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Master of the Senate (2002)

by Robert A. Caro

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1,781256,597 (4.6)98
Master of the Senate, Book Three of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, carries Johnson's story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 to 1960, in the United States Senate. At the heart of the book is its unprecedented revelation of how legislative power works in America, how the Senate works, and how Johnson, in his ascent to the presidency, mastered the Senate as no political leader before him had ever done.   It was during these years that all Johnson's experience--from his Texas Hill Country boyhood to his passionate representation in Congress of his hardscrabble constituents to his tireless construction of a political machine--came to fruition. Caro introduces the story with a dramatic account of the Senate itself: how Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun had made it the center of governmental energy, the forum in which the great issues of the country were thrashed out. And how, by the time Johnson arrived, it had dwindled into a body that merely responded to executive initiatives, all but impervious to the forces of change. Caro anatomizes the genius for political strategy and tactics by which, in an institution that had made the seniority system all-powerful for a century and more, Johnson became Majority Leader after only a single term-the youngest and greatest Senate Leader in our history; how he manipulated the Senate's hallowed rules and customs and the weaknesses and strengths of his colleagues to change the "unchangeable" Senate from a loose confederation of sovereign senators to a whirring legislative machine under his own iron-fisted control.   Caro demonstrates how Johnson's political genius enabled him to reconcile the unreconcilable: to retain the support of the southerners who controlled the Senate while earning the trust--or at least the cooperation--of the liberals, led by Paul Douglas and Hubert Humphrey, without whom he could not achieve his goal of winning the presidency. He shows the dark side of Johnson's ambition: how he proved his loyalty to the great oil barons who had financed his rise to power by ruthlessly destroying the career of the New Dealer who was in charge of regulating them, Federal Power Commission Chairman Leland Olds. And we watch him achieve the impossible: convincing southerners that although he was firmly in their camp as the anointed successor to their leader, Richard Russell, it was essential that they allow him to make some progress toward civil rights. In a breathtaking tour de force, Caro details Johnson's amazing triumph in maneuvering to passage the first civil rights legislation since 1875.   Master of the Senate, told with an abundance of rich detail that could only have come from Caro's peerless research, is both a galvanizing portrait of the man himself--the titan of Capital Hill, volcanic, mesmerizing--and a definitive and revelatory study of the workings and personal and legislative power.… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
The third volume of Robert Caro's epic biography of Lyndon Johnson covers what would prove to be the pivotal years in his ascent to the presidency -- his years in the United States Senate. Here he sets out to achieve three goals: to show how Johnson exercised power, to chronicle how Johnson positioned himself to run for the presidency, and to explain the conundrum of Johnson's personality. In the first two goals Caro's book is an unqualified success, as Caro explains how Johnson transformed the post of Senate Majority Leader into a position of power for the first time and used the higher profile the office provided to run for the White House. It is the third goal that is the most challenging, however, and here Caro's success is more qualified. He goes far in reconciling the conflict between a man who demonstrated such cruelty in his personal life and use of political power yet whose compassion for the poor and disadvantaged brought about a fundamental transformation of the nation, yet perhaps in the end the conundrum that makes Lyndon Johnson so fascinating is ultimately irreconcilable. For anyone seeking to understand that conundrum, however, Caro's book is indispensable, and is must-reading for anyone interested in his fascinating, complex, and historic subject. ( )
  MacDad | Mar 27, 2020 |
Detailed years of Johnson in Senate. Chased a lot of rabbits in his writing but a good biographical record.
  pwaldrep | Mar 14, 2019 |
As literature, this third volume is superior even to the fascinating first. Its focus is tightly on Johnson's Senate career and the narrative arc is compelling: the moribund Senate, controlled by the dead hand of the Southern Democrats, is taken over by LBJ in a masterclass of political genius, as he again discerns and creates a power-base where none previously existed, then uses it to thread a civil rights bill (1957) through the eye of a needle to bolster his presidential ambitions. Caro is still given to occasional prolixity (he did a great job on Robert Moses' biography in the space of one fifth of his Johnson life) though less so than in volume one; an abridgement of about 1,500 pages for the whole set of books would be useful. But along with his Moses book, this is indispensable reading on how geniuses of political power build and deploy it. ( )
  wa233 | Apr 19, 2018 |
A towering achievement, the third book of Robert Caro's mammoth biography of Lyndon Johnson, hits home on all marks.

