This book provides amazing insights to the individuals and workings of our national political system in the late 1950's- 60's. It is not pretty but it is honest. The contradictions within LBJ are beyond imagination. A powerful political leader as we do not see today, but a human figure with failings as well as strengths. I am looking forward to the next book.
I must admit that I am not a great fan of Lyndon B. Johnson-especially since I place great blame on him for the Vietnam war. That being said, upon finishing this book I acquired a great deal of respect for President Johnson- especially in light of the way he handled himself during the time period that is covered in this book. The humiliation that he faced while serving as Vice President and his ability to hold up to being ostracized by the Kennedy White House inner circle during the Kennedy Administration are very well portrayed in this book- and have in part changed my opinion of him. But my greatest respect for him is reserved for the way in which he almost single handedly pushed through the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As he always does, the author does a great job in describing and analyzing all of the events from Johnson's election as Vice President to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Grover Gardner does a great job (as he almost always does) narrating the book. I am really looking forward to his next volume on Johnson's life.
This book is well worth the listen.
I read this after reading "Master of the Senate" because I was hooked on Caro's analysis of power--it's acquisition, it's manipulation, and what happens when a leader no longer has power. "Master of the Senate" was about how LBJ transformed what used to be considered a nothing job--Senate majority leader--into a bastion of power. It's a wonderful description of how--and why--he then used all of his talents at manipulating his power to pass the 1957 Civil Rights Act. In "The Passage of Power," LBJ has become JFK's vice president--a position with no power under which he chafes, until he is suddenly elevated to power by the assassination. And it gives fascinating insights into the LBJ-RFK feud. I can't wait for Caro's next volume in the series on the Vietnam War. I only wish the first two volumes of the series were available in an Audible format.
And speaking of Audible, I can't imagine a better narrator that Grover Gardner. He narrated both "Master of the Senate" and "The Passage of Power" superbly. I've thoroughly enjoyed listening to other books he's narrated. And I hope that if they do decide to record the first two books of Caro's LBJ series, that they pick Gardner to read them.
Passage of Power is one volume in the 4 volume set by Caro on LBJ. This volume focuses on the end of LBJ during the JFK administration and the the 5 years LBJ was President. The blood fude of Bobby Kennedy and LBJ comes through loud and clear as well as the plummeting approval rating he endured due to the malaise of the Vietnam War. The story of a man put out to pasture basically during his years as Vice President with little to no influence to his glory days as President. Crude and ruthless at times but he was the president who allowed African Americans their first opportunity to enter the voting booth.
LBJ is a charismatic character whether he is liked or not.
The deep hatred between Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy was shocking in its depth, intensity, and bitterness.
Several scenes at the Los Angeles Democratic convention in 1960 between then Presidential nominee John Kennedy and Johnson. Kennedy wanted Johnson whether to help carry Texas or simply to have Johnson removed as senate majority leader. Was the choice Kennedy's dad? Bobby Kennedy was appalled by the choice trying his best to removed Colonel Cornpone from the ticket.
Yes, if it were at all possible I would have.
Robert Caro has me anxiously awaiting the future LBJ vollume(s).
The author, Caro, alludes to Shakespearian tragedy in this analysis of power – flawed characters play out the repercussions of JFK’s assassination. Mere humans are required to have the perfection of Greek Gods in a background of global nuclear threat. After all, it had only been the year since the Cuban Crisis, and 13 years since MacArthur urged Truman to use nuclear force in Korea.
And, speaking of Truman. Caro argues that LBJ took power at a uniquely difficult time in history. But I think he understates Truman’s situation, taking over during a World War and deciding to use nuclear force to end the war.
Anyway, regardless, Johnson’s task was herculean. This contrasted with the reality of small human thinking as exemplified in the influential feud between Robert Kennedy and LBJ. Caro constructs a picture of LBJ’s vulnerabilities, and their causes. How frustrating (what an understatement!) to find that LBJ couldn't immediately transcend them upon becoming president. He was actually thinking that Robert Kennedy might be undermining him when the poor man would have been overwhelmed by shock and grief. On the other hand, LBJ did get to work immediately with very clear concepts of maintaining domestic and global stability and focused on continuity with the JFK administration. But first things first: he needed to be photographed taking the oath with Mrs Kennedy standing next to him to legitimise his ascension -- strategic thinking indeed.
Caro argues that LBJ was largely selected as Vice President to bring the southern vote and thereafter was significantly sidelined by the Kennedy administration. As a result, he was deeply frustrated by having no role, all his very considerable skills (notably in legislation) were unused, and he was a bored, overweight, unhappy man. So when he was called into action he was fulfilling his presidential aspirations but had to plead for help from the Kennedy teams because he simply did not know what was going on. Not only did he want to be an authentic leader, but also wanted to enact legislation that would lead to a more liberal society.
I felt Caro over explained LBJ. I was unimpressed by the argument that key personality traits resulted in disappointment for his father’s perceived ‘failures’ and how he aspired never to be like him and dreaded being so despised and rejected by society when forced into a life of supposed poverty and deprivation. I personally found LBJ’s filial disloyalty and complete lack of understanding abhorrent. Again, Caro praises him for his immediately clear minded response to leadership. But LBJ had been a soldier, (unheroic) and deaths in the field demand continuity and discipline. Of course he should react as he did – that was his job -- the VP was the nation’s life insurance to ensure leadership.
Furthermore,LBJ was a manipulative bully ( tears, gushing with compliments, delivering an unblinking stare). Unresolved question: was his authoritarian approach appropriate for this moment of history?
This book is full of the foibles of humanity. If the task of the historian is to draw lessons from the past, many lessons are offered in this pivotal moment in US and world history.
When the book ended with masterful and authoritative flourishes, I rather felt as if I had been reading Homer. The Greek gods decreed whether people and civilisations lived or died -- mere humans in power had the option to please or defy them. The rest of humanity was just, well, an adjunct to the Big Games.
All in all, a fascinating history, masterfully read by Grover Gardner who applies appropriate gravitas coupled with a lack of sentimentality.
This is a lesson in how government works in addition to a history lesson. The part about the Kennedy assassination made me cry just like I did when it happened and I was only 15 years old. The part about the passage of the civil rights legislation has more tension in it than many suspense novels I've listened to.
We shouldn't expect our governmental leaders to be without fault. Johnson had many, but he was a great man.
Now I'll need to spend my credits for the next few months listening to the earlier volumes on Johnson.
Avid general reader with a fondness for British and Irish Writers and world history.
You have to give LBJ credit (and I'm not an American). He could be abrasive but it is obvious that he had the best interest of his country in mind at all times. It is hard to imagine him being graceful but he took on the role at one of the most awkward and divisive times in American History with a grace which is surprising, given his background and history and with as significant dignity (in pubic) that must have made American's proud.
The story was well documented, which is frequently not the case, with biographies.
The subject of the book. Johnson was so full of conflict....good and bad. But he was still a good and decent man. Compare him to politicians today and you will find many of the same faults. But in the end....he got things done and that is what counts in a leader.
BIography...so it is all true. And Caro gets into every detail, conversation. He really makes you feel like you were there minute by minute.
No. Impossible....for me.
Caro's extraordinary research of details and intimate conversations provides an amazing view of how LBJ was able to implement and build on Kennedy's agenda. I listened as I walked and each step of journey was memorable. There are few historians that have captured a time and its politicians with the vibrancy and urgency of this writer.
His reading was smooth yet gripping and made this work of history as exciting as a novel