Although this installment of Caro's multi-volume series on LBJ ostensibly covers only the years 1958-early 1964, the author does a tremendous job exploring this period and presents a rich, engaging portrayal of a significant transition in the life of a politician. One drawback of an audible presentation of nonfiction is the reader's inability to peruse the footnotes or examine sources. There are, at least, several helpful references to other volumes of Caro's work where certain themes (e.g. LBJ's relationship to Sam Rayburn) have been explored in greater depth so one can explore the cross references in earlier installments. Passage to Power also makes several promises of issues to be addressed more fully in the final, forthcoming volume which I eagerly await. Although I have not read the earlier volumes in this series (but now plan to do so) this book has a stand alone quality. There's enough here---the rivalry between LBJ, Bobby Kennedy, and the other Kennedy men; the 1960 presidential campaign; Johnson's frustration with the powerlessness of the vice presidency; the ongoing or emerging issues surrounding civil rights, early phases of Vietnam, Cold War politics, etc--- to make for a satisfying, self-contained volume. Even the familiar events surrounding the Kennedy assassination are presented with a fresh, balanced perspective: one gets a sense of how this traumatic event must have seemed from LBJ's vantage point. Grover Gardner's narration is pitch perfect, much like the narration for an excellent, absorbing documentary, and kept me engaged from start to finish. Really a top notch effort all the way around.
Grover Gardner did his usual impeccable job of narration, but had one howler repeated several times. Referring to a group of cattle, he pronounced "Hereford heifers" as "HAIRY-ford HIGH-fers." Down on the LBJ Ranch they would say "HUR-ford HEFF-ers." This is not the strongest book in the series; I hope Robert Caro is not wearing out. He dismisses Johnson's possible involvement in either the JFK assassination or the subsequent cover-up in a couple of paragraphs, although the first section of the book provides Johnson with a surfeit of motive, consiglieri Ed Clark could have provided the means, and what better opportunity than a motorcade on Johnson's home turf to "take care of business"? Caro has done detailed research on Johnson's high crimes and misdemeanors (mainly extortion, influence-peddling, and fraud in this volume), but nonetheless adopts a hagiographic tone when referring to Johnson's legislative efforts on behalf of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For the first time in the series, Caro steps out of his role as impartial historian and acknowledges his own political views, writing with fervent approval of Johnson's Great Society programs and the "institutionalization of compassion" (an oxymoronic phrase if ever there was one). Still packed with fascinating details and a host of minutiae on Johnson and his era, this book suffers from an excessive focus on raw policy rather than the personalities and events that influenced policy. The Vietnam fiasco and Johnson's micro-mismanagement of the war should provide more spice in the next volume than the dry legislative issues in this one. I hope Robert Caro can hold on and hold out. He is 76 this year and looks every bit his age in recent photographs. These books are a monumental work and I hope Caro can complete the series and cement his legacy as the greatest biographer of our time.
Say something about yourself! I am a runner and avid listener to books. Audible allow me to do my two favorite things at the same time.
Grover Gardner provided an intimate narration of Robert Caro's book The Passage of Power. I knew little of the transition from Kennedy to Johnson and the truly remarkable job Johnson did with it. In fact it seemed almost too smooth. It seems obvious if it were not for Johnson's consummate knowledge of the how to pass legislation and how to work people to his advantage, the civil right's legislation of 1964 and 1965 would never have made it through with Kennedy.
This was a book I could not put down and it made me want to read the preceding books on Johnson and the next one to come.
You will be surprised and will perhaps wonder how Johnson managed all he did that first year. It is a bit eerie too thinking about the possibilities of conspiracy. None which seem to amount to anything.
The power of this work is in the detail, if you are looking for an overview of LBJ's life in the Senate, as VP, and as President this is not it. The book goes through each decision and the way it was arrived at with a precision that few historical writers would ever dare to attempt. Consider this, The Raise and Fall of the Third Reich is 1245 pages, it covers roughly 30 years of history and countless persons. The Passage of Power is 736 pages, it covers the years 1958 to 1964, and is basically about one man. His path to the Vice Presidency is riveting, especially the hatred he and Bobby Kennedy felt towards one another. The author really shines when he covers LBJ's immediate transformation from impetent Vice President to President in total command.
Most surprising to this reviewer was President Johnsons immediate understanding of his duties, the situation he was faced with, and his calm and commanding reaction to the circumstances. One cannot leave this work without an appreciation of LBJ's steady leadership and how he sheparded this nation through one of its darkest times.
The book is 700-plus pages. I find it easier to listen to longer books than read them. It may be because the earplugs mask out other distractions. Regrdless this is an excellent book. I read the first in the series as well. Caro is very detail oriented and paints pictures along the way to keep your interest from waning.
Obviously, the others in his series on President Johnson.
Great performer. Even when discussing "dry" subjects he made them interesting.
The one thing this book made me do was drive around the block once or twice on many occasions when listening in the car - waiting for a break in the narrative which made sense.
Great book. Great reader/performer. Unbelievably interesting, no mater what your political leanings.
Non-fiction, fiction--I read widely. Except bodice rippers. I'd rather pull my own eyelashes out than read romance. Avid, happy reader.