The author tracks the action of the Senate during the 1950s and in essence captures the movement of the entire United States through that decade. The biography leads us through the fear of the McCarthy era and into the painful, slow, and rugged march for civil rights.

Lyndon Johnson is master of it all, and directs and controls the Senate as a puppet master, using every trick and taking every advantage to position himself in the national spotlight.

Moving and enlightening, Caro describes every step of the slow and very ironic march of Lyndon Johnson to be civil rights champion. ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
Johnson's story by the author covers one of his most remarkable periods. This is his 12 years, from 1949 through 1960, in the United States Senate. Johnson was an obstacle continuing the decades long blocking of desperately needed liberal legislation. It was only in the watered down civil rights legislation of 1957 that a change and openness towards change emerged in Johnson. A change had slowly dawned on the young Jack Kennedy as well by 1957.

1960 Democratic Party Platform

Civil Rights

We shall also seek to create an affirmative new atmosphere in which to deal with racial divisions and inequalities which threaten both the integrity of our democratic faith and the proposition on which our nation was founded—that all men are created equal. It is our faith in human dignity that distinguishes our open free society from the closed totalitarian society of the Communists.

The Constitution of the United States rejects the notion that the Rights of Man means the rights of some men only. We reject it too.

The right to vote is the first principle of self-government. The Constitution also guarantees to all Americans the equal protection of the laws.

It is the duty of the Congress to enact the laws necessary and proper to protect and promote these constitutional rights. The Supreme Court has the power to interpret these rights and the laws thus enacted.

It is the duty of the President to see that these rights are respected and that the Constitution and laws as interpreted by the Supreme Court are faithfully executed.

What is now required is effective moral and political leadership by the whole Executive branch of our Government to make equal opportunity a living reality for all Americans.

As the party of Jefferson, we shall provide that leadership.

In every city and state in greater or lesser degree there is discrimination based on color, race, religion, or national origin.

If discrimination in voting, education, the administration of justice or segregated lunch counters are the issues in one area, discrimination in housing and employment may be pressing questions elsewhere.

The peaceful demonstrations for first-class citizenship which have recently taken place in many parts of this country are a signal to all of us to make good at long last the guarantees of our Constitution.

The time has come to assure equal access for all Americans to all areas of community life, including voting booths, schoolrooms, jobs, housing, and public facilities.

The Democratic Administration which takes office next January will therefore use the full powers provided in the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 to secure for all Americans the right to vote.

If these powers, vigorously invoked by a new Attorney General and backed by a strong and imaginative Democratic President, prove inadequate, further powers will be sought.

We will support whatever action is necessary to eliminate literacy tests and the payment of poll taxes as requirements for voting.

A new Democratic Administration will also use its full powers—legal and moral—to ensure the beginning of good-faith compliance with the Constitutional requirement that racial discrimination be ended in public education.

We believe that every school district affected by the Supreme Court's school desegregation decision should submit a plan providing for at least first-step compliance by 1963, the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

To facilitate compliance, technical and financial assistance should be given to school districts facing special problems of transition.

For this and for the protection of all other Constitutional rights of Americans, the Attorney General should be empowered and directed to file civil injunction suits in Federal courts to prevent the denial of any civil right on grounds of race, creed, or color.

The new Democratic Administration will support Federal legislation establishing a Fair Employment Practices Commission to secure effectively for everyone the right to equal opportunity for employment.

