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Lyndon B. Johnson: The American Presidents Series: The 36th President, 1963-1969 Hardcover – June 8, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
Charles Peters offers a portrayal of Johnson, in all his complexity, in his recent short biography in the American Presidents Series edited by the late Arthur Schelsinger Jr. and by Sean Willentz. The books in this series give valuable short introductions and assessments to each of our presidents. Several of the volumes, including this biography of Johnson, are not mere summaries but rather offer and informed and challenging perspective in their own right. A political insider. Peters edited the "Washington Monthly" for 32 years, and he has written a book about "How Washington Really Works" and a book about the Republican nomination of Wendell Wilkie for president in 1940.
Peters gives much space to Johnson's life before he became president. The background he offers is essential to understanding the man. Born to poverty in rural Texas, Johnson struggled to afford and to graduate from Southwest Texas State Teachers College. His ambition and domineering personality showed as a young man, and Johnson early proved adept in learning to network. In 1931, Johnson became a staff assistant to Representative Richard Kleberg and, with a short two-year interlude, he would remain in Washington, D.C. until the conclusion of his presidency.
After an intense courtship, Johnson married the well to do Lady Bird Taylor. During their long marriage, he was frequently unfaithful to her.Read more ›
Each reader must determine if the tradeoff is worth it.
At that, this is an interesting addition to the series. The author takes a rather sharp-eyed view of Johnson, discussing both his strengths and his more problematic elements. It attempts to make sense of his life and is honest in its view of Johnson. The volume discusses Johnson's womanizing, his hardball politics (including a key disputed election), his deviousness, his sometimes excessively hard as nails relationship with his staff. The book also notes the impressive litany of legislative successes--whether in his role as Senate Majority Leader or as President. Indeed, his legacy is quite impressive. But the book also notes the issue that dogged him and ended his presidency--Vietnam.
All in all, a useful work, despite its brevity.
Despite the book's paucity, Peters is able to give the reader both the big and small pictures. Johnson's drive to bring about the Great Society is explained, as well as a detailed account of how Johnson was dragged into the Vietnam quagmire, and how he waded in deeper and deeper even as it became more and more apparent that this was a fight he couldn't win.
Peters also explores the unseemly side of Johnson, including his extra-marital dalliances and his belittling and humiliating treatment of his staff. A skilled writer, Peters is able to broach those subjects without succumbing to sensationalism or a trashy tabloid journalism style.
I recommend this book as a wonderful account of the life of a complicated man, showing warts and all, but leaving the reader with a new appreciation for Johnson's goals and ambitions and for all that he was able to accomplish, especially in the field of civil rights. If you've wondered why many historians include Johnson in the list of great presidents, this book will help you to understand why. If Lyndon Johnson does not strike you an an interesting president before you read that book, you opinion will be significantly changed by this delightful biography.
There are a few pages devoted to Lyndon`s background and what life was like in rural Texas in the early 1900`s. His interest in politics seems to begin with his father and in his college years. The move to Washington and the building of an almost unmatched political network are well accounted for.
There are many unflattering incidents described, from the time he was awarded a silver star for just being a passenger in a B-26 that was attacked in the Pacific during WWII and none of the crew acknowledged, his syncopating brashness when needed or his ultimate humility ("there could be no such thing as too much sucking up") to reach his goals even the size of office he deemed he deserved, to his treatment of friends and political acquaintances.
One of the best descriptions in the book occurs in summing up the atmosphere of returning WWII veterans who just wanted a' Father's Knows Best' - white picket fence life after the drama and danger of the war and the political climate that created.. The time of Kennedy's assassination and the many incidents and conflicts with the Kennedy`s are included..
Of course the guilt and horror of the Kennedy assassination contributed to some of Johnson's success in getting legislation passed; but the legacy of the many bills and programs such as The War on Poverty, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Medicare cannot be forgotten.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good series. This book was written better than some of the others in this seriesPublished 9 months ago by ddlreader
THIS BOOK WAS GIVEN AS A GIFT TO SOMEONE WHO READS BOOKS ON ALL THE PRESIDENTS. HE REQUESTED THIS BOOK.Published 20 months ago by JAY DUB
Very good. Concise and deliberate. Expresses most of his good work while in office.Published 24 months ago by Richard Testani
It's a quick read. Short of minor details but gives the important facts and reads well. Perfect for someone that doesn't want to read dozens of pages on every bill he was involved... Read morePublished on August 2, 2014 by Edward S. Palanker
The publishers need to publish the few remaing presidents missing in this series. Otherwise should be required reading for all.Published on May 23, 2014 by Morton A. Hirschberg
Having read all of Caro's books on LBJ, I wanted to see what someone else thought of his presidency. Enjoyed it very much!Published on April 20, 2014 by JPS
The presidency of Lyndon Johnson has always fascinated me, to try and understand how a man could react to crowds shouting "Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill... Read morePublished on March 5, 2014 by Zachary Koenig