The Path To Power (The Years Of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1) Audio Cassette – Unabridged, June 1, 1988
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At this time in the book the concentration will be on the two primary Democratic races in which LBJ was a huge underdog and we will see the makings of the ultimate politician as he will use all his political acumen and political favors to campaign using the Texas tactics of buying votes and in the end using the new flying contraption called a helicopter to cover vast distances on an exhausting daily basis. Never in the history of Senatorial has campaigning taken on 14 to 16 hour days with constantly pushing to cover ground that his main opponent Coke Stevens could not possibly do.
But the fact does remain that even though LBJ had the money, the ambition and the crooked politicians in hand he still remained behind when the votes were counted. Coke Stevens was an institution and it was not until Johnson had to pull out all the stops and had votes counted for LBJ which were not actual votes.
Caro shows a truly fantastic story containing two primaries where LBJ had worked the corrupt Texas political system to save his political life. It did not end until the last primary had gone to court. In this depiction of LBJ we see a highly energetic man that will do anything to win, and in doing so we see a man who in doing so sharpened his back room political skills which would be seen later when he led the Senate to some of the greatest left wing legislation
It should be noted that LBJ used the helicopter to fight for his political life when 20 years later as President it was the helicopter which would become the symbol for the Vietnam War in which quite frankly put an end to his political life. The irony of it all!!
important to his gaining power in washington was the personal relationship johnson formed with the powerful sam rayburn. caro provides a biographical sketch of sam rayburn and his role in writing new deal legislation.
how electricity came to the harsh rural hill country is riveting reading experience. the building of the marshall ford dam stalled by legality of property rights, a problem the district congressman would address, but before he could write legislation he died. his death, an opportunity to enter politics, was seized by the 28 year old lyndon johnson who fought as underdog in a field of eight other candidates for the seat. before other parts could come together and johnson be instrumental in bringing his home county into the modern age, he had to win the election for the congressional seat, and the texas builders were behind him. riveting stuff.
Top reviews from other countries
[What follows is my original review from July 2019, since amended below]
However, I am annoyed. The edition on sale here is the Pimlico edition, the paperback. Barely 37 pages in a whole section of book just fell apart and came away from the binding. Now pages jut out, get bent, torn when you put it down, slip out and fall away etc etc. I value my books, take care of them and often re-read them or refer to them for reference again and again. A pressing that disintegrates within the first chapter is not going to stand up to repeat readings. A book (indeed series) this masterful deserves a good binding, a proud place on everyone’s shelf and to be read again and again and again - but the edition is not up to scratch. Get a hardback edition, if possible.
[Original review ends]
EDIT 08/10/20: Since I wrote this review, there appears to have been a new paperback edition of all current volumes of Caro’s LBJ, by Bodley Head. I’ve since read book two in the Bodley Head paperback and it is much better and have had no trouble, and so would recommend the Bodley Head versions if you wish to get them in paperback. I have amended my review accordingly but my thoughts on the Pimlico version remain the same, ie Avoid like the plague. Pimlico: Bad - Bodley Head: Good.
So the book itself is a well-deserved 5 star read but loses 1 star for the paperback format.
The picture that emerges is rich, complex and detailed. Johnson got things done - he brought electricity to the Texas Hill Country (against the odds - people named their children after him - he had transformed their lives); and he seems through a later invention to have pretty much turned the 1940 Congressional elections in favour of the Democrats. But there's always a dark side - he has no clearly discernible principles (he seems like a model liberal to FDR but to hate the New Deal to his Texas big business backers - for whom he wins government contracts, and from whom he funds his campaigns). He will do whatever it takes to win power.
The years of research that inform this first volume of the biography are clear on every page. It's impossible really to question Caro's narrative or most of his judgements (he seems harsher on Johnson here than in Volume 4 - by which time he seems to have decided that Johnson did have some political beliefs - they were just extremely well hidden until he became President, for the most part). Only one aspect of Johnson's life I'd have liked to know more about - his increasingly frequent hospitalisations seem to be linked to brief depressive episodes. They aren't, however, quite treated as that - Caro makes clear that they are partly psychological - but doesn't delve into just what's going on at these times in Johnson's internal world.
It's a great read, though, and I'd very strongly recommend it to others.
I can't recommend this book enough, buy it and read it!
Robert Caro sets the stage,to tell the story of a politician whose ruthlessly brutal and pragmatic ambition,took him to great heights at early age,but earned him the scorn,hatred and distrust from his peers. The first part of this epic biography starts out in the barren,poverty stricken Hill Country,in Texas. The author paints a vivid picture of the hard life the Johnson family had,living in a part of the United States which was 20 years behind the rest of the country. Raised on a bleak,isolated Texas Farm, Lyndon B John,wanted nothing more then to break of this poverty and make something of himself. His father's former position as a Texas State Legislator,inspired his entrance into politics, but ultimately his father's failures drove him relentlessly,towards success,to avoid the poor,back breaking life,he experienced at an early age.
To reach the great heights he desired to reach,LBJ lied,cheated and back-stabbed anyone who was in his way achieving his goals.Which is a tactic that is effective,it earns you little friends in the process. In college he was a hated and unpopular student. But through the use and misuse of the colleges political system,LBJ was able to gain great power within the
college,the respect of his peers and the affection of the faculty.
After University,LBJ talents were no overlooked and his first experiences in politics, was as a secretary of a Texas congressman who had no interest,what so ever in politics. LBJ took advantage of his position and his bosses absence and became de facto congressman,using his position to learn how to play politics within Washington DC. By the time he was finished,the amount of influence and connections he made,laid the groundwork for a political network,that would prepare him for his first run for public office.
The latter half of the books goes into detail, about Lyndon B Johnson's tireless campaign for Congress,which earned him an unlikely victory as well as the start of a friendship with President Roosevelt and concludes with his first taste of political defeat.
Robert Caro's first volume on the life of rise of LBJ, is told with rich detail and intimate detail. Just like his contemporaries, I find myself hating Lyndon B Johnson for the tactics he uses to acquire influence and power, but there are moments I cant help respect the tenacity and endless energy he possessed,which pulled him out of a hard,back breaking life,like his father before him. By far one of the best political biographies I have ever read and could not recommend it more.