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Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes, 1964-1965 Hardcover – November 6, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Beschloss made headlines in 1997 with Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964. Expect more of the same.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


George Stephanopoulos The New York Times Book Review An incomparable portrait of a president at work, and the workings of a president's mind.

Michiko Kakutani The New York Times A compelling picture of the day-to-day workings of Johnson's presidency...Reaching for Glory shows him in a full Shakespearean panoply of moods.

Philip Zelikow Foreign Affairs Johnson is caught in all of his public poses and most of his private ones. Beschloss is...knowledgeable [and] assured. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (November 6, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684804085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684804088
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,404,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Joel L. Gandelman VINE VOICE on November 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is truly an astounding, superbly compiled, book. Now, years later, we finally know the truth: Lyndon B. Johnson was not merely a tragic president who stuck to his guns and fought a war he mistakenly believed he could win (with various political restrictions on the military).
He was, this book proves beyond a shadow of a doubt in its lively transcripts of his secretly taped phone conversations, a tragic president who stuck to his guns and fought a war he firmly believed would be LOST no matter WHAT.
He didn't want to lose, but he didn't want to be the one to pull out, so he got in deeper and deeper, losing sleep and agonizing all the way -- and the consequences to his administration and the country were catastrophic.
There are a slew of reasons why you should read (or gift) this amazing book.
The main one: true, it does give you perhaps more than you wanted to know about LBJ (but I don't care WHAT some reviewers have said: I LOVE the many sections where he is flirting with and flattering Jackie Kennedy!)...but if you read it you get a clear idea of how a president operated -- and many parts of this book are so dramatic and gripping, they read like a movie script. In fact, I can see the Oliver Stone movie now.....
Historian Michael Beschloss makes it seem easy when you read it, but transcribing and annotating (so you know through footnotes what LBJ is referring to when he talks and get some historical context..and know when LBJ is spinning) these conversations taped between 1964 and 1965 could not have been easy. Yet, he gives you the meat and you get to "know" how LBJ thinks and, politically, works.
It shows Johnson, warts and all, as a man who could have been one of the top presidents because of his skills, will and sincere desire to serve.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You don't have to be interested in American history to find this book fascinating. In fact, if you have an aversion to the study of anything of a historical nature, this book may just bring you over to our side.
There is no more colorful character in 20th century American political history than Lyndon Johnson. Michael Beschloss does a wonderful job of letting Lyndon tell his own story. His analysis and presentation of our 36th president is perhaps one of the most fair portrayals of a recent president that I have read. I suggest that you purchase both the book and the tapes--the written word and the spoken word can have drastically different interpretations.
In the first book, Johnson is presented as a paranoid, uncouth, unwilling country politician who has had the job of president thrust upon him. On more than one occasion he confides in his friends and family that he just isn't up to the job, and doesn't feel that anyone really wants him.
But by late 1964, when this book really begins, Johnson steps up to the plate and decides to do his best. The landslide election victory puts the wind back into his sails, and he is ready to take on the world--except Vietnam, which he says on numerous occasions is an unwinnable war.
He puts his best foot forward when he gives his speech to Congress requesting passage of the Civil Rights bill of 1965. This was perhaps his brightest moment as Chief Executive. You will also hear the President's candid remarks regarding Alabama Governor George Wallace, who double-crosses Johnson and pays for it, dearly.
Johnson also proves to be a visionary, predicting the rapid growth of metropolitan centers, as well as expressing his fear of the effect that high unemployment and lack of education would have on black men.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kelly L. Norman VINE VOICE on June 7, 2004
Format: Audio CD
I don't mean LBJ's real thoughts about the Vietnam war, although obviously that is a great revelation. I mean that I know why it took Michael Beschloss so long to finish this follow-up to "Taking Charge"....these tapes are tough to listen to. They are not the entertaining excerpts of the previous volume. The '64-'65 excerpts show more of LBJ's warts, and cover painful ground, primarily concerning the war in Vietnam. Also, there is so much material that, unlike with the first volume, I found myself getting bored at times. Surely Beschloss himself must have found putting this volume together more difficult.
Of course, the fact that negative and humdrum things characterized part of the Johnson's presidency during the two years covered was not Beschluss's fault. But I felt some material, most notably some of the well-wishing calls made by the President and Lady Bird to friends, could have been left out or shortened.
Speaking of Lady Bird, however, she becomes a larger and refreshing presence in these tapes. Johnson apparently looked to her as his best critic (in the best sense of the word); she is heard giving him feedback about many speeches. In an era where we tend to think of Hilary Clinton as the first "co-president", it is interesting to learn how much Johnson relied on his wife.
Although it might not be a CD set to take to the beach, I still recommend the audio version of this work (not the written version; Johnson's delivery is an indivisible component of his personality). These annotated tape excerpts are nothing less than a piece of history.
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