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Robert Caro Shares Reporting Tips from His Legendary Career Exposing Dealings of LBJ & Robert Moses

Web ExclusiveApril 29, 2019
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Web-only conversation with the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Robert Caro. His new book is “Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing.” Caro talks about his early journalism career, researching “The Power Broker” and his continuing work on the life and times of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We are joined by Robert Caro in Part 2 of our interview with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, as well as one of the books of The Years of Lyndon Johnson. He’s written four, writing a fifth right now, won it for Master of the Senate. Robert Caro’s most recent best-selling book is simply titled Working, its subtitle, Researching, Interviewing, Writing. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Robert Caro, I wanted to ask you—one of the stories you tell in Working is of your early start, right here in central New Jersey at The Home News of New Brunswick, and the lesson that you learned one Election Day about how power is really wielded, how political power and economic power is really wielded in America. Could you talk about that vignette?

ROBERT CARO: Yes. Well, that vignette really did a lot to shape my life. I worked for a newspaper in New Jersey that was a daily newspaper but was tied in very closely in New Brunswick with the Democratic political machine, so closely that the chief political reporter took a leave of absence—got a leave of absence every Election Day to write speeches for the political machine. He had a minor heart attack; he needed a substitute. I was picked, so I would write speeches. And in the course of it, I sort of became—there was a tough, old political boss in New Brunswick, and for some reason he took a shine to me. And, you know, my salary at Newsday was $52 a week, at the New Brunswick paper. But every time I’d write a speech that he liked, he’d take out this wad of $50 and $100 bills and peel off, you know, a few and give them to me. I really liked that aspect of the job.

But then the following thing happened. He said to me, “You’ll ride the polls with me on Election Day.” I didn’t even know what “riding the polls” meant. But he was in his big car, and for that day his chauffeur was replaced by a police captain. I didn’t know why at first. We drive from polling place to polling place. The machine controlled things in New Brunswick then. And at each polling place a patrolman would come over to the car, and the police captain and my boss would roll down their windows, and the policeman would say something like “Everything’s under control.” But as we pulled up to one polling place, there was a police paddy wagon, and policemen were herding—that’s, they weren’t “herding” them, but they were nudging, with their nightsticks, into the paddy wagon, a group of demonstrators, protesters—all of them, in my memory, African Americans, well-dressed, young people. More paddy wagons were pulling up. Police were herding more people in.

All of a sudden, something happened to me, and all I wanted was to get out of that car. I didn’t want to be in that big car with the boss. I wanted to be out with the protesters. It’s just that hit me as I had never—I had never even thought about that before. At the next stop, I don’t remember saying one word to him. At the next time their car stopped, I simply opened the door and got out. I don’t remember him saying a word to me. I felt he must have understood, because he never called me. I never heard from him again. But that night, I remember going home and talking with Ina and saying, “I have to work for a newspaper that fights for things.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, you later went on, obviously, to work for Newsday, which, of course, was largely a Long Island newspaper, although it had a New York edition at one time. But I wanted to ask you about a great Long Island story that is in The Power Broker

ROBERT CARO: OK.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —about Robert Moses and the building of the Van Wyck Expressway, when even his—of course, the Van Wyck Expressway is famed for being basically a parking lot, every morning and every evening, for commuters. But the the story of how even Moses’s own people, when he was condemning the land to build the Van Wyck Expressway, suggested that he build it a little wider so that eventually he could run mass transit through the middle of it, and he refused to do so. Of course, for generations, New Yorkers paid the price for Moses’s refusal to build a little wider on that expressway and possibly pave the way for mass transit, not just cars.

