America has never been blessed with a great many first-rate political Journalists. It's an ephemeral art, almost like that of the entertainer. ""He was a New Dealer when that was the road to power, he became a conservative when that was the way to stay in."" This is I.F. Stone on Johnson, and the remark combines Stone's two gifts, accuracy of Judgment and pithiness in phrasing. Stone began covering Washington during the Roosevelt years. He's a seasoned performer, and though there's been a marked mellowing in his own ideological stance, Stone remains basically a radical (""One saw that for the lower third of our society, white as well as black, the search for answers must lead them back--though Americans still start nervously at the very word--toward socialism"")--but a radical quite without Jacobin sympathies. Indeed, engaged and humane as Stone is, what he finds truly upsetting is the moral muddle of our times, the inane chicanery of our leaders, the obtuseness of their vision. Like an enlightened conservative, he warns us of the deluge: ""We are, let us remember, the rich man in a huge hemispheric slum""--and the audience nods and does nothing. Malcolm X, Vietnam, China: the reportage is shrewd, lively, combative, completely readable. Yet there's an underlying mournful strain, as if Stone doubted now the power of common sense or ""facts.