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Master of the Senate by Robert A. Caro
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Feb 23, 2014

really liked it
Read from February 23 to May 21, 2014

The third and most hefty volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson series, this Pulitzer Prize-winner is no casual reading experience. Anyone with a healthy appreciation of the art of politics, America’s 20th century civil rights struggle, or the potential of journalistic biography should consider making the commitment to read this book. Johnson’s meteoric rise to power within the U.S. Senate, and his systematic success at helping to transform the institution during the 1950s, get a thorough and intimate treatment.

Caro sets the stage by recapping the Senate’s history from the Founding to the end of World War II. He then recounts how Johnson assumed the role of majority leader and wielded the power like no one before (and perhaps, no one since). Watching how the Texan and future president threaded the needle between racist segregationists on one end of the caucus and radical liberals on the other to marshal through creative but largely symbolic civil rights legislation is an amazing tale in its own right. By the end of the 1,040 pages, I was left to wonder if Johnson wouldn’t have been wiser to keep his seat in Congress rather than join the Democratic national ticket in 1960, ultimately reaching the White House. But the man’s ambition was too lofty and all-consuming to let his unrivaled political skills remain in the legislative branch of government.
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02/23/2014 marked as: currently-reading
05/21/2014 marked as: read

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