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[Reading] ➮ Master of the Senate ➶ Robert A. Caro –

Master of the SenateThe Most Riveting Political Biography Of Our Time, Robert A Caro S Life Of Lyndon B Johnson, Continues Master Of The Senate Takes Johnson S Story Through One Of Its Most Remarkable Periods His Twelve Years, From Through , In The United States Senate Once The Most August And Revered Body In Politics, By The Time Johnson Arrived The Senate Had Become A Parody Of Itself And An Obstacle That For Decades Had Blocked Desperately Needed Liberal Legislation Caro Shows How Johnson S Brilliance, Charm, And Ruthlessness Enabled Him To Become The Youngest And Most Powerful Majority Leader In History And How He Used His Incomparable Legislative Genius Seducing Both Northern Liberals And Southern Conservatives To Pass The First Civil Rights Legislation Since Reconstruction Brilliantly Weaving Rich Detail Into A Gripping Narrative, Caro Gives Us Both A Galvanizing Portrait Of Johnson Himself And A Definitive And Revelatory Study Of The Workings Of Legislative Power

[Reading] ➮ Master of the Senate ➶ Robert A. Caro –
  • Paperback
  • 1167 pages
  • Master of the Senate
  • Robert A. Caro
  • English
  • 21 October 2018
  • 9780394720951

    10 thoughts on “[Reading] ➮ Master of the Senate ➶ Robert A. Caro –

  1. says:

    As I was reading this book, I thought back to our recent election, and to a minor flap that occurred when Michelle Obama said she was proud of America for the first time in her life Some people white people didn t, or couldn t, understand what she meant They should probably read this book, for while it is a dense, incredibly detailed chronicle of Lyndon Johnson s Senate years, it is also the story of civil rights in America It s a disgusting story There were times I was so infuriated reading this book I had to put it down and have a drink I wanted to go find Strom Thurmond s grave, and piss on it Voltaire once wrote that history is nothing than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes That just about sums of the United States Senate and its obstruction, for almost 100 years, of any meaningful civil rights legislation Master of the Senate continues Robert Caro s hot streak So far, it is the longest of the three While I still consider Path to Power the best I really loved the chapter on Rayburn , Master is a close second Caro has done a superb, almost lawyerly job of maintaining his thesis on Johnson a crass, brown nosing, devious, sneaky, weaselly power grabber who, once he had accumulated great power, decided to wield it for what amounted to an absolute good I ve previously noted that the first two volumes of The Years of Lyndon Johnson were extraordinary for the disdain with which Caro treated his subject Johnson came off as a small man of amorphous ideals, willing to lie and cheat to get what he desired most power Johnson s story reminds me of Napoleon s dictum that accumulation of power requires absolute pettiness, while exercise of power requires true greatness Caro starts to soften on Johnson is this book, noting that whatever shenanigans he took part in to get power, in the end, he used that power for righteousness He was, as Caro notes, the greatest champion of civil rights to ever hold high office Indeed, he takes his place with Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King as the most effective civil rights leaders in history Whatever else you say about Johnson, he has the Great Society as his legacy, and that ain t nothing Master of the Senate is a long book at times, the amount of information is overwhelming It begins with a long discourse on the history of the US Senate While it sometimes felt that this history, while interesting, was just Caro showing off as an historian, his point becomes clear The way the Senate is set up, with its arcane parliamentary rules, makes it a bulwark what Caro calls a dam against change By design, the Senate is meant to maintain the status quo by giving the minority in the case of civil rights, the South an inordinate amount of power to keep things from getting done Part of the reason this book is so long is Caro s constant rehashing of previously told events This is why I called the book lawyerly For even though it is brilliantly, at times beautifully written, it also is making a point Caro has a thesis, and he uses and reuses events from Johnson s life to make this point This is both good and bad bad because you keep going over the same stories, the same quotes good because it sticks in your head It s what they teach you in legal writing start by telling the audience what you are going to say say it then remind your audience what they ve just been told Like his other Johnson books, Caro spends a lot of time fleshing out the peripheral characters, though oddly enough, Lady Bird and Johnson s children are seldom mentioned Unlike the previous two books, there is no hero to stand in contrast to Johnson, as Sam Rayburn did in Path to Power and Coke Stevenson did in Means of Ascent Instead, we are treated to a lengthy biography of one of humanity s great and unknown villains Richard Brevard Russell, a Russell of the Russells of Georgia Russell, like Robert E Lee, was a courtly, well spoken gentleman who stood on the side of evil and yet, because of his patrician nature, somehow gets a pass from history Not from Caro Though he is an excellent historian, this is not a purely objective book, and some passages on Russell drip with contempt and scorn Of course, scorn is the least that Russell deserves There is also a chapter devoted to Minnesota s finest, the liberal lion Hubert Horatio Humphrey, whom Senator Paul Douglas called the orator of the dawn Oddly, though Humphrey is given a big rollout, we don t really learn a lot about him, and though he hovers in the background, his roll is secondary I m assuming that Johnson s eventual vice president will get a lot print in the next volume A lot is packed into this mammoth book a history of the Senate Humphrey s 1948 convention speech Johnson s sub committee work during the Korean War where he shamelessly self aggrandized Johnson s maneuvering to become a powerful Majority Leader the Senate investigation into the removal of Douglas MacArthur the communist witch hunts of Joe McCarthy Johnson s near fatal heart attack and much Of course, the great event, the singular event around which all other events orbited, the aptly named Great Cause, was the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Bill The Bill was weak and near meaningless Indeed, Johnson was assailed at the time for helping to gut it Yet it was the first civil rights bill passed in the Senate since 1875 all other attempts had been filibustered by the South Caro goes into incredible, at times excruciating detail, as to how Johnson, in order to become a presidential contender Caro notes that when Johnson s ambition coincided with the chance to do good, America benefited cut this Gordian knot There is no way to summarize the labyrinthine maneuvers required to get even a weak civil rights bill through the Senate, yet Caro manages to make even the Byzantine rules of the Senate understandable The book s sharp focus on the Senate years means that you lose out a lot on Johnson s personal life, though Caro does spend some time dwelling on his affair with Helen Gahagan Douglas Also, interestingly, Jack Kennedy has almost no role whatsoever This leads to my final thought there is no way on God s green Earth that Caro manages to fit LBJ s vice presidency, presidency, and post presidential life into one volume I know The Years of Lyndon Johnson was initially conceived as a trilogy and has been adjusted to a quadrilogy now, I think Caro should admit that he s going to need two books There s just two many characters MLK, JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Westland, McNamara and too many events LBJ s sad vice presidency, the assassination, the Great Society, Vietnam, Humphrey s loss in 68 for just one book, unless that book is 2000 pages long.

