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The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Robert A. Caro
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (596 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1, 2012 0679405070 978-0679405078 First Edition



NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Economist * Time * Newsweek * Foreign Policy * Business Week * The Week * The Christian Science Monitor *Newsday

By the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Power Broker.

Book Four of Robert A. Caro’s monumental The Years of Lyndon Johnson displays all the narrative energy and illuminating insight that led the Times of London to acclaim it as “one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age. A masterpiece.”
The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career—1958 to1964. It is a time that would see him trade the extraordinary power he had created for himself as Senate Majority Leader for what became the wretched powerlessness of a Vice President in an administration that disdained and distrusted him. Yet it was, as well, the time in which the presidency, the goal he had always pursued, would be thrust upon him in the moment it took an assassin’s bullet to reach its mark.

By 1958, as Johnson began to maneuver for the presidency, he was known as one of the most brilliant politicians of his time, the greatest Senate Leader in our history. But the 1960 nomination would go to the young senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. Caro gives us an unparalleled account of the machinations behind both the nomination and Kennedy’s decision to offer Johnson the vice presidency, revealing the extent of Robert Kennedy’s efforts to force Johnson off the ticket. With the consummate skill of a master storyteller, he exposes the savage animosity between Johnson and Kennedy’s younger brother, portraying one of America’s great political feuds. Yet Robert Kennedy’s overt contempt for Johnson was only part of the burden of humiliation and isolation he bore as Vice President. With a singular understanding of Johnson’s heart and mind, Caro describes what it was like for this mighty politician to find himself altogether powerless in a world in which power is the crucial commodity. 

For the first time, in Caro’s breathtakingly vivid narrative, we see the Kennedy assassination through Lyndon Johnson’s eyes. We watch Johnson step into the presidency, inheriting a staff fiercely loyal to his slain predecessor; a Congress determined to retain its power over the executive branch; and a nation in shock and mourning. We see how within weeks—grasping the reins of the presidency with supreme mastery—he propels through Congress essential legislation that at the time of Kennedy’s death seemed hopelessly logjammed and seizes on a dormant Kennedy program to create the revolutionary War on Poverty. Caro makes clear how the political genius with which Johnson had ruled the Senate now enabled him to make the presidency wholly his own. This was without doubt Johnson’s finest hour, before his aspirations and accomplishments were overshadowed and eroded by the trap of Vietnam.

In its exploration of this pivotal period in Johnson’s life—and in the life of the nation—The Passage of Power is not only the story of how he surmounted unprecedented obstacles in order to fulfill the highest purpose of the presidency but is, as well, a revelation of both the pragmatic potential in the presidency and what can be accomplished when the chief executive has the vision and determination to move beyond the pragmatic and initiate programs designed to transform a nation. It is an epic story told with a depth of detail possible only through the peerless research that forms the foundation of Robert Caro’s work, confirming Nicholas von Hoffman’s verdict that “Caro has changed the art of political biography.”

Frequently Bought Together

The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson + Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson III + Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson II
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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2012: In the fourth volume of Caro’s ambitious, decades-long biographic exploration, Lyndon Johnson finally reaches the White House. At 600-plus pages, it’s a brick of a book, but it reads at times like a novel, and a thriller, and a Greek tragedy. Caro's version of JFK's assassination is especially chilling, and the characters—not just LBJ, but the Kennedys and the power brokers of Washington --are downright Shakespearean. --Neal Thompson

From Bookforum

Lyndon Johnson was a figure of immense gifts and horrendous flaws, and I doubt any writer will ever capture the arc of his triumphant and ultimately tragic life so well again. — Michael Kazin

Product Details

  • Series: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679405070
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679405078
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (596 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
319 of 346 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another superb entry in a masterful series May 1, 2012
Thirty years have passed sine the publication of The Path to Power, the first of what Robert Caro had envisioned would be a three-volume biography of America's 36th president. This, his fourth volume, ends in the first months of Johnson's presidency, and Caro's assertion that this is the penultimate volume is a little hard to swallow given the thoroughness he has covered his subject's life even before reaching his time in the White House (with a third of this book's 700+ pages chronicling just the first four months as president). Yet Caro has sacrificed brevity for a detailed portrait of irony in his depiction of a master of political power who suddenly found himself deprived of it.