ROBERT CARO: Yes, well, that’s the story of so many of his highways, the Long Island Expressway, too. You know, when he started building that, in about 1951—I don’t quite remember the right year—a lot of Nassau County was still rural. Suffolk County was largely farms. Land was really cheap. So he’s buying the land for this mighty road. He’s buying 200 feet of right-of-way, which was enough for six or eight lanes of a highway. People said, “If you don’t put rapid transit, a light rail line down the center of that highway, everybody on Long Island is going to be condemned, to an extent they wouldn’t before, to use automobiles. If you will just put a light rail line, people who want to use their cars and have suburban homes, they can have those, but close to the stations, as in areas that are built up already, people could live in apartment houses. They could use the trains to get back and forth.” Moses was determined that that wasn’t going to happen. He said he wasn’t going to do it. Then they said, “Listen, please.” And everybody was asking him, “Please, if you won’t build a light rail on there, at least buy 40 more feet, 200 to 240 feet, of right-of-way.” You need 40 feet for a light rail line. “If you do that, when it comes time and people want a light rail line, they can build it. If you don’t do—land is so cheap now, it’s nothing to buy this land. If you build this road and land prices escalate and population comes in, you’re never going to be able to build it.” He refused to buy the additional right-of-way. Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Caro, this leads to the question: What do you mean everyone is begging Robert Moses? How did he gain this kind of power? And, you know, this goes to an issue today of the Green New Deal, the idea you need a Robert or Roberta Moses once again to now re-engineer everything that is all about mass transit. Or, is it not about one person, but movements? How did he accumulate this power, where people just didn’t overthrow him and say, “We’re going to build it our way”?

ROBERT CARO: Well—

AMY GOODMAN: He wasn’t even elected.

ROBERT CARO: No, he wasn’t elected. His power came, very largely, from money. You know, he was, as I say, a political genius. So, he wrote this legislation that he couldn’t be removed as head of an authority. I’m oversimplifying dramatically. So, you said—

AMY GOODMAN: And he was head of the?

ROBERT CARO: Oh, all the—the Triborough Bridge Authority, the Jones Beach State Park Authority, the Henry Hudson Bridge Authority, the Bethpage State Park Authority—I think 12 different authorities. So, you and I look at a bridge—or I, anyway, looked at a bridge as a bridge. Robert Moses looked at it as a source of pure power, because what is a bridge? Where does the money—when he sells, the authority sells the bonds to build a bridge, where does that money go? Goes to insurance agencies, for example. It’s before the age of terrorism; the bridge is never going to fall down. Whatever insurance brokers he gives the premiums to, they’re just going to be collecting money for the rest of their life. He parceled out who got the insurance premiums on the basis of who controlled how many votes in the state Legislature in Albany. The public relations premiums went to the right public—politically connected public relations firm. The right contractors built the bridge. So, it wasn’t that—he was the system. It wasn’t that he was working outside. He made himself the system of building public works in New York. His power was absolute in this way, and it stayed this way for 44 years, for almost half a century.

AMY GOODMAN: You describe overhearing Moses on the phone saying, “They expect me to build playgrounds for that scum floating up from Puerto Rico.”

ROBERT CARO: He was—and it’s not funny at all anymore when I think about it—he was the most racist human being I think I’ve ever come in contact with. That quote that you just said—he had one telephone on his desk so that no matter who was calling him—the mayor, the governor—they had to wait 'til he was done with the call that he was on. I remember he took a call from somebody; I never knew who it was. I think it was a mayor, but I don't know. He was just enraged. You have to see Robert Moses in a rage. I mean, this was a frightening man. And he had this gesture. He slammed the phone down, and he did this: “They expect me to build playgrounds for that scum floating up from Puerto Rico.”

You know, he was in fact Jewish, but he insisted that he was not Jewish. So there came a time when I had to bring this up, because he ran against Herbert Lehman for governor in 1934. It was the first time in the history of America that two Jews had run for a governorship. As soon as I touched this subject—and, believe me, I touched it as gingerly as possible—he said, “You really haven’t done your homework, young man.” I said, “Well, Commissioner,” I said, “there is a school of thought that says if your mother is Jewish and your two grandmothers are Jewish and your four great-grandmothers are Jewish, that you are Jewish.” His only answer was, “You really haven’t done your homework, young man.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Robert Caro, I’m wondering if you could talk about two of Robert Moses’s defeats. One was his attempt to build an expressway across Lower Manhattan, where community opposition stopped him, and the last great defeat when Nelson Rockefeller ended his power.

ROBERT CARO: Well, Robert Moses, at one time, wanted to build three wide expressways right across Manhattan Island. You’re talking about the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would go through what is now SoHo, Broome Street. I think that road would have been like eight lanes wide, right across Manhattan Island. One would have been, I recall, at 34th Street, up in the air, huge expressway cutting right through buildings. One would have been at 125th Street.

