LYNDON JOHNSON: A Memoir by George Reedy


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Why the members of his staff stuck with him--including me--is something that I cannot answer to this day."" Reedy, Johnson's press secretary from the Senate to the White House, does know (and has already said) why he stuck with his boorish, malicious, ungrateful boss: ""each time, he would do something so magnificent""--civil rights legislation, say--""that all of his nasty characteristics would fade."" Regrettably, Reedy echoes himself unawares on topic after topic (Bobby Baker, a vice-presidential Scandinavian trip, LBJ and Bobby Kennedy, LBJ's mother, his presidential aspirations); but his struggle to ""exorcise"" the titanic LBJ presence, however ragged, makes an intriguing companion-piece for Robert Caro's upcoming critical portrait. Reedy, for one thing, doesn't consider Johnson a deliberate liar. Each new version of his life-story, he believed; what he said in speeches, he regarded as mere words. (Reedy also doesn't think he stole that notorious Texas election--or that he was owned by anybody.) He had a succession of women--whom he liked to convert from anti-Johnson frumps to adoring sophisticates--and a naive, ""almost infantile"" trust in them. In the White House, trying to model himself after FDR, he confused a flurry of activity with accomplishment; the passage of laws with the achievement of their ends. He couldn't slow down himself because he had no personal experience, growing up, of ""the normal joys of life."" (He couldn't therefore understand the private pleasures of others either.) He would fly into rages to prove to himself that he was ""sufficiently important to induce people to put up with irrational behavior on his part."" He was a consummate Senate strategist; miserable in the vice-presidency; commanding during his early White House days; impossible after his 1964 election victory. True tales and gut feelings.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Andrews & McMeel