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Barn Burning Barn Building: Tales of a Political Life, From LBJ to George W. Bush and Beyond Hardcover – May 8, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A must read for current conversation" and "a rollicking read" -- Houston Chronicle

"Barnes is an American before he is Democrat, and he shares my concern about the current state of the nation." -- Philadelphia Daily News

"I couldn't put it down!" -- FOX News Hannity & Colmes, May 10, 2006

"Make sure you get yourself a copy...the book is great." -- NPR

"Once-Tall Figure in the Rugged World of Texas Politics Is Back in The Saddle" -- New York Times

"The Texas political phenom" -- Washington Post

"Well worth the read." -- Michael Grace, National Editor AIL/NILICO Labor Letter

"[Barnes] has amassed a wealth of experience and wisdom that his party should be listening to this election year." -- Wichita Eagle

"[the book] reminds us of a time when government and politicians believed in more than their own self-aggrandizement." -- Mark Schannon on Blogcritics.org

"the book . . . provides a fascinating window into a bygone Democratic era." -- Dallas Morning News

About the Author

Ben Barnes is a consultant and former lieutenant governor of Texas. He was a vice-chair and top fundraiser of the John Kerry campaign in the 2004 presidential elections. He has served as speaker of the House in Texas from 1965 to 1969, U.S. representative to the NATO Conference in 1967, and United Nations Representative to Geneva, Switzerland in 1968.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Bright Sky Press; First Edition edition (May 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931721718
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931721714
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #831,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
63%
4 star
25%
3 star
13%
2 star
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See all 8 customer reviews
One of the best political autobiographies I've read.
Colby Plaia
First, Ben Barnes is a Texan, which means he can spin a hell of a good yarn.
Mark L. Schannon
Nixon into resurrecting the political career of George H.W. Bush.
Michael J. Roetzel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Always Learning on June 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Just finished reading Ben Barnes' new book, "Barn Burning, Barn Building." For those of you who aren't familiar with Ben Barnes; he was a political prodigy in Texas in the 1960s. He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives when he was only 21-years-old! He canoodled with Texas big wigs like LBJ, Governor John Connally, and Sam Rayburn and rubbed shoulders with leaders across the country. Enough of the history lesson.

"Barn Burning, Barn Building" is written in Barnes' folksy, down-home voice. For those of you familiar with Ben's voice you can almost hear him speaking as he opens: "You're probably thinking that these childhood details sound like the worst kind of Texas cliché, and that you really ought to have picked up another book to read." The "aw shucks" tone and anecdotes are prevalent throughout the book, but do not impede on Barnes' message.

Displaying an insight that very few people have, Ben Barnes discusses how Texas Democrats rose through the ranks of local and national politics and eventually held the strongest offices in the country. Barnes had a front row seat for over ten years.

One of the more interesting stories he tells is his own, personal recounting of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. Ben Barnes represented Governor Connally for Kennedy's trip to Texas and his perspective is intriguing. The minutest details are magnified in a tragedy as large in scope as a Presidential assassination and Barnes' ability to recall and retell details is uncanny. Initially, Barnes says, he and Cliff Carter (fellow Connally rep) were opposed to Ralph Yarborough's (Democratic Senator) decision to have President Kennedy attend a motorcade through Dallas, but after Yarborough's insistence Barnes and Carter gave in. Barnes' writes, "...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By PHS1 on August 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Ben Barnes, even as a diehard Republican and former Republican congressional aide. It is well written, concise, and tells a story that moves along quickly and keeps the reader's attention since there are no extraneous details to bog one down. The story is one of Barnes's meteoric rise through the ranks of Texas Democrat politics, after graduating fron the University of Texas, as state house member, Lieutenant Governor, and candidate for Governor - all the while serving as a sounding board and kitchen cabinet member for President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Governor John Connally. It is also the story of how the LBJ and Connally Democrat machine in Texas ultimately gave way to the John Tower/George H.W. Bush/George W. Bush/Karl Rove Republican machine. Barnes also tells the interesting story of his part in the controversial placement of George W. Bush in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

There is very little Democrat partisan posturing, and such occurs only at the very end of the book, where I think Barnes could do a better job of admitting, reporting, and codemning (despite his experience as a target of the Richard Nixon enemies list) the politics of personal destruction that both parties have practiced. I would have also liked to see Barnes report more about the conversion of John Connally from LBJ Democrat to Richard Nixon Republican given how much time he spent with Connally as a political crony and business partner.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on August 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I was drawn to this book when I read in the obituaries for Lady Bird Johnson that the blurb she wrote for Barnes' book was the last thing the talented former First Lady wrote for publication and that, oddly enough, the blurb he has on the back of the book from Ann Richards was the last thing SHE wrote as well. It shows you, don't write blurbs for Ben Barnes I guess! Now I'll be waiting for the other blurbers to kick off, a new version of the internet "Death Pool," and I'll tell you, neither of them are spring chickens and one of them--Walter Cronkite--is already in the top 75 of the Death Pool list.

Oh well, in any case the book is a good read, particularly for those of you who, like me, don't know much about Texas politics. Barnes was a mere boy when he was elected to the Texas Legislature, when he quickly became the pet of aging speaker Sam Rayburn, the man they called "Mr Everything," and befriended Governor John Connally and President Lyndon Johnson. Ben came from the hill country, in the days before electricity came in and changed everything, and in this book he gives us a quick glimpse of what Camelot was like for a really young man with a lot on the ball and a lot of ambition. Texas Democrats were riding high back then, but within ten years it was all to change, and this story, which of course mirrors the larger political story of the bigger US, is sobering indeed. Barnes doesn't hesitate to name names, and he blames LBJ for pushing civil rights issues so hard that he alienated the conservative element that might have given in with more grace if given more leeway. At the same time he knows that it was the right thing to do, just a path that led to unfortunate developments which the Democrats' traditional enemy found a way to exploit and overturn.
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