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.
The fourth installment of Robert Caro's majestic and sweeping biography of LBJ is a mammoth achievement and ranks favorably with all prior installments.
I stumbled onto the series a couple of years ago after seeing Robert Caro on a television program and began my exploration of the series with "Master of the Senate." Since the first two installments have not been made into audio books yet, I purchased "The Path to Power" & "Means of Ascent" on my Kindle and found both to be riveting.
For those of you who have gone thorough the entire series as I have, you know that LBJ's life contained periodic reversals. This installment chronicles the 3 years he spent in the most desolate wilderness of them all: The vice presidency.
Daniel Webster is reported to have said when the Whig Party offered him the chance to be vice president, "I do not propose to be buried until I am dead." LBJ???after he bungled securing the 1960 nomination and JFK mopped the floor with him???made a different calculation; to friends who wondered why on earth he would trade the second most powerful post in the land (senate majority leader) for the vice presidency he said, "seven of them got to be president without even being elected."
For 3 years LBJ was ignored, insulted, and treated with thinly veiled contempt by the Kennedy group???particularly by Robert F. Kennedy who DETESTED Lyndon Johnson. Newspaper headlines began asking, "Whatever Happened to LBJ?" His genius for legislation went untapped and Kennedy's domestic program was floundering.
Then it happened...
Half the book covers a roughly 7 week period of time. The coverage of the assassination is the summit of "history as thriller" and finds few if any equals.
For conspiracy theory buffs, sorry, but Caro does not give credence to the idea LBJ was involved. Caro has chronicled just about every fault Johnson has from the megalomaniacal to the scatological, but murder isn't one of them.
Grover Gardner, as another reviewer already mentioned, was the only possible choice for this book. He lends it his usual gravity and precision. Why Caro hasn't contracted him to record the first two books in the series, I don't know. "Means of Ascent" was so funny in places I needed a tissue by my side to wipe the tears.
Caro's penchant for exhaustive research has meant that he has taken over 35 years to produce four books. The man is now 75 and he still has all of Johnson's election and Vietnam to cover. Let's hope his health holds out and he finishes the job.
Near the top.
The author not only describes specific events in detail, but gave me a far deeper understanding than I ever had before of not just Johnson and the many other characters involved, but also the workings of American politics, and the way power might have been brokered in other countries and other times.
Robert A. Caro has done a fantastic job in this volume in his life of LBJ. I have lived in Texas for many years and to hear some of the background of public and not so public figures that I have heard of but did not know to much about is a real plus. The author niether glorifies or denigrates LBJ but seems to try to explain this very complex man.Since this is the fourth volume on the life of LBJ it gives some background and even referes to spcific chapters of prior volumes.The only series that seems to be comparable is the multi volume work on Churchill by Martin Gilbert, which I have read is the longest biography in the english language.
Grover Gardner's narration is excellent. He is neither overly dramatic nor to dry in his naration.
One of the things about this book that I really like are the authors comments about other books written about LBJ and puts them in prespective.My regret is that the first two volumes of this series does not seem to be on audilbe which is a real lack.
Why jump into a mammoth, 32 hour read, volume 4 of a projected 5, in progress before many of us were born and volume 5 due some years from now?Two answers - for a first look, it stands alone, riveting, full of the story-teller's perfect details and timing.If you thought you'd read all the good stuff, Caro read it and cross-checked and then interviewed the author or surviving player with the questions you might have asked.History and biography can meet and exceed the best fiction, if only because reality is stranger, wilder and harder to freeze into safe, comfort.The non-LBJ characters are vivid, detailed, memorable, quoted and described by the distilled insight of libraries of books, letters and interviews. Myself, I've wondered about Bobby Kennedy, studied under fellows who worked with him, idolized and loved him. Caro shows us that great gift for friendship, and how it shaped written history, but adds the dark side with light, shadow and colors. The JFK portrait alone is worth the read, with the JFK-RFK relationship drawn from anecdotes. Found myself seeing new parts of a president by fully imagining what RFK the hit man, lightning rod and alter ego must say about JFK off-stage giving orders, or onstage communicating with his brother without words.Notes on framing - Caro writes that he found no direct evidence for the "LBJ murdered JFK" theories, and you can read the reviews at Amazon.com for some pointers by opposing authors and readers.A better path into what-if questions, IMHO, is "Tears of Autumn" by espionage expert McCarry, with an Oswald portrait by Stephen King in his recent time travel novel.