  2. says:

    This is a long book Caro provides extended passages of background about a quarter of the book on the history of the Senate, from the great days of Webster, Clay and Calhoun to current times He also went into detail about the architecture and seats in the Senate both before and after the War of 1812 Approximately half of the book covers in detail the epic battle over the 1957 Civil Rights Bill Johnson s magic is the main subject of the book how he made things happen in the U.S Senate Johnson s wheeling, threatening, stroking large egos, explaining why his goal was essential for the Country s good, he ran an institution that had never before been run by anyone Master of the Senate is the third volume of Caro s biography of Lyndon Johnson I seem to be reading this series backwards as I started with Volume four Caro presents a Johnson that is well rounded We get to see him with all his warts and all, but also are given admiring recognition of all his accomplishments Race was the great test for Johnson and the country during his years as Senate Majority leader 1955 61 Caro reveals the obstructed federal action on the cruel mistreatment of blacks in the South no civil rights legislation had been enacted since 1875, at the end of the Reconstruction For years after Johnson entered the Senate in 1949, he mostly voted with the Southerners He chose as his mentor senator Richard Russell of Georgia, one of the most powerful men in the Senate Johnson s friend Philip Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, kept telling Johnson he had to do something for civil rights In 1957 President Eisenhower proposed Civil Rights Legislation It appeared impossible to pass the legislation, but Johnson made it happen Caro s description of how he did it is masterly His strategy was to persuade the Southerners that is was in their best interest to let something labeled civil rights go through The Eisenhower bill was focused on the right to vote, which the South denied the blacks by force and trickery Johnson weakened the bill but if he didn t it would not pass Johnson thought of it as a beginning as opening to further meaningful legislation.Caro shows how Johnson learned the rules of the Senate and then used them He then learned about the men in the Senate, their vanities, frailties and their weakness He then sold himself to each as their friend, political adviser, their sounding board their Mr Fix it He also found a way to bridge the chasm between the Southern Democrats and the Northern liberals The author goes into detail about the Olds Hearing I will never again watch a Senate hearing without remembering what Johnson did to this man Olds was up for re confirmation of the Utilities commission and Johnson destroyed the man accusing him of being a communist just so he could obtain the favor and backing of the Texas gas and oil companies Johnson organized a sneak attack and controlled the whole hearing so the man could not have the opportunity to refute the charges.Caro concludes that with the single exception of Lincoln, Johnson was the greatest white champion of blacks in American History Grover Gardner does an excellent job narrating the book.

