Alan's Reviews > The Passage of Power

The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro
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's review
Sep 08, 12

Read in September, 2012

Whew! I just finished this book, the fourth volume of Caro's unbeleiveable biography of Lyndon Johnson. This one goes from the the runup to the 1960 Presdientail election campaign through the assasination of JFK and then up through LBJ's first year as President. Caro, who writes a volume every 10 years, promises that the fifth will be the last -which means it will cover passage of Medicare(hard to believe a Congress coudl do that), the Vietnam War, and the 1968 Presidential campaign (Johnson resigning, Bobbie Kennedy getting assasinated, etc). I cannot wait.

If you have not read Caro, its a unique experience - hsi reaserch (all done by he and his wife) is unbeleivably meticulous and all-encompassing, his writing is beautiful, and he gets inside tghe pores of his subjects and comes out with teh good, the bad and teh ugly. He also picks perfect subjects for his talents - LBJ was both a monster, a master politician, a wonderful rags to riches story, a vicious cruel bully and (especially comparing it to recent hsitory, and after reading Caro) an amazingly successful President. ( With onlly one fatal falw- Vietnam- but that is in the next volume).

The heart of this book was his relationship with the Kenndeys. As many books as I have read about those years, and having lived through them in college and law school plus my personal invovlement as a Bobby Kennedy staffer in the '68 campaign, I have never understood or felt more acutely the almost Shakespearean personal conflicts at play - the Kennedy's patrician scorn for LBJ (or "Rufus Cornpone" as they used to call him), the story of how Bobby Kennedy tried to undo LBJ's nomination as VP literally minutes before it was announced, hwo the hatred between LBJ and RFK played itself after JFK's assasination, and how their personal vendetta had a large part in shaping national politics until Sirhan Sirhan put a stop to it. Actually, maybe more Greek than Shakesperaean. (Having read teh book, my wife is now convinced that LBJ was behind both assasinations-if it was a play or movie, that would defeintely be the plot turn that made dramatic sense)

The book got only four stars, becaseu there are repititious parts (coudl ahve used another edit) and becaause some of the legsiatlive battles makes for tedious reading (but not the way LBJ masterminded teh passage of the civi8l rights bill -the first time a Senatorial filibuster was broken - it shoud be required reading for Obama if he has a second term). But I am fired up and ready to go for Volume 5. And if you wnat to read the greatest poltical biography ever written, read Caros' first book - The Power Broker - about Robert Moses,although maybe you have to be a New Yorker to really apprcicate it.
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