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Master of the Senate

(The Years of Lyndon Johnson #3)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  20,883 ratings  ·  886 reviews
The most riveting political biography of our time, Robert A. Caro’s life of Lyndon B. Johnson, continues. Master of the Senate takes Johnson’s story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 through 1960, in the United States Senate. Once the most august and revered body in politics, by the time Johnson arrived the Senate had become a parody o ...more
Paperback, 1167 pages
Published April 25th 2003 by Vintage (first published April 23rd 2002)
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Gmaharriet I was 22 when LBJ ran for President after finishing JFK's term, and I voted for him because I was afraid of Goldwater escalating Vietnam (yeah, I know…moreI was 22 when LBJ ran for President after finishing JFK's term, and I voted for him because I was afraid of Goldwater escalating Vietnam (yeah, I I do). I don't recall there being any major concerns about a president's honesty and integrity back then. Most folks believed what our leaders told us.

It wasn't until after Nixon and Watergate that the general public became more concerned with honesty and probity. We look at our potential leaders more closely now and expect them to release their tax returns and put their assets into blind trusts. Um, well, we did up until about 3 years ago. What can I say?

As Porter Broyles pointed out in his reply, insider trading wasn't illegal when Johnson was president.(less)
Jonas Hughes Only Caro could write such a mundane procedure and have you on the edge of your seat. Everything he wrote in this trilogy would not be possible in the…moreOnly Caro could write such a mundane procedure and have you on the edge of your seat. Everything he wrote in this trilogy would not be possible in the wrong hands, and thankfully Robert Caro took it upon himself to write an unflinching book that gave us a full picture of LBJ. Today's cancel culture would decry his leadership, but our lives wouldn't be as they are today without him. Holding the past under present scrutiny is ridiculous and childish. I know his flaws that don't mean I can not admire his abilities. LBJ is one of my favorite modern politicians, top five, and I make no excuses for it. People get to be who they want, and during his time, he was one of the greatest.

He & MLK Jr. did what no one thought possible, that should always overshadow Vietnam. We can't continue to shred our past leaders for not acting by today's standards. It's like being upset Edison didn't put color on the kinescope in his first patent. I call this cancel culture surreality because even Dali couldn't have foreseen such madness.(less)

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Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
“At the turn of the century, with the onset of the Progressive Era, the tide became a wave – a great wave of conscience, of anger over injustice, of demand for a cleansing of government and for a mobilization of government to meet the needs of its people. The wave of Progressivism and reform washed across America, through statehouses and city halls, even through the White House. When the wave crashed against the Senate, it broke on the Senate, the waters falling away from it as they had been fal ...more
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a long book. Caro provides extended passages of background about a quarter of the book on the history of the Senate, from the great days of Webster, Clay and Calhoun to current times. He also went into detail about the architecture and seats in the Senate both before and after the War of 1812. Approximately half of the book covers in detail the epic battle over the 1957 Civil Rights Bill. Johnson’s magic is the main subject of the book: how he made things happen in the U.S. Senate. Johns ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will”
― Robert A. Caro, Master of the Senate

The first thing one must discuss when talking about this book is its size. Its umpf. Its heft. It doesn't come to you, you go to it. Weighing in at almost 2lbs, this book is 3x the size of premature babies that survive now. It is a beast: 1167 pages including notes and index. But man, there was a gem on every page. And not just a historical detail, but Caro's prose makes this book easier
Otis Chandler
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Otis by: Patrick Brown
Best book of the series, and best book about American history that I think I've read. Now we are getting to the drama and corruption at an interesting scale - the US Senate. And the portrait we have of Johnson is fascinating.

Lyndon Johnson was just simply power hungry. He had no principles of note, no things he was on a mission to do - except to hold as much power as he could. But he was brilliant at reading people, knowing what they wanted, and finding ways to horse-trade in his huge and growi
Apr 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Caro makes history as compelling as fiction. LBJ is a great subject and he takes his time through 5 volumes. This is volume 3 and there is a lot to be learned about using the Senate rules and cloakroom as effectively as Johnson was able to do.

Pros: Great details; LBJ's faults and virtues are all on display; a critical period in U.S. history is well documented

Cons: Lady Bird, John Connelly and Bill Moyers all refused to talk to Caro as he wrote this volume. They are the keepers of much truth and
aPriL does feral sometimes
‘The Years of Lyndon Johnson *** Master of the Senate’ by Robert A. Caro is a monumental achievement. The book deserves every award it has received. It is an American history book, a biography and a college-level civics text all in one. I found it overwhelming in insider detail and shockingly revealing of the spectrum of human culpability in self-interest as well as the amazing heights human cleverness can reach if housed in an intelligent brain. Caro strips away layers of political cover and me ...more

Whew! What a relief. Only two more volumes to go.
Robert Caro has got to be the best American biographer of the past 50 years. It's sad that he's only turned out 4 books in the last 35 years, but each one is so exceptionally researched and well-written.