  3. says:

    Power concedes nothing without a demand It never did and never will Robert A Caro, Master of the Senate The first thing one must discuss when talking about this book is its size Its umpf Its heft It doesn t come to you, you go to it Weighing in at almost 2lbs, this book is 3x the size of premature babies that survive now It is a beast 1167 pages including notes and index But man, there was a gem on every page And not just a historical detail, but Caro s prose makes this book easier consume than a ice tea on a hot August day Every book I finish in this series, makes me even certain that this may be one of the greatest biographies of the last 100 years.Master of the Senate, is the third book in Caro s eventually there should be five volumes four have been published so far about 1 per decade Years of Lyndon Johnson , and focuses primarily on Johnson s tenure in the Senate The book examines, in detail, LBJ s RISE to power in the Senate, his revolutionary GENIUS in extracting new powers, and his USE of those powers both to aid his quest for the White House and in passing the 1957 Civil Rights law One can think of this book as almost three distinct works There is so much to think about with just THIS volume, it helps to break it into smaller bites PARTS III Pgs 1 350 The first 1 3 examines the history of the Senate and the rise of the seniority system and the South s dominance in the Senate leadership It examines LBJ s entrance into the Senate and his struggles to fit in and find his place It then examines Richard Russell the guy they named the Russell Senate building after and his family s history and his history and rise to power in the US Senate Why Because Senator Russell was to become the key to LBJ s success in the Senate The first 1 3 of the book examines how LBJ used many of the same techniques to develop a relationship with Russell that in his House years he used with Sam Rayburn LBJ had a way with older men with power Rayburn, Russell, LBJ The first 1 3 ends with LBJ destroying the career and reputation of Leland Olds when he was re appointed to head the FPC Federal Power Commission in 1949 In doing so, LBJ was able to gain some cred with Texas oil industry and with his Southern fellow senators The last bit of the first section also details Johnson s use of his Preparedness Investigating subcommittee similar to the one used by Truman during WWII in order to raise his name recognition during the beginning of the Korean War Caro contrasts the way that LBJ ran the committee with the way that Truman ran his.PARTS IIIIV Pgs 351 682 The second 1 3 examines the role of the Senate Majority leader and how past senators who controlled the gavel failed to control the US Senate Part of the issue was most of the power in the Senate was controlled by committee chairmen and those seats were based on seniority Caro describes how the Senate fit LBJ and how he quickly adapted to the Senate s formalities and unique customs And he watched He gathered information on senators, their needs, wants and weaknesses He also maintained access to Texas oil, which meant he had access to money Before LBJ, the Senate Majority leader job was considered a nothing job It didn t give you power, and it created huge risks But that was before LBJ LBJ discovered that knowledge and coordination is power This section also develops a chapter about Senator Humphrey Humphrey s relationship with Johnson is important because he is an interesting contrast to Johnson AND because their friendship and relationship is important to both later So LBJ, through his relationship with Russell gets named as the youngest Majority Leader Using his unique skills, his work ethic, his ability to understand people s needs and weaknesses Johnson starts to consolidate power He begins to use power Johnson also understand that with a weak Republican party, and a pragmatic president, the Democrats can gain power by helping President Eisenhower to accomplish many of his goals This period also involved dealing with Senator McCarthy Not directly, Johnson NEVER moves early But he patiently waited, perhaps too long, to do anything As Johnson gains power, his quietness fades and the old lapel grabbing, power using Johnson returns You don t cross Senator Johnson now If you do, you won t get the committee assignment you want, or your bill won t be heard, or you will be shunned With his exercise of power Johnson starts to make the Senate work The senate, a place where bills went to die, now begins to operate With Johnson at the controls, things begin to get done Johnson s name starts to rise PARTS V VI Pgs 683 1040 will finish Friday

