The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #1)

A candidate who, night after night, tries “to capitalize on the emotion of honest patriotism, cheapens the impulse.… It is like playing on the sacredness of mother love for the purposes of promotion.

A newcomer could ascertain the identity of a town's true leaders – which storekeeper was respected, which farmer was listened to other farmers – only through endless hours of subtle probing of reticent men.

As one 1935 study put it, boys and girls who were 15 or 16 in 1929 when the Depression began are no longer children; they are grown-ups – adults who had never, since they left school, had anything productive to do; adults in the embittered by years of suffering and hardship. The President's Advisory Commission on Education was to warn of a whole lost generation of young people.

BECAUSE THIS MONEY came from Texas, the rise of Lyndon Johnson sheds light on the new economic forces that surged out of the Southwest in the middle of the twentieth century, on the immense influence exerted over America’s politics, its governmental institutions, its foreign and domestic policies by these forces: the oil and sulphur and gas and defense barons of the Southwest. As the robber barons of the last century looted the nation’s earth of its wealth—its coal and coke, its oil and ore, its iron, its forests, the very surface of its earth to provide a footing for the rails of their railroads—and used part of that wealth to ensure that the nation’s government would not force them to give more than a pittance of their loot back to the nation’s people, so the robber barons of this century have drained the earth of the Southwest of its riches and have used those riches to bend government to their ends.

But it is not the remembrance of his athletic ability that—fifty years later—makes San Marcos students smile when they remember the stalwart Boody Johnson. “He was the fatherly type,” a football player says. “If things were going bad in a game, he’d call a time-out, and gather the team around, and say, ‘Now, look, fellows, we’re here to play football,’ and settle everybody down.” He didn’t settle down only football players. “You always felt you could go to him with your problems,” says one woman. “He was a very kind person. Gruff and tough, but very kind. He was just like a father to everybody.” His unselfishness was legendary, and not just on the football field (where, because the other halfback, Lyons McCall, a good runner, was a poor blocker, Boody volunteered to do most of the blocking while McCall carried the ball—if the team was behind in the last minutes of a game, however, the players would growl: “Give it to Boody”). “Boody was the kind of guy who, if you woke him up in the middle of the night and told him your car had broken down, would get out of bed and walk five miles to help you—nothing was too much trouble for him,” Vernon Whiteside says.

Hamlet: “He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.

He talked a lot about girls, too. His brother, Sam Houston Johnson, recalls that more than once, when he visited his brother at San Marcos, Lyndon, coming back into the room naked after a shower, would take his penis in his hand, and say: “Well, I’ve gotta take ol’ Jumbo here and give him some exercise. I wonder who I’ll fuck tonight.

I always tell the truth, so I don’t need a good memory to remember what I said”)—in

If you can’t come into a room and tell right away who is for you and who is against you, you have no business in politics.

In 1918, anti-German hysteria was sweeping Texas. Germans who showed insufficient enthusiasm in purchasing Liberty Bonds were publicly horsewhipped; bands of armed men broke into the homes of German families who were rumored to have pictures of the Kaiser on the walls; a State Council of Defense, appointed by the Governor, recommended that German (and all other foreign languages) be barred from the state forever. Hardly had Sam Johnson arrived in Austin in February, 1918, when debate began on House Bill 15, which would make all criticism, even a remark made in casual conversation, of America’s entry into the war, of America’s continuation in the war, of America’s government in general, of America’s Army, Navy or Marine Corps, of their uniforms, or of the American flag, a criminal offense punishable by terms of two to twenty-five years—and would give any citizen in Texas the power of arrest under the statute. With fist-waving crowds shouting in the House galleries above, legislators raged at the Kaiser and at Germans in Texas whom they called his “spies” (one legislator declared that the American flag had been hauled down in Fredericksburg Square and the German double eagle raised in its place) in an atmosphere that an observer called a “maelstrom of fanatical propaganda.” But Sam Johnson, standing tall, skinny and big-eared on the floor of the House, made a speech—remembered with admiration fifty years later by fellow members—urging defeat of Bill 15;

I will not deny that there are men in the district better qualified than I to go to Congress, but, gentlemen, these men are not in the race.

I would rather link my name indelibly with the living pulsing history of my country and not be forgotten entirely after a while than to have anything else on earth,

Mrs. Roosevelt felt, was the fault of society; “a civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor,

Neither, it turned out, was politics. His views on government were strong, if a trifle simplistic. The cause of the Depression, he felt, was Al Capone. “The trouble with the nation’s economy,” he declared, was simply Prohibition, which “makes it possible for large-scale dealers in illicit liquor to amass tremendous amounts of currency”; the “present economic crisis,” he explained, was due to the “withdrawal of billions of dollars from the channels of legitimate trade” by these bootleggers.

ONCE HE KNEW HOW to do things in Washington, he started doing them—with the same frenzied, driven, almost desperate energy he had displayed in Cotulla and Houston, the energy of a man fleeing from something dreadful.

Only that when men found themselves at the mercy of forces too big for them to fight alone, government—their government—help them fight. What were the demands for railroad and bank regulation, for government loans, for public-works projects, but an expression of a belief that after men have banded together and formed a government, they have a right, when they are being crushed by conditions over which they have no control, to ask that government to extend a helping hand to them—if necessary, to fight for them, to be their champion?

On the rare occasions on which a movie was shown, there was as much suspense in the audience over whether the electricity would hold out to the end of the film as there was in the film itself.

The author describes Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn as "seldom at ease without a gavel in his hand.

The common problem, yours and mine, everyone’s/Is not to fancy what were fair in life/Provided it could be—but finding first/What may be and how to make it fair up to our means.

The farm work they hated was the only work they knew. Often, even the basic skills of plumbing or electricity or mechanical work were mysteries to them – as were the job discipline and the subtleties that children raised in the industrial world learn without thinking about them; starting work on time, working set hours, taking orders from strangers instead of their father, playing office politics.

The rivers rose, and, when they receded, sucked more of the fertile soil back down with them, to run down the Pedernales to the Colorado, down the Colorado to the Gulf. And

The roar of the Twenties was only the faintest of echoes in those vast and empty hills—a mocking echo to Hill Country farmers who read of Coolidge Prosperity and the reduction in the work week to forty-eight hours and the bright new world of mass leisure, while they themselves were still working the seven-day-a-week, dawn-to-dark schedule their fathers and grandfathers had worked; a mocking echo to Hill Country housewives who read of the myriad new labor-saving devices (washing machines, electric irons, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators) that had “freed” the housewife. Even if they had been able to afford such devices, they would not have been able to switch them on since the Hill Country was still without electricity.

was to secure

When Silent Cal Coolidge noted that “You don’t have to explain something you haven’t said,