Master of the Senate is another chapter in Caro's multi-volume study of Lyndon Johnson, focusing on his time in the Senate, specifically his efforts to pass the first Civil Rights bill since Reconstruction. His study of the political dynamics of the Senate in the 1950s, including the entrenched
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Senators, Presidential candidates, Dixiecrats, good ol' boys who use the hard-r
Just as Caro began the first volume of Lyndon Johnson's biography telling the entire history of the Texas hill country where he grew up, he sets the stage for Johnson's Senate years by giving a brief, thorough history of the U.S. Senate, starting all the way in the 18th century.

Caro writes long. He does not stint on details. He almost reminds me of a non-fiction version of Stephen King. (If you've ever read a big, bloated Stephen King novel where King suddenly goes off on a chapter-long tangent
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Like the second, the third volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson progresses from a slow start to a riveting finish. In the first 100 pages Caro recounts the exercise of power in the Senate from its inception to the time Lyndon Johnson entered in 1948. At that time, the firmly entrenched seniority system vested unmitigated power in the committee chairmen who were old, conservative and southern. This instructive history lesson gives us the context we need to assess Johnson’s significant accomplish ...more
Frank Stein
Sep 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Yes, this, the third volume in the Johnson biography, is also one of the best books ever written, like the other ones. And yes, I can't wait until the next volume comes out.

Caro is such a great writer because he is so honestly interested in the minutiae of process, and he treats all his great works as procedural thrillers. He doesn't just want to know that Johnson was able to win a vote in the Senate, he wants to know exactly how he did it, what horse-trades he had to make, what motions he would
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the single best book of history I have ever read. Period
Justin Matthews
Jan 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Caro's Years of Lyndon Johnson books are an education in politics, and Master of the Senate is itself a one-volume master class. Maybe like I once did you might think that there's no way you could get all that interested in Lyndon Johnson, but trust me—Caro will get you interested. I regret having waited so long to read these. They really are worthy of their reputation.

Starting with the history of that august upper chamber, Caro, with his great prose and storytelling power, steps through these f
Apr 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Make no mistake: Lyndon Baines Johnson was a stone cold, LEGISLATIVE ANIMAL. His accomplishments, maneuvering, and overall dominance as a tactician are all the more remarkable when you consider the regular, alternating fits of paralysis and tantruming that have unfortunately come to characterize the modern day, pitiful excuse for the United States Senate we've inherited. Caro's knowledge, both of the institution and of the man himself, is clearly comprehensive, but what I loved about "Master of ...more
Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in US politics
This is an excellent book on two levels: it sheds light on the character of Lyndon Johnson and it reveals the intricate workings of the US Senate. I was appalled by the side of LBJ that Caro uncovers. He was an ego-maniacal bully who used physical intimidation and lies to manipulate those around him. He was the youngest Senator to hold the position of Senate majority leader and he was truly masterful at claiming and wielding the power that came with that position. The book uses the famous Civil ...more
Christopher Saunders
The third of Robert Caro's voluminous Lyndon Johnson chronicles, cMaster of the Senate covers his years as Senate Majority Leader in the '50s. For the first time, I occasionally found Caro's orotund, digressive prose a bit tedious, especially in the endless prologue on the history of the Senate. Nonetheless, the meat of the book makes it well worth plowing through the slower passages, as Caro captures Johnson's evolution both as politician and man. Caro spends a lot of time chronicling Johnson's ...more
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it

“Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson” is the Pulitzer Prize-winning third volume in Robert Caro’s series covering the life of Lyndon B. Johnson. Caro is a former investigative reporter and the author of another Pulitzer Prize-winning biography: “The Power Broker” reviewing the life of Robert Moses. He is currently working on the fifth (and presumably final) volume in his LBJ series.

Published in 2002, “Master of the Senate” covers Johnson’s li
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As one who has come late to the magisterial multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, I continue to be amazed at Robert Caro’s skill in walking the tightrope of scholarly research and lively presentation. After recently reading volumes one and two, I had come to know the man from Texas, and now in volume three I’ve seen LBJ truly in his element, trading favors and exploiting arcane rules to turn the Senate on its complacent ear. Yet even as I call LBJ “the man from Texas,” I know where he prefer ...more
Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
After 3 volumes and 3000+ pages (probably 4000+ counting all the notes, which are well worth reading), I can't think of a better term to describe this bio of LBJ than "page-turner." Actually, I can think of lots of better terms: compelling, gripping, exhaustively detailed, amazingly well researched and documented, vivid, compassionate, fair, unblinking, dogged, and probably the greatest analysis of political power in 20th century America that will ever be written.

