Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Some times it gets me into trouble.

I've always been a hammer, not a nail.

A straight up-the-middle runner. Not one who dances the end-around.

I've always been a bulldog, not a whippet.

This gets me into trouble.

My skills lay in places other than politesse and diplomacy.

Right now I am reading the third volume of Robert Caro's four-volume masterpiece on Lyndon Johnson. I couldn't recommend books more highly. Caro's portrait is of a man of Shakespearean complexity. It is operatic in its sweep. And its sense of history is broad and magnificent.

The third volume is called "Master of the Senate" and it begins with a hundreds-of-pages-long treatment of the history and the manners of the institution. Including its ossification in the 1940s when its racist and reactionary Southern bloc made sure positive Civil Rights legislation would not pass.

Despite the calcification and institutionalized lethargy of Southern Senators (then and now) there's much someone like me (a filthy Jew) can learn from their decorum. Here's what I mean.

70 years ago, Senator Alben Barkley of Kentucky (who, as Truman's Vice President once said the Vice Presidency "isn't worth a bucket of warm piss") said this to a freshman Senator.

"If you think a colleague is stupid, refer to him as 'the able, learned and distinguished Senator,' but if you know he is stupid, refer to him as 'the very able, learned and distinguished Senator.'"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tho he was dead wrong on the war in Vietnam, it took an LBJ to strong arm civil rights legislation thru congress. Are you listening Barack? That is what is required.