National Book Critics Circle Award, Biography, 2013
The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career - 1958 to 1964. It is a time that would see him trade the extraordinary power he had created for himself as Senate Majority Leader for what became the wretched powerlessness of a Vice President in an administration that disdained and distrusted him. Yet it was, as well, the time in which the presidency, the goal he had always pursued, would be thrust upon him in the moment it took an assassin’s bullet to reach its mark.
For the first time, we see the Kennedy assassination through Lyndon Johnson’s eyes. We watch Johnson step into the presidency, inheriting a staff fiercely loyal to his slain predecessor; a Congress determined to retain its power over the executive branch; and a nation in shock and mourning. We see how within weeks - grasping the reins of the presidency with supreme mastery - he propels through Congress essential legislation that at the time of Kennedy’s death seemed hopelessly logjammed and seizes on a dormant Kennedy program to create the revolutionary War on Poverty.
Caro makes clear how the political genius with which Johnson had ruled the Senate now enabled him to make the presidency wholly his own. This was without doubt Johnson’s finest hour, before his aspirations and accomplishments were overshadowed and eroded by the trap of Vietnam.
It is an epic story told with a depth of detail possible only through the peerless research that forms the foundation of Robert Caro’s work, confirming Nicholas von Hoffman’s verdict that “Caro has changed the art of political biography.”
©2012 Robert A. Caro (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
This fourth volume in Caro’s expansive biography of LBJ covers the period of 1958 through early 1964. It traces LBJ’s ascension from dithering presidential candidate, to the powerless office of the VP, and concludes with his transition to the Presidency in the two months following JFKs assassination. This is a well researched and crafted biography of the man, his times, and the people around him. There are many fascinating details that deal with LBJ’s ambitions and insecurities, his relationship with the Kennedys, and the oft forgotten craftsmanship with which he assumed the mantel of the presidency during a difficult period. Caro is not one to skimp on details and for those who might be put off by the length of the book, there is an elegance and precision to Caro’s writing that keeps the narrative flowing. I should also say that I don’t think it is necessary to have read Caro’s other volumes in order to enjoy/follow Passage of Power as Caro briefly recaps details from the earlier works where it is necessary to add context. I found the narration brisk and competent. In short, this is a monumental work of biography about one of America’s more conflicted Presidents, one to whom history has perhaps been unfairly unkind. I am eagerly looking forward to the release of the final volume in the next few years.
Interesting researched powerful
LBJ. Being a Texan child when LBJ came into the presidency, my interest in what drives powerful men led me naturally to be drawn to reading about LBJ. Caro has done a excellent job of in depth research on his subject. I will always have my eye out for any book he chooses to write. Gardner just completes the package with his voice.
Yes. Love his voice and smooth cadence.
No. It's way too long for me to stay awake that long, but I have listened to this book over and over ....and will again and again...
An excellent insight into an important person in history and his relationship with the Kennedy's.
The book is very long and we listen on long, long drives. Therefore I have time to do other things as well.
Insights into American political history: how the legislature works
An excellent follow-up to Master of the Senate.
After listening to interview of the author by Charlie Rose, mt question is "Why was Ina, Robert's wife not a co-author?"
Grover Gardner has been the perfect narrator throughout this series and this volume is no exception. This book covers Johnson's ambivalent attempt at running for the Presidency in 1960, his years of frustration as Vice President (going from the second most powerful man in Washington to being mocked by Kennedy staffers as "Rufus Cornpone"), and then his remarkable success in the months following Kennedy's assassination. For those who have followed Johnson through over two thousand pages of Caro's biography up to this point, the last two hundred pages serve as testament to the fact that this truly was a great man, if also a greatly flawed one. I listened to this immediately after finishing Caro's "The Power Broker," and one can see how Caro has matured as a writer. Both books are richly detailed portraits, but now Caro's viewpoint is far more nuanced and balanced. Even his sketches of John and Robert Kennedy demonstrate that Caro's greatest strength is his ability to reveal a man's character in depth--the good and the bad--without giving into the temptation to reduce it to a simplistic summary judgment. Yes, this is a long book that requires patience and commitment from a reader or listener, but I consider it one of those books that has profoundly enriched my life. May Caro live to finish this masterpiece!
Caro delivers again. This volume focuses on period beginning in the months leading up to LBJ's selection as Vice President through the election of 1964. While the detours into the lives of John and Bobby Kennedy are sometimes long, they are very valuable in setting the context for how the personalities of the men shaped their interaction with Johnson. History burnished JFK's Camelot with the sweat LBJ put into passing Kennedy's programs after the assasination. Fascinating human drama in one of the most historically significant American decades in the 20th Century.
Yes. Bob Caro is the most thorough biographer I have read. Many mini bios within this extensive volume. I read this after The Power Broker. Cant get enough.
Sure. Very clearly read book.
I listened to all 4 parts. The last part did not seem like the end of the book but rather the end to a part. Does anyone else have a thought on this????
I favor detective fiction,police procedurals,biography, american history, anything available about Lincoln,TR, Obama ,Truman
audio is very good. have not read print
the segments as to RFK personality.
he is the only reader who could do this book. the equal of his work on "Truman"
impossible, although good on a long drive to Mmmoth fromLA.
solid addition to his earlier books on LBJ
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.
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.
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