Of all the second acts in American public life, none has amazed me more than that of Bill Moyers. He spent the first decade of his adult life as one of Lyndon Johnson's dirtiest henchmen. His work on Johnson's vicious 1964 presidential campaign is probably worth an entire book by itself: Moyers helped thwart the seating of an integrated delegation from Mississippi at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, and asked the FBI to investigate 15 members of the Senate staff of Johnson's opponent, Barry Goldwater. Other lowlights include Moyers giving the FBI the okay to spread dirty stories about Martin Luther King's sex life, and his ongoing role spinning fanciful tales about the war in Vietnam as Johnson's press secretary from 1965 to 1967.
Yet somehow none of that has stopped Moyers from posing as the conscience of the American press for most of the past four decades, mostly in various screechy PBS shows. Without any apparent sense of irony, he viciously excoriates the U.S. press for its supposed subservience to the White House on Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror. Amazingly, when Moyers is ranting that the Bush administration fabricated everything about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, nobody ever asks him about the Johnson administration's fantastical account of the imaginary 1964 attack in the Tonkin Gulf that became the excuse for the Vietnam war, an account he helped to construct.Everything about Moyers' years with Johnson has somehow vanished down the memory hole.
Now another load of Moyers' dirty laundry has appeared on the clothesline. On Thursday, the Washington Post published a story based on newly revealed documents that show that the FBI investigated rumors that Johnson aide Jack Valenti (later the head of the Motion Picture Association of America) was gay. The documents also show that Moyers asked the FBI to investigate two other Johnson administration figures who were "suspected as having homosexual tendencies."
Moyers, questioned about the documents by Post reporters, replied that his memory was hazy. Don't worry, Bill; if past history is any indication, pretty soon our memories will be hazy, too.