By this time it was the 1960s, and what was happening was also Governor Rockefeller was moving against him. And thanks to a—even Robert Moses couldn’t think of everything. The one thing he hadn’t anticipated was that the governor would be against him, and the head of the bank that held the bonds for his bridges, the Chase Manhattan Bank, would be the governor’s brother, David Rockefeller. He had always known that the bond contracts would keep him in power, because the underwriter would sue, to anyone who tried to remove him. But all of a sudden he realizes the governor’s brother isn’t going to support him. The governor’s brother is, in effect, going to support the governor. But I say that took 44 years to come about.

AMY GOODMAN: Your books are legendary in length, as well as the quality of the reporting and taking on power, but still so much was cut out of your books.

ROBERT CARO: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the chapter on Jane Jacobs that didn’t make it. Most importantly, talk about Jane Jacobs herself.

ROBERT CARO: Well, you’re talking about the most painful thing, really, possibly that’s happened to me. Power Broker, as you read it, as you say, is long. It’s about 700,000 words. The manuscript that I gave to Knopf, my publisher, was 1,050,000 words. So, at that time, they couldn’t bind this. They didn’t have what they call now perfect binding. I think that’s the phrase. The amount of pages that you have in The Power Broker, 1,300 and something, is the maximum number that could be bound up in a usable trade book. So they designed the pages to be readable but to have as many words on as possible, so it came out to about 700,000 words. So we had to cut 350,000 words. So, at times, we were just throwing out paragraphs. We were cutting paragraphs. It’s a blur of things that I don’t really remember.

As part of that, somehow this fight that Jane Jacobs waged against Robert Moses was all cut out. I didn’t even know that. The first time after the book was published someone said, “Where is the stuff on Jane Jacobs?” I probably said something like, “Oh, there’s not much—there’s enough of it there.” And the person said to me, “No, there’s nothing there.” I looked in the—that was one of the worst moments.

AMY GOODMAN: Because she was?

ROBERT CARO: Well, she was very important. She defeated Robert Moses on his attempt to run a Lower Manhattan expressway, but more to extend Fifth Avenue down through Washington Square Park. But more than that, Jane Jacobs understood what Moses never understood: the importance of people in a city, that you have to keep—I’m now summarizing and much oversimplifying it—that you have to make provision for community life, neighborhood life in New York.

You see, of all the things that’s happened—if you said, “What are cities, if you can try to sum them up in one word?” You say, well, Rome is power, Greece is glory. What’s New York? To me, New York, before Robert Moses, was home, a home to its citizens. We had these waves of immigration—the Italian immigration, the Irish immigration, the Jewish immigration. New York took them all in, made them all part of the city. New York was a home to all the peoples of the world. I identified, while I was doing The Power Broker—I believe this is right—21 separate neighborhoods that he destroyed to build his expressways and his urban renewal projects.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Bob Caro, in your new book, Working, you talk about the advice that a Newsday editor gave you, that you then basically followed for the rest of your life. Alan Hathway told you at one point, “Turn every page,” as a reporter. What did that mean to you, and how have you followed that throughout your life?

ROBERT CARO: Well, I’ll tell you how he came to say it. I was a Princeton graduate. Alan was the managing editor, was an old-school journalist out of the 1920s, the front-page era. He had a real mistrust of people who went to prestigious universities. So, no, literally—this was a big newspaper. I was the first graduate of an Ivy League college who had ever been hired to work in the Newsday city room. I was hired as a joke while he was on vacation, as a joke on him. And he wouldn’t talk to me. You know, I would walk by. He’d lumber by. I’d say, “Hello, Mr. Hathway! Hi, Mr. Hathway!” He’d never even look at me.

One weekend, by an accident, everybody else was at the Newsday picnic on Long Island. There were no cellphones then. No one could be gotten in touch with. And something happened: A tip came in about an investigation that Newsday was giving. And someone had to go down to the Federal Aviation Agency. Someone said they’d show someone the files if he came right down, the relevant files. I was the only one. So, finally, an editor said, “You have to go.” So I came back. Then I wrote. I worked. I was the low man on the totem pole in Newsday, so I worked Saturday afternoon and Saturday nights, because there was no Sunday paper. I just left a memo for the real reporters who came in Monday.

