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The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #4)
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PRESIDENTIAL SERIES > 14. PASSAGE OF POWER - BOOK AS A WHOLE AND FINAL THOUGHTS ~ (December 17th - December 23rd) ~ (SPOILER THREAD)

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 20, 2012 04:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 37385 comments Mod
For those of you who have completed the book and/or who want to discuss aspects of the book which are beyond our weekly assignments in the non spoiler threads, this thread is a spoiler thread where you can discuss those points.

If you have completed the book and would like to tell us what you thought about this selection, please feel free to discuss your opinions in a respectful way here. This is a place to post your end of book review and comments.

However, please no links to personal reviews because we consider that self promotion. Simply post your thoughts here without the links.

Many folks read ahead of the weekly assignment and that is OK too; however, you must make sure that your posted comments on the other weekly non spoiler threads do not reflect reading ahead of the posted weekly assignment. If you would like to discuss aspects of the book further along, this is a spoiler thread where you can do just that.

We try to move along the discussion slowly on the weekly non spoiler threads but realize that some folks like to move along swiftly. So we have options for both groups of folks.

The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #4 ) by Robert A. Caro Robert A. CaroRobert A. Caro


Craig (Twinstuff) I wasn't sure if this was the best location for this initial question, but as anyone reading the book (or many not reading it) might know, this book is the fourth in a planned series of five books covering LBJ's life.

It isn't required to have read the other entries in the series (I read one many years ago but have forgotten much of its content), and some of the material in Passage of Power covers other parts of Johnson's life such as his childhood, but obviously most of this book focuses on a short time period (1958-64).

Has anyone read the other Caro's books on LBJ?

The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1 The Path to Power by Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro (volume 1)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson Means of Ascent by Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro (volume 2)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson Master of the Senate by Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro (volume 3)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro (volume 4)


Bryan Craig Hello Craig, great job on the proper citations, by the way.

I have read 1-3, but it was some years ago. I remember them well, and they read just as fast and well as the new one.

I just finished a shorter biography that was very, very good:

Lone Star Rising Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 Volume 1 by Robert Dallek Robert DallekRobert Dallek

It is only two volume work, but well done.


Craig (Twinstuff) Dallek was my favorite college professor at UCLA and I just posted elsewhere that I had the immense pleasure of hearing him speak this summer. He personally autographed a copy of another of his books (and I read one of his LBJ books a long time ago too) with the inscription 'to a former student' which was kind of cool. This is another of Dallek's great works that he autographed for me.

An Unfinished Life John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek Robert Dallek Robert Dallek

I haven't read this Caro book but it's on my to-be-read shelf -
The Power Broker Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro


Tomerobber | 334 comments Craig wrote: "I wasn't sure if this was the best location for this initial question, but as anyone reading the book (or many not reading it) might know, this book is the fourth in a planned series of five books ..."
Hi Craig . . I bought all 4 vol. of this set as I had not read any of them before and I'm reading vol.1 at the same time as the one under discussion . . I'm looking forward to all of them.


message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 37385 comments Mod
Terrific, you have your work cut out for you but the author is magnificent.


Bryan Craig Tomerobber wrote: "Craig wrote: "I wasn't sure if this was the best location for this initial question, but as anyone reading the book (or many not reading it) might know, this book is the fourth in a planned series ..."

Awesome, a great way to get the background


Bryan Craig I highly recommend. Dallek's JFK book. I read it twice.

An Unfinished Life John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek Robert DallekRobert Dallek


message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 37385 comments Mod
Folks, this is a great place to have ad hoc discussions etc. and do end of book reviews. Craig and Bryan, please make sure to add all of these wonderful books to the bibliography thread.

Here is the link:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...


Alvin Steingold (Alvmitchel) | 2 comments Tomerobber wrote: "Craig wrote: "I wasn't sure if this was the best location for this initial question, but as anyone reading the book (or many not reading it) might know, this book is the fourth in a planned series ..."

Tomerobber wrote: "Craig wrote: "I wasn't sure if this was the best location for this initial question, but as anyone reading the book (or many not reading it) might know, this book is the fourth in a planned series ..."

"Passage to Power" took ten years to finish. If the last volume take as long, there is a very good chance I won't live to see it.


Alvin Steingold (Alvmitchel) | 2 comments I just wrote a comment that disappeared to God knows where.

Master of the Senate and Passage to Power were the most meaningful volumes to me because I lived through them.

