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Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes 1963 1964 Paperback – September 18, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 18, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684847922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684847924
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

By the time he suddenly succeeded to the presidency in November 1963, following John Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Johnson had been secretly recording his private conversations for years--first by having an eavesdropping aide take shorthand notes on telephone calls, and then, as recording technology advanced, by committing conversations to tape. Even on his first night as president, he remembered to make sure that the tape recorder was working. His motives were apparently practical--a kind of hands-free note-taking, and a way to document the commitments he and others had made.

Whatever his reasons (and despite Johnson's desire that the documentation remain sealed until at least 2023), the tapes are a boon to students of politics and history. Masterfully edited and annotated by presidential historian Michael Beschloss, they reveal a quintessential political animal at work. It's fascinating to listen in as Johnson works the levers--cajoling, trading favors, calling in chits, twisting arms, and occasionally playing rough--often in a pungent, earthy Texas patois. The book covers the period from November 1963 through the Democratic convention in August 1964, when Johnson was nominated for reelection. Its biggest single revelation is that Johnson believed Fidel Castro was behind Kennedy's assassination; another, less sensational, is that his reservations about the deepening war in Vietnam were greater than previously known. Most importantly, though, these tapes provide an invaluable, uncensored look into a complex presidency--and president. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Beschloss edits the first of several volumes of LBJ's audio archives.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It is also interesting to read his conversations with folks on a personal basis.
Craig Matteson
I also found it very interesting to see LBJ working the phones; he does everything from out right [bottom] kissing to demanding.
John G. Hilliard
I reccomend this book and/or audio tape to anyone interested in better understanding the nature of our political system.
Page Turner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By David Traill VINE VOICE on November 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
President Lyndon Johnson's tapes are exactly why modern presidents might want to leave the recorders off. We can read all kinds of conversations here- from his domestic problems with civil rights, to his election, to the war in Vietnam. We also can see how tender he was towards his wife, while still having affairs with other women. Michael Beschloss does us all a favor by providing transcripts of the tapes' key moments in the first two years of LBJ's presidency, with background material to explain all of their significance. Vietnam War researchers and U.S. history buffs will need to make this book a guaranteed spot on their shelves. Please note, too, that the auditapes are also available- but not all of the material in the book is found on the tapes.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Page Turner on January 12, 2000
Format: Audio Cassette
Found this audio tape absolutely mesmerizing. To hear actual conversations related to hisorical events immediately following President Kennedy's assassnation was both fascinating and enlightening. Gave me an entirely new perspective of LBJ, his character and accomplishments. Also an excellent insight into what really goes on behind the scenes in our nation's capital. A strong reminder that what we read and hear via the news media is often 'less than accurate'. For me, this tape debunked many concepts I held related to LBJ and other political figures, especially Robert Kennedy. I was particularly surprised to hear the amount of respect and warm feelings that LBJ and Jackie Kennedy apparently held for each other. I reccomend this book and/or audio tape to anyone interested in better understanding the nature of our political system. A real eye opener for me. I will never accept the images that our news medial creates about our political leaders again.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 16, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I imagine folks' response to this book/tape will be dependent on their age, how well they remember the days depicted. I remember them well, found both the book and the less
comprehensive tape to be excellent. This is
The Good Lyndon at his best - when the
'threat' of the impending 1964 election kept
him (relatively) honest. No taking it away from
the man, he was one awesome character, one
who *filled* the space he occupied.

Vietnam moments in these conversations -
esp. those in the tape version, which gives the
feel of being a wiretapper on the president's
private line - are heart-rending. It all mightn't
have happened. Johnson foresaw the
consequnces of escalating the war, and yet
he proceeded. We'll have to await Beschloss's
*next* book/tape to understand why.

A great read and an even better listen. Pick up
the tape version for drive-time.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kelly L. Norman VINE VOICE on June 7, 2004
Format: Audio Cassette
The story is told that when Nixon took office, LBJ showed him around the White House and revealed a hidden taping system. He made the argument that everything a president said or did should be taped for posterity.
Johnson has fared a little better than Nixon viz. the results of such executive record keeping. In the case of excerpts chosen by Michael Beschluss for these tapes (and as the review title suggests, do by the audio version), there is no criminal activity uncovered. Instead, we hear things as diverse as conversations with Martin Luther King about the Civil Rights Act, arm-twisting of Southern Democrats to get that and other progressive laws passed, chilly exchanges between the President and Attorney General Robert Kennedy after President Kennedy's death, and a hilarious exchange with a flabbergasted New York tailor as Johnson asks the tailor to make trousers for him, describing exactly how they should fit around the Presidential....er, anatomy. Of course, there are heartfelt conversations with both Jacqueline and Rose Kennedy immediately after President Kennedy's death. In one very sweet exchange, Jackie refers to media criticism of his calling her "honey" as they flew with the president's body from Dallas to Washington. Kennedy insisted she felt positive about the term of endearment."Honey is loving word, a wonderful word," she tells him.
The 35th President comes across with a multifaceted personality: the dogged politician who won't take no for an answer (and won't forget a favor given); the Texas rancher who doesn't believe in coddling his dogs; the old fashioned Southern gentleman who addressed female officials with charm and not a little flirtation.
Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Johnson's recorded conversations provide some important insight into this turbulent period in history. LBJ's selection of the Warren Commission to apparently chose individuals who would support the lone gunman theory so that the issue could be closed quickly and the crisis resolved. And he admits that he himself did not agree with some of the conclusions of the Commission's findings, like the idea that the same, single bullett that wounded Connally also killed Kennedy.
I am looking forward to more volumes on the LBJ tapes. This book covers less than one year of the president's time in office. The escalation of the war in Vietnam and what LBJ has to say about it on tape will be interesting to find out.
Author Michael Beschloss does a great job using footnotes to clarify exactly what is being talked about. This is a good read for those who like the "cut and dried" uncensored style of reading. You can't argue with actual spoken words!
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