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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud that Defined a Decade
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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud that Defined a Decade

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  126 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy loathed each other. Their antagonism, propelled by clashing personalities, contrasting views, and a deep, abiding animosity, would drive them to a bitterness so deep that even civil conversation was often impossible. Played out against the backdrop of the turbulent 1960s, theirs was a monumental political battle that would shape federal po...more
ebook, 624 pages
Published October 17th 1998 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published October 1st 1997)
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An enthralling tour of Democratic politics in the 1960s. While there seems to be a (very) slight tendency to "force-fit" a couple events to support his thesis, Jeff Shesol's retelling of the epic struggle between Lyndon Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy for the soul of the reform movement of the 1960s is a superlative example of how to write narrative history.

It's also a book tinged by sadness: you know how it turns out in the end. The sadness comes not only from the assassinations you know are comi...more
Holly Procida
I have read many accounts of this time period. I have read biographies about both Robert Kennedy and LBJ, I have read work by Arthur Schlesinger and Clark Clifford. Several works about Nixon go into his perception of this rivalry. A good analogy was drawn in the book. It relayed a political cartoon involving a representation of a LBJ as a stout book propped up between two bookends one labeled JFK, the other RFK. Lyndon B Johnson accomplished an awful lot in his presidency but will probably alway...more
Noah Gittell
Fascinating look at the politics of the 1960s viewed through the lens of a fued between two of the most compelling political characters of the 20th century. Kennedy is the one who is remembered, but I think LBJ is one of the most fascinating politicans of the modern era: an enigma, who was overbearing but deeply sensitive and able to be wounded, a pragmatist from Texas who did for more civil rights than any politician in the modern era.

Bill Manzi
Having read all of the Caro books on LBJ I was not sure this book would add much of interest. It certainly did, giving a detailed view of the men in the context of their long rivalry and quite frankly their hated for each other. I think the author did a fair job of trying to be "balanced", with an honest assessment of where some of the fault lines existed in this relationship. LBJ could win over politicians that were his equal or even his superiors (see Richard Russell and Sam Rayburn) but he ju...more
Christopher Saunders
A detailed examination of the personality feud between Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy. Shesol shows the two men at odds almost from their first meeting; Johnson's ambivalence towards a 1960 presidential run, his reluctantly becoming John F. Kennedy's running mate, and his chafing at the near-powerless vice presidency rubbed Bobby Kennedy the wrong way. Kennedy came to resent Johnson more following his brother's death, feeling Johnson boorish in his assumption of power and attempts to clothe h...more
Kennedy & Johnson are both fascinating in their distinctive ways. Kennedy - privileged, aggressive, passionate & idealistic. Johnson - smart, down-home, passionate & paranoid. Perhaps not the best mix?

I enjoyed revisiting the history of the sixties via this myopic view. If nothing else, it motivates me to find a good biography on both of these men to round out each picture.

The book is organized not chronologically but rather by issue. For instance, the Kennedy vs. Johnson approach...more
I was genuinely impressed by the depth of research as well as the insight of this book's twenty-eight year old author. LBJ might have been the more 'paranoid' of the two but even paranoids have real enemies and RFK was a very calculating man. For all of its revelations of the relations between these two men, it is refreshingly non-salacious. RFK was shot in April and by June, LBJ had driven through some gun control in response to the assassinations of Kennedy and King although Shesol observes th...more
Many of the books regarding this feud are written by Johnson or Kennedy partisans and the bias is evident. In this instance, that is not the case. Both RFK and LBJ receive fair treatment, but I still think you’ll find RFK the more compelling figure. Johnson frequently comes off as paranoid, petty, and vindictive. I recommend if you are a fan of history in the 1960’s.
Michael Curry
Excellent! Contains mini-bios of each concentrating on the late 1950s and 1960s. One critic complained of a Kennedy bias. But if you go in looking for a bias on either side you will find it. It is a laundry list of events and not much into the mental Whys, but it is the only book on this subject (amazingly) and a good read.
Very good book.

Seemed a bit biased toward RFK, but then again I think LBJ was just a bit nuts.

I really enjoyed learning about two seminal figures of the 1960s, just a fascinating time in America.

I'd definitely recommend this book. A very easy read despite it being a history book.
Shesol's research brings this high stakes rivalry to life. Very well written, especially his subtly varied references to characters (i.e. 'Johnson' one minute, 'the President' the next, and 'LBJ' when appropriate). A little too easy on Kennedy at times, but justifiably so.
Dawn Wells
I really liked this book. I'm often fascinated by two individuals on the same team fighting from within. Showing how we all interpret things differently. Based on things such as money, privilege, education, intelligence, selfishness instead of just right and wrong.
Dave Ginger
While I found the book to be interesting, it seemed to proceed rather slowly. If you're interested in the politics of the 1960s, you will likely enjoy this book...occasionally, the depth of detail was more than I was looking for.
Mar 28, 2010 Margaret marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I really want to read the book Supreme Power by the same author but it hasn't made it to goodreads yet. However, this one looks promising.
An absolutely brilliant and fascinating study in political cooperation and feuds.
Jared Tester
The fact that Kennedy and Johnson are so clearly drawn makes this book almost perfect.
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Jeff Shesol is the author of Supreme Power and of Mutual Contempt, a study of Lyndon Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy. He was a speechwriter in the Clinton administration and lives in Washington, DC.
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