Volume IV was just as well written as the first three and as I said above I hope I live long enough to read the last volume which should be remarkably interesting and probably sadder than the first four.

This volume only covers the ten weeks between the assassination of JFK in Dallas and Johnson's first State of the Union address to Congress in January, 1964.

I have a slight disagreement with Caro's conclusions in "Passage to Power." His theory is that there were two Lyndon Johnsons; or, perhaps a basic LBJ, a bad one who as gloating, vengeful, hurtful and pretty much lacked the basic human quality of empathy. Caro does not make him out to be a sociopath but you are pretty much led to that conclusion.

During the transitional seven weeks Caro argues, LBJ was able to submerge and "subdue" these pretty nasty character defects and in so doing was able to assure the world and the American people about the continuity of our government. The ability to do so was instrumental in bringing about the passage of many major legislation including some first introduced by JFK.

It is in "Passage" that we learn about the origin and path of the hate filled relationship between LBJ and Robert Kennedy. Here also, he fills in the gaps regarding the origin of LBJ's commitment to civil rights and social justice.

Caro argues that the old, "real" LBJ emerges after the 64' election (the first time I was old enough to vote)leading to the debacle of Vietnam as well as the beginning of America's distrust of the Executive Branch. He contends and I'm paraphrasing, that the damage inflicted on the Office of the President was so great that ut marked the beginning of the Country's cynicism and distrust of the President. While he concedes much of the damage was inflicted by Nixon he says "... it was under Johnson that the damage began." And this is where he and I part company.

As an admirer of LBJ. and particularly his social policies, while at the same time a major Nixon hater, I think he carries this argument a wee bit too far.

I could go on and on with this polemic but this is neither the time nor the place.

My guess is that in Volume V we will learn that hubris was a major contributor to the sullied reputation. The parallels with "W" are hard to ignore.


message 12: by Bryan (last edited Oct 01, 2012 12:31PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bryan Craig Thanks, Alvin for the thoughtful review.

In regards to the damaged presidency, I think Caro talks about the "credibility gap" relating to Vietnam. It began to create some serious questions on how we relate to the president. You probably could argue the cynicism wasn't full blown until Nixon.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.


message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 37385 comments Mod
Alvin, thank you for your post. If you are mentioning any other book other than the one discussed; you have to add the proper citation.

Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #3 ) by Robert A. Caro by Robert A. CaroRobert A. Caro


message 14: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 37385 comments Mod
We have citation rules for the board. When you introduced yourself, we would have sent you the links. We add the bookcover, the author's photo and the author's link like I showed you in message 13.

Check out the Mechanics of the Board thread which is in the Help Desk folder for additional info.


Bryan Craig I learned today that this book is a finalist for the National Book Award. Very nice:

http://www.nationalbook.org/


message 16: by G (new) - rated it 5 stars

G Hodges (GLH1) | 901 comments Bryan wrote: "I learned today that this book is a finalist for the National Book Award. Very nice:

http://www.nationalbook.org/"


Bryan, now I have at least three other books I want to read....


Bryan Craig Good stuff, G.


message 18: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 37385 comments Mod
Isn't that terrific. So many books which look interesting on that list too.


Bryan Craig Indeed!


Theresa | 84 comments I'm pretty much finished with this book. I only have 1 chapter left. I don't think I have ever enjoyed a nonfiction history book more than I enjoyed this one. And I love history books! I don't have time for a formal review yet, but I plan on giving it 5 stars. it was very well done, thorough, and easy to read. I'd love to read the other 3 books and hopefully the fifth will be published someday.


Bryan Craig I'm glad Theresa. This book and the series are first-rate. Thanks for joining us.


Bryan Craig I can't believe we are at the end. I'm a little sad, like saying good-bye to a friend.

I might have to give this book a five star rating, and I don't give out 5 stars very often :-)


Tomerobber | 334 comments Well Bryan . . . I still have the other three books to finish reading . . . so my enjoyment will continue . . . loved the writing style of Mr. Caro and am looking forward to indulging myself in the near future. It's so much fun learning about history as an adult . . . when you have the time and desire for knowledge . . . and don't have the constraints of a classroom environment. It's been a great time and thanks for being our moderator. ;-)


Ann D This is definitely a 5* book in my opinion. I really appreciate the opportunity to read it here with the History Book Club. You folks have helped revive my love of history.


Ann D One more question about LBJ. Given his bad temper and often humiliating treatment of subordinates (Pierre Salinger, for example), what drew qualified people to him? I am thinking of Bill Moyers and Jack Valenti, but I'm sure there were many others. I don't think power alone could have done it.