Quite simply, I love this book,
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I can't wait for the final volume of this to come out. While everyone I know told me I was crazy for delving into a three volume bio of LBJ that ends just as he finally becomes V.P., it is a great reminder that politics has always been dirty and the dirtiest always win (Oh, yeah...the country also loses then.) Having said that I found the LBJ in the book one of those amazing characters who made me battle myself. Half the time I loved him and half the time I hated him. In domestic policy the goal ...more
May 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jessica by: everyone i've ever known who's read it
I've started about eight books in the past week, but I can't get into any of them. I've just been flailing around in the Proust, and nothing else I've tried to read lately has done anything for me.... so tonight I decided to stop this charade and go for what I want.

I've suspected for awhile that I was born to read this book, yet I keep telling myself it's not time yet. There's something a little scary about starting a book like this one. What if it's not as mindblowing as I think it's going to b
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-bingo-2019
Nearly a year and a half later, I've finally finished this mountain of a book. At the beginning, I didn't fully understand why I needed to get a comprehensive crash course in the history and workings of the senate. The first two volumes featured a sharp focus on LBJ himself, and to have a third of this massive volume be dedicated to other topics felt like a side tour I hadn't asked for. I was impatient to learn more about LBJ's work in the senate, and to finally get to the passing of the Civil R ...more
Susan O
Master of the Senate is the third book in Caro’s brilliant biography of Lyndon B Johnson. It was just as beautifully written as the first two volumes, but much larger in scope. Not necessarily in the time period covered, but in the background detail needed to truly understand Johnson’s role in the Senate and how he transformed it. It is not an overstatement to say that Johnson became a “master of the Senate.”

Throughout Caro's series on The Years of Lyndon Johnson, he presents a man with conflict
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is THE book of 2016. It literally took 11 months for me to read it. It is another of Caro's magnificent depictions of power.

Johnson longed for power and he used every means to get it. Once gotten, he used his power for all it was worth either for the good of the country but more likely for the advancement of LBJ.

Caro's research is detailed and embraces every aspect of the high points of Johnson's Senate career. The single chapter on the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act shows Johnson's
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reading-list
It took 12 years to write and it has taken me over 6 months to read. But I have finally finished the third volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, and it was definitely worth the investment!

It would be impossible to analyse the books contents in the detail required in such a short blog, so I will simply focus on some highlights.

This volume, which covers the majority of LBJ’s time as Senator for Texas, feels like a hybrid of the first two volumes. It is part social history - in particular the hist
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This third volume (in a series of five) covers the twelve years from 1949 through 1960 in which LBJ served in the U.S. Senate. At over 1100 pages it took me over five months to complete. During that time, and even though I read from this book every day, I also read thirteen other books. For me, this was the best way to accomplish, and fully appreciate, the endeavor of absorbing the rich abundance of information it contains.

As I've stated before, Robert Caro does not write mere biographies. He ha
Porter Broyles
I could write a book about this book, but I'm not going to.

After the Civil War, the Republican Party was the progressive and catered to the black vote. In the first 92 years after the War, Southern Democrats successfully blocked any and all national Civil Rights legislation.

This changed in 1957.

Today, the Democratic Party is perceived as the more progressive party that caters to the minotiry vote.

If you want to understand how this occurred. How a Southern racist Democrat became THE key president
This volume of Robert A Caro's biography of Lyndon B Johnson was the longest so far. I began reading it in mid-November, 2017, mostly at the rate of 10 pages a day. I renewed it at the library as many times as allowed and finished it in a blaze of power reading 120 pages in two days. It is dense and sometimes repetitive. I feel like I have done a semester of Ivy League college level political science with Robert Caro as the professor. I am not however going to write a term paper!

Yet it was so
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, favourites
Robert A. Caro is brilliant, both as a writer and a political historian. In this third volume of the massive biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, Caro takes us into some of the most powerful and complicated years in LBJ’s political years, his time as a senator (which eventually leads to his selection as Majority Leader in the Senate). There is a thorough examination of LBJ’s time in the Senate, as he continues to thirst for power. He encounters some of the greats of Senate lore, specifically Richard ...more
Oct 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I don't think biographies get any better than this. The depth of Caro's research and skill of narrative writing is so impressive and awesome...

One of the best books I've read, it sheds so much light on the politics of Capitol Hill back in the 40s and 50s. Caro is so good with bringing the whole era to life, breathing life into all the wily and not so wily politicians, the evil big money corporate businessman (Caro doesn't mind letting you know how he feels about people!), the scheming lawyers, n
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A former investigative reporter for Newsday, Robert Caro is the author of The Power Broker (1974), a biography of the urban planner Robert Moses which he won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize. President Obama said that he read the biography when he was 22 years old and that the book "mesmerized" him. Obama said, "I'm sure it helped to shape how I think about politics."

Caro has also written four biographies

Other books in the series

The Years of Lyndon Johnson (4 books)
  • The Path to Power
  • Means of Ascent
  • The Passage of Power

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“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will”;” 16 likes
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