Turns out I can't exactly source my third-favorite LBJ story. The other two I'm sure about. One comes from Gene McCarthy and the other from Hunter S. Thompson. But those are for other occasions.
This one came to me from a guy supposedly on the elevator at the time who told my friend, but damn if I can remember who. Might have been either longtime Houston liberal lawyers Ed Cogburn or Marc Grossberg, or one of the Texas Observer people.
Seems Lyndon had been working on Mr. Justice Arthur Goldberg to resign from the Supreme Court so he could appoint one of his bagmen to the job instead. Offered to swap Goldberg the United Nations ambassadorship.
Right. A lifetime super-substantive job with the most comfortable chair in the imperial capital traded for a temporary seat in a cosmetically-relevant American satrapy in the cold winds by the East River.
Goldberg, no dummy but afflicted with loyalty, resisted Lyndon's blandishments with increasing anguish. And to Lyndon, the attractive part of persuasion was captured by the Rolling Stones in their anthem, "Under My Thumb." He got off on domination.
Lyndon worked on him and worked on him and worked on him. Nothing. So Lyndon decided to go nuclear.
Had a way of hauling people along with him on his route to somewhere else. When he couldn't feed his phone fetish in those pre-cellular days he had to always be conversing somehow. So he quasi-casually invited Goldberg to ride along with him while he ran over to the State Department for something.
Thus Goldberg's in the gaggle along with the president; they go up to see Rusk or somebody; then they're coming down in the elevator, Lyndon, Goldberg, my informant's informant and whoever was the body man that day. Maybe Moyers.
Lyndon turns to Goldberg in the elevator and grips him by the elbow and looks him in the eye from about three inches away and says, "Arthur, there are boys dying over there in Vietnam right this minute for their President. I need your help just like I need theirs. Now, all I want you to do is, when we get off this elevator there's a press conference called where I'm going to announce you've accepted the nomination to the United Nations. Are you going to let me and those boys down?"
Whew. Struck breathless, Goldberg can't say a mumbling word. The elevator door opens and they stride out and the rest is history.
In current presidential history, Bush Minor is too shallow for persuasion, too unsubtle for domination. What he likes is having the fix put in for so long in advance that he thinks nobody's going to notice it's been fixed. Like being a Yale legacy, or being let into and then skipping out on the National Guard.
So when Bush finally realizes he needs to persuade Cheney to leave for the good of the country, it will be done an entirely different way. But rest assured Cheney's defrocking cannot fail to reveal the kind of sly idiocy this administration customarily mistakes for fancy footwork.
About the best thing Bush can do to appear to refurbish his pluperfect irrelevance is to dump Cheney and appoint John McCain vice president. Safe move, Senate's already gone Democratic. One less vote isn't going to matter.
McCain's the heir-apparent already. That's his reward for caving into Bush on torture and warrantless wiretapping while giving the dimmer bulbs among the media glare the impression of not having done so.
Cheney's going to have to go as part of the Iraq policy realignment anyway. The one that dare not speak its name. The one that takes until the next presidential term because the situation is so ineffably infundibulated that the best bipartisan military and civilian minds in America will have to take that long to work it out. By comparison, extracting an army in the field from the midst of civil war took Napoleon the better part of four years, and he at least had the merit of being a military genius.
The only real question for now is, do they need to pull a Bill Casey on Cheney or not? Some will recall that new Defense guy Bob Gates was Casey's deputy CIA Director when Casey had a sudden brain aneurysm the day before he was supposed to testify to Congress about linking Reagan to the Iran-Contra scandal of fragrant memory.
Completely unexpected. Nobody had any idea. Why, Casey was in perfect health. Old, but, you know, perfect health. Took one for the Gipper, perhaps.
Well, Cheney's never been in perfect health since his first heart attack, much less his last one. So if he disappeared into an ambulance and failed to emerge vigorously on the other end of the ride nobody, nobody, would be surprised.
It may not come to that. Cheney may prefer to take his dour and impervious self-righteousness back to Wyoming where he can drunkenly shoot endangered species, pollute his ranch, and count his money all he wants.
But there are two kinds of craziness infesting the top of the Bush-Cheney cluster-failure. One of them is Cheney's insistence that he alone interprets the world correctly and anybody who says different is a sissy. The other is Bush's stark operating principle that words have no inherent meaning.
The divorce from reality that these habits of thought engender is so severe that you have to wonder if their practitioners were ever married to actuality at all. Or even went out on dates.
Given the complex psycho-daddy relationship Cheney has with Bush Minor, it is not too far-fetched to think Bush may want to remove Cheney for non-political reasons too. Remember what the prison shrink says to the condemned murderer Williams in the Lemmon/Matthau remake of The Front Page? The shrink asks Williams to tell him about his youth; Williams says it was wonderful, happy, no tension. "Completely normal childhood." The shrink says, "I see. So you wanted to kill your father and sleep with your mother."
Since we know nobody on the face of God's good earth wants to sleep with Bar, and Poppy still has Secret Service protection, taking out Father-Figure might be the only avenue to psychic relief left for poor little Georgie, especially if he hasn't already started drinking again.
Nobody as lethargically concerned with his legacy as Bush is could omit an opportunity to wipe away the appearances of the past and substitute the illusion of progress while, in fact, altering nothing of substance whatsoever. The frat boy who would do anything crude to be the center of attention at parties hasn't changed.
McCain's replacing Cheney. Don't know how, don't know when. But it makes more sense than the war in Iraq, tax cuts for the rich, legislation for sale, or gay Republicans. Oh, but wait. Maybe that's why it won't happen after all. Makes too much sense.
James McCarty Yeager, an original contributing writer to TPP from Washington, D.C., also occasionally appears on Caroline W. Casey's Visionary Activist Show on KPFA-FM Pacifica Radio, Berkeley Calif.
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