Robert Morrow's Reviews > The Passage of Power

The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro
Rate this book
Clear rating

M 50x66
's review
May 07, 12

bookshelves: currently-reading
Read in May, 2012


I am not the first person to call Lyndon Johnson a murderer.

And neither was E. Howard Hunt, the longtime CIA operative who organized the Bay of Pigs fiasco and who hated the Kennedys, and who before he died told his son St. John Hunt that Lyndon Johnson and the CIA colluded to murder John Kennedy. (2007)

Nor was Barr McClellan who was a lawyer for Lyndon Johnson and who wrote the book, "Blood, Money & Power: How LBJ Killed JFK" (2003).

Nor was Billie Sol Estes (still alive today 2012 & never interviewed by Caro) who was Lyndon Johnson's cut-out for doing business and kick backs on a massive scale (multiple $ millions). Estes, at the urging of Texas Ranger Clint Peoples, himself a close observer of LBJ's corruption for decades, went to court in the 1980's and confessed to a grand jury that Lyndon Johnson, Cliff Carter, he and Malcolm Wallace planned the murder of US Agricultural official Henry Marshall in June, 1961. The Marshall murder had been classified by Johnson cronies as death by suicide by 5 shots of a bolt action rifle - a now hilarious miscarriage of justice ruling in 1961.

Nor was Madeleine Brown, an inner circle mistress of Lyndon Johnson who had a son Steven Mark in 1950 with LBJ, and for 20 years before her death in 2003 told thousands of people that Lyndon Johnson had foreknowledge of the JFK assassination. LBJ called her on the day of the JFK assassination and said: “That son-of-a-bitch crazy Yarborough and that _____ ______ Irish mafia bastard Kennedy, will never embarrass me again!” [Texas in the Morning, p. 167]

Nor were tens of thousands anti-Vietnam protestors in the late 1960's the first to consider Lyndon Johnson a murderer as they chanted "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many babies did you kill today?"

The *first* person I know who called Lyndon Johnson a murderer was the Governor of Texas, Allan Shivers who accused Lyndon Johnson to his face for the murder of Sam Smithwick in prison in 1956. Smithwick was involved in the 1948 ballot stuffing in Duval County that got "Landslide Lyndon" *elected* over Coke Stevenson in the 1948 Democratic primary. That was when in Texas a Democratic primary nomination was a de facto general election win. Smithwick was in jail and threatening to talk about the Box 13 scandal.

Robert Dallek: "According to Johnson, in 1956, Governor Allen Shivers of Texas accused him of having had Smithwick murdered. The charge understandably enraged Johnson." (Dallek, "Lone Star Rising," p. 347) So there you have it, people, including a high elected Texas official who knew well the nature and character and lack thereof of Lyndon Johnson have been calling him a murderer since 1956.

Gov. Shivers made his charges of Lyndon Johnson orchestrating the Smithwick murder 8 years before the J. Evetts Haley book "A Texan Looks at Lyndon: A Study in Illegitimate Power" which sold more copies in Texas in 1964 than the Bible did.

I have found that people don't like it when you lie about them; but what they really *hate* is when you tell the truth about them.

Gov. Allan Shivers supported Lyndon Johnson, a man who he thought was a cold blooded murderer, for president in the 1960 Democratic primary. Now, why would Shivers do such a thing? It is called the tyranny of power. LBJ had power in 1960 and even though Shivers knew in his heart LBJ was a murderer, the tyranny of power required that Shivers support native Texan Lyndon Johnson for Texas.

And it is the tyranny of power that makes author Robert Caro feel that he is compelled to ignore 48 years of very fine JFK assassination research that points to the culpability of both Lyndon Johnson and military intelligence in the JFK assassination. They usually don't dish out Pulitzer prizes and other prestigious awards to those who call a U.S. President a murderer.

Just as families don't like to discuss incest; media, academic and government elites of countries don't like to discuss assassinations and coup d'etats that make them look like citizens of a banana republic. It just not a pleasant topic, especially when there are so many compromised organizations Presidency, FBI, CIA, Secret Service, both Democratic and Republican parties and the CIA/CFR controlled media that have tried to cover up the unpleasantness in Dallas for 48 years. Not to mention that the United States is so preachy to other countries about their states of democracy.

I think that the Bush family in particular has a lot to lose with an honest discussion and investigation into the JFK assassination. A deep analysis of GHW Bush and the events of Dallas might mean the end of Bushes at the national level of politics.

Lyndon Johnson and his Texas oil men used their CIA/military connections to murder John Kennedy for a host of reasons, both personal and ideological. 48 years after the JFK assassination it is time for mainstream academia, journalism and the U.S. government to finally acknowledge the ugly realities of the JFK assassination and the man who more than anyone else was responsible for it: Lyndon Johnson.


Historians, including Robert Caro - at the risks of some hoots from the establishment - need to start assimilating into their books and narratives the very fine body of research that now exists on the JFK assassination from authors and researchers such as Phillip Nelson, Walt Brown, Ed Tatro, Joachim Joesten, Craig Zirbel, Noel Twyman, Doug Horne, David Lifton, Joan Mellon, Harry Livingstone, Barr McClellan, Madeleine Duncan Brown, Billie Sol Estes, James Tague, Connie Kritzberg, Thomas Buchanan, Anthony Summers, Vincent Salandria, Martin Schotz, Michael Morrisey, John Newman, Jerry Policoff, Gaeton Fonzi, Dick Russell, Russ Baker, Bruce Campbell Adamson, Wim Dankbaar, Rodney Stich, Judyth Vary Baker, Mark Lane, James Douglass, Casey Quinlan, Fletcher Prouty, Jim Garrison, Larry Hancock, Fabian Escalante, Robert Groden, Charles Crenshaw, Oliver Stone, Ed Haslam, Harry Yardum, Robert Gaylon Ross, Jim Marrs, George Michael Evica, Gary Shaw, Craig Ciccone, James Fetzer, Vince Palamara, William Turner, Penn Jones, William Turner, and John Judge.

Jim DiEugenio needs to be read on JFK's very dovish foreign policy and the possible role of Allen Dulles in helping to orchestrate the JFK assassination.

You can read legendary JFK researcher Bruce Campbell Adamson, Russ Baker, Wim Dankbaar and Paul Kangas on the likely role of CIA George Herbert Walker Bush in the JFK assassination.

"Years later, when he was running for President, George [Herbert Walker Bush] would claim that he never made the call. Documents were then produced that refreshed his memory. He also claimed that he did not remember where he was the day John F. Kennedy was killed- "somewhere in Texas," he said. George Bush is possibly the only person on the planet who did not recall his whereabouts that day ..." [Kitty Kelley, "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty," pp. 212-213]

Robert Caro's "Passage of Power," because of its treatment of the JFK assassination in such an incredible and dismissive fashion is an epic fail.

Journalists in the major media and networks also need to incorporate the 48 years of very fine research into stories and books about the JFK assassination. Most of the authors above will flat out tell you Lyndon Johnson and/or military intelligence murdered John Kennedy with LBJ and his neighbor of 19 years, J. Edgar Hoover, in charge of the cover up. Allen Dulles was placed on the Warren Commission to manipulate that farce.

I debated whether to Robert Caro's "Passage of Power" a 1-star or a 2-star. I do think this book has some value in adding to the historical record. However, based on the fact that Caro has been studying Lyndon Johnson for 35 years and given the fact that Caro has an obsession with the use of power, especially its dark usages, and that the JFK assassination was the ultimate act of dark power and the ultimate expression of Lyndon Johnson's dark use of power ... and the fact that Robert Caro still wants to clap for the "Emperor Who is Wearing No Clothes," this effort is awarded a well-deserved 1-star.

The one good thing the book does is to underscore just how much the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson hated each other. I think that will eventually be the hook that pulls folks into understanding the ugly realities of the JFK assassination.


By September 16, 1965, the Soviet KGB had concluded that Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the JFK assassination. On 12/1/66 J. Edgar Hoover sent a memo to LBJ which stated:

"On September 16, 1965, this same source reported that the KGB Residency in New York City received instructions approximately September 16, 1965, from KGB headquarters in Moscow to develop all possible information concerning President Lyndon B. Johnson's character, background, personal friends, family, and from which quarters he derives his support in his position as President of the United States. Our source added that in the instructions from Moscow, it was indicated that "now" the KGB was in possession of data purporting to indicate President Johnson was responsible for the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy. KGB headquarters indicated that in view of this information, it was necessary for the Soviet Government to know the existing personal relationship between President Johnson and the Kennedy family, particularly between President Johnson and Robert and "Ted" Kennedy."

