A POLITICAL EDUCATION: A Journal of Life with Senators, Generals, Cabinet Members and Presidents by Harry McPherson

A POLITICAL EDUCATION: A Journal of Life with Senators, Generals, Cabinet Members and Presidents

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A liberal Texan, McPherson came to Washington in 1956 to do good and be where the action was: this is a disarming and absorbing narrative of his participation as an aide to congressional and presidential Democrats until LBJ left office. As a legislative assistant to Majority Leader Johnson, he had a fine view of the Senate and its ""whales"" like Kerr and Anderson; he respected the parliamentary virtues (he even sticks up for Bobby Baker) and relished the exhilaration of professional legislating. He describes major floor fights, party give-and-take, and the ascendancy of the civil rights issue, confessing himself disturbed by ""the Negroes' assertiveness."" In 1963 he left for the Pentagon; when LBJ became President he returned as an assistant and speechwriter. ""Counseling the President"" involved reviewing bills and passing judgment on their suitability for signing, having weighed political and budgetary factors; case studies are included. No great revelations emerge about executive decision-making, but there are interesting close-ups of Washington's attempts to deal with ""the black problem,"" from the Moynihan Report, which McPherson thinks was misunderstood, to LBJ's reluctant accommodation of law-and-order sentiment. The usual interpretation that LBJ's liberalism led him into Vietnam, which in turn foxed his liberal domestic programs is reiterated. McPherson says he was disturbed by corruption in Saigon and urged the 1968 decision to start formal talks; he thinks Congressional pressure was important in forcing the President to listen to Clifford and other advocates of troop de-escalation. McPherson's style and his sense of himself are engaging, and one needn't agree with his politics to find this a worthwhile scrapbook of the period.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1972
Publisher: Little, Brown--A.M.P.