And Vietnam is mostly left for volume 5 - but I found eery parallels between RFK and LBJ losing all control, dignity, RFK defending the Bay of Pigs and firing an advisor who'd proven right, and LBJ chewing-out senior military men posing too-hard choices.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
This book can stand alone. It covers 1958 to 1964 a most interesting time in our history. It covers in depth the run for the 1960 election and the election of the Kennedy/Johnson ticket. I was surprised at the detailed information provided about the hateful treatment of Johnson by Robert Kennedy. Caro does show the good and bad points of Johnson and the Kennedy's and presents a well document history of the time leading up to during and after the assassination. The six month following the assassination showed Johnson at his best. He was able to use all his skills and depths of contact he had acquired in a life time of polictics to bring the government and this country under control and back to business. His passing of the civil rights act was a great accomplishment that everyone else had failed at since FDR. The book mostly deals with the 40 days after the assassination and the enormous problems Johnson faced. Gardner did a great job with the narration. The book does make me want read all the volumes in this series. The book is long and there was some repeating of information which could have been edited, other than that it is a great book. I could hardly put the book down.
50yrs old / audible member for 5 yrs library. 75% nonfiction, 15% classics and 10% fiction. History/Science/biography/Eng.18th cent fiction
Why wont someone put out the missing books of this astounding and important work in audible format???? I know at least one of them was done on cassette by grover gardner years ago because I saw it for sale on ebay. Im sure the other ones must have been done as well. Oh great mucky mucks at audible, please do something about this sinful state of affairs.
Wondering if this book is good? Of course ! If Caro's name is on it- it's 5 stars, end of story,
A very interesting account of this time in LBJ's life. So much I was not aware of. The fued between Johnson and Bobby Kennedy and the way Johnson was treated as VP brought me to tears at times only to then feel sorry for Bobby in the next chapter. Such a captivating time in the history of American politics. As an Aussie, I don't know where my obsession with the Kennedys comes from, but an obsession it is and I loved learning more about them from the other side of the coin. Recommend it to anyone interested in this era.
Wow! is all I can say after finishing this book. It must stand as one of the great biography's of all time. Caro has woven a tale of such complexity that it defies any summary. Having grown up during the years of this book, I was completely unaware of the enormous achievement of Lyndon Johnson during the six months following Kennedy's assassination. I had not read the previous three volumes and so was unaware of the complex nature of Johnson. It didn't matter. Caro so thoroughly revealed his character and so seamlessly wove it into the history of those pivotal years that the book almost seemed like a novel. I literally could not stop listening at certain points in the book. It was engaging as any of the best suspense novels: How will he get that bill passed? Who will he have to threaten, who will he have to massage, what promises will he have to make? He was able to facilitate the passage of the unpassable, stalled in Congress for thirty five years, Civil Rights Bill in four months at one of the most volatile moments in our history. He began the process four days after assuming the Presidency. Unbelievable! People (myself included) took this unbelievable achievement with a blase' attitude-Oh, no big deal. This book puts this dismissive in a deeply buried coffin where it belongs. As always, the superficial picture of famous people is often taken as the truth of who they really are and what they really achieved. It has often been said that the legacy of John F. Kennedy was most greatly served by his assassination. Although a cruel statement, this book proves this assertion. The book shows that Kennedy was completely impotent in domestic affairs. He had no idea how to deal with a recalcitrant Congress who ran circles around him and he had not achieved one significant piece of legislation during his three years. He had great ideas but it took the political genius of Lyndon Johnson to bring them to fruition and change the course of American history. It is sad that Johnson's great achievements will always be overshadowed by his horrible decisions regarding the Viet Nam war. Caro hints at this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dichotomy at the end of this book. The greatness of this book is how well Caro elucidates Johnson's internal contradictory devils, how these devils were used for the greatest good and then for the greatest evil. Caro also pulls the curtain back on how Washington really works. Considering what is happening in Washington today, it is illuminating to see how things have not changed much. It only emphasizes the greatness of Lyndon Johnson and how his particular political genius single handedly moved our Country to a level of greatness that may never be achieved again. When the moment called, he rose to it like no other President in our history. Hopefully, history will give Johnson credit as one of the great President's we've had. If you like biography, put this book at the top of your list.
I'm GM of the WIBW Channels in Topeka, Kansas. We have two television channels and multiple web channels that we program.
What can I say. I have listened to each part of this wonderful history series. Caro is brilliant in his scholarship and story telling.
I am a professional photographer, a motorcyclist, and an avid reader and listener. I enjoy history, business books and
I knew little about Lyndon Johnson before reading this book, yet having lived through his presidency as a young boy, and being fascinated with this period in history I was drawn to this book. I came away knowing that Johnson was a shrewd politician, a manipulator of men, a lier and the perfect person to be vice president when John Kennedy was killed. This book covers the period of time up until his first state of the union address in January 1964 in great detail, but it's hardly ever boring.
His intuitive knowledge of how to keep the government running, his ability to keep the Kennedy men on and working for him, thus keep some communality in the government was brilliant, especially given the fact that most of those men regarded Johnson a “corn pone” He was not educated at an ivy league school, did not have the family linage of JFK, yet he had the working knowledge of how to get a bill through congress that Kennedy didn't have. He was able to get part of Kennedy's agenda passed at just the right time, and then continuing to move forward with his own agenda.
The story was good, Grover Gardner's narration was good, not great but I wanted to continue to listen till the end. I will be looking for the next book in the series.
"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.
"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.
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.
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