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The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson Paperback – 7 May 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 712 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Reprint edition (7 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375713255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375713255
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 3.9 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 276,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Monumental… For many politicians it is the finest book on politics… Magnificent…the tension between the fraud and ruthlessness that repulsed political liberals and the reaction of voters to whom he delivered, make Caro’s book the ultimate political story" (Daniel Finklestein The Times)

"This extraordinary work will remain essential reading for decades to come" (Richard Lambert Financial Times)

"A true story of huge personalities, bloody assassinations, loves, hatreds and betrayals (and the Kennedy family) that renders it by turns gripping, sensational and immensely depressing… A white-knuckle rollercoaster ride… Magisterial" (Andrew Roberts Telegraph)

"A work of pure genius" (Steve Akehurst Huffington Post UK)

"Caro’s strength as a biographer is his ability to probe Johnson’s mind and motivations… Riveting… A rollercoaster tale" (The Economist) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

The fourth instalment in Robert Caro's award-winning and bestselling biography of Lyndon Johnson, spanning a pivotal era in American history. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By MarkK TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Thirty years have passed sine the publication of The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power, the first of what Robert Caro envisioned would be a three-volume biography of America's 36th president. This, his fourth volume, ends in the first months of his presidency, and his assertion that this is the penultimate volume strains credulity given the thoroughness he has covered Johnson's life even before reaching his time in the White House (with a third of this book's 700+ pages chronicling just the first four months as president). Yet Caro has sacrificed brevity for a detailed portrait of irony in his depiction of a master of political power who finds himself deprived of it.

Caro begins with Johnson at the height of his success in the Senate. Still only in his second term, he had taken the weak position of Senate Majority Leader and turned it into the second most powerful position in national politics, thanks largely to his enormous personal and legislative abilities. But Johnson had his eye on an even larger prize - the presidency itself, an office he had aspired to for decades and which in 1960 seemed to many to be his for the taking. Yet Johnson hesitated to commit himself to the race, fearing the humiliation of a defeat. This created an opening that John F. Kennedy eagerly exploited. With his brother Robert collecting commitments in the west - a region critical to Johnson's chances - Kennedy outmaneuvered the Texas senator, demonstrating just how completely Johnson had misjudged his opponent.

Yet for Johnson a new opportunity presented itself when Kennedy offered him the vice presidential nomination during the convention.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anonscot on 18 Oct. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Like many, I have waited keenly for these volumes to appear over the past 25 years. Part 2 and especially part 3 are among the greatest biographies I have read. Part 4 goes from the 1960 presidential nominations and campaign, through the Kennedy administration and assassination, to mid-1964 with the passage of the civil rights bill.

Why does this not work quite so well? One reason is that the Kennedy years and assassination have been covered ad nauseam, often in a hagiographic manner. Caro is not that, and Kennedy's legislative failures are made clear, but for me too much is swept under the rug.The second is that there is really not so much to say about LBJ when he was V-P. The Kennedys treated him like dirt: this is made very clear, but only needed to be said so many times. The events in Dallas could also have been stated a lot more briefly. So the middle third of the book drags a bit. On either side though, the high standards of parts 2 and 3 are maintained. The story of why and how LBJ screwed up the 1960 nomination is fascinating. The account of his first two months as president is epic, as is the revisiting of the Johnson methods for getting things through the Senate. The writing here is among Caro's best and it is these things that are maybe not such common knowledge where the book excels.

Maybe Caro is getting old (78 on Wikipedia), but I found the long parts of overblown writing about LBJ to be tedious. Perhaps they were there in the other volumes, but they seem more irritating here. To set against that are wonderful character sketches of forgotten figures: Harry Byrd is especially memorable, but there are many others.

How could this have been improved?
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By Mike in Sussex on 30 July 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is the only volume of Caro's series on Johnson that I have read and it is a masterful study of a fascinating political operator. The insights into the less than wholly democratic processes of the US political machine at the time, both at County level in Texas and in Washington, are fascinating, terrifying and hilarious all at the same time. Johnson's mastery was supreme until he lost it when faced with the final challenge, achieving the Presidency; how he was out-manoeuvred and then humiliated by the Kennedy's is surprising, moving, even shocking. But then his ascent back to mastery after Kennedy's death in Dallas, is portrayed as the triumphant re-emergence of the political genius. The political vignettes of the other players and historical interludes are fascinating and worthy of separate books in their own right. The portrayal of JFK, RFK, the Cuban missile crisis, the growing challenge of Vietnam, are all so much more than an interesting backdrop to one man's story, they form the threads of this intricate fabric of a fascinating time in history and one man's central role in it. The human elements of how he helped ordinary people, how he flattered and manipulated the powerful, his homespun charm winning over Chancellor Erhard, and even his weaknesses, of which he had many, are all fascinating. Perhaps the most interesting aspect to me was how it was LBJ who unlocked the Washington political log-jam that was blocking the Civil Rights movement, in a way that even JFK hadn't been able to achieve with all his charisma. This is a great biography of, one has to say despite all his faults, a great man.
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