DEMOCRAT OPERATIVES WITH BYLINES, THEN AND NOW: “Drew Pearson is probably a forgotten name these days* to the young and ambitious racing about the capital. But few had more influence — and played on both sides of the journalist/politics boundary line quite as routinely — as Pearson during decades as one of the two or three most influential political columnists:”
His professional life involved very obvious quid pro quos; doing favors for powerful people by writing about something or, occasionally, not writing about something (like a senator’s tax-avoidance legislation to help a big company in his state).
Writing about a Kennedy press conference, he acknowledges that he’d wanted to assist Kennedy but didn’t get to his press secretary (Pierre Salinger) in time. “I had planned a question about the Free University of Cuba but couldn’t get hold of Salinger to coach Kennedy in advance.”
His was a world of exchanges where information was bartered. While he voted for Democrat Hubert Humphrey in 1968, he still withheld from readers knowledge that Republican candidate Richard Nixon had received psychotherapy. He was looking to get something in return.
He withheld, too, investigating tax breaks that then-Senator Lyndon Johnson had obtained for a Texas company in return for Johnson backing Pearson’s preferred Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. Years later, Pearson helped to write Johnson’s 1964 State of the Union address, though their relationship was complex and, yes, he was still a syndicated columnist.
He operated in a pantheon of potent columnists, led by Walter Lippman and Walter Winchell, with no real counterpart these days (perhaps Tom Friedman of The New York Times when it comes to issues of foreign affairs.).
The Friedman comparison is apt, considering the latter man’s pet phrases seem to wind up each year in Obama’s State of the Union addresses, and he’s a frequent golfing partner of our semi-retired president.
* I dunno — he was on the NFL’s All Decade Team of the 1970s…
(H/T: Kathy Shaidle.)