Bryan Craig Tomerobber wrote: "Well Bryan . . . I still have the other three books to finish reading . . . so my enjoyment will continue . . . loved the writing style of Mr. Caro and am looking forward to indulging myself in the..."

Thanks for joining us Tomerobber and the nice comments. It has been a great read!


Bryan Craig Ann wrote: "One more question about LBJ. Given his bad temper and often humiliating treatment of subordinates (Pierre Salinger, for example), what drew qualified people to him? I am thinking of Bill Moyers an..."

Awesome question, Ann. I do think power does play a role. LBJ treated subordinates poorly as a Congressman in the 1940s, so it is part of his personality. He was loyal and did reward people for their work. I think people put up with stuff because they know they are making a difference, playing a role in something big, especially when LBJ was president. I think many would join the war against poverty.


Ann D Good points, Bryan -especially about the desire to make a difference.

As always in this discussion, I am reminded what a complicated individual Johnson was.


message 29: by Bryan (last edited Dec 18, 2012 11:00AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bryan Craig I agree, Ann, he was complicated. It is good to have Caro and Dallek to help us navigate:

Robert A. CaroRobert A. Caro

Robert DallekRobert Dallek


Ann D I haven't read anything by Dallek. how does he compare to Caro?


Bryan Craig Dallek's books are not as detailed, but they are excellent. I think they are very similar in how they approach LBJ: flawed and great at the same time.

Lone Star Rising Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 Volume 1 by Robert Dallek Flawed Giant Lyndon Johnson and His Times 1961-1973 by Robert Dallek Robert DallekRobert Dallek


Ann D Thanks, Bryan. I noticed he has also written about other presidents that I'm interested in. I hope to read some of his books in the future.


Bryan Craig His book on Kennedy is great:

An Unfinished Life John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek Robert DallekRobert Dallek


Ann D Thanks for the recommendation. I'll start with the Kennedy one.


Bryan Craig You are welcome. Let me know how you like it.


message 36: by G (new) - rated it 5 stars

G Hodges (GLH1) | 901 comments I just finished this book and it was, as with the others in the LBJ series, riveting. How someone could write so many words with so few missteps astonishes me.

Rather than write a review based on the zillions of post-it notes I have for the book (there was so very much to think about) I’ll stick to influence peddling versus power and Johnsons exceptionally neurotic take on his role in this life.

Johnson knew the “I’ll wash your back if you’ll wash mine” routine better than anyone in the American political arena of the 1950’s and ‘60’s. That why he was Master of the Senate.

But his insecurities, jealousies and hard-wired hatred of people from what he saw as a ‘higher class’, people with charismatic power, hamstrung his ability to create an enduring legacy of worth. Which is a pity considering his very real concern, from personal experience, for the poor, for Blacks and Latinos, and all those who did not have the financial resources to live more than a marginal existence.

As described by Caro, his corruption and ability to misuse people disgusted me and yet I have such sympathy for the demons that plagued him.

Because I lived through it as a young teenager, I can’t objectively comment on the section covering JFK’s assassination other than to say Caro had me alternately sobbing, confused and angry.

Caro has not painted LBJ’s nemesis, Robert Kennedy with a kinder brush, however. He comes across as a tribal hero worshipper who viciously hated Johnson, not just for his country rube unsophisticated ways, but for the interactive results of that lack of ‘cosmetic’ sophistication.

Lyndon did not make it easy to understand how he used influence to his advantage and Bobby was unaccepting of anyone in authority not having the trappings of gentility, or being a member of the right tribe.

The battle between Bobby and Lyndon was of mythic proportions and as with all such conflicts there was never a winner.

Caro wants to leaves us with the memory of Johnsons truly extraordinary accomplishment of keeping the republic intact after JFK’s assassination, regardless of the methods he used.

People who lead are never simple; never monochrome. Johnson wielded enormous influence, but not in my opinion, power. A small difference, but I think influence does not having staying power, and real power, well, does.

After the awe of his achievements (both political and personal) has passed, I am left with an image of a truly unfulfilled man. If only he had a better opinion of himself.

Lerner and Loewe said, “..that once there was a spot, that for one brief shining moment was Camelot.” That aura should have carried over to Johnson and how he captained the ship of state through a very dangerous time. As Caro said, it was heroic.

