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The Path to Power by Robert A. Caro

The Path to Power (1982)

by Robert A. Caro

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A mammoth story of the rise of Lyndon Johnson from a small boy from the hills of Texas to national prominence. Shockingly detailed, the book provides an amazing amount of information of the story of Lyndon Johnson - his beginnings, his ambition, his treatment of other people, his love, his family, his early political career.

Essential reading to understand LBJ, truly powerful and perceptive. This is the first of four books that explicitly cover Johnson's rise to presidency - terrific reading.

( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
This would be an extraordinary book even without Lyndon Johnson as its focus. Who knows, maybe it would be even better? Seriously though, the family background, Texas history, and national politics from the Hoover administration's disregard of the Great Depression to FDR's sweeping New Deal programs are as essential in defining LBJ as are the personal accounts of those who best knew him. And every bit as fascinating and certainly a lot less appalling. All I can say after reading this is, 'how did Lady Bird stand it?' Oh, and that I'll definitely be reading more in this series. ( )
1 vote wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
Here's what I knew about Johnson before reading Caro's book: sworn in as President after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Came into office as the "Great Society" President because he carried Kennedy's platform: he cared about social issues such as education, civil rights and anti-poverty. He left office as the "Baby Killer" President because he had led the United States further into the Vietnam war. Here's what stuck with me about President Johnson after reading Caro's first book: Johnson was a pathological liar about his childhood and personal life, was a genius for secrecy, and was a terrible kid growing up. He was constantly disobeying his parents, had no respect for his father, even disliked reading books...that didn't change once he got to college. He continue to lie and manipulate like Othello's Iago throughout his entire life. His hunger for power was displayed in odd ways (like forcing assistants to converse with him while he was on the toilet).

In the very beginning of Path to Power Caro introduces his readers to Hill Country Texas, setting the stage of poverty as the very first driving force behind Johnson's ruthless ambition. Subsequently, every following chapter is scaffolded (my word) by the political and economic climate and influential people of the time. As a result, Path to Power appears to veer off topic from time to time. It also creates a wordiness and heft to the biography that some deem unnecessary. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Feb 19, 2016 |
A story this long—and we're only about one-fifth the way through it—starts to push against the limits of traditional dramaturgy.

What character arcs can hold over 770 pages of careful recounting? Can the story of Lyndon B. Johnson be reduced to man who grew up poor yet found ever greater success, whose hunger for bigger arenas outpaced his ability to dominate them?

That summary, though it provides the psychological backbone of Caro's tale, seems to fall short. It falls short both in recounting the man himself and telling the whole story. To understand LBJ, you need to understand not just his cunning, but how he was cunning. You have to see politics as he did: an institution, often corrupt, with untapped potential and unused levers of power that no one could understand. Except, of course, for Lyndon.

And he used those levers. At each stage of the game, Lyndon had the power to see not just what was, but what could be. In college he used it to make campus politics into campus politics, controlling the game through a wholly secret organization that even his opponents didn't know about. As a congressional secretary he turned the office into a well-oiled machine designed to win favor from constituents and outsiders alike—not for the congressman, but for Lyndon. He built the National Youth Administration up in Texas, and as a congressman turned those same skills to use selling New Deal programs to electrify the area and bring the Hill Country into the 20th century. And later, he dramatically amplified the ways money could be used in politics, and used that money to try his hardest to buy the Senate seat in Texas.

In 1941, he would fail, and in 1948 he would succeed. But that's the subject of Caro's next volume, so I'll have to wait and find out. ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
Fabulous ( )
  anitatally | Feb 4, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
For readers who want to believe that the President Johnson of the Vietnam War years not merely was, but always had been, an unprincipled monster, ''The Path to Power'' will be rewarding reading. For those who seek to understand this remarkably complex, singularly gifted and tragically limited man, Mr. Caro's book will seem more like a caricature than a portrait.
For whatever the drawbacks of ''The Path to Power,'' they seem slight in the framework of its overall impact. The details that Mr. Caro has dug up are astonishing, and he has pieced them together to tell a monumental political saga.
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"More is thy due than more than all can pay."
- Shakespeare
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(Introduction) Two of the men lying on the blanket that day in 1940 were rich.
On the day he was born, he would say, his white-haired grandfather leaped onto his big black stallion and thundered across the Texas Hill Country, reining in at every farm to shout: 'A United States Senator was born this morning!'
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679729453, Paperback)

The profound understanding of the uses and abuses of power Robert Caro displayed in his 1974 biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker, is a scathing achievement the author surpassed with panache in this, his second book. Caro's dogged research and refusal to accept received wisdom results in an eye-opening portrait that unforgettably captures the titanic personality of Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973). Though stronger on Johnson's duplicity and naked self-promotion than his intelligence and charm, Caro nails it all. He chronicles the evolution of an attention-demanding youth from the Texas hill country into a seasoned congressman who would abandon his ardent espousal of the New Deal as soon as it ceased to be expedient. The dirty details begin with college elections that earn young Lyndon a reputation as a crook and a liar; Caro goes on to unravel financial shenanigans of impressive ingenuity. Johnson's consuming desire to get ahead and his political genius "unencumbered by philosophy or ideology" are staggering. The White House, Great Society, and Vietnam lie ahead when the main narrative closes in 1941, but the roots of Johnson's future achievements and tragic failures are laid bare. This biography may well stand as the best book written in the second half of the 20th century about personal ambition inextricably linked with historic change. --Wendy Smith

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:34 -0400)

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Traces young Lyndon Johnson's rise from Texas poverty to political power, illuminating his political relationships

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