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)
This is a great book. I have listened to many non-fiction titles on Audible and this is one of the most gripping.
Caro makes this biography of LBJ as riveting as a fictional, political thriller. Despite the length of the audio, I could not stop listening until it was done. Caro has written 2 other LBJ biographies, as well as a biography of Robert Moses that I wish were available as audio programs. As soon as they are, I'll be getting them. Note: the narrator is excellent as well - very easy to listen to.
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 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.
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 $$$?
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.
All the other volumes in this series have a single audible volume. I purchased using whispersync and only got 1/3 of the book. Returned for refund.
Sure, I agree with others that 3 credits is high for any book. But this isn't just any book. You get over 50 hours of substantial, fascinating reading here. I know for a fact we have all spent 3 credits on three different books that won't equal the achievement of this one book. Plus I think of it as amortizing the "bargain" of getting volumes 1, 2, and 4 at only one credit each.
As others have mentioned, you do get a lot of backstory about the history of the US Senate in this book. Yes, it could be pretty dull under a less masterful writer, but it really is quite interesting here. It is amazing how thoroughly dysfunctional the Senate was (especially in the hands of the Southern minority) in the 50+ years prior to 1948. It actually makes FDR's accomplishments in the first 100 days all the more remarkable.
Even after Volumes 1 and 2 it is still remarkable to see the dichotomy that is Lyndon Johnson: the tenacity and hard-working ethic when he is engaged in a situation compared to the thorough disinterest if it doesn't suit is goals. He is a thoroughly political animal - and even though you know how the story ends, it is amazing and fascinating to see it play out. How can he - a junior freshman US Senator - tame the unruly beast that is the US Senate. Even though we know he does it (the name of the book!) it isn't at all clear how it can be done.
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