History that is relevant today Mar 16, 2013
This is my first Robert Caro read but it will not be my last. The Passage of Power is so well written and in such a conversational style that I sprinted through its 600+ pages in about a week while sidelined with a severe cold.
Mr. Caro's research for his epic LBJ biography, of which this is the fourth of a planned five installments, began in 1976. Given that, you must assume how well documented his biography of our thirty-sixth president is. The time frame covered in The Passage of Power is from the late 1950's through the first seven weeks of LBJ's presidency following the assassination of President Kennedy.
The history contained therein is fascinating for those of my generation that as political junkies remain interested in JFK's surprising election in 1960 and how it ended in Dallas. You will come away after reading this book with a much more informed and appreciated view of both JFK and his administration as well as how fortunate this country was to have LBJ ready to take the reins under such tragic circumstances. The contrast between these two men is wonderful to read and I will never look at future VP choices the same again. It matters. It matters a lot.
LBJ's performance after Dallas as you'll read was masterful and out of that nation changing, history altering, day in late November 1963 this country ended up with the one man of all who could push through the civil rights legislation pending in a recalcitrant congress.
Speaking of a recalcitrant congress it is here, where this book documents events of more than 50 years ago, that I came away with a better understanding of today's battles between the congressional and executive branches of government which are actually quite normal. LBJ's experience and understanding of where and how power is to be both found and exercised is the overarching theme of Mr. Caro's study of his subject. The author illuminates in great detail how President Johnson through this personal understanding of how legislation is both moved, and more often stalled, back in 1963 and 1964 overcame those tactics and moved the country forward. I couldn't help but better understand and be able to better put in context today's struggles between our current Chief Executive and Congress.
The Voting Rights Act is in the news today as are our bitterly divided congressional and executive branches respective approaches to the big issues we face as a nation. After reading this book maybe you'll come away as I did with an understanding that throughout most of the twentieth century this situation, this extraordinary tension between branches, is not the exception but rather the norm.
LBJ was an exceptional man for his time when history called him on November 22, 1963 and no matter what was to come in Vietnam I didn't appreciate that to the extent I should have. What a life. What a warrior in the arena rather than spectating.
It seems to me President Johnson is not remembered so much for his contribution to Civil Rights as he should because of what was to come in Vietnam. I look forward to reading the first three volumes of Mr. Caro’s biography and provided his health and stamina remain what will be the fifth volume that will explain how LBJ went from this high in 1964 to refusing to run again in 1968. The author’s team and his own unsurpassed research efforts will tell that tale as well as it can possibly be told.