Monday morning, Alan’s secretary says to me, “Alan wants to see you right away.” I said to Ina, “See, I was right. We were right not to move, because I’m about to be fired.” So I drove in there, sure I’m going to be fired. And I walk across the city room, and I see this big head—he had a glass-enclosed office—bent over this paper. I’m standing in the doorway. I see the paper he’s reading is my memo. Finally he looks up at me, and he said, “I didn’t know someone from Princeton could do digging like this. From now on, you do investigative work.” I said, “But I don’t know anything about investigative work.” And Alan said—looked at me for a long time, and then he said, “Just remember one thing: Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddamn page.” And I tried. You can’t do that, of course, but you try to turn as many as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to the Pulitzer Prize-winning—twice Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Caro, who has written four books on Lyndon B. Johnson, has written The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. You know, you just were talking about your experience at Newsday and, before that, the New Brunswick Daily Home News. You go on to write these epic investigative biographies. What about the loss of newspapers in the country today and what that means, as you see journalism, in the traditional sense, as taking on those in power, yet losing these papers?

ROBERT CARO: Yeah. I don’t think there’s anything more serious. I feel that a very basis of democracy, an informed public, is being pulled out from under us even as we live. And we think we’re living in the same country. Something very important isn’t the same, because the public simply—you know, it’s not that journalists are not as good. I mean, I’ve just been amazed at the reporting, the level, the high level, of reporting of what’s going on in Washington under the most difficult conditions. But I do think it’s harder and harder to get your voice, your discoveries heard.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this at a time when the president of the United States, Donald Trump, talks about the press as the enemy of the people.

ROBERT CARO: Of course, it’s James Madison, you know, who said, for the people really to have power, they have to be informed. You know, it’s—the word that gets me about all this is “facts,” that we can’t seem to agree that there are facts. Well, people say—you know, I say truth takes time. I mean, what I mean by that—it’s probably a bad way of summing it up—I don’t think there is a truth. There is never one truth, you know, I don’t think. But there are an awful lot of facts, objective facts, facts that are provable. And the more facts that you know, the closer you come to whatever truth there is. So, when there are facts and people can agree on the facts, can agree that there are facts, basically you say that’s a terribly, terribly significant thing that’s being said.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You met Lyndon Baines Johnson only once?

ROBERT CARO: Well, I didn’t quite meet him. We shook hands once, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about that. What did you see? What happened? What was that moment?

ROBERT CARO: I was a substitute—I could do that very fast: very little. I was a substitute political reporter in the 1964 campaign against Goldwater. I think I covered him for a three-day swing through New England. I was never on the pool plane. We never talked. He once came over to a bunch of us, you know, a bunch of reporters, and shook everybody’s hand. I shook his hand. What do I remember? Very little.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I’m going to ask that question that you ask everyone you interview: What did you see?

ROBERT CARO: Oh, great question, because what I saw—you know, I didn’t realize this until I turned to write, in this volume I’m doing now, what he was like—

AMY GOODMAN: The fifth volume of Lyndon Johnson.

ROBERT CARO: The fifth volume. What was he like in this campaign? This overwhelming physical force. I mean, he was—you know, you say, “What made him so impressive?” You know, first place, he was big, huge the time, almost 6’4”, broad, huge hands, you know, always reaching, grabbing, you know. But it was more. It was a force that came out of him. When he walked into a room, there was a power, you know, that Robert Moses had the same thing. You wouldn’t have to know who they were to know they were somebody.

And when he talked—I remember watching him—I’d never seen him in person before—giving speeches in these little towns in New England, and—oh, I could tell you a funny—I just remembered something I had completely forgotten. The other thing was his tremendous energy. Now here’s the—in 1964, he’s so far ahead of Goldwater, they are saying he might be the Democrat—he might be the first Democrat in whatever 100 years who would ever capture New England. So I’m supposed to do two stories for Newsday every day. One is the main, and one is the sidebar. And the sidebar is, you’re supposed to jump out at every town that he goes through, talk to a couple of the bosses, find out what validity there is to this. Will he really capture? Is there really a chance he’ll capture New England? But he was moving so fast that every time I jump out of the bus, or other reporters would jump out, he’d be shaking hands and jump back in. So, at the end of the day—I forget when the deadline was at Newsday; it was something like midnight or something—I call my editor, and I say, “Well, I’m good on the main story, but I’m afraid I don’t have a sidebar with you.” And he says, “Well, then there’s going to be a large white space on the front of the paper tomorrow.” So, that taught me, you sit down and write something, even if it’s just your impression.

