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Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 23, 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Richly detailed . . . Landslide is a vivid retelling of a tumultuous three years in American history, and [Jonathan] Darman captures in full the personalities and motives of two of the twentieth century’s most consequential politicians.”The New York Times
 
“Novel and even surprising . . . Landslide deftly reminds readers that Johnson and Reagan both trafficked in grandiose oratory and promoted utopian visions at odds with the social complexity of modern America.”The Washington Post
 
“Riveting . . . Darman portrays [Johnson and Reagan] as polar opposites of political attraction. . . . Animated by the artful insight that they were men of disappointment headed toward an appointment with history . . . A tale about myths and a nation that believed them, about a world of a half century ago now gone forever.”—The Boston Globe
 
“Alert to the subtleties of politics and political history, Darman, a former correspondent for Newsweek, nimbly explores delusion and self-delusion at the highest levels.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“[Darman] has a deft grasp of Reagan’s and Johnson’s biographies and of the last half-century of American political history. Setting the book as a dual story . . . both rescues the story from the fatalism (for Johnson) and pluck (for Reagan) of biography and refreshes both of their stories by contrasting the simultaneous reversals of their respective political fortunes.”The Daily Beast
 
“Darman’s compelling, sweeping narrative explores the myths that Johnson and Reagan invented about themselves. . . . Reminiscent of such spellbinders as Rick Perlstein’s Before the Storm . . . and Jeff Shesol’s Mutual Contempt. . . . This title will engross readers of political history.”Library Journal (starred review)
 
“Smart and perceptive . . . Darman sizes up the careers of two political powerhouses and craftsmen, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan, while claiming that each man’s impressive litany of achievements influenced the historical arc of American leadership. . . . Darman’s sincere and informative approach animates these historic figures, bringing them from the nostalgia of old TV clips and fading newsprint to the forefront of an engaging historical discussion.”Publishers Weekly
 
“A rich, fly-on-the-wall narrative. If the current partisan gridlock has you pulling your hair out, this book will help you understand where these ripples originate.”Booklist
 
“An intimate chronicle of the 1,000 days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, during which there was a sea change in the American electorate. . . . The author masterfully conveys LBJ’s agony, as well as former actor Reagan’s freewheeling spirit: He was the ‘Errol Flynn of the B movies’ who had aged out of his previous roles and needed a new gig as an American hero. Ambitious, studious portraits pulled together nicely by Darman.”Kirkus Reviews

“Jonathan Darman turns fresh eyes on two political giants of the late twentieth century, LBJ and Ronald Reagan. Landslide is full of surprises and new insights on these two presidents, and is written with flair. A delicious feast of a read.”—Lesley Stahl

“Masterly . . . In taking us back to a moment in American history when politics worked, Jonathan Darman provides a resonant reality check on a system that now seems all too dysfunctional. The intertwined stories of Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan offer us a window on the intrinsic give-and-take that makes governing possible. Anyone who cares about politics, biography, and current affairs will find this a delightful and illuminating book.”—Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
 
“Jonathan Darman writes with power, sweep, vivacity, and humor. He is at once a gifted storyteller, a keen judge of character, and a genie of political insight. He gives us two giants, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, in all their glory and human vanity, and takes us on a breathtaking thousand-day ride. The relevance to today will be achingly obvious to readers—who will be both riveted and disturbed by this moving, memorable book.”—Evan Thomas, author of Ike’s Bluff and Robert Kennedy

“An ingenious and compelling book . . . With astute psychological insight, Jonathan Darman explains the motivations and achievements of these two men, how Lyndon Johnson’s downfall paved the way for Ronald Reagan’s rise, and how their overarching visions of governing became myths that defined the Republican and Democratic parties. Darman connects the dots between the lives of these two iconic characters in a dramatic and original way, offering a fresh perspective as he sweeps the reader through the events of the tumultuous sixties that reverberate to this day.”—Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen and Grace and Power

About the Author

Jonathan Darman is a writer in New York City. He is a former correspondent for Newsweek, where he covered national politics, including John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004 and Hillary Clinton’s in 2008. This is his first book.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1St Edition edition (September 23, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067081
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067084
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James Strock VINE VOICE on July 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
'Landslide' is a delightful read. It's filled with insights and observations that will interest the most knowledgeable political junkie. It's written with a flair that will keep anyone's attention.

