LBJ was very much a dog man.
In short story called On Exactitude in Science, Jorge Luis Borges (after Lewis Carroll) imagines a map of the world that is on exactly the same scale as the world itself. Robert Caro, for his multi-volume, insanely detailed life of Lyndon Johnson, seems to have adapted that concept to biography. I am ashamed to say that I haven't read any of it, yet, but I intend to, and fully expect it to be as marvellous as everyone says.
To review Caro's latest volume, The Passage of Power, the New York Times has hired one of its occasional reviewers, a chap called Bill Clinton. Young Clinton does a great job, as you would expect. His review breathes admiration for LBJ, in particular for his unrivalled skills of personal persuasion:
In sparkling detail, Caro shows the new president’s genius for getting to people — friends, foes and everyone in between — and how he used it to achieve his goals. We’ve all seen the iconic photos of L.B.J. leaning into a conversation, poking his thick finger into a confidant’s chest or wrapping his long arm around a shoulder. At 6 foot 4, he towered over most men, but even seated Johnson commanded from on high. Caro relates how during a conversation about civil rights, he placed Roy Wilkins and his N.A.A.C.P. entourage on one of the couches in the Oval Office, yet still towered over them as he sat up close in his rocking chair. And he didn’t need to be in the same room — he was great at manipulating, cajoling and even bullying over the phone.
He knew just how to get to you, and he was relentless in doing it.
If you were a partisan, he’d call on your patriotism; if a traditionalist, he’d make his proposal seem to be the Establishment choice. His flattery was minutely detailed, finely tuned and perfectly modulated. So was his bombast — whatever worked.
Part of the fun of reading the review is the sense of Clinton measuring himself against LBJ; after all, Bill was pretty good at this stuff too. And perhaps there is an implicit contrast with the current incumbent of the White House, who has nothing like the same 'in-the-room' ability to win hearts and minds - and votes.