  4. says:

    Best book of the series, and best book about American history that I think I ve read Now we are getting to the drama and corruption at an interesting scale the US Senate And the portrait we have of Johnson is fascinating Lyndon Johnson was just simply power hungry He had no principles of note, no things he was on a mission to do except to hold as much power as he could But he was brilliant at reading people, knowing what they wanted, and finding ways to horse trade in his huge and growing network and help them get it A genius at being a politician But lacking principles I hope there are politicians that can do both.But this is not just a book about LBJ and his time in the senate it is a history of the senate, and of 1960 s America I didn t appreciate the power the Senate has in US politics small numbers of senators can block legislation for a long time The book hints that WWII can be blamed on the senate because the president wanted to act against Hitler much earlier but the senate didn t let him a crazy allegation if true And the filibusters I didn t appreciate what those really were and how powerful they were It was also very impressive reading how quickly LBJ took over leadership of the Senate most senators had to wait until they were old to have the seniority to do much LBJ within two years of being a senator had become elected leader and then did away with the seniority rule both unprecedented changes And of course, much of the book is about the fact that the southern senators collaborated to prevent any civil rights legislation for 100 years It was well into the 20th century before African Americans got the right to vote, and we removed segregation and this delay is all due to the senate LBJ is known for being the president who passed civil rights but the story of how he was a southern senator from Texas who had the southern senators as his base, but had to pass civil rights bills through the senate in order to make the liberals believe he was on their side so he could have a presidential bid was fascinating He did it not caring a single bit about the actual cause it was simply the only path to be president, as the country had hit a point where the northerners were no longer going to let segregation go on, and the southerners were only going to give it up over their dead bodies LBJ worked both sides, found compromises, made each side believe he was really on their side, and got the first ever civil rights bill of the 1900 s passed to give African Americans the right to vote.

  5. says:

    Caro makes history as compelling as fiction LBJ is a great subject and he takes his time through 5 volumes This is volume 3 and there is a lot to be learned about using the Senate rules and cloakroom as effectively as Johnson was able to do.Pros Great details LBJ s faults and virtues are all on display a critical period in U.S history is well documentedCons Lady Bird, John Connelly and Bill Moyers all refused to talk to Caro as he wrote this volume They are the keepers of much truth and their absence is significant Were they reluctant to talk or just reluctant to trust Caro

  6. says:

