Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Man in Trouble



Robert Caro has come out with the fourth book, The Passage of Power, in his epic series on Lyndon Johnson.  It will be the subject of our next reading group starting on June 15.  You can read the New York Times Review.

On Nov. 22, 1963, when he was told that John F. Kennedy was dead, and that he was now president, Lyndon B. Johnson later recalled, “I was a man in trouble, in a world that is never more than minutes away from catastrophe.”


He said he realized that “ready or not, new and immeasurable duties had been thrust upon” him and that he could not allow himself to be overwhelmed by emotion: “It was imperative that I grasp the reins of power and do so without delay. Any hesitation or wavering, any false step, any sign of self-doubt, could have been disastrous. The nation was in a state of shock and grief. The times cried out for leadership. ... The entire world was watching us through a magnifying glass. ... I had to prove myself.”


He definitely responded to the moment.

42 comments:

  1. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-502927_162-57424756/caro-is-back-and-the-obsession-goes-on/

    And an excerpt:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/01/passage-of-power-robert-caro-excerpt_n_1464976.html

    Am leaving tomorrow for the big graduation and a week of cabin camping -- I think I'll pick up a copy to take with me. I really have surprisingly enjoyed the others in the series.

    Trippler, Marti, others joining us?

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  2. And Robert, too! He should have his copy by now.

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  3. I might join you. Not buying it right away. Will likely get it for kindle.

    Lost my job last week. Worked for a screaming bully the past 8 months. She tore me down over the silliest things. Officially, I was terminated for performance. Will qualify for unemployment, but I've never been in this position before. Last time it was a budget cut layoff in Jan. 2009.

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  4. Marti, so sorry to hear that. If I can pick up a copy tomorrow you can have my review copy. I'll let you know.

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  5. Avrds, thanks, but I can get it. Surprised to find that the online book price isn't as high as Master of the Senate was.

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  6. Sorry to hear it also Marti.I recall how glad you were to get that steady full time position again.

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  7. Hi!

    Just checked with our two library systems and neither has the book as of yet. Will try to put my name on their mailing list.

    Looks like a good read. Hopefully, I'll be able to join you.

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  8. very good old photos:

    http://extras.denverpost.com/archive/captured.asp

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  9. Those photos make it seem so near.

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  10. Alas, it is closer than we think!

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  11. "LBJ's Biden Moment" by George Packer in The New Yorker:

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/05/lbjs-biden-civil-rights-gay-marriage.html

    I'm reading The Passage of Power on my kindle. About half way through and up to the afternoon of 11/22/63 when Johnson has just learned that Kennedy has died.

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  12. You're ahead of me! I just read about Bobby Kennedy on the airplane to Denver. Doesn't sound like such a nice guy ...

    And the story of LBJ (I love how he wants to use that) not announcing in 1960. Sounds like he wants to be George Washington.

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  13. Still waiting on the book, so don't get too far ahead. I have some book around here on LBJ I can read in the meantime. Where, oh where?

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  14. Have no fear ... it's a BIG book. And it takes awhile to parse some of the sentences. I'm only on page 100 or so. But he does know how to tell a story.

    I'll read some more on the plane home and probably put it down again since I have a lot of other stuff going on.

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  15. Caro writes just like he talks -- in very long sentences.

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  16. Gintaras, where do they ship your book from?

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  17. This one I ordered from the States. No less than 3 weeks delivery time.

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  18. Excellent news! I'll try to keep up with you.

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  19. Enjoyed the intro and first chapter. Caro certainly has a way of words. Fun to read!

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  20. Finally got Johnson nominated -- I could feel the heat of the moment. Caro sure knows how to squeeze every drop of drama and uncertainty out of a scene.

    I still find myself editing each sentence -- I guess Caro and his editor argued endlessly about grammar -- but keep trying to let go so I can enjoy the ride. What a story teller! What a story!

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  21. He is indeed. I finished the first part of the book and enjoyed it very much. Bobby comes across as a real asshole. I got a kick out of his behind the scenes attempt to get Johnson off the ticket.

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  22. Yeah, Bobby Kennedy was not at all what I was expecting but then neither was his brother. What I found interesting about that section was the way history has dealt with it over all these years. I get the feeling that Caro gets to the heart of it.

    I also _sort of_ believe that Bobby got out ahead of his brother on this one and was trying to cover his own commitments made to the liberal wing of the party. So interesting the way the liberals always get shut out in the end ....

    Now you know why I got an early start on the book. My guess is Marti is done and I'm behind you. But I'll keep after it. It's a fascinating book.

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  23. I never liked Bobby from what I've read about him. I suppose he was trying to protect his brother, but even he should have been able to see the "math" in a Johnson vice-presidency.

    I've only read the first quarter of the book, but enough to start the discussion if you and Marti want to start commenting. I can set up a new post.

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  24. Sure -- we can comment as we read if you want. I'm sure I won't be done by the 15th in any event. I'm always struck by something interesting in the book. Like Bobby Kennedy. I'm sure I'll be a bit behind but I'm keeping after it.

    Trippler were you able to get a copy?

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  25. (I'm still overwhelmed by the Wisconsin results -- they even had good turnout but couldn't make it happen.... Ezra Klein, whom I really admire, this a.m. says it's the end of labor and the rise of big corporations in politics. This is the work of Ronald Reagan reaching fruition. We'll all work for minimum wages and have no security. Very, very sad to see.)

