Thursday, October 25, 2012

[Book Review] THE PASSAGE OF POWER by Robert A. Caro


Wayne reviews THE PASSAGE OF POWER by Robert A. Caro (Knopf, 2012)

The latest entry in his multi-volume series The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro’s The Passage of Power chronicles Johnson’s half-hearted attempt to win the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, his startling decision to run for the vice presidency under John F. Kennedy, his frustrating service in the second spot, and his ascension to the presidency after Kennedy’s assassination in Johnson’s home state of Texas.

In Caro’s deft hands, the conniving political operator described in his previous volumes emerges as a brilliant statesman who gently seized the reins of power after the violent passing of John Kennedy from the political scene, kept the government functioning and skillfully passed an important tax cut and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Caro provides a far more balanced look at Lyndon Johnson than he did in the Path of Power, Means of Ascent and Master of the Senate. Consequently Johnson is portrayed as a sympathetic figure, even heroic in some ways.  However, the more corrupt aspect of his character is not ignored.  For example, Caro examines the Life magazine investigation of Johnson’s financial holdings which probably would have prevented him from being re-nominated in 1964 had an assassin’s bullet not scuttled the expose'.  

This is Caro’s best book and well worth reading by anyone interested in the political history of the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.

G. Wayne Dowdy, Central Library

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