    The Years of Lyndon Johnson Master of the Senate by Robert A Caro is a monumental achievement The book deserves every award it has received It is an American history book, a biography and a college level civics text all in one I found it overwhelming in insider detail and shockingly revealing of the spectrum of human culpability in self interest as well as the amazing heights human cleverness can reach if housed in an intelligent brain Caro strips away layers of political cover and media spin to show how the sausage meats of legislation is made and stalled in America and who the political butcher specialists of the Senate were from the 1940 s until the early 1960 s.Gentle reader, my biggest takeaway from this book is hungry sharks definitely are not the toughest predators on earth Most people think serial killers are the most dangerous type of people No Not Do not ever get in the way of professional politicians without being cocked and loaded at all times Master of the Senate begins with a short history of the Senate It s fascinating It s depressing It s amazing These chapters should be required reading in all Civics classes The customs and rules of the United States Senate are indistinguishable from the most oldest and primitive rituals of ancient religious rites of the past Kidding No, actually, I m not Exaggerating, ok Maybe The protocols are straight out of the Middle Ages The Dark Middle Ages The Senate s rituals are only treated as if they are holy writ from Mount Horeb written millennia ago.Lyndon Johnson passed the many arcane tests elder statesmen in Texas and in the United States Congress use to weed out the weak in the dog packs formed of up and coming politicians Cutthroat underhanded tactics reduce competition or serve to whip unruly independents into followers of the party platform Johnson found the steep learning curve of doing politics a genuine trial by fire and kissing ass as do all freshmen politicians But he also possessed an inner messianic fire of his own to become President of the United States even before he ever won an election Coming from poverty humiliated him The shame of powerlessness and disrespect for his family and place in Texas never left him Many people are cowed and weighed down by powerlessness Johnson became focused on becoming the most powerful man in the United States The story of how Johnson got to own one of the top political jobs Majority Leader of the Senate and rewriting the job description along the way from a moribund figurehead to a powerful one of dictatorship is an incredible story of incredible will and a willingness to throw anyone and everyone under the bus when needed Steel magnolias is not a description only for southern women, but of southern male politicians, particularly those with presidential hopes, particularly Lyndon Johnson although Johnson only cared to appear civilized for the media and frenemies holding powerful jobs above him.Meanwhile Ugly social issues were disturbing the usually quiescent voters of the United States after World War II and in the 1950 s, like overt systemic legal racism and naked raw capitalist rapine and unadulterated greed of powerful business interests oil, gas, railroads The preference of politicians was to keep voters quiet, ignorant, uneducated and distracted while maintaining the status quo of corrupt fundraising and White Male supremacy and personal social climbing For example, Senate Southerners controlled the Senate through seniority rules They demanded Jim Crow laws be untouched and maintained in their states In the Senate, a minority of Senators can stop any proposed legislation dead They could and did utterly destroy by making powerless any politicians who tried to change the ongoing de facto slavery of Black Americans The Southerners, who voted as a united block, whose leaders were committee chairmen in most of the committees because of seniority rules, came from eleven states out of the fifty which consist of the United States Later, even into the 1960 s, only eight Southern states were still militantly resisting any changes to their laws of segregation but they were able to either stop or gut all civil rights legislation in the Senate through procedural rules and outright threats of financial and career destruction Many Senators from the Midwest and Southern States get most of their financial support from conservative wealthy oligarchs who own media and job creating businesses So It is true how much wealthy oligarchs and organizations utterly own Senators, then, in Lyndon Johnson s lifetime, and now, whatever an elected legislator s personal goals and beliefs.But sometimes a legislator, with political smarts and charisma, with an incredible force of personality, and finally, power, in time, overwhelms the special interests and the reactionary mouthbreather tribes in Congress with breathtaking strategic plots which overturn all norms For awhile In Lyndon Johnson s case twelve years Lyndon Johnson was a f kcing political genius because he ALWAYS put ambition for power first over principles and beliefs How he finally got the job of Majority Leader and kept it is eye opening, and awesomely disgusting as well as impressive He was a very conservative Democrat He suppressed what few liberal values he had in order to gain the support of the Southern powerbrokers controlling the Senate and begged on his knees those wealthy men with fat purses to give him money and resources, no matter what I think he d have drowned babies in order to gain favors without a qualm in order to get power But he did feel civil rights legislation should be passed as long as he did not lose control over the Senate, once he became Majority leader He had to keep his liberal friends while convincing his liberal enemies to work with the Southerners Frankly, Johnson was a fantastic Majority Leader However, to be that guy that he was, made of him a horrible human being on several levels Grudgingly, I can see why he was a hard narcissistic man in Congress and at home, for the matter It was a hard job to force Senators with different passions, goals and beliefs from fifty states to compromise and sometimes to do things which meant not getting re elected Make no mistake many of those powerful Southern Senators HATED Black people with every fiber of their being, and they won their elections from a majority of people who felt the same It wasn t only about money, power and exploitation Segregation made living with Black people personally bearable for them Desegregation was mentally impossible, simply unthinkable for them Many White Southerners cheered the murders of Black children no exaggeration The confounding part was these same hater men were decent, even nice, churchgoing, likeable, lovable, in other, even most, other areas of their lives.Other case histories of important legislation, such as getting electricity to poor neighborhoods, is also discussed It is fascinating stuff Part of why Congress dragged its feet on helping electricity producing installations being built was rich men wanted to privatize electrical production and gouge the customers for what was assumed would be fantastic profits from those few who would pay and many members of Congress wanted this as well The poor would simply live without electricity Others, liberals of course, wanted to make electrical production into public government owned businesses in order to make electricity affordable for the masses You know, the usual seesaw of power seeking soul destroying selfishness and benighted altruism Trust me on this, economics, statistics other than popularity polls and the economy are the last thing these members have on their todos I thought Lyndon Johnson was mostly a good guy before I read this biography, which was my impression of him when I was a teenager, excepting his incomprehensible continuation of the Vietnam War I don t know any about what I think of him after finishing it He was without question a Koch Industries supporter, and he was totally 100% behind grabbing oil resources and promoting oil production for his wealthy oilmen friends no matter how extravagantly rich the businesses deals were for his friends or how much his oil buddies gouged the public or despoiled the environment Also, he held back a lot of progressive and liberal legislation, supposedly because he felt the bills were too disruptive, or damaging to his relationships with conservative Southerners or that passage of a bill into law would stop his hopes for a successful presidential campaign in a few years However, I wonder now if ANY nice or fair minded person, or anyone wanting justice and democratic values at the top of their values list, the number one and two criteria ruling their heart, could do what politicians appear to do Pragmatism is absolutely the necessary top skill required in politicians skill sets if they hope to succeed It appears legislation can t be passed without massive compromises, like trading oil drilling concessions in return for increasing taxes on the rich, if the taxes are collected only on days without an s Cosplay is everyday posturing for these guys today Superman, tomorrow Magneto, next week the Hulk.Robert Caro, using intricately researched documentation and in depth interviews, has been writing a, so far, planned five book series about the life of Lyndon Johnson This is the only one I have read of the four completed and published volumes It is incredibly informative about American politics and how Congress REALLY functions Hints Knowledge of Procedures, Rituals and Power connections is important than policy or ideals Hierarchical respect is important than personal morals Disobedience or trying to overturn the Senate system means shunning and all loss of power or committee memberships, no access to friends, offices or resources There are Debts, Sources, Notes and Index sections, along with photos of Lyndon Johnson, his Senate offices and some of his staff.