Caro begins with Johnson at the height of his success in the Senate. Still only in his second term, he had taken the weak position of Senate Majority Leader and turned it into the second most powerful office in national politics, thanks largely to his enormous personal and legislative abilities. But Johnson had his eye on an even larger prize: the presidency itself, an office he had aspired to for decades and which in 1960 seemed to many to be his for the taking. Yet Johnson hesitated to commit himself to the race, fearing the humiliation of a defeat. This created an opening that John F. Kennedy eagerly exploited. With his brother Robert collecting commitments in the west - a region critical to Johnson's chances - Kennedy outmaneuvered the Texas senator and won the nomination, demonstrating just how completely Johnson had misjudged his opponent.

Yet for Johnson a new opportunity presented itself when Kennedy offered him the vice presidential nomination during the convention.
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129 of 146 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For those of us who have read the previous volumes of Robert Caro's portrait of the life of Lyndon Johnson, we have all eagerly awaited this the latest installment. When the author first began writing what has become the definitive biography of the 36th President, he was basically vilified by scholars as getting it wrong. With each passing year, and volume, historians have come over to Caro's side of the story in troves. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power can either be read as part of the anthology or as a standalone story of Johnson's years during the Vice Presidency, and his ascension to the oval office upon the tragic death of John Kennedy.

Either way, you are in for a real treat. Many readers agree that writing doesn't get any better than this, and the proof is that Caro's writings have stood the test of time, and his reputation has simply gotten bigger. This is 605 pages (736 with footnotes) of detailed writing that any student of that period will cherish. The first half of the book, over 300 pages is dedicated to the last two Senate years, and the Vice Presidential years when LBJ lived the most down in the valley depressing type experience. He was ignored by the President, and castigated by young Robert Kennedy. Between the two of them Johnson's power had been castrated, and he was boxed into a small office. In a city where power was everything, Johnson now had none.

This is especially interesting in light of the heights from which he the former Senate Majority leader had fallen. Johnson as leader was considered the most powerful man in the Congress, with the White House held by the popular Republican President Dwight Eisenhower. Ike could get nothing done in the Democratic Congress without LBJ's help.
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91 of 106 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Caro seems to be coasting on this one. May 27, 2012
I've now read all four volumes of Caro's LBJ biography, each one as soon as it came out. I recall even writing him a letter after the first one (who had e-mail in '83?) The Passage of Power was as readable as the three earlier ones, full of fascinating anecdotes and good comparisons of how LBJ understood and used power compared to the Kennedys. Caro is able to weave his tale over familiar ground in such a way as to make the reader see RFK as rude, spoiled, ruthless, possessing almost no redeeming qualities, then generate some appreciation for his apparent concern for those less fortunate. He is able to present LBJ alternately as a contempible figure and as a wholly sympathetic person. My major complaint about the book (and I would give it 3 1/2 stars if it were possible) is that Caro seems to rehash too much from his earlier volumes, often referring the reader to particular pages to read more detail of a particular incident. He quotes himself frequently. I sometimes wondered while reading if he was running out of steam, proceeding with this book out of a sense of obligation to his readers and to his subject.
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92 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biography at its Finest May 1, 2012
Caro has famously written few books in a long career as a biographer, but surely his series on Lyndon Baines Johnson, of which this is volume four, will be remembered as one of the finest in United States biography. Caro has spoken to everyone he could find, read every piece of paper he could locate, but that factual basis is not what makes this such an important biography. It is the immense depth of insight he has brought to the subject, a depth that provides a study of power in all of its guises. It is this analysis, written in clear crisp language that sets this book, and the others in the series (and Power Broker as well) apart from most biographies.