Unfortunately, Johnson’s finest hour is not only hidden by history, but by the Kennedy charisma and Johnson's lack of it. This book (even though Caro actually has strong words against Johnson’s arrogance) goes a long way to pulling back the veil that obscures a major achievement, the bloodless transfer of power in a time of crisis, for a democratic government.

An excellent, excellent book.


Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #3) by Robert A. Caro by Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro


Bryan Craig Thanks,G for being here.


Ann D Thanks, G for an excellent assessment of LBJ. Is there a lot of overlap between Master of the Senate and The Passage of Power?

Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #3) by Robert A. Caro The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, #4) by Robert A. Caroby Robert A. Caro Robert A. Caro


message 39: by G (new) - rated it 5 stars

G Hodges (GLH1) | 901 comments I do go on, don't I? Only when I really get into a book, and I was absorbed by this one. We are all lucky, actually, my 'review' started out much longer.

There is some overlap, especially with his senatorial years, Harry Byrd, Sam Rayburn, and the ability to get things done. The difference, the thing that made him a bitter man as Vice President, was that he could no longer get things done. Caro is a compelling author.

On another note, best wishes to everyone at Goodreads for a happy, healthy and safe New Year; and one filled with much good reading.


Bryan Craig Thanks G


Ann D When we were reading Caro's book, we had some discussions about the Warren Commission and RFK's sense of guilt after the assassination.

This AP article had some interesting information about these issues. See http://news.yahoo.com/rfk-children-sp... Robert Kennedy Jr. had this to say in a recent interview:
"He said his father thought the Warren Commission, which concluded Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president, was a "shoddy piece of craftsmanship." He said that he, too, questioned the report.

"The evidence at this point I think is very, very convincing that it was not a lone gunman," he said, but he didn't say what he believed may have happened.

Rose asked if he believed his father, the U.S. attorney general at the time of his brother's death, felt "some sense of guilt because he thought there might have been a link between his very aggressive efforts against organized crime."

Kennedy replied: "I think that's true. He talked about that. He publicly supported the Warren Commission report but privately he was dismissive of it."

He said his father had investigators do research into the assassination and found that phone records of Oswald and nightclub owner Jack Ruby, who killed Oswald two days after the president's assassination, "were like an inventory" of mafia leaders the government had been investigating.

He said his father, later elected U.S. senator in New York, was "fairly convinced" that others were involved."


Those phone records are intriguing. I guess we'll never really know.


Bryan Craig Ann wrote: "When we were reading Caro's book, we had some discussions about the Warren Commission and RFK's sense of guilt after the assassination.

This AP article had some interesting information about these..."


Thanks, Ann. I remember that RFK was not happy with the Warren Commission.


Bryan Craig Nathaniel:

A couple of things. I had to delete your entry because you posted a link to your review. This is considered self-promotion and it is not allowed in this group.

Here is our guidelines links:
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/5...

Second, I don't mind you giving the book one star, and sound criticism, but it would have been better if you were part of the discussion.


Bryan Craig Ann wrote: "When we were reading Caro's book, we had some discussions about the Warren Commission and RFK's sense of guilt after the assassination.

This AP article had some interesting information about these..."


Thanks, Ann. I remember reading somewhere about RFK's suspicions about the Warren Commission.


message 45: by Jeannine (new)

Jeannine (jmloftus13) | 36 comments I recently listed to the Nixon & Kissinger book by Dallek and found it fascinating...


Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Powerby Robert Dallek


message 46: by Jeannine (new)

Jeannine (jmloftus13) | 36 comments Sorry folks that was a browser malfunction. Tried to get the book image in there...
Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Powerby Robert Dallek


message 47: by Jeannine (new)

Jeannine (jmloftus13) | 36 comments Nixon and Kissinger Partners in Power by Robert DallekBy Robert Caro Robert Dallek


Bryan Craig Thanks, Jeanine, it is a good book, but it is a different author:

Nixon and Kissinger Partners in Power by Robert Dallek Robert DallekRobert Dallek


message 49: by Jeannine (new)

Jeannine (jmloftus13) | 36 comments You are correct. In my many attempts to get it right... I got it wrong!! At any rate a very good read on the Nixon/Kissinger relationship.


Bryan Craig Indeed, Jeannine, I would recommend it, too.


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Books mentioned in this topic

The Passage of Power (other topics)
The Path to Power (other topics)
Means of Ascent (other topics)
Master of the Senate (other topics)
Lone Star Rising: Vol. 1: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Robert A. Caro (other topics)
Robert Dallek (other topics)
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