Email this review


From the vantage point of his 80 years, White looks back on his long and eventful career as reporter, columnist, and author (biographies of Robert Taft, Lyndon Johnson, etc.). A scion of a proud Texas family, White broke out of the mold when at 19 he became a cub reporter for an Austin newspaper. Before long he had joined the Associated Press, which, in 1933, sent him to Washington, then a ""crazy mixture of a sleepy southern town. . .and a vast, yeasty pit of intellectual ferment."" His reporting caught FDR's eye, and he found himself at a White House gathering where Mrs. Roosevelt (""a more instinctively perceptive politician than her distinguished husband"") dissuaded him from helping her off the floor after she tripped while dancing. She told him that his assistance would produce the rumor that ""either I got drunk and fell down or that I suffered namelessly grave injuries. . ."" After a stint in New York, White was sent overseas to cover the D-day invasion. Later, he was one of the first (of two) reporters to enter Germany with the Third Armored Divison--well in advance of the rest of the American and English forces. On leave toward war's end, he joined The New York Times, which sent him back to Washington. He had become an internationally syndicated columnist by the time his long-time friend John F. Kennedy became president. These memoirs, which peter out in 1968 with Richard Nixon's election, are filled with marvelous anecdotes and considerable reflection (some might say pontification) on the journalist's role. White, who has a genuine fondness for most politicians, is troubled by the adversarial stance and cultivation of leaks so prevalent today. He also has considerable facility for pinpointing events and people. Dwight Eisenhower ""was serenely unaware of any (domestic) problem unless it rose and struck him smartly in the face."" He found that a ""strangely waif-like quality in Nixon persisted all his public life."" Also, Kennedy, as a Roman Catholic, held the classically conservative view "". . .of man's eternal nonperfectibility and, collaterally, of the necessary place of force--even ugly force--in human affairs. Johnson, on the contrary, was heir to an evangelical Protestant liberal view that not man but the world was vile."" An invigorating memoir.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky