Books: Goldman's Variations

THE TRAGEDY OF LYNDON JOHNSON, by Eric F. Goldman. 531 pages. Knopf. $8.95.

History, Jean-Paul Sartre once observed, is a bad joke played by the present upon the past. The perception has more to do with the inevitable bias of historians than with history itself. It emphasizes, however, the value of the practice that allowed a suitable interval to elapse before the present tried to judge the past. Today Presidents have taken to employing historians as personal aides, partly in the hope that they will be written up lovingly. Sometimes they are—witness Arthur Schlesinger's study of John F. Kennedy. And sometimes the...

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