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.
I have an excruciatingly long commute. Listening to books is about all that has kept me from falling into the abyss. History and bios only
Very well written, factual and deeply engaging history. Made me long for the endless traffic jams and lost hours of my commute just so I could get back into the drama.
Say something about yourself!
I would recommend reading the first 3 volumes of LBJ's senate years and then The Passage of Power. This volume describes his transition from the most powerful man in the Senate to the powerless Vice President of JFK.
This is one of the better books about an American president. At times it tends to drag because the author goes into so much detail, but I had trouble putting it down, even though I was not a Johnson fan.
LBJ. Now I appreciate his trials and tribulations.
Johnson's actions after the assassination of Kennedy were amazingly crafted.
The same as the book title.
Robert Caro continues his artfully told and absorbing account of Lyndon Johnson. It doesn't get any better.
Insightful, empathic, riveting account of one of this country's most critical periods. Meticulously researched, yet never bogs down, each detail richly informing character and the turn of history. LBJ's finest moments retold, and the narrator is simply outstanding.
The passage of the Civil Rights bil.
The emphasis is always right, he never flags in giving details, yet it is nuanced and passionate.
Cried at times.
Robert Caro is a genius.
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.
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.
"Fascinating insight into a pivotal decade"
This is third part of a monumental series charting the life of Lyndon Johnson. LBJ's early impoverished life, that coloured his political beliefs, is briefly alluded to and his time as Senate leader, but the vast majority of the book describes his political life from 1960 to 64 in immense detail. This was a pivotal decade for USA and the World with such events as the Bay of Pigs debacle, the Cuban Missile crisis and the assassination of President Kennedy. The corrosive mutual hatred between LBJ and Robert Kennedy pervades this masterly biography. I'm old enough to remember these events but had forgotten how well LBJ was regarded at the beginning of his presidency as his reputation was later tarnished by the horrors of Vietnam.
Though a very long listen I was gripped throughout by this pacy account of events and players in this pivotal decade in world history.
An incredible piece of historical writing, based clearly in the evidence and views of individuals who were part of those events. It is all the more evocative for that solid grounding. Caro's work is about the years of LBJ, and how power functions in America. To say that it is an important book is an almost comical understatement, it will be read and used and referenced for years to come.
The audiobook, with a very well chosen narrator, allows you to immerse yourself in this stunning book. I couldn't recommend it more highly.
"Tour de force"
This book is a work of genuine brilliance. In addition to providing a wide narrative sweep of this page of the 20th century it also provides searching analyses of all the main characters involved. One feels that one gets to know the real character of those people who shaped the last century - Not just Johnson himself, but Robert and John Kennedy and all those in his cabinet at the time.
The prose is beautiful, the action unflagging. This is history as it should be written for the non-historian, and historian alike.
Lyndon Johnson in Robert Caro's hands, becomes one of the most fascinating people of the 20th century. I cannot wait for the next instalment.
"The fall and rise of LBJ"
Yes, this is a wonderful book and I have found more in it with repeated listening.
You see how Lyndon Johnson endured the worst period of his career and as a result of an assassination obtained the prize he had always wanted. You also see and learn how he rose to the challenges he faced.
Yes and he was excellent as always in his narration of this series of books
I found myself laughing when u hear some of the words and stories LBJ used to get other politicians to work with him.
This is the 4th volume of the years of lyndon Johnson. These are to my mind the greatest political biographies of any politician. Essential for understanding the use and abuse of power in mid 20th century America.
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