Robert Caro Records a Greeting for ‘The Rockford Files’

This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I’ll get back to you.

I’ll get back to you, as Lyndon Johnson used to get back to members of Congress. Not in reprisal, but through a series of rituals—through an auditory exercise of the rites of power—where Johnson used the phone in the Oval Office, a green Western Electric Call Director, a 30-button rotary dial phone that lay on his desk, the Johnson desk, a two-pillar mahogany desk with decorative curves and bulbous feet; that had lain there after Jack Kennedy’s desk, the Resolute desk, had been removed and included in a traveling exhibition with the Kennedy Presidential Library; that lain there ever since Johnson, in an attempt to exorcise the most potent symbol of his predecessor, in a flash of Johnsonian pride and pettiness, in a flashback to 1,000 days compressed into a never-ending day, a day that would never end so long as that desk—the desk beneath which John F. Kennedy, Jr. played, behind which President Kennedy led the nation—so long as that desk stayed, so too would the ghost of the slain president.

In the meantime, read Working by Robert Caro.


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