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July 2016: Biography Memoir > The Passage of Power (The Years of LBJ, Book 4) by Robert Caro - 5 Stars

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message 1: by Charlie (new)

Charlie  Ravioli (charlie_ravioli) | 513 comments This book spans the years between the Democratic convention in 1960 to the 1964 presidential election. The main focus is on LBJ but like other great historians there are other stories woven into the broader story arc. These mini-histories include JFK, Camelot, RFK, Harry Byrd, the Senate, and November 22nd. There four main swaths of history that are focused on: the 1960 Convention, JFK's presidency (moreover LBJ's vice-presidency), the assassination (which is not overly done), and the post assassination months up to early 1964 (which is very in depth and focused).

Caro is both an amazing writer and historian. Not once did I stop reading due to boredom or the material being tedious. Caro's research and knowledge of detail is incredible and his span and scope provides excellent context. Caro ties as my favorite historian with David McCullough.

LBJ is not the most admirable subject (understatement) but Caro points out what has heretofore been overlooked in the masterful job LBJ did in taking command and stepping in and moving the country forward after JFK's death. LBJ's readiness is a little creepy and one wonders if he was too prepared but the author states that he has not come across any information in all his research and interviews that has ever led him to believe that Johnson was involved in the assassination (sorry to any of you conspiracy theorists).

If you like history and politics and have never read Caro, I strongly recommend this series. I started with the second book (Means of Ascent). Caro is no spring chicken and not to be morbid or insensitive but I really do hope he stays alive to finish the series (which would cover LBJ's presidency, Vietnam, The Great Society, and his post-presidency life which didn't last much longer after he left office in '68).

LBJ is a complex figure and one that shaped much of our country today in terms of social programs, politics, civil rights, and militarization. He deserves the focus Caro has bestowed on him and Caro deserves the praise for the masterful job he has done in preserving the history for us.


message 2: by Kristel (new)

Kristel (kristelh) | 699 comments Charlie wrote: "This book spans the years between the Democratic convention in 1960 to the 1964 presidential election. The main focus is on LBJ but like other great historians there are other stories woven into th..."

I really liked this when I read it. He is a great author.


message 3: by Michael (new)

Michael (mike999) | 569 comments Great ambition to take on these doorstoppers. Nice testament to a high quality read on an important. So uplifting when he was able to step up to the plate. So disappointing with the Gulf of Tonkin scam and hue ramp up of the war. Interesting for this to have a big focus on his relationship with Byrd.


message 4: by Charlie (new)

Charlie  Ravioli (charlie_ravioli) | 513 comments Michael wrote: "Great ambition to take on these doorstoppers. Nice testament to a high quality read on an important. So uplifting when he was able to step up to the plate. So disappointing with the Gulf of Tonkin ..."

The books are so well written the length has never been an issue for me (plus Caro is meticulous with his notes and bibliography which usually clocks in at least over 100 pgs.).

I was amazed at how well LBJ stepped up to the plate (and really wondered how he did it with no advanced warning given the immediacy of the moment and what seemed to be his catatonic state during his Vice Presidency). One thing is for sure, whatever grieving period he went thru for JFK was VERY brief.

The Gulf of Tonkin (which isn't covered in the book) is not too surprising too me. The book does go into quite some depth on the Cuban Missile Crisis and stresses that LBJ and RFK were very much at odds on approach (LBJ the hawk, RFK the dove). If LBJ had been President then, I'm not sure the crisis would have been averted. Lucky the stakes in Vietnam were not as urgent (no nukes) but still devastating for two nations in its carnage.

The focus on Byrd was specific to LBJ's efforts to get the Civil Rights Bill passed. There was a logjam in the Congress with many bills that was preventing the Civil Rights Bill from getting a vote (something LBJ supposedly warned JFK about). Byrd was in charge of the Finance Committee and controlled the Budget Bill which LBJ saw as the lynchpin to both the Tax Bill (which was voodoo economics before it was called that) and the Civil Rights Bill. LBJ, very much Byrd's jr., coaxed him to pass the Budget Bill promising to hit a certain $ amount given that Byrd was such a budget hawk. There is a lot of back and forth with LBJ being deferential to Byrd (which JFK wasn't, nor was his team) and maneuvering the Congress. JFK's relationship with the Congress and the legislative progress under his administration (or the lack thereof in both cases) was interestingly similar to our current administration (save the Affordable Care Act).

Two things that strike me most are 1.) I'm not sure the new slate of VP candidates have anywhere near the wherewithal to take charge like LBJ did in the event they are called into action and 2.) I wonder if even LBJ could coral today's Congress and whether the issue is one of leadership, competency and duty (or the lack thereof) or if it's just a whole different ballgame altogether and that not even the "Master" could figure it out now. For everyone's sake I hope it's just a matter of #1, God Bless America.


message 5: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6279 comments LBJ was one of the most-skilled power-brokers we've ever had. I don't know that anyone else could have pushed through the bills he did.

There's a little story my husband likes to tell...

LBJ had visited a military base and was headed out. As he approached the airfield where there were multiple helicopters ready for take-off, a soldier asked "Sir, which is your copter?" LBJ's response, "Son, they're ALL my copters."


message 6: by Charlie (last edited Jul 24, 2016 06:03AM) (new)

Charlie  Ravioli (charlie_ravioli) | 513 comments Book Concierge wrote: "LBJ was one of the most-skilled power-brokers we've ever had. I don't know that anyone else could have pushed through the bills he did.

There's a little story my husband likes to tell...

LBJ had ..."


:-)


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