The Texan Gambler Who Bet His Life on JFK's
Death and Won
Years of Lyndon Johnson., Volume 4: The Passage of Power
title to this tome might have been: Succeeding Kennedy.
Its difficult to imagine a harder act to follow given the
national trauma of JFKs televised assassination before the
eyes of his whole devastated country.
Kennedy charisma, his good looks, his debonair glamour. Then look
at the cover photograph of Lyndon Johnson. In any competition for
grim, unmerciful mouths, he would take some beating. Also for uncomfortable
eyes black, shrewd, crafty.
LBJ was a big
man almost 6 ft 4in, with a big nose, ears, chin and hands to
match. He was Texas personified. But a warm, welcoming personality
he was not. Every signal said: Do not cross this man.
For 12 years, he dominated the U.S. Senate as its Democratic Majority
Leader. He was a champion at fixing a vote. He would target his
man, get up close to him, clasp his hand in those enormous mitts,
put an arm round his shoulder and coax, wheedle and flatter in a
soft voice making the receiver bask in his esteem. If there was
no response, the bonhomie snapped off with a strong hint that ruin
But this power-broker
had a surprising weakness. He was scared of humiliation. He had
known it as a boy when his father, who ran a ranch of sorts and
ruined by drought lost it, went bankrupt and rapidly
slid down to the bottom of the heap, taking his family with him,
in a tiny hick town called grandly Johnson City.
In his teens,
Lyndon learnt what it was like to build roads, clear cedar, or pick
cotton; to live in a home threatened by eviction, only surviving
on handouts of money and food from relatives and neighbours.
he had only a scratch education, he was convinced that some day
he would be president because he was meant to be.
before his crash, had been a Representative in Austin, the state
capital. Lyndon made it as Representative of Texas to Washington,
and later as king of the Senate. In 1960 he lost the Democratic
nomination to Kennedy but Kennedy, needing Southern Democrat support,
reluctantly asked him to run as his vice-president.
or Veeps, are the also-rans in Washington politics,
their duties mainly ceremonial. Should Johnson give up his immense
power in the Senate to become Number Two to a man he saw as a rich
playboy and dismissed as sickly, pallid, not a mans
He looked up
the history of the office. Seven VPs had become president through
the death of the man in office five among the last 18 presidents.
The odds were better than four to one. He took the offer. Im
a gamblin man, darlin, he said to his companion
on the way to the new presidents inaugural ball.
the rest of the article
© 2012 Daily