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  26. I think a lot of it comes down to personalities. Barrett lost to Walker the first time around by about the same margin. Walker wasn't taking any chances the second time around and had huge funding, outspending Barrett, who seems like a decent guy, 10 to 1. I suppose Barrett is too labor-oriented for the Wisonsin rank and file.

    Labor has been struggling for decades. I thought we might see a return of labor after the occupy protests of last year, but for some insane reason the DNC failed to seize on this sentiment, and decided to play it safe. They gave Barrett very little support. Clinton pitches up the last week to do some last minute stumping, but that was about it.

    By contrast, the Repugs had all their heavy hitters campaigning for Walker across the state. The only one to keep his distance was Romney.

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  27. Barrett defeated the really pro-labor candidate in the primaries. I think he was more the middle of the road, let's all get along sort of candidate, one that the national democrats should have embraced. But who knows what goes on in people's minds.

    The exit polls showed something like a 12% lead for Obama if they were voting on that race, and yet they returned Walker. The best I can tell is that people don't like unions (including one teacher, a Democrat, I heard interviewed who benefits from one) and all that money convinced people that recalls were unethical or something. Very depressing.

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  28. It is odd, especially after getting over 1,3 million signatures for recall. Barrett lost in 2010 as well, so I guess he simply didn't click with Wisconsin voters. I think Shapiro summed up the recall election best,

    "For all Walker’s glib talk about leadership, a politician is doing things wrong when he becomes so polarizing a figure that he has to spend nearly $50 million to avoid being booted out of office after just 19 months."

    http://news.yahoo.com/what-scott-walker-can-teach-barack-obama.html

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  29. I'll start a new thread on Johnson Monday.

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  30. I heard something last night that pinpointed the ads about Barrett taking away gun rights -- the Walker campaign ran these ads throughout all the rural counties, which is where Barrett won.

    I remember the fear here that Kerry would do the same. Friends telling friends to vote for Bush. These guys really know how to whip up the hysteria over guns. In those instances, money can really make a difference.

    But you're right. They also ran the same candidate, instead of the one who was pro labor and who could have articulated what was at stake.

    Now there's talk that Walker should be Romney's VP nominee....

    Very depressing all around.

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  31. Look forward to the LBJ discussion -- funny ever since reading in one of the earlier books (and Caro brings it up here too) that Johnson wanted to be like FDR, I hate using "LBJ" since I feel like I'm being manipulated. But it does save time!

    On the other hand, I have stopped referring to "Teddy" Roosevelt, because I read how much he hated it. Go figure.

    Those historians I met in Virginia referred to some of the other leading presidents by their initials -- particularly TR but also TJ ... Weird when you think about it.

    I find myself referring to Bush Jr. from time to time as "GW" which puts him in company he surely doesn't belong in.

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  32. Would be pretty amazing if Walker were to accept a VP nod after spending over $50 million to retain his seat. I don't imagine his style of politics would play well to the nation as a whole either. My guess is they will make him keynote speaker at the convention where I'm sure he will get a thunderous ovation.

    Just call George "W." That's enough. Speaking of which he still has very low favorable ratings,

    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/george-w-bush-favorable-rating-lowest-living-president-100010623.html

    While brother Jeb praises Obama on education,

    http://news.yahoo.com/jeb-bush-offers-praise-obama-again-rejects-romney-144326596--abc-news-politics.html

    Go figure?

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  33. Sorry, the above should have said the rural counties where Barrett lost ... but I'm assuming you knew what I was trying to say. (I lost my glasses somewhere in a stack of books so my eyesight and thinking are not 100% -- they have to be around here somewhere.)

    I don't think "W" will ever be popular now or in the future with many Americans. But then the republicans are really moving right so who knows ....

    And as he boasted the other day, there are now portraits of two "GWs" in the White House. Sigh.

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  34. You look at how Truman gained popularity after what was essentially a failed administration. I think his approval rating was as low as W's while in office. Americans tend forgive as former leaders grow old and seemingly harmless.

    As for his two portraits, just more dart practice ; )

    I figured you meant Walker. It never ceases to amaze me how easily the Republicans are able to shift public discourse with these "red meat" topics. Like guns were ever an issue in Wisconsin.

    Notice how no GOPer is mentioning gas prices now that they have fallen. Instead, we hear the birther issue raised again by Trump.

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  35. Any port in a storm, I suppose.

    But it will take a pretty twisted historian to remake Bush Jr.'s image into anything more than it was. I just wish someone could get into the records while they are all still alive so that we can find out what really went on in there.

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  36. I don't think that will ever happen. Dubya seemed to keep a pretty tight circle and I well imagine he got rid of any incriminating evidence. The best one can hope for is for Colin Powell or Condi Rice to be more forthcoming.

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  37. We can only hope that this is what will eventually start to happen:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/woodward-and-bernstein-40-years-after-watergate-nixon-was-far-worse-than-we-thought/2012/06/08/gJQAlsi0NV_story_1.html

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  38. I finished the Caro book over Memorial Day weekend. Hope that I'll remember enough without re-reading!

    Caro gets very dramatic about the weekend events that led up to the JFK funeral, particularly about the drums on the parade route, and Black Jack, the riderless horse . . . Jackie with the children, RFK and EMK.

    I was 12 then. We were glued to the TV through that weekend.

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