AMY GOODMAN: Who was Luis Salas, the man you looked for, for so long?

ROBERT CARO: Well, Luis Salas was the key to—you know, in Lyndon Johnson’s career, there came a time, 1948, he’s running for the Senate in Texas. His career, otherwise, has sort of come to an end. He either wins this election, or his career is over. He intends to leave politics, if he loses, and go into business. He’s running against a very popular governor of Texas. There’s a lot of vote stealing going on. And after thousands of votes are stolen, with six days left, he’s still behind, by a few votes, to the governor of Texas, a man named Coke Stevenson.

Six days after the election, a ballot box, number 13, from Alice County—it’s called Box 13—is “found”—I’m putting “found” in quotation marks—in the desert. And it contains 200 votes for Lyndon Johnson. The votes are in alphabetical order, we know now. They’re cast in alphabetical order, and they’re all in the same handwriting. But for all those years, Johnson’s people—Johnson and Johnson’s people deny that he stole the election. And it’s always written—every book, every article, I think, says no one will ever know if Lyndon Johnson stole the election or not.

But, in fact, there was a federal court hearing into this election, and a man named Luis Salas was on the stand. He is the presiding election judge at Box 13. He’s a pistolero, an enforcer for the political boss down there, huge, burly man, who—he wore a gun on his hip that the barrel was so long that it went on down almost to his knee. He’s on the stand, when the judge is, in effect, saying, “Now we’re about to open the ballot box.” And he’s going to have to look at these ballots that were put in the box that he supervised, when a man runs into this courtroom down in Texas with an order from a federal judge, from a Supreme Court justice, Hugo Black, saying the hearing is to be stopped and never to be resumed.

But I found out that Luis Salas was still alive. And I said, “I’m not going to write this book unless I find him, do my best to find him.” Let me tell you, that’s—you ask why my books take so long. He had moved back to Mexico. He had once murdered a man in a barroom brawl. He moved around a lot. That’s what they kept saying. It was hard finding him. In fact, he had moved back to Texas, I finally found out, and was living in a trailer behind his daughter’s home in Houston. So I didn’t want to give him a chance to say he wouldn’t talk to me. I didn’t call in advance. I just showed up.

And I knock on the door, and, you know, it was funny, because I’m writing about this, you know, 6-foot-1-inch burly guy. I expect to be looking up at this guy when he opens the door. Instead, he’s 84 years old. I’m looking down at this frail, little man. So I say something like, “My name is Bob Caro, and I’m looking into the 1948 election.” Without a word, he says, “Then you want to know about Box 13. Come in.” And he says, “You know, I have written it all down.” Because he felt he was going to die soon, he had written a 94-page manuscript about how he actually stole those 200 votes and gave Lyndon Johnson the election. I didn’t know it—

AMY GOODMAN: And what was it like for you to get this at that moment?

ROBERT CARO: Well, what you’re worried about—you’re a reporter—is: Is he going to deny it when you write it? You know? So, you’re reading his manuscript. It’s filled with, you know, exact descriptions. So, I remember my heart was in my throat. I said to him, “Can we go somewhere and copy this?” You know, so we went over to a 7-Eleven, as I remember. They had a copying machine. And we stood there copying. And I have that manuscript in a drawer in my desk right now, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So you found Luis Salas.

ROBERT CARO: I did.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about interviewing LBJ’s brother.

ROBERT CARO: Well, that’s a long—that’s a long story. Well, Lyndon Johnson’s brother, Sam Houston Johnson, of course, when I started on the Johnson books, I spent a lot of time interviewing him. And I came to the conclusion that I was just wasting my time, because he drank a lot. You know, he was one of these boastful Texan-type guys. Whenever I came to check out a story—you know, I was hearing all these stories about Lyndon Johnson when he was a young man, how ruthless he was, you know, how he created his first political machine, what he was like with the first elections he stole in college. And I was hoping he’d give me, you know, real details on them, Sam Houston, but everything he told me, when I came to check it, turned out to be false. So I thought he was just full of braggadocio. You know, I wasn’t going to spend any more time with him.

