The Case Against Congress
Behind the Lines: The World of Drew Pearson
JFK and LBJ
In our nation’s capital, home of the jealously guarded secret and the official lie, uncommon numbers of talented men make their living and reputation as professional insiders. They range from lobbyists and court gossipers to the most widely read journalists. Theirs is an honorable, indeed an ancient, calling, as essential to plutocracies and dictatorships as to democracies. By bringing the human element into the power equation, they play a vital role in every social system.
Only democracies, however, depend upon that special kind of insider whose job it is to pass on the official secret even before the officials are willing to give it up. They are concerned with the public’s “right to know,” which is invariably wider than any government thinks it has a right to be. Without these insiders we would be even more mystified about what is being done to us in our name and, ostensibly, with our own best interests at heart. We would know even less than we do about who decides which causes we shall die for, what interest groups are the real masters of our public servants, and who lines their pockets with funds meant for the common weal. In a corporate democracy, the most noble service can sometimes be reporting the highest gossip.
For four decades and through six administrations Drew Pearson has been reporting the highest, and sometimes the lowest, gossip to the readers of his syndicated column. In Herman Klurfeld’s adoring, but absorbing and informative, biography of this enfant terrible of American journalism, we find a portrait of a man who has been braver and more stubborn than most, unafraid of enemies in high places or friends in low ones, tenacious to the point of tedium, and irrepressible in his zest for making an unsavory revelation. For Pearson the well-timed exposé is a kind of carnal delight, to be anticipated, savored, prolonged, and lovingly recollected.
This is the source of his strength and one of his most admirable qualities, for without this attitude he could never have survived all those decades in Washington and done daily battle with the powers of darkness and concealment. An indefatigable and, more importantly, a courageous reporter, Pearson has cast himself in the role of St. George of the typewriter. If he ever has any doubts about the evil of the forces he combats or the virtues of the causes he champions, there is no sign of it in the breathless columns he has turned out with such staggering regularity over the years.
At his best Pearson displays a stern Quaker passion and courage. At his worst, he can be vindictive, narrow-minded, and less than honorable. His vendetta against the late James Forrestal is legendary, a recent exposé of Reagan descended to the level of attacking the California governor for harboring homosexuals on his staff, and over the years Pearson has not objected to serving as a henchman for various public figures he admires—such as Lyndon B. Johnson. On the Vietnam …