Robert Novak on LBJ on March 31, 1960: "drunk as a loon"
But LBJ knew what I was writing about him as indicated in a bizarre incident two months after my liberal revolt column. Late in the evening of March 31, 1960, I was drinking in the Members Bar of the Press Club with my good friend Bob Jensen of the Buffalo Evening News (as I often did after my marriage collapsed). Somebody burst into the bar to say LBJ was in the club's ballroom, "drunk as a loon." Jensen and I went to check.
The report was not exaggerated. Johnson was attending the seventieth birthday celebration of Bascom Timmons, a famous Texas journalist who headed his own Washington news bureau. To my surprise, found the majority leader without aides or limo. LBJ, who until then showed little interest in me and absolutely no affection, spotted me and wrapped one of his long arms around me. "Bob," I like ("lahk" was the Texas pronunciation) you," he drawled drunkenly, "but you don't like me." He chanted it over and over, embracing me and swirling me in a little dance.
Celebrants at the Timmons birthday party, mostly Texans, were as drunk as Johnson, and uninterested in saving the majority leader from embarrassment. So, Bob Jensen and I guided the much taller man to the elevator, down to the National Press Building's 14th Street lobby, and out into a taxi to be taken home.
The next day, a cool, immaculately groomed Senator Johnson was seated, as usual, in the majority leader's chair on the Senate floor prior to the noon convening time. That was the only time reporters were permitted on the floor, huddled around Johnson's chair for five minutes of questions and answers. Johnson often, as he did on this occasion, kept his eyes down reading what was in front of him and then looked up suddenly, registering seeming surprise at seeing himself surrounded by reporters. When he did that this time, he stared at me, exclaiming: "Well, Novak, saw you at the Press Club last night. Got a little drunk out, didn't it?" The other reporters chuckled appreciatively, thinking it was I who had been "a little drunk," as LBJ intended.
[Robert Novak, "The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years of Reporting in Washington," p. 56-57]