Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2003
National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2002Master of the Senate carries Lyndon Johnson's story through one of its most remarkable periods: his 12 years, from 1949 to 1960, in the United States Senate. Once the most august and revered body in politics, by the time Johnson arrived the Senate had become a parody of itself and an obstacle that for decades had blocked desperately needed liberal legislation. Caro shows how Johnson's brilliance, charm, and ruthlessness enabled him to become the youngest and most powerful Majority Leader in history and how he used his incomparable legislative genius, cajoling and threatening both Northern liberals and Southern conservatives, to pass the first Civil Rights legislation since Reconstruction. Brilliantly weaving rich detail into a gripping narrative, Caro gives us both a galvanizing portrait of Johnson himself and a definitive and revelatory study of the workings of legislative power.
©2002 Robert A. Caro, Inc.; (P)2002 Books on Tape, Inc.
"Mesmerizing....A tale rife with drama and hypnotic in the telling." (Newsweek)
"A panoramic study....Combining the best techniques of investigative reporting with majestic storytelling ability, Caro has created a vivid, revelatory institutional history as well as a rich hologram of Johnson's character." (The New York Times)
"Caro must be America's greatest living Presidential biographer....No other contemporary biographer offers such a complex picture of the forces driving an American politician, or populates his work with such vividly drawn secondary characters." (BusinessWeek)
I am an avid eclectic reader.
This is a long book. Caro provides extended passages of background about a quarter of the book on the history of the Senate, from the great days of Webster, Clay and Calhoun to current times. He also went into detail about the architecture and seats in the Senate both before and after the War of 1812. Approximately half of the book covers in detail the epic battle over the 1957 Civil Rights Bill. Johnson’s magic is the main subject of the book: how he made things happen in the U.S. Senate. Johnson’s wheeling, threatening, stroking large egos, explaining why his goal was essential for the Country‘s good, he ran an institution that had never before been run by anyone.
“Master of the Senate” is the third volume of Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson. I seem to be reading this series backwards as I started with Volume four. Caro presents a Johnson that is well rounded. We get to see him with all his warts and all, but also are given admiring recognition of all his accomplishments. Race was the great test for Johnson and the country during his years as Senate Majority leader 1955-61. Caro reveals the obstructed federal action on the cruel mistreatment of blacks in the South; no civil rights legislation had been enacted since 1875, at the end of the Reconstruction.
For years after Johnson entered the Senate in 1949, he mostly voted with the Southerners. He chose as his mentor senator Richard Russell of Georgia, one of the most powerful men in the Senate. Johnson’s friend Philip Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, kept telling Johnson he had to do something for civil rights. In 1957 President Eisenhower proposed Civil Rights Legislation. It appeared impossible to pass the legislation, but Johnson made it happen. Caro’s description of how he did it is masterly. His strategy was to persuade the Southerners that is was in their best interest to let something labeled civil rights go through. The Eisenhower bill was focused on the right to vote, which the South denied the blacks by force and trickery. Johnson weakened the bill but if he didn’t it would not pass. Johnson thought of it as a beginning as opening to further more meaningful legislation.
Caro shows how Johnson learned the rules of the Senate and then used them. He then learned about the men in the Senate, their vanities, frailties and their weakness. He then sold himself to each as their friend, political adviser, their sounding board their Mr.-Fix-it. He also found a way to bridge the chasm between the Southern Democrats and the Northern liberals. The author goes into detail about the Olds Hearing. I will never again watch a Senate hearing without remembering what Johnson did to this man. Olds was up for re-confirmation of the Utilities commission and Johnson destroyed the man accusing him of being a communist just so he could obtain the favor and backing of the Texas gas and oil companies. Johnson organized a sneak attack and controlled the whole hearing so the man could not have the opportunity to refute the charges.
Caro concludes that with the single exception of Lincoln, Johnson was the greatest white champion of blacks in American History. Grover Gardner does an excellent job narrating the book.
I love the research put into this book and the way the story is told.
While I love the book, the fact that it is broken into three Audible recordings disgusts me so much that I am likely not to buy the remaining volumes in the set. If the first two books can be made into individual recordings, why must you make this one volume into three, except to milk the paying clients for more $$$?
Great book, so much information to gain.
The Leland Olds witch hunt is particularly memorably, though not for good reasons.
Ability to consume the entire book in a timely manner.
Leland Olds nomination fight, it turned my stomach something awful to hear how LBJ ruined a good man.
I'm really disappointed this book was not only broken into three volumes on Audible (two understandable, but three defies logic given how first two volumes were presented as one single volume), but also that the chapters aren't lined up with the chapter breaks on the recording. This was highly disappointing given how well the first two books in this series were arranged and aligned by chapter.
Yes. LBJ was a huge influence on my generation in a personal way. Few presidents affect so many individual American lives on such a significant personal level. He ruined or elevated people in life changing ways. This book helps show how he became who he was and what a mystery his inner self still is.
The other Caro books.
I think buying and listening to Caro's book on Robert Moses was a pretty extreme reaction.
Anyone who is interested in recent US history and a perspective of politics today would find this useful.
Be careful. Audible has separated this *single* book into three "volumes" so that you must spend three credits if you want to listen to the entire thing. Had I realized this, I probably would not have purchased it.
Audible's 3-credits-for-1-book thing aside (and an explanation for that is in order, at minimum), Caro continues to deliver amazing work. Yes, it's occasionally repetitive and even strident; yes, it hammers on Johnson's faults and even seems relieved to turn to other characters' back stories; but it's just so massively researched that I'll take the quirks. What an education this series provides!
Reliving my childhood.
The best part of this series for me is that I am reliving my childhood. I'm pushing 60 and often visited my grandparent's 40 acre farm growing up. They were born circa 1900. The national infrastructure development, the stringing of electrical lines, the building of dams along the rivers from the homestead days forward sits in clear view along my grandparent's farm next to the Snake River. My grandfather was a democrat and was always watching the news about the changes clearly outlined in this series. My father was in the South Pacific and I was in high school when the Vietnam war ended. I also have a friend who served in Korea. I've traveled through China for two years now and have listened to their side of the 20th Century. Their stories magnify the brilliance of this author's work.
I'm in China teaching school and there is no TV or radio in English. School is out for the summer so I have been listening to this series in one setting. :-) I'm not a history hound and I hate dark stories about some sociopath that operates successfully with impunity and at the expense of a continuous body count of victims - just to dominate others. So, this series is hard work for me. But, this is surely the best history book for any of us to experience the 20th century again. It's about Johnson but the author is a master political science, sociology, psychology and economics teacher who is giving us a Pulitzer level history lesson.
I loved this book, like I love all of the books in the series. And the narration is excellent. But it is outrageous that Audible makes you purchase three different downloads to get this one book. On top of that, it isn't even clear, at least on the mobile site, that there are three different parts. I accidentally bought the second part first.
Mr Caso has written a book that every
Historian, student, and citizen should
Read. Master of the Senate is a
Masterpiece of information well presented as well as heart breaking
Mr Grover is more than a reader or
A voice.... He is a superb actor
You may regret listening to him as
This is a difficult story to swollow.
Very interesting. Enjoyed the level of detail and strong narrative.
It was, still, a political biography, however. If you like this kind of thing, you'll love this.
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