December 3, 2019

Lyndon Johnson nearly killed himself running for his first Congressional seat when he was 28 years old. He found out he won the seat from his hospital bed where he was being treated for liver failure stemming from his sleepless nights and frantic rallies where he tried to meet everybody in his district.

He grew up on barely-fertile soil in West Texas. What he lacked in brainspeed he made up in physical speed. He made sure he and the other aides below him wrote personal responses to every letter written to Congressman Kleberg. His fellow legislative assistants laughed when they saw Johnson running up the steps of the Capitol to work each morning.

But for all his psychotic behavior, his insane work ethic, his Shakespearean love letters, his unmoored ambition, the thing I most often think about from Caro’s Path To Power is how Johnson - as a sitting Congressman - would get into his beat up Ford and drive through the night from D.C. to Austin. Before Eisenhower built our interstates. On backroads and state highways. Without a radio, without podcasts, without a fellow passenger. For 28 hours, he’d drive over rolling hills, all the way home.

I wonder what he thought about.


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