Tuesday, May 22, 2012
THE PASSAGE OF POWER - Robert Caro
After a 10 year wait the fourth volume of this fantastic biography of Lyndon Johnson has been published and it was well worth waiting for.
This volume picks up with the run up to the 1960 Democratic Party campaign for the Presidential nomination.
It ended up being between Johnson and Kennedy. Early in the campaign Lyndon Johnson only had to go out into the provinces and meet the people and he would have bolted in as the nominee and then gone straight into the White House, but he didn't and his hesitation doomed him to be Vice President under Kennedy.
The early part of the book is all about the Kennedys, especially Robert, who comes across to me as a nasty, nasty man - others could say that he was just protecting his brother whom he adored, but as I am not a Kennedy fan, I'll stick with nasty.
Johnson and Bobby Kennedy hated each other, a real hatred, not just dislike. It all went back to Joe Kennedy who Bobby believes was slighted by Johnson. Bobby Kennedy took the opportunity to slight and embarass Johnson at every turn when he had the opportunity, which was often,as the Vice Presidential job is evidentally one of the great non-jobs in the world.
What was fasinating is that Johnson just took it, he didn't like it but he took it, almost to the sycophant level but he just did his work such as it was.
All this changed on 22 November 1963 in Dallas and Johnson achieved his lifes ambition and basically swore himself in as President of the United States.
It is from here that we see Johnson as the consumate politician, in the space of several months he managed to get legislation passed that Kennedy would never have got through. There were tax cuts and civil rights legislation that only Johnson could have got going. His mastery of using power is totally evident here cajolling, stroking and threatening to get his will done.
There are times in the book when I was glad Johnson was not President early in the 1960's, I believe he would not have handled the Cuban crisis at all well and an escalation of violence may well have ensued.
There is 605 pages of brilliant biography here and there promises to be at least one more volume covering Johnson's own 1964 election as President and his retirement.
I wish Robert Caro good health, he is now 76 years of age and he still has a lot of work ahead of him.
There are a good selection of photographs spread through this volume, the one absolute stunner is of Jackie Kennedy walking down the steps of the Capitol with her children after the eulogies for JFK, a remarkable photograph. (2012)