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Guns or Butter: The Presidency of Lyndon Johnson Hardcover – January 11, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0195063127 ISBN-10: 0195063120 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (January 11, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195063120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195063127
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,679,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bernstein (Promises Kept: John F. Kennedy's New Frontier) takes readers on a tour of the Johnson presidency, emphasizing the merit of LBJ's domestic policies and the consummate political skill he brought to enacting them. He shows Johnson deftly assuaging the nation after the trauma of JFK's assassination in 1963 and setting about enacting Kennedy's legislation and his own Great Society programs. We see how he overcame suspicions about his own civil rights record and shepherded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. With his landslide election in 1964, Johnson went ahead with the butter of his legislation: the war on poverty, medicare, education, the Voting Rights Act, immigration reform and the environmental policy. With his domestic programs well underway, he turned to Vietnam. Although the war was a Kennedy legacy, Johnson had begun to put his own stamp on it in 1964 when U.S. ships were attacked off the Vietnam coast and Johnson rammed through Congress the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Despite an intensification of bombing and an increase in the number of U.S. troops, he began to lose the Vietnam war. Then he lost credibility after the Tet Offensive in 1968. Bernstein shows what went on behind the scenes and gives wonderful sketches of the participants. For example, on a "Hawk Scale," Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana rates a -6, while Secretary of State Dean Rusk "was a wavering +6." Bernstein has written an in-depth and perceptive history of the administration of one of America's most able, colorful and tragically flawed presidents.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

While most works about the Johnson presidency focus on Vietnam or Johnson's personality, Bernstein (Promises Kept: John F. Kennedy's New Frontier, Oxford Univ. Pr., 1991) succeeds in presenting a comprehensive overview of LBJ's domestic policies. Congressional support and the Kennedy legacy enabled Johnson to carve out a federal role for civil rights, education, Medicare, and antipoverty measures. However, in the battle between guns (Vietnam) and butter (the Great Society), well-intended social programs were defeated by the war's societal and economic impacts. Johnson's hubris led to his belief that he could do anything; ultimately, he was consumed and defeated by his arrogance. While Bernstein's detailed coverage of important legislative bills will appeal primarily to specialists, his lucid and informative chapters on the 1964 and 1968 elections, the Vietnam War, student and racial unrest, and the unraveling of the Johnson administration will appeal to general readers. Johnson-era specialists will find this book most useful; a fine complement to Lloyd C. Gardner's Pay Any Price: Lyndon Johnson and the Wars for Vietnam (LJ 8/95) and a worthy choice for large collections.?Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Todd Carlsen on March 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
While considering this book I found a book review by American Studies Today Online, so I have posted it at the bottom of this review. I thought it was appropriate.
"Book Review: Guns or Butter: the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson by Irving Bernstein.
"Warfare, rioting, assassinations: mayhem continues to be the dominant image of America in the mid-1960s, with Lyndon Johnson presiding. This book is intended to redress an 'unfair balance' in the treatment of the man and his time in office, which has skewed our perception almost exclusively to what went wrong.
"The tragedy of Lyndon Johnson's presidency, according to the author of this new political biography, was that Johnson believed that he could have both guns and butter - that his vision of the United States as a 'great society' could be fulfilled alongside the waging of war in southeast Asia. It was to be a tragedy of epic proportions.
"In the aftermath of Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, and especially after the Democrats' landslide victory in the presidential election a year later, Johnson set about the task of continuing and extending his predecessor's liberal reform programme. Legislative achievements included the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, and a series of progressive measures relating to immigration, education and conservation. Together they constituted a new 'New Deal': FDR was LBJ's political hero.
"With rapid economic growth in the mid-1960s, the Democrats could have looked forward to a lengthy stay in office during which Johnson's vision of the 'great society' might have been made still more a reality. But his decision to engage US military forces in the long-running conflict in Vietnam changed everything.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By mko7817.aug.student.uca@cub.uca.edu on September 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I've read this book twice and each time my admiration grows. Bernstein has written a book that accurately assesses what went right with Johnson's presidency. Johnson, on domestic policy, rivaled FDR in brilliance. Although Bernstein's goal is to show us the "forgotten" LBJ, he doesn't shrink from showing us how badly he failed when it came to the Vietnam War. This book contained lots of information but it never got bogged down in the details.
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By RJ on March 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent recounting and analysis of the LBJ presidency, with detailed analysis of LBJ's many legislative accomplishments and failures too (sometimes a bit more detailed than the typical reader might want to know). Insightful and descriptive regarding the personalities LBJ surrounded himself with.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JamesS on April 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There was too much statistical information at the start of the book. I felt the writer could have gotten his message across in several paragraphs. For me, all the statistics caused me to lose interest in the book.
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