If you have never read Robert Caro before, take a few minutes and read the introduction to this book on your computer. Certainly many people, especially those who have no personal memory of the years covered in this book, might wonder why a slice of only a few years in the life of a not especially beloved President is worth reading. The answer is first that few US politician were as complex and bigger-than-life than LBJ. And most importantly, LBJ was, from a young age, possessed by a need for power and with a startling ability to work hard and concentrate on what he wanted, became a master of how to obtain power, Power. In doing so LBJ pushed himself further and further in and up the United States political power structure, improbably ending as President after the assassination of Kennedy. The fact that a poor, ill-educated, physically unattractive politician with a heavy Southern accent could attain the presidency says much about both the US and about LBJ.

Caro has captured that time in US culture and politics, and his subject, LBJ, with astute observations, particularly about power.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend all four of the Lyndon Johnson book series Robert...
Robert Caro is an exceptional writer who makes you feel as though you are right there living in the book. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Crystal Martzall
5.0 out of 5 stars SIX STARS FOR ROBERT CARO
Sometime I may have time to do justice to this wonderful, wonderful book! It stands out as one of the 10 best books I have ever read. In contrast to Mr. Read more
Published 7 days ago by S. S. Cox
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, learned many things about how congress and ...
Loved it, learned many things about how congress and our government works. Although I have read two other books on LBJ and the Kennedy's, "The Passage of Power" gave me a... Read more
Published 9 days ago by Victor Munoz
4.0 out of 5 stars He is the perfect suspect for having killed Kennedy
very thorough research but it has given me pause about Johnson as a person. I would have been looking for the smoking gun in his circle of friends. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Donna Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Astoundingly complete
Caro never leaves one's curiosity unsatisfied. When covering the 1960 primary election campaign against Kennedy and other Democratic candidates, Caro spends about 25 pages doing a... Read more
Published 20 days ago by Bill Richards
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Genius
That’s LBJ. Still reading this book but am impressed with author’s knowledge, research and conclusions on chapters I have read. Read more
Published 20 days ago by C. B. McKenzie
5.0 out of 5 stars ASTONISHING!!
Tremendous research to write this book! I was amazed at the inner workings of our American politics. Read more
Published 25 days ago by sharon waltz
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Piece of History and Literature
Robert Caro if a amazing writer. He has stayed with this work on Lyndon Johnson for years and years. His has been extremely thorough and detailed. He writes beautifully. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Rowland Chase
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting biography of a complex man.
This reads like a novel. LBJ is one of the most fascinating men of our time and Caro captures him.
Published 28 days ago by Fred Cicetti
5.0 out of 5 stars Signed and first edition
I bought the copy signed and it was a perfect 1st edition . the book is great !!! . I received it ASAP and enjoyed it ..
Published 1 month ago by Charles Greco
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Previous volumes in this series
No, they aren't required, but you should read them anyway, because they are wonderful history, the first one in particular....
May 26, 2012 by BillBC |  See all 4 posts
Will Robert Caro mention Malcolm Wallace in his new book?
I hope there is a good and revealing treatment of the role of Bill Moyers in the White House and as an aide to Lyndon Johnson.
Jan 17, 2012 by Charlemagne |  See all 29 posts
So When is there going to be book five?
He's said he wants to live a year in Vietnam before he's finished with the final volume. I think this splittng of the series into a fourth-fifth book is a publisher's decision. I only hope Caro lives through the completion of #5. What a saga....his CSPAN interviews with Brian Lamb are most... Read More
Apr 23, 2012 by Oscar Levant |  See all 36 posts
Lyndon Johnson and Military Intelligence Murdered John Kennedy
Why is there nothing in the book about the 1947 crash of an extraterrestrial spacecraft at Roswell, New Mexico; or the debris and alien bodies from the crash locked in a storage hanger at Area 51? Surely LBJ was briefed about all of this upon becoming President!
Jul 30, 2012 by Owen Hatteras |  See all 13 posts
JFK conspiracy freaks
I couldn't agree more.

I've waded through most of these 1-star reviews, and the conclusion I've come to is that you can't believe everything you read (!).
May 8, 2012 by S.M.Simpson |  See all 11 posts
Lyndon Johnson and his role in the attack on the USS Liberty 6/8/67 Be the first to reply
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