton