Donna's Reviews > The Path to Power

The Path to Power by Robert A. Caro
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's review
Jul 28, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: biography-memoir
Recommended for: those who want to understand political power and its uses
Read in July, 2012 , read count: 1

This biography has been sitting on my bookshelf for more than 20 years as I have regularly bought the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th volumes of Caro's masterwork. As I have been reading a variety of fiction books simultaneously, I decided I needed one long book to read at bedtime every night to keep some consistency in my reading life. I picked a great one.

Caro did a lot of research and was able to interview many people from Johnson's early life who had not been honestly forthcoming in prior statements. What we find is that Johnson fabricated much of his own story and intimidated others into confirming his "truth." With diligent historical investigation, Caro is able to find out that the myth of Johnson was really just that. Johnson is portrayed as one who always had to be the center of attention, the leader of the pack, or he would (literally) take his ball and go home. He was devious, manipulative, and crooked. The source of his power came from ingratiating himself to older men and lying to others about his support for their plans/programs. He saw the use of extensive amounts of money in political campaigns and used Texas oil money to fund campaigns of others so that they would be indebted to him. His first political defeat -- the run for the Senate in 1941 -- was the result of his only lack of preparedness -- he didn't steal enough votes.

In addition, the several chapters that don't focus on Johnson exclusively: about the life in the rural Hill Country in Texas, about the building of the Lower Colorado Dams, about rural electrification -- all of which give the picture of Johnson's home counties as life lived in near medieval ruggedness -- are among the most interesting chapters in the book.

Caro's writing style is somewhat repetitive and loaded with questions (What would this mean for Johnson's future? How would he ever get back in the good graces of Rayburn? Would this be the end of his longed for dream? -- paragraphs just all questions), but in the end Caro's dogged style means that you get his point and know where the story is heading.

I intended to read this book just a few pages every night while focusing on my other reading commitments, but that was not possible. I got drawn into Johnson's life story and couldn't put it down. On to volume two.
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07/19/2012 page 284
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Phil (new)

Phil Very interesting as I have been meaning to dig into Caro's behemoth for sometime having bought the most recent book in this series but not the others. I have a friend who has offered me vol. 1 and I must take him up on it. Much of what you speak of is also covered in Randall B. Woods 2006 biography LBJ: Architect of American Ambition. This bio took advantage of the release of thousands of hours of white house tapes along with the recent declassification of tens of thousands of documents. For all his warts I think LBJ will go down as possibly the last great President. He learned the so called art of political skulduggery and used it to achieve many things no other President could or would since. He will go down as another FDR. His first hundred days after the JFK assassination is a monument to American liberalism, a liberalism that has all but vanished. I am learning also from Time Wiener's excellent new work on the history of the FBI that He relied on Hoover a great deal to get things done foreign policy wise, some of them of the "ugly American" variety. If only Obama had the skill and craft to deal with the worst congress in the history of the excited states...sigh...but alas American is on the decline and Presidents are little more than CEOs of America Inc.

message 2: by Phil (new)

Phil Here is that LBJ book by Woods I mentioned:

message 3: by Phil (new)

Phil And here is a history of the FBI I mentioned by *Tim* Weiner

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