Google: "REACTION OF SOVIET AND COMMUNIST PARTY OFFICIALS TO THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY" and you will find this blockbuster Hoover memo to LBJ that the ARRB got released in the late 1990's. The KGB in the early 1960's had the world's largest foreign intelligence service. They had a keen interest in finding out the truth about the JFK assassination because they were almost framed for it. They were quite competent, too, having stolen our atomic secrets in the 1940's.

Again, this is the kind of historical gold that Robert Caro should be making jewelry with, yet he chooses to leave it laying on the ground as he walks over it to pick up a twig; Caro is no doubt fascinated by LBJ passing Kennedy's tax bill (a whopping 28 mentions in the index).

Have you ever seen the movie "Naked Gun" with Leslie Nielsen standing in front of the exploding fireworks factory? The part where Nielsen as Sgt. Frank Drebin is waving his hands to the assembled crowd and saying "Excuse me. All right. Come on - nothing to see here. Please disperse! Nothing to see here. Please!"

That would be Robert Caro and his treatment of Lyndon Johnson's and military intelligence's role in the JFK assassination, also known as the "Passage of Power."


In the early 1980's, a key mistress of Lyndon Johnson, Madeleine Duncan Brown, came public with some information that I think is the key to understanding Lyndon Johnson's Passage of Power. Madeleine was very close to LBJ and even had a son Steven Mark with LBJ in 1950. Here is what Madeleine said in her book Texas in the Morning and what she told anyone who would listen for 20 years:

In the night of 12/31/63, just 6 weeks after the JFK assassination, Madeleine asked Lyndon Johnson:

"Lyndon, you know that a lot of people believe you had something to do with President Kennedy's assassination."
He shot up out of bed and began pacing and waving his arms screaming like a madman. I was scared!
"That's bull___, Madeleine Brown!" he yelled. "Don't tell me you believe that ____!"
"Of course not." I answered meekly, trying to cool his temper.
"It was Texas oil and those ______ renegade intelligence bastards in Washington." [Brown; Texas in the Morning, p. 189]

Madeleine says that Johnson told her this at the Driskill Hotel on New Year's Eve 12/31/63. LBJ is confirmed by his schedule and contemporary accounts as being at the Driskill Hotel that night. LBJ kept a room there on retainer for his trysts. It is still there today, room #254 known as the Blue Room or the Presidential room, and you can rent it today in year 2012 for $600 to $1,000 per night depending on the season.
Robert Caro had 20 years to have a sit down interview with Madeleine Brown and he never did. Dozens of JFK researchers have had hundreds of talks and interviews with Madeleine Brown before she died in 2002.

Robert Caro: zero interviews of Madeleine Brown. I think that tells us mountains about Robert Caro's scholarship or lack thereof. It simply inexcusable for a historian of his caliber to just ignore someone who gives us information that is key to understanding the JFK assassination.

Robert Caro: zero interviews of Billie Sol Estes, Barr McClellan, Dr. Charles Crenshaw, Fletcher Prouty, Jim Garrison, name 100 other important figures in JFK assassination research. It is hard to learn history when you close your eyes, twiddle your thumbs in your ears and chant like a child " Na-na-na-na I can't hear you! Na-na-na-na-na I can't hear you!"

Lyndon Johnson's signature achievement - the civil rights act - was his "get out of jail card" for the JFK assassination. Many liberals justifiably believed that LBJ was behind the murder of JFK, so he had to give them something. Civil rights was LBJ's bone to the liberals who deeply distrusted him. The real agenda of LBJ was to keep himself out of jail and free himself from the Bobby Baker scandal, preserve the oil depreciation allowance for other oil executive perps in the JFK assassination, reward hawks in CIA/military and let his good buddy and neighbor of 19 years J. Edgar Hoover keep his job.


Gus Russo:

"In his oral history, Robert Kennedy bitterly recounted a remark that Johnson supposedly made to someone else after the assassination. "When I was young in Texas, I used to know a cross-eyed boy," Johnson said. "His eyes were crossed, and so was his character... That was God's retribution for people who were bad - and you should be careful of cross-eyed people because God put his mark on them ... Sometimes I think that what happened to Kennedy may have been divine retribution." JFK himself had slightly crossed eyes.