In 1949 the President's Committee on Civil Rights recommended a permanent Commission on Civil Rights. The new Democratic Administration will broaden the scope and strengthen the powers of the present commission and make it permanent.

Its functions will be to provide, assistance to communities, industries, or individuals in the implementation of Constitutional rights in education, housing, employment, transportation, and the administration of justice.

In addition, the Democratic Administration will use its full executive powers to assure equal employment opportunities and to terminate racial segregation throughout Federal services and institutions, and on all Government contracts, The successful desegregation of the armed services took place through such decisive executive action under President Truman.

Similarly the new Democratic Administration will take action to end discrimination in Federal housing programs, including Federally assisted housing.

Civil Rights

This nation was created to give expression, validity and purpose to our spiritual heritage—the supreme worth of the individual. In such a nation—a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal—racial discrimination has no place. It can hardly be reconciled with a Constitution that guarantees equal protection under law to all persons. In a deeper sense, too, it is immoral and unjust. As to those matters within reach of political action and leadership, we pledge ourselves unreservedly to its eradication.

Equality under law promises more than the equal right to vote and transcends mere relief from discrimination by government. It becomes a reality only when all persons have equal opportunity, without distinction of race, religion, color or national origin, to acquire the essentials of life—housing, education and employment. The Republican Party—the party of Abraham Lincoln—from its very beginning has striven to make this promise a reality. It is today, as it was then, unequivocally dedicated to making the greatest amount of progress toward the objective.

We recognize that discrimination is not a problem localized in one area of the country, but rather a problem that must be faced by North and South alike. Nor is discrimination confined to the discrimination against Negroes. Discrimination in many, if not all, areas of the country on the basis of creed or national origin is equally insidious. Further we recognize that in many communities in which a century of custom and tradition must be overcome heartening and commendable progress has been made.

The Republican Party is proud of the civil rights record of the Eisenhower Administration. More progress has been made during the past eight years than in the preceding 80 years. We acted promptly to end discrimination in our nation's capital. Vigorous executive action was taken to complete swiftly the desegregation of the armed forces, veterans' hospitals, navy yards, and other federal establishments.

We supported the position of the Negro school children before the Supreme Court. We believe the Supreme Court school decision should be carried out in accordance with the mandate of the Court.

Although the Democratic-controlled Congress watered them down, the Republican Administration's recommendations resulted in significant and effective civil rights legislation in both 1957 and 1960—the first civil rights statutes to be passed in more than 80 years.

Hundreds of Negroes have already been registered to vote as a result of Department of Justice action, some in counties where Negroes did not vote before. The new law will soon make it possible for thousands and thousands of Negroes previously disenfranchised to vote.

By executive order, a committee for the elimination of discrimination in government employment has been reestablished with broadened authority. Today, nearly one-fourth of all federal employees are Negro.

The President's Committee on Government Contracts, under the chairmanship of Vice President Nixon, has become an impressive force for the elimination of discriminatory employment practices of private companies that do business with the government.

Other important achievements include initial steps toward the elimination of segregation in federally-aided housing; the establishment of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, which enforces federal civil rights laws; and the appointment of the bi-partisan Civil Rights Commission, which has prepared a significant report that lays the groundwork for further legislative action and progress.

The Republican record is a record of progress—not merely promises. Nevertheless, we recognize that much remains to be done.

Each of the following pledges is practical and within realistic reach of accomplishment. They are serious—not cynical—pledges made to result in maximum progress.

1. Voting.

We pledge:
Continued vigorous enforcement of the civil rights laws to guarantee the right to vote to all citizens in all areas of the country.

Legislation to provide that the completion of six primary grades in a state accredited school is conclusive evidence of literacy for voting purposes.

2. Public Schools.

We pledge:
The Department of Justice will continue its vigorous support of court orders for school desegregation. Desegregation suits now pending involve at least 39 school districts. Those suits and others already concluded will affect most major cities in which school segregation is being practiced.

