Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"There's no question that he wanted to sotto-voce the whole thing"

Jack Valenti (far left), Lyndon Johnson,
Jacqueline Kennedy
One of the small joys of H.R. McMaster's Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam was that two of the most vacuous utterances McMaster quotes come from the mouth of a man who would later head the Motion Picture Association of America.

The man is Jack Valenti, an aide to Lyndon Johnson when Johnson was ushering in the modern era of presidential lying, misleading Congress, and evading the Constitution.

McMaster quotes Valenti several times in the book's final chapters, once in the stilted declaration that LBJ was "in the middle of the biggest legislative fight of Johnson's history" and another time admitting that "There's no question that he wanted to sotto-voce the whole thing."

Sotto-voce the whole thing, presumably said with a straight face? The man was born to be a macher in movies.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger seana graham said...

I like it. I hope to be able to work it into a conversation one day.

October 30, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

There's a poignant bit near the end of the book where McMaster quotes Gen. Harold Johnson, the Army chief of staff at the time, as looking back at 1964 and 1965 and agonizing over his silence. Johnson's inaction, McMaster says, "haunted him for the rest of his life."

If Johnson had been Jack Valenti, he'd have said: "I can't believe I sotto-voced the whole thing."

October 30, 2013  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

I don't have that much of a problem with verbing nouns. Now, start nouning verbs, and I'll have to cut you.

October 30, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Valenti verbed an adjective, that creative genius.

October 30, 2013  
Blogger Unknown said...

If you like McMaster, you'll also like Sabato's new book, The Kennedy Half-Century, which I have reviewed for the online site, BookLoons (to be posted in ten days).

People of our age--baby-boomers--have certainly had our share of politicians with questionable values and abilities.

October 30, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll look for it; thanks. I came to the book not via an interest in Kennedy or Johnson but rather because Thomas E. Ricks cites the book with approval in his excellent book The Generals, about which I have posted several times recently here. More than anything else, I was interested in how political leaders work with and manipulate their generals.

As for baby boomers and their politicians, I found myself comparing and contrasting Johnson's way, including concealment and subterfuge, with Nixon's, Reagan's, and Clinton's. I may put up a post about that.

October 30, 2013  

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