The 231163 Diaries:
Drew Pearson.



Politics Andrew Russell "Drew" Pearson was one of the best-known American columnists of his day, noted for his syndicated newspaper column “Washington Merry-Go-Round,” in which he criticized various public persons.

The New Yorker has a long profile which outlines how his column was directed at various Presidents across the year, especially Kennedy, and Johnson, with whom he had been a friend and ally to since the 1930s.

I've included entries for both Friday and Saturday to show how close some people were to be being a direct eyewitnesses to history.  

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22

Having worked until about one, I set my alarm for five thirty, got up and wrote one column on the Bobby Baker oil scandal, said good- bye to [grandsons] Lyndon and Danny, and caught a 9:00 a.m. plane to Dallas. En route [to the airport] Tyler told me I should accept an invitation from the Lyndon Johnsons to stay all night tomorrow after the president and Jackie have left the [LBJ] ranch. I am scheduled to speak at Southwestern Teachers College at San Marcos, where Lyndon graduated, and the next day at Wichita Falls, so it would be very difficult for me to go to the ranch.

We arrived at Austin [from Dallas] at approximately one thirty, twenty minutes late. The Braniff [airline] manager met me at the steps of the plane to tell me that President Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas; that Governor Connally had been severely wounded . . . At first I thought he was joking. Only when he repeated the information did I realize that he was not. Three students from San Marcos met me, together with the AFL- CIO representative, and they confirmed the news. We drove to the Hotel Driskill, where the lobby was full of Texans, also silent, also helpless. I went to my room and started dictating a column to Washington in tribute to John F. Kennedy. It was not easy to do. It was easy to pay tribute because I think he deserved great tribute. But to remember the high points in his life in fifteen minutes was difficult.

. . . San Marcos canceled my lecture, which was a relief, and the Wichita Falls people canceled too. The nation is stunned.

. . . The news came in that a man had been apprehended named Oswald, who had been a Castroite and had gone to Moscow to live for five years. He has a Russian wife. It looks to me a little bit too much as if the Dallas police, who are not known either for their efficiency or their lack of prejudice, are taking the easy way out.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23 | WASHINGTON DC

Bess and I arrived at Dulles Airport, having flown from Dallas, with a raft of luggage belonging to the new president and the new first lady. The White House car met us, and for the first time I realized that the new president of the United States was in office who had been an old and very dear friend of mine and that possibly I might now have some entrĂ©e at the White House. I have been thirty- seven years in Washington and still have never been really in the good graces of any president. Probably I won’t be in Lyndon’s graces very long. We dined at the Averell Harriman’s. George Baker, Averell’s old manager, was there, together with Clayton Fritchey . . . when Ken Galbraith, former ambassador to India, came in after dinner, we talked in a most intimate manner about Johnson.

At his [Johnson’s] first cabinet meeting, held today, Ken said that Johnson had made the point that he was for civil rights as a general principle of human achievement, not merely because it was part of the Kennedy program.

And here is the aforementioned column which was published on the 23rd November:

Drew Pearson

on

The Washington Merry-Go-Round

-- Texans Stunned by Assassination --

Austin -- Texans gathered in little groups at the airport and the hotel lobbies.  They were very quiet.  The President of the United States had been killed on their soil.  He has been killed just as they were preparing to give him an all-out texas welcome.  And he had been killed by one of their own.

One of their own had now become President, but they didn't think of that.  They only thought of a gay, smiling young man with his beautiful wife, who had come to see them and they had returned his warmth, his friendship, by shooting him down.

What made it worse -- the Dallas news had carried a full-page ad that morning castigating Kennedy -- a rightwing welcome full of hate which the majority of Texans did not share.  How could Texas ever live down this shame?

At first, people who gathered in little groups in the horal lobbies couldn't really believe it.  Finally the grim, awesome truth sank in.

What was the President really like?  they asked me.

He was wise for his age, I said, wise in the ways of government.  He was one of the rare combinations of youth, wisdom, devotion, gaiety, and humor.  He worked hard, yet played hard.  He enjoyed his job.  He had great ambitions for the peace of the world -- and if he had loved I think he would have achieved that peace.

We studied as few other Presidents have studied; he knew the intimate details of government.  He had the ability to absorb figures, to read like lightening; his memory was phenomenal.  Yet, with it all, the milk of human kindness flowed flush in his veins.  There was nothing metallic about him.  He was methodical without being mechanical.

-- Acknowledge Mistakes --

Yes, he made mistakes, but he never ducked responsibility for them -- as after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.  And he grew with the mistakes.

His greatest growth came last summer with his speech at American University -- a Woodrow Wilson masterpiece -- charting the course of the United States toward the only possible goal in this atomic age -- coexistence.

And his sense of humor?  No other President since Franklin D. Roosevekt has had one like his.  It was fresh, spontaneous and natural.

I remember introducing him before about 800 people at a Big Brothers dinner with the usual introduction, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States."

Quick as a flash he came back:

"I trust," he said, "that the brevity of Drew's introduction was dictated by the convention.  I was hoping to get him on the record."

Naturally, one remembers the incidents that are personal.  I recall another incident when I was dining at the White House at a State Function in honor of President Betencourt of Venezuela.

Afterward, the Vice President, now President Johnson, told me of a little conversation which took place upstairs between Presidents Kennedy and Betancourt.

"When we go downstairs," Kennedy told Betancourt, "You will meets a newspaperman who has been a great friend of yours -- Drew Pearson.  I wish that he was as friendly to me as he is to you."

"In Venezuela," replied Betancourt, "You have a much better press than I do too."

Then there was the wisecrack Kennedy enjoyed telling when Prime Minister Lester Pearson of Canada was about to come see him at Hyannis Port.

Kennedy, talking to a group of radio and TV executives, got off this quip:

"I know you'll be interested in the meeting with the new Canadian Prime Minister, Lester Pearson, at Hyannis Port.  This meeting almost didn't come off.

"Serious complications arose when the Canadian Ambassador came to see me.  He was shuffling through some papers on my desk, managed to decipher some rather illegible handwriting, and noticed a notation which read, 'What will we do with this S.O.B. Pearson?'

"I had a hard time," President Kennedy said, "Explaining that this was a paper left over from the Truman Administration and that the Pearson referred to was Drew."

--- Suffering Brought Understanding --

There was an important difference between Jack Kennedy and his brother Bobby.  If anything, Rober Kennedy is more efficient than his late brother.  He works even harder, knows government extremely well.  But Bobby lacks the warmth, the understanding of human nature that featured his elder brother.

It was this great understanding of humanity that prompted Kennedy's drive for civil rights and his championship of the underdog.  Some people wondered how a young man so full of life, who loved gaiety, who enjoyed his friends from Hollywood, could be so serious, so determined in his crusade for the negroes and the less privileged.

I am sure it was the long period he spent in hospitals, recovering from his back injury, when he had nothing to do but reflect on the problems of mankind.

Sometimes I have thought that the thing that give the late President his depth of understanding was his suffering in World War II.  Before that, he was like the young and debonair Franklin D. Roosevelt before his attack of polio.  But with great human suffering, Roosevelt took on stature that eventually made him one of the great Presidents of the United States.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, with similar human suffering in the South Pacific, had acquired the same sympathy and understanding, and if a Texas assassin had not shot him down, he too would have become one of our great presidents.

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