So, I don’t see him for perhaps a year. I had heard that during that year he had had sort of a terrible operation for cancer. I had heard he had stop drinking and become, you know, religious. One day I’m walking around Johnson City. I used to spend a lot of time just strolling around, talking to people there. And I see him coming towards me. He’s using a cane. He’s obviously very crippled, quite frail. And I said, “Let’s have a cup of coffee together.” So we go to this cafe, and we start talking, and I found I was sitting—this is poignant—I was sitting next to a very different man than the man I had known a year ago. He was quiet, you know. So I decided to make another try.

By this time I knew that whatever it was that drove Lyndon Johnson with this desperate ambition that everybody talked about, whatever it was that drove him, came out, to a large extent, in his relationship with his father, because he idolized—until he was 12 or 13, he idolized his father. His father was a state representative, idealistic, populist representative. Lyndon Johnson once said, “The happiest days of my boyhood was when I would go campaigning with him from farm to farm, because everyone loved him and respected him.” But when Johnson is—I forget now, it’s either 12 or 13—Sam—his father’s name is Sam Houston—Sam Ealy Johnson—makes this one terrible mistake. He overpays to buy this big ranch on the Pedernales River. He overpays so badly that they lose it almost immediately. They have to live—so, Lyndon Johnson lives the rest of his boyhood in a little home in Johnson City, that every month they’re afraid the bank is going to take the home away. There’s often no food in the house, because the mother is sick, so people have to bring charity-covered plates to dinner. And Lyndon Johnson—and the father becomes the laughingstock of the town, because he had been a big figure, now he can’t pay any bills. And Johnson’s feelings to his father turn to hatred. So, I wanted to try to get Sam Houston to tell me all the detail that he could muster up, accurately, what the relationship between the father and Lyndon were, right?

And so, what I did was the following thing. I got permission from the National Park Service to take Sam Houston into the Johnson boyhood home, the recreated home, very accurately recreated, after the tourists were gone for the day. And we were all alone. So I took him into the dining room. They had a long plank table. There’s a high-back chair for the father on one end, the mother at the other end. The three sisters, the three—Lyndon’s three sisters sat on one side, and he and Sam Houston sat on the other. So I said to Sam Houston, “So, now, sit down in the place you sat at dinner.” I, as it happened, didn’t sit down at the table to take notes. I decided to sit behind him, because I didn’t want anyone at that table who wasn’t a Johnson, I wrote. And then I said, “Now, Sam Houston, I’d like you to tell me about these terrible arguments that your father and Lyndon had at dinner.” Went very slowly, you know? First, you say, “Well, then what would happen? Then what would happen?” But gradually, as he’s sitting there in this place he sat, that he was a boy, between his father and Lyndon, he starts remembering. And he says—you know, and shouting, actually, back and forth—”Lyndon, you’re a failure! You’ll always be a failure!” “Well, what are you? You’re a bus inspector!”

You know, then I said to him—and it was really a crucial moment in my trying to understand Lyndon Johnson—I said—now I felt he was really back in remembering things accurately. I said, “I’d like you to tell me again those wonderful stories that you told me before, the stories that all people have always been telling about Lyndon Johnson as a young man. Just give me some more details.” And this was another moment, you know, that you never forget. As I remember it, there was a long pause, and he said, “I can’t.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “Because they never happened.” And then, without any other prompting, Amy, he just started talking a whole different life of the young Lyndon Johnson. It’s the life that’s in my book, because this time when I went back to the other people involved in each incident, they said, “Yes, that’s what’s happened,” and they give me more details, and they confirm it. So we had a whole different picture of Lyndon Johnson’s boyhood.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I know you have to go, and I’m wondering, as you wrap up your final book on Lyndon Johnson, is there someone you’re still trying to get, to pursue, to tell you the stories of Lyndon Johnson at the end of his presidency?

ROBERT CARO: Well, one person: Bill Moyers. Every other person who was close to Johnson, I think I’ve talked to. Some of them wouldn’t talk to me for 20 years but then came around and talked to me. I think the only person who was close to Johnson, left alive, who will not talk to me at all is Bill Moyers.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you know why?

ROBERT CARO: No.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for spending this time with us and for sharing this last book reflecting on your own work, before you write your 700-page memoir, but this book called Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing. We’ve been spending the hour with Robert Caro, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York and Master of the Senate, part of The Years of Lyndon Johnson four-book series. We’re waiting for the fifth.

Go to Part 1 for the first part of this interview. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks so much for joining us.

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From LBJ to Robert Moses: Robert Caro on Writing About Political Power & Its Impact on the Powerless

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