Saturday, September 17, 2016

the last book I ever read (Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, excerpt thirteen)

from Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein:

It took physical courage for Lady Bird to do what she did—arrange a campaign tour for herself through eight Southern states. The original idea was to co-host a reception in the rotunda of each statehouse. The Secret Service nixed that proposal: closed circular spaces were a sniper’s heaven. Hers would surely be the first whistle-stop in history to travel with its own minesweeper: a second train engine, traveling fifteen minutes ahead of the first, to detonate any bombs placed in its path.

The planning had been painful. Lady Bird spent eleven-hour days in September working the phones asking politicians for their participation. For the most part, only those not up for reelection offered hospitality. The Democratic nominee for North Carolina’s governorship didn’t return her calls. A Virginia senator scheduled a convenient hunting trip. Senator Byrd had been “jovial and courteous and darling,” she reported to her husband—until she mentioned the purpose of her call, whereupon “an invisible silken curtain fell across his voice.” Louisiana’s governor John McKeithan embarrassedly explained that he “was working for the Democrats, you understand”—just after his own fashion. Strom Thurmond mumbled that “a really basic decision within the next two weeks” precluded his participation. As for George Wallace, she thought it would be rude even to bother.

She was unfazed. No candidate’s wife had taken such a tour without her husband before. But she knew her people needed to hear some hard truths. Her husband could not do the job if he wanted to: the assassination threat was too great. But Southerners, she knew, would never shoot a lady off her pedestal.

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