[Leo Janos, LBJ speechwriter, Church Committee interview by Rhett Dawson, Oct. 14, 1975 ... also Gus Russo, Live by the Sword, p. 377]


From Defrauding America, Rodney Stich, 3rd edition 1998 p. 638-639]:

“The Role of deep-cover CIA officer, Trenton Parker, has been described in earlier pages, and his function in the CIA's counter-intelligence unit, Pegasus. Parker had stated to me earlier that a CIA faction was responsible for the murder of JFK … During an August 21, 1993, conversation, in response to my questions, Parker said that his Pegasus group had tape recordings of plans to assassinate Kennedy. I asked him, "What group were these tapes identifying?" Parker replied: "Rockefeller, Allen Dulles, Johnson of Texas, George Bush, and J. Edgar Hoover." I asked, "What was the nature of the conversation on these tapes?"

I don't have the tapes now, because all the tape recordings were turned over to [Congressman] Larry McDonald. But I listened to the tape recordings and there were conversations between Rockefeller, [J. Edgar] Hoover, where [Nelson] Rockefeller asks, "Are we going to have any problems?" And he said, "No, we aren't going to have any problems. I checked with Dulles. If they do their job we'll do our job." There are a whole bunch of tapes, because Hoover didn't realize that his phone has been tapped. Defrauding America, Rodney Stich, 3rd edition p. 638-639]

I don't think Robert Caro knows who the legendary Rodney Stich is or who Trenton Parker (still alive, probably in Colorado) is. So much for Caro's omniscient research; the man is completely unaware of cutting edge JFK research.

“I want a death-bed confession from the accused assassin. There’s a man in the operating room who will take a statement. I will expect full cooperation in this matter.”
Note: Johnson was not asking to find out *who* sent Oswald or if there were *others,* if it was a conspiracy. Use your thinking cap to figure out why.


James Wagenvoord to John Simkin (in November, 2009):

“I've been reading through you web site and believe that I can add one of the final jigsaw puzzle pieces that affect the timing of JFK's Dallas trip and the nervousness of LBJ during the weeks preceding the killing. At the time I was the 27 year old Editorial business manager and assistant to Life Magazines Executive Editor. Beginning in later summer 1963 the magazine, based upon information fed from Bobby Kennedy and the Justice Department, had been developing a major newsbreak piece concerning Johnson and Bobby Baker. On publication Johnson would have been finished and off the '64 ticket (reason the material was fed to us) and would probably have been facing prison time. At the time LIFE magazine was arguably the most important general news source in the US. The top management of Time Inc. was closely allied with the USA's various intelligence agencies and we were used after by the Kennedy Justice Department as a conduit to the public. Life's coverage of the Hoffa prosecution, and involvement in paying off Justice Department Memphis witnesses was a case in point.

The LBJ/Baker piece was in the final editing stages and was scheduled to break in the issue of the magazine due out the week of November 24 (the magazine would have made it to the newsstands on Nov.26th or 27th). It had been prepared in relative secrecy by a small special editorial team. On Kennedy's death research files and all numbered copies of the nearly print-ready draft were gathered up by my boss (he had been the top editor on the team) and shredded. The issue that was to expose LBJ instead featured the Zapruder film. Based upon our success in syndicating the Zapruder film I became Chief of Time/LIFE editorial services and remained in that job until 1968.”


Google: "Some Relevant Facts about the JFK Assassination"
“For the most part, the Washington press corps kept the lid on the story - until the late Bob Humphrey, then the GOP Senate leadership's spokesman, an incredibly gifted strategist and a mentor, asked me to tell the story to the late Delaware Republican Sen. John Williams, a crusader for good government and a crackerjack of an investigator.
Sen. Williams asked me to introduce him to Hill and I did. They got together with some Senate investigators for the GOP minority and Hill told them the whole story, including the part played by Vice President Johnson. Williams got his committee to launch an investigation and the lid came off.

A few days later, the attorney general, Bobby Kennedy, called five of Washington's top reporters into his office and told them it was now open season on Lyndon Johnson. It's OK, he told them, to go after the story they were ignoring out of deference to the administration.
And from that point on until the events in Dallas, Lyndon Baines Johnson's future looked as if it included a sudden end to his political career and a few years in the slammer. The Kennedys had their knives out and sharpened for him and were determined to draw his political blood - all of it.


Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Passage of Power.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.