The Years of Lyndon Johnson

The Years of Lyndon Johnson

The Passage of Power

Book - 2012
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Book Four of Robert A. Caro's monumental The Years of Lyndon Johnson displays all the narrative energy and illuminating insight that led the Times of London to acclaim it as "one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age. A masterpiece."

The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career--1958 to1964. 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.

By 1958, as Johnson began to maneuver for the presidency, he was known as one of the most brilliant politicians of his time, the greatest Senate Leader in our history. But the 1960 nomination would go to the young senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. Caro gives us an unparalleled account of the machinations behind both the nomination and Kennedy's decision to offer Johnson the vice presidency, revealing the extent of Robert Kennedy's efforts to force Johnson off the ticket. With the consummate skill of a master storyteller, he exposes the savage animosity between Johnson and Kennedy's younger brother, portraying one of America's great political feuds. Yet Robert Kennedy's overt contempt for Johnson was only part of the burden of humiliation and isolation he bore as Vice President. With a singular understanding of Johnson's heart and mind, Caro describes what it was like for this mighty politician to find himself altogether powerless in a world in which power is the crucial commodity.

For the first time, in Caro's breathtakingly vivid narrative, 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.

In its exploration of this pivotal period in Johnson's life--and in the life of the nation-- The Passage of Power is not only the story of how he surmounted unprecedented obstacles in order to fulfill the highest purpose of the presidency but is, as well, a revelation of both the pragmatic potential in the presidency and what can be accomplished when the chief executive has the vision and determination to move beyond the pragmatic and initiate programs designed to transform a nation. 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."

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
ISBN: 9780679405078
Branch Call Number: Biography B Joh
Alternative Title: The passage of power


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May 02, 2019

Excellent history .

The selection of LBJ as VP by JFK ,
LBJ becoming President replacing JFK, ,
his masterful winning over of civil rights all impessively told .

The LBJ vs Bobby Kennedy rivalry explained.

Aug 31, 2015

After taking a hiatus of a few months from Caro's LBJ series, I finally returned to read the most current book, Passage of Power. If I could give half stars, I'd give it a 3.5. The part about the assassination and LBJ's reaction to it are masterful: I learned a lot I hadn't know before, and the writing was so engrossing, I had a hard time turning off my Kindle. The discussion about the feud between LBJ and RFK was also well done: both men come off looking like playground whiners. What disappointed me was the description about how the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 was passed. While LBJ's grand strategy was pretty well explained, the drama leading up to the actual passage through the Senate is missing. It's as if Caro had a book deadline to meet and decided to skip over this critical part of American history. And there's very little mention of the Voting Rights Act, or Medicare, etc. Maybe that's in the upcoming book, but I was left with the impression that that book will deal primarily with what ultimately brought LBJ down--Vietnam. We'll see if those society-changing acts will be discussed more fully in that volume. In any event, given the incredible detail that Caro typically has given us, I thought that this book didn't do justice to one of the two the most important pieces of civil rights legislation to be enacted since the Civil War.

christiefox Jan 27, 2013

What a masterful book! This is a long, worthwhile read into a fairly short period of Johnson's life. I wasn't that interested in LBJ before I read this, but now I can't wait for the next volume.

Jun 30, 2012

I loved reading this book, found it engrossing, and couldn't wait to pick it back up again every time I had to detach over the course of the couple weeks it took me to read it. But I have to say, Caro could use a good copyeditor. The redundancies can be distracting, and his careful work deserves better. The book is (otherwise) very well designed, and fun to hold and turn through, even given how heavy it is (somehow its heft is a feature of the design).

More of my thoughts on this book, here:

mikeyppl Mar 01, 2012

Caro is in his seventies. I hope that we don't have to wait another ten years for the volumn on his presidency.


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