  7. says:

    Reread.Whew What a relief Only two volumes to go.

  8. says:

    Robert Caro has got to be the best American biographer of the past 50 years It s sad that he s only turned out 4 books in the last 35 years, but each one is so exceptionally researched and well written Master of the Senate is another chapter in Caro s multi volume study of Lyndon Johnson, focusing on his time in the Senate, specifically his efforts to pass the first Civil Rights bill since Reconstruction His study of the political dynamics of the Senate in the 1950s, including the entrenched fecklessness of the Republicans and the deep divisions between the conservative southern western democrats and the northeastrern liberal democrats is amazingly informative and insightful So much of the modern political landscape we are so familiar with today stems from the moments recounted in this book, including the black vote being 90% democrat and the 30 year republican lock on the white southern states.A great book if you re interested in American politics and the dynamics of power in the federal government Also, the book is stand alone You don t have to read the previous two volumes of the Lyndon Johnson series to appreciate it.

  9. says:

    Like the second, the third volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson progresses from a slow start to a riveting finish In the first 100 pages Caro recounts the exercise of power in the Senate from its inception to the time Lyndon Johnson entered in 1948 At that time, the firmly entrenched seniority system vested unmitigated power in the committee chairmen who were old, conservative and southern This instructive history lesson gives us the context we need to assess Johnson s significant accomplishments to follow Johnson as a freshman senator quickly sizes up the situation, lays out his plan and executes it with precision in spite of seemingly overwhelming obstacles He uses his magic with older men, sucking up to the existing Senate leaders, Richard Russell most prominently, winning their trust and support He brings national attention to himself taking control of a minor subcommittee and blowing out of all proportion its minor findings He ascends to power as he has in the past, by taking a thankless job, in this case assistant leader or whip, and transforming it into one of importance Along the way he pleases his Texas financial backers by lambasting a hapless Leander Olds as a communist As chairman of the Federal Power Commission, Olds tightly regulated oil and gas prices Johnson took him out ensuring continued generous financial support from Texas oilmen As a telling example of LBJ s ethics, after completely destroying Olds in front of the nation, he walked up to him after the hearing to shake his hand saying he didn t mean anything personal, it was just politics and he hoped they were still friends Even though Johnson didn t really believe or probably even care whether Olds was a communist, neither did he believe that he had done anything wrong in ruining him.Much of volume three documents the slipping and sliding Johnson does between liberals and conservatives first as whip and then as majority leader He always bends just enough to keep each side in his debt yet never goes so far as to alienate the other He is the Senate dance master And he gets things done, settling issues without extended fights Bills get passed as conflicts are resolved in a way we could never envision in today s Congress In the Johnson style, each step of the way he accumulates power as he rewards those who help and ostracizes those who don t You are either a member of his team or forget ever getting anything for yourself or your constituents Who else could have the support at the same time of both Hubert Humphrey and Richard Russell Civil Rights was an issue Johnson had decided not to take on, letting the Southern Democrats empowered by the filibuster prevent any serious effort at a bill Two things changed that First was the nationwide clamor for action that developed in the wake of the Emmett Till murder case and the Montgomery busing segregation chaos with widespread violence and bombings Buttressed by TV images and widespread popular magazine coverage, Civil Rights would no longer be dispatched to the background Second was Johnson s presidential bid debacle at the 1956 Democratic convention His delusions of grandeur shattered, he realized his perception by the nation as a sectional leader of the now even further diminished South stood in the way of his presidential ambitions.The Civil Rights bill of 1957, a weak attempt at protecting minority voting rights, was LBJ s answer to his dilemma In describing how this bill was engineered and became law Caro is at his best Despite the bill s shortcomings it took unbelievable dedication and skill to get it passed Caro encapsulates clearly why Johnson was truly the Master of the Senate Regardless of what one thinks of the final bill or Johnson s character, one has to recognize a remarkable individual who better than anybody understood how to gain and use power Having read the first two volumes serves the reader well here They show how everything in Johnson s life culminated in the person that could accomplish the extraordinary It is almost impossible to imagine anyone else getting this legislation passed.I am left with a fundamental question Today s Congress is hopelessly deadlocked This is normal As Caro s history lesson of the Senate illustrates so well, only under unusual circumstances civil war, depression did the Senate get anything done, except of course what financial interests paid for Could Lyndon Johnson control the Senate today Would we want him too Is self aggrandizement, deceit, intimidation and the rawest of power politics necessary for progress Is it worth it

  10. says:

    Yes, this, the third volume in the Johnson biography, is also one of the best books ever written, like the other ones And yes, I can t wait until the next volume comes out.Caro is such a great writer because he is so honestly interested in the minutiae of process, and he treats all his great works as procedural thrillers He doesn t just want to know that Johnson was able to win a vote in the Senate, he wants to know exactly how he did it, what horse trades he had to make, what motions he would use to speed up or slow down the vote, how he would organize the investigative committees to proselytize for his cause Caro discovers how Johnson hired his staff from executive departments, how he acquired extra office space, how he was able to threaten or cajole other members into supporting him And all this doesn t come across as irrelevant detail because Caro is able to show how important it all is, not just for Johnson but for the country, and to simultaneously show the kind of intelligence and drive it took to pull it all off.Surprisingly, with a book of this heft, it is not exactly comprehensive Out of the ten years covering four or five are treated in no than a few pages It is really a series of case studies that focus on particular aspects of the Senate in the 1950s the subcommittee investigative hearings on Korean war preparedness, the vote on the confirmation of Federal Power Commissioner Leland Olds, and the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act Each of these dramatizes a different part of the Senate s operation, and makes the reader understand exactly what the Senate does and how it does it like no other book can.I have to say that Caro could be a little repetitive when emphasizing a dramatic point yes, by the third volume I know Johnson was very ambitious , but its worth it.

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