Washington Merry-Go-Round: The Drew Pearson Diaries, 1960-1969

Washington Merry-Go-Round: The Drew Pearson Diaries, 1960-1969

Washington Merry-Go-Round: The Drew Pearson Diaries, 1960-1969

Washington Merry-Go-Round: The Drew Pearson Diaries, 1960-1969


For most of three decades, Drew Pearson was the most well-known journalist in the United States. In his daily newspaper column--the most widely syndicated in the nation--and on radio and television broadcasts, he chronicled the political and public policy news of the nation. At the same time, he worked his way into the inner circles of policy makers in the White House and Congress, lobbying for issues he believed would promote better government and world peace. Pearson, however, still found time to record his thoughts and observations in his personal diary. Published here for the first time, Washington Merry-Go-Round presents Pearson's private impressions of life inside the Beltway from 1960 to 1969, revealing how he held the confidence of presidents--especially Lyndon B. Johnson--congressional leaders, media moguls, political insiders, and dozens of otherwise unknown sources of information. His direct interactions with the DC glitterati, including Bobby Kennedy and Douglas MacArthur, are featured throughout his diary, drawing the reader into the compelling political intrigues of 1960s Washington and providing the mysterious backstory on the famous and the notorious of the era.


Richard Norton Smith

His name is largely forgotten today, but for the middle third of the twentieth century, from Herbert Hoover and the Bonus Army to Richard Nixon’s Silent Majority, Drew Pearson enjoyed unrivaled journalistic influence and visibility. As many as sixty million Americans began their day with his Washington Merry-Go-Round column, a readership far outstripping that of the Olympian Walter Lippmann or gossipy Walter Winchell. a one-man media conglomerate, Pearson spilled official secrets in best-selling books long before Bob Woodward was born. Though he gained no more than a foothold in the infant medium of television, he dominated the radio airwaves via the abc network. and when Hollywood in 1951 needed an instantly recognizable face to combat the onscreen hysteria gripping Washington in the science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, the role inevitably went to Drew Pearson.

His casting made even more sense if the film is seen as a metaphor for the contemporary panic sweeping American politics, coming not from outer space but wherever Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-WI) set up shop to peddle his highly personal brand of Cold War paranoia. That “Tail-Gunner Joe” should have Pearson for a nemesis was hardly surprising, given the columnist’s leftof-center politics and open disdain for McCarthy’s red-baiting allies on the House Un-American Activities Committee. Though himself a former Pearson source, McCarthy invited attacks from the powerful columnist after he went public with claims the State Department under Secretary Dean Acheson was riddled with Communist agents.

Here was one merry-go-round McCarthy was eager to get off, though not before settling scores with his journalistic tormentor. the opportunity presented itself the night of December 12, 1950, when the junior senator from Wisconsin encountered Pearson and his wife, Luvie, at Washington’s posh Sulgrave Club. “How long are they going to let you stay out of jail?” Pearson . . .

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