The concept is to follow the unlikely, parallel lives of Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan in the historic thousand days following the assassination of John Kennedy in 1963. Darman brilliantly recreates the path moving through the Democratic landslide of 1964, to the repudiating Republican sweep in the 1966 midterms.

Most of the story that Darman relates is familiar. His insight is in telling them in parallel. The results are riveting.

Darman's recitation of the career and character of Johnson is well-crafted and compelling. This book may hold particular allure for those who want to get a fair sense of what LBJ was about--but who may resist immersion in Robert Caro's authoritative, multi-volume project.

Darman's analysis of Reagan is memorable. In my view, the author has succeeded where so many others have faltered: he makes great strides in credibly comprehending Reagan's methodically opaque character.

Reagan's unconventional career prompted many to underestimate him. Many on the left dismissed him as naive, "an amiable dunce" as Clark Clifford said. He was simply at the right place at the right time. He stumbled into power.

Many on the right also underestimated Reagan, or, at the least misperceived him. Among the enduring myths of contemporary Republicans is that Reagan entered politics reluctantly. In common with some of his adversaries, many of his supporters saw the absence of a conventional path to power as suggesting that Reagan was not well-prepared for high office.
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Format: Hardcover
Interestingly, books have already been written about Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan separately with the title "Landslide." In this volume, the author tries to tie the careers of the two together. His basis for doing this is that Johnson's downfall began with the same 1966 midterm election that brought Reagan to power. The book doesn't claim to be a biography or career record of either president but instead focuses on the 1963-66 period that presaged the decline of Johnson and the rise of Reagan.

The book makes for a curious study in contrasts that doesn't necessarily hold together well. For example, Darman opens the book by describing what the two men were doing when Kennedy was assassinated. This is already an unfair and un-parallel treatment. As the world knows, Johnson was not far behind Kennedy in the motorcade, and he became president as a result of the assassination. Reagan was not an officeholder and was barely a political figure at all at this point, and he was simply working as an actor in a movie studio on the day of the assassination. So trying to draw a parallel between their respective events compares not only apples and oranges but tricycles too.

Politics happens not only in waves but in movements too. The liberal movement of the 20th century is generally regarded to have begun with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 and many (including Darman) argue ended with the election of Richard Nixon in 1968. (I cite a competing argument below.) Thus, the Johnson landslide of 1964 was the final high-water mark of the movement. But the author attributes this as much to the failure of the Republican nominee, Sen. Barry Goldwater to run a viable political campaign as it was to what Johnson brought to the table.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you know nothing about the politics of the Sixties, this is an excellent place to start. Darman's framing of the period around the death of John Kennedy and the succession of Lyndon Johnson and the presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater is well-told and informative.

If, on the other hand, you are familiar with the period either from living through it and/or reading about it, the initial part of the book feels like a review. But hang on. Having set up scene with biographies of LBJ and Goldwater's conservative successor, Ronald Reagan, Darman analyzes the visions Johnson and Reagan had for the country in a way that is both riveting and original. He arranges the facts and many cogent observations into a frame through which we can see how we reached the political stand-off we have today.

Rather than repeat many commonplace explanations, Darman teases out the pertinent information and leaves the rest behind. Especially, I liked his analysis of LBJ's faulty reasoning about Vietnam. He's insightful about the president's habits of thought and how they led to his eventual decision not to run for a second elected term. At times, it brought me to tears, which is unusual for a political book. But knowing the consequences of these thought patterns, the tragedy is apparent. Darman has a higher regard for Georgia senator Richard Russell than Robert Caro, but the real inspiring figure in the Johnson constellation is his wife, Lady Bird. This is as good a portrait of a political spouse as I've seen in a long time.

By beginning Reagan's story before he even ran for governor of California, Darman is able to demonstrate how needy he was for adoration and skilled he was in courting it. Besides that, Reagan was acutely tuned to the fallout from Johnson's overreaching.
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