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The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro

The Passage of Power (2012)

by Robert A. Caro

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
It's not often I wish I could give a book more than 5 stars. This is a superbly written, nuanced account of 5 crucial years in the life of Lyndon Johnson and, indeed, in the life of the United States, some of them better known as the Kennedy years. Caro gives us political biography as political thriller - there were times when, as with Mantel's Wolf Hall, although I knew what was going to happen, it felt as though I didn't. And Caro is so very, very good at psychological analysis - I was going to say we get a warts and all portrayal, but Caro actually goes beyond even that to show Lyndon Johnson in all his human complexity. It is difficult to believe that a book about this so over-told period in American history, with so much detailed information on political manoeuvring, a 600+ page book on such a short period, could be so engrossing, so absorbing that when you look up from it, you have to reorientate yourself. I lived through the LBJ years and brought away the memory of an apparently overbearing bully and the relentless chants `hey hey LBJ how many kids did you kill today' during Vietnam - now I am aware of a supremely astute and crafty political operator - someone who could actually deliver on the rhetoric, a poor boy who finally got his dream and endeavoured to create a country which was genuinely for the people, all the people. The overbearing bully is there, and none of Johnson's flaws are glossed over, but Caro, buttressed by years of painstaking and exhaustive research, shows us the man who was prepared to take on what he was told were lost causes, because, as he said `Well, what the hell's the presidency for?' And that is what this book is all about, as Caro says in the final paragraph of his introduction: `...the story of Lyndon Johnson during the opening, transition, weeks of his presidency is a triumphant story, one in which it is possible to glimpse the full possibilities of presidential power - of that power exercised by a master in the use of power - in a way that is visible at only a few times in American history.' The Kennedy men had the Harvard brains, but not the political nous. This is a book everyone should read, and it is uncomfortable reading because it makes us confront how ideals can almost certainly only be realised by a readiness to wheel and deal, a willingness perhaps to let principles slide, the necessity of working within moral grey areas - it should be gift-wrapped and presented to every new leader of men wherever they may be. ( )
3 vote Roseredlee | Jun 25, 2015 |
Awesome - almost as good as Master of the Senate and the post-Dallas chapters are so so good. ( )
  lincolnpan | Dec 31, 2014 |
This very long book could have been written and understood in about half the time. The author's intent is to cover the period 1958-1963 and it did. It also gave background on Johnson's upbringing, which contributed to the book. Crystal clear, the conflict between the Kennedys and Johnson. It's also apparent that Johnson's political acumen was critical to the transition after JFK's assassination to both continuity and making the presidency his own. Also notable, his successful passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after a history of reelection from a segregated South. Finally, he was a ruthless politician. I've had enough LBJ, don't intend to read the other three books on his life and political career. ( )
  buffalogr | Nov 2, 2014 |
Covering the years 1958-1963, Caro's book gives a close up account of how Lyndon Johnson went from holding a significant seat of power as Senate Majority leader, to the lowly position of vice president, and ends by chronicling how he steps into the role of president upon the death of John F. Kennedy. ( )
  timmydc | Oct 26, 2014 |
This is one book of a set of four that examine the life of LBJ. In this volume, LBJ is still a very power senator to his presidency after the assassination of JFK. The years covered are 1958 to 1964. This covered not only Lyndon Johnson but also John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and because I am a Minnesotan there is also a nice coverage of Humphrey.

I learned so much listening to this book. I learned about the magnitude of change that was occurring during this time period. The impact that media was playing in politics which I kind of knew but this really brought it home. I learned how the senate operates, the art of negotiation or twisting arms, the filibuster. Lyndon Johnson was a powerful senator but as a vice president he was without any power. Johnson returned to his former self after the assassination. There was no love lost between the Kennedys and Lyndon. Robert hated him with a passion. Lyndon was a good president; he brought more to civil rights than any other president and I don’t think Kennedy could have done what Lyndon was able to do because he knew how to make things happen in the senate, with the republicans, and he knew how to get the budget passed and the civil rights bill passed. The author does a very good job of covering both the good qualities and the bad qualities of these men. I think this was a fair and well written biography.

I was 5 years old in 1958 and in 1964, I was 11. This was a great book to start with because it actually covered two of the presidents that I have lived under. The quality of the narration was excellent and the writing made this book as easy to read as a good fiction. ( )
  Kristelh | Feb 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Robert Caro’s epic biography of Lyndon Johnson—this is the fourth volume of a planned five—was originally conceived and has been largely executed as a study of power. But this volume has been overtaken by a more pressing theme. It is a study in hate. The book’s impressive architectonics come from the way everything is structured around two poles or pillars—Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy, radiating reciprocal hostilities at every step of the story. Caro calls it “perhaps the greatest blood feud of American politics in the twentieth century.” With some reservations about the word “blood,” one has to concede that Caro makes good his claim for this dynamic in the tale he has to tell.
What he did to advance civil rights and equal opportunity was too important. I remain grateful to him. L.B.J. got to me, and after all these years, he still does. With this fascinating and meticulous account of how and why he did it, Robert Caro has once again done America a great service.
At the heart of “The Passage of Power,” the latest installment of Robert A. Caro’s magisterial biography of Johnson, is the story of how he was catapulted to the White House in the wake of Kennedy’s assassination, how he steadied and reassured a shell-shocked nation, and how he used his potent political skills and the momentum generated by Kennedy’s death to push through Congress his predecessor’s stalled tax-cut bill and civil rights legislation and to lay the groundwork for his own revolutionary “war on poverty.”

It’s a breathtakingly dramatic story about a pivotal moment in United States history, and just as Johnson used his accumulated knowledge of the art of power to push the nation along the path he’d envisioned, so in these pages does Mr. Caro use the intimate knowledge of Johnson he’s acquired over 36 years to tell that story with consummate artistry and ardor, demonstrating a tirelessness — in his interviewing and dissection of voluminous archives — that rivals his subject’s.
Caro’s treatment of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis—and of the roles that Johnson and the Kennedy brothers (especially Robert Kennedy) played in the crisis—is, on several levels, simply wrong.
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(Introduction) Air Force One, the President's plane, is divided, behind the crew's cockpit, into three compartments.
When he was young - seventeen and eighteen years old - Lyndon Johnson worked on a road gang that was building a highway (an unpaved highway: roads in the isolated, impoverished Texas Hill Country weren't paved in the 1920s) between Johnson City and Austin.
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Book description

The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English

  • Format: ePub, txt, pdf, doc
  • Size: 7.74 Mb

    About the Book

    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.”
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679405070, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2012: In the fourth volume of Caro’s ambitious, decades-long biographic exploration, Lyndon Johnson finally reaches the White House. At 600-plus pages, it’s a brick of a book, but it reads at times like a novel, and a thriller, and a Greek tragedy. Caro's version of JFK's assassination is especially chilling, and the characters—not just LBJ, but the Kennedys and the power brokers of Washington --are downright Shakespearean. --Neal Thompson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:19 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Pulitizer Prize biographer Robert A. Caro follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career, describing Johnson's volatile relationship with John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy during the fight they waged for the 1960 Democratic nomination for president, through Johnson's unhappy vice presidency, his assumption to the presidency after Kennedy's assassination, his victories over the budget and civil rights, and the eroding trap of Vietnam.… (more)

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