It will use the new authority provided by the Civil Rights Act of 1960 to prevent obstruction of court orders.

We will propose legislation to authorize the Attorney General to bring actions for school desegregation in the name of the United States in appropriate cases, as when economic coercion or threat of physical harm is used to deter persons from going to court to establish their rights.

Our continuing support of the President's proposal, to extend federal aid and technical assistance to schools which in good faith attempted to desegregate.

We oppose the pretense of fixing a target date 3 years from now for the mere submission of plans for school desegregation. Slow-moving school districts would construe it as a three-year moratorium during which progress would cease, postponing until 1963 the legal process to enforce compliance. We believe that each of the pending court actions should proceed as the Supreme Court has directed and that in no district should there be any such delay.

3. Employment.

We pledge:
Continued support for legislation to establish a Commission on Equal Job Opportunity to make permanent and to expand with legislative backing the excellent work being performed by the President's Committee on Government Contracts.

Appropriate legislation to end the discriminatory membership practices of some labor union locals, unless such practices are eradicated promptly by the labor unions themselves.

Use of the full-scale review of existing state laws, and of prior proposals for federal legislation, to eliminate discrimination in employment now being conducted by the Civil Rights Commission, for guidance in our objective of developing a Federal-State program in the employment area.

Special consideration of training programs aimed at developing the skills of those now working in marginal agricultural employment so that they can obtain employment in industry, notably in the new industries moving into the South.

4. Housing.

We pledge:
Action to prohibit discrimination in housing constructed with the aid of federal subsidies.

5. Public Facilities and Services.

We pledge:
Removal of any vestige of discrimination in the operation of federal facilities or procedures which may at any time be found.

Opposition to the use of federal funds for the construction of segregated community facilities.

Action to ensure that public transportation and other government authorized services shall be free from segregation.

6. Legislative Procedure.

We pledge:
Our best efforts to change present Rule 22 of the Senate and other appropriate Congressional procedures that often make unattainable proper legislative implementation of constitutional guarantees.

We reaffirm the constitutional right to peaceable assembly to protest discrimination in private business establishments. We applaud the action of the businessmen who have abandoned discriminatory practices in retail establishments, and we urge others to follow their example.

Finally we recognize that civil rights is a responsibility not only of states and localities; it is a national problem and a national responsibility. The federal government should take the initiative in promoting inter-group conferences among those who, in their communities, are earnestly seeking solutions of the complex problems of desegregation—to the end that closed channels of communication may be opened, tensions eased, and a cooperative solution of local problems may be sought.

In summary, we pledge the full use of the power, resources and leadership of the federal government to eliminate discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin and to encourage understanding and good will among all races and creeds.
  gmicksmith | Mar 11, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
It makes a wonderful, a glorious tale. The book reads like a Trollope novel, but not even Trollope explored the ambitions and the gullibilities of men as deliciously as Robert Caro does. I laughed often as I read. And even though I knew what the outcome of a particular episode would be, I followed Caro's account of it with excitement. I went back over chapters to make sure I had not missed a word.
In the 1957 civil rights battle, ambition and compassion were finally mixed in the perfect combination for Lyndon Johnson and the country. The same can be said for Robert A. Caro, whose chronicle of Lyndon B. Johnson's outsize life has finally, too, been told with perfect balance.
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I do understand power, whatever else may be said about me.  I know where to look for it, and how to use it.
- Lyndon Baines Johnson
For Ina, always
and for Bob Gottlieb
Thirty years.  Four books.  Thanks.
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(Introduction) The room on the first floor of the Barbourville County Courthouse in the little town of Eufala, Alabama, was normally the County Clerk's Office, but after it had closed for the day on August 2, 1957, it was being used by the county's Board of Registrars, the body that registered citizens so they could vote in elections - not that the Board was going to register any of the three persons who were applying that day, for the skin of these applicants was black.
The Chamber of the United States Senate was a long, cavernous space - over a hundred feet long.
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