I'm a big fan of political history and biographies, and this didn't disappoint. I think it was Bill Clinton who said that history may prove kinder to LBJ in the future, and this book will likely make you agree. When I purchased it, I noticed a few reviews where people were upset at all the ground left to cover, but this is a four book biography, and I'm not sure how they missed the specific scope of this volume. It delivers exactly what is promised.
I'm not romanticizing LBJ--his role in Vietnam's escalation was too negative to forget--but this book reminds you about some of his major, positive contributions in getting things through the House and Senate in the face of overwhelming opposition on both sides of the aisle. The passing of the Civil Rights Act alone is a testament to the good this complicated president accomplished, and this book takes you behind the scenes to witness that it was far from an 'idea who's time has come' in the political arena. He didn't just shepard it through with a lot of support, and the book (like others I've read on the subject, but in greater detail that was fascinating) leaves little doubt that Johnson's skill in the Senate was likely the key to it's passage at the time. It would be truly interesting if we could glimpse what Kennedy might have accomplished if not for his horrible murder, but it's pretty clear that it might well have been far less than Johnson due to the gap in their legislative experience. I'm not knocking Kennedy there, but the tricks, manipulation, and maneuvering it required to defeat the tricks, manipulation, and maneuvering of opponents was breathtaking. In laying out the battle behind the scenes, Caro makes crystal clear that the fact that LBJ had employed all those skills himself as majority leader, and early indications of Kennedy's naiveté in that department, would almost certainly have led to failure if LBJ hadn't been at the wheel.
It's sort of a testament to the whims of history that his earlier, great, accomplishments were so overshadowed by his later, admittedly huge, mistakes. I think a fairer recollection would speak to a balance between these actions. Finally, it was fascinating to get a much fuller picture of him as a man, which was also a study in contrasts. He was frozen by fear of failure, and driven to become successful at the same time. Thoughtful and down-to-earth, while at other times, a corrupt tyrant and master of manipulation. Talk about a truly mixed bag.
Well worth the credit--and I love Grover Gardner's narration of any book.
The length of this book may be off-putting to some readers, but once you start reading it, you will find it to be as compelling as anything you have ever read. So many biographies are dry affairs that feel like homework, but Caro has written a page turner! I lived though all of this history, but Robert Caro brings it the era alive like nothing I have ever read before. The previous books were great also, but this covers one of the most fascinating times in the history of the United States. A beloved president assassinated in Dallas, with a man who was reviled in the White House for the previous 3 years assuming the mantle of leadership. Caro's depth of analysis, and ability to provide new insight into the time is like nothing I have ever read before.
Not historically a reader of, or particularly knowledgeable about, American history, I read an excerpt of this book that appeared in the New Yorker. It was riveting.
And now I can say the rest of the story is equally so. This may be my favorite audio book yet, not to mention one of the best books of any genre I've encountered recently.It is almost incomprehensible that so detailed an account of such a short period of time (this volume focuses mainly on a period lasting a mere seven months) could be so deeply engrossing.
While listening to it, everything else in my life became just time I was NOT spending listening. It blew my mind.
Mr. Gardner, the narrator, gave a flawless, pitch-perfect performance.
I feel better off for having experienced this book, and fully intend to devour everything else by Robert Caro that Audible has to offer.
This is the story of the relationship between LBJ and the Kennedys. LBJ was Texan with a straight forward personality who was brought up from poverty, knew what he wanted, and got it. The Kennedys, born into wealth and prestige, never had to work a day in their lives, with no real focus or overarching goals. If the Kennedys had enlisted the help of LBJ rather than to exhile him from the administration, perhaps JFK's presidency could have been monumental. But the Kennedys were too arrogant to ask for help from Rufus Cornpone. JFK is probably one of the least accomplished presidents of our time, although his loyalists went forth to write book after book, to establish the Kennedy mantra, to synthesize the history of Kennedy for the poor and downtrodden. LBJ is obsessed with civil rights and helping the poor, as a consequence of his upbringing in poor rural Texas. He accomplished more in the 11 days after the assassination than the entire Kennedy presidency. The Kennedys squandered their power on petty hates such as trying to pin something on Hoffa, or assassination plots and coups. RFK says during LBJ period of success with Great Society that it is all the work of JFK. JFK just didnt have enough time. There is a lot here I never heard before. LBJ bringing foreign dignitaries to his ranch to eat spare ribs with no silverware. LBJ, who was in such a manic state after the assassination, that he has to have a cabinet member stay with him until he falls asleep, calling him back several times "I am not asleep yet". The political mechanics of the 1960 nomination explained, as well as how LBJ gets a bill through congress (1964 tax cut bill). What is left out here is Vietnam, because that is the subject of the next book. I was surprised how little was said about Vietnam, especially given that much of the history of the late 60's in Vietnam stems from JFK decisions and involvement in the coup to topple Diem. Absolutely enthralling.
Its hard to imagine a more absorbing, detail rich, thorough and compelling work of biography and history. Robert Caro takes his time in getting his writing out but it is well worth the wait. The examination of Lyndon Johnson as a politician and complex human being and the impact of his earlier life experiences on his decision making and relationships with other major political figures, particularly Robert Kennedy is masterly. I was inspired to re-read his earlier books in this series. I noticed some one star ratings for this book and can't imagine how that could have happened. I can't wait for the final installment in this series. It doesn't get any better.