Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency [NOOK Book]

Overview

Nearly fifty years after being sworn in as president of the United States in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Baines Johnson remains a largely misunderstood figure. His force of personal­ity, mastery of power and the political process, and boundless appetite for social reform made him one of the towering figures of his time. But he was one of the most protean and paradoxical of presidents as well. Because of his flawed nature and inherent contradic­tions, some...
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Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency

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Overview

Nearly fifty years after being sworn in as president of the United States in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Baines Johnson remains a largely misunderstood figure. His force of personal­ity, mastery of power and the political process, and boundless appetite for social reform made him one of the towering figures of his time. But he was one of the most protean and paradoxical of presidents as well. Because of his flawed nature and inherent contradic­tions, some claimed there were as many LBJs as there were people who knew him.
 
Intent on fulfilling the promise of America, Johnson launched a revolution in civil rights, federal aid to education, and health care for the elderly and indigent, and expanded immigration and environ­mental protection. A flurry of landmark laws—he would sign an unparalleled 207 during his five years in office, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, Elementary and Second­ary Education Act, Head Start, and Medicare—are testaments to the triumph of his will. His War on Poverty alone brought the U.S. poverty rate down from 20 percent to 12 percent, the biggest one-time drop in American history. As president, he was known for getting things done.
 
At the same time, Johnson’s presidency—and the fulfillment of its own promise—was blighted by his escalation of an ill-fated war in Vietnam that tore at the fabric of America and saw the loss of 36,000 U.S. troops by the end of his term.
 
Presidential historian Mark K. Updegrove offers an intimate portrait of the endlessly fas­cinating LBJ, his extraordinarily eventful presi­dency, and the turbulent times in which he served. We see Johnson in his many guises and dimen­sions: the virtuoso deal-maker using every inch of his six-foot-three-inch frame to intimidate his subjects, the relentless reformer willing to lose southern Democrats from his party for a generation in his pursuit of civil rights for all Americans, and the embattled commander in chief agonizing over the fate of his “boys” in Vietnam—including his two sons-in-law—yet steadfast in his determination to thwart Communist aggression through war, or an honorable peace.
 
Through original interviews and personal accounts from White House aides and Cabinet members, political allies and foes, and friends and family—from Robert McNamara to Barry Goldwa­ter, Lady Bird Johnson to Jacqueline Kennedy—as well as through Johnson’s own candid reflections and historic White House telephone conversa­tions, Indomitable Will reveals LBJ as never before. “ For it is through firsthand narrative more than anything,” writes Updegrove, “that Lyndon John­son—who teemed with vitality in his sixty-four years and remains enigmatic nearly four decades after his passing—comes to life.”
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Hey, hey, LBJ: The former president, not much talked about these days, comes in for assessment by political colleagues and journalists of the day. Celebrated playwright Clare Boothe Luce once remarked that all presidents are known by a single sentence: Thus, Lincoln freed the slaves; Washington was the father of his country; Clinton--well, you get the idea. For Lyndon Johnson, as LBJ Presidential Library Museum director Updegrove (Baptism by Fire: Eight Presidents Who Took Office in Times of Crisis, 2009, etc.) writes, the sentence would necessarily involve Vietnam, an assessment that is not strictly fair, since Johnson inherited the war. However, as he put it, "I knew from the start that if I left the woman I love--the Great Society--in order to fight that bitch of a war, then I would lose everything." So he did, and in doing so he effectively repudiated his own record by not running for reelection in 1968. One bit of news in this newsworthy book is that Johnson plainly believed that he would have defeated Richard Nixon had he stood for office: "I believe I would have been nominated by that convention," he said near the end of his life, "and that I would have won over Nixon by a substantial margin." Instead, as Updegrove notes, the Democrats chose the bland Hubert Humphrey, who must have seemed a walk in the park after years of the mercurial Johnson, who was a blusterer and bully. However, notes staffer Myer Feldman, "I think Lyndon Johnson had great virtues and great vices, [and] depending on whether that particular day he was emphasizing the vices or the virtues, you liked or disliked him." Other news: Johnson didn't read books; by Dean Rusk's account, Johnson was closely involved in resolving the Cuban Missile Crisis, though Bobby Kennedy later froze him out of the historical record; and Barry Goldwater missed an opportunity by pretending the civil-rights movement didn't exist in the 1964 campaign. A readable, endlessly interesting look at the LBJ years.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307887733
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/13/2012
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 293,876
  • File size: 8 MB

Meet the Author

MARK K. UPDEGROVE is the director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, and the author of Baptism by Fire: Eight Presidents Who took Office in Times of Crisis and Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House. A sought-after com­mentator on matters relating to politics and the pres­idency, he has appeared on ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, NPR, NBC News, and PBS. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Evelyn, and their children, Charlie and Tallie.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 25, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    This book peaked my interest when I read a review for it in the New York Journal of Books, which proclaimed it an "instant classic" and raved that it's a "can't-put-down, lust-for-more read." I found it to be just that.

    Lyndon Johnson has been, for me, an enigma. Updegrove, by offering multiple views of LBJ from those who knew and worked with him, sheds light on his character and the complexities of his personality, while shedding light on the decisions he made in office. He weave those accounts into a narrative that is fluid and compelling. He also captures LBJ brilliantly in one phrase: "Flawed, yes, and not always good, but great." His book is great, too. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand this important and largely misunderstood president.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 9, 2012

    There seems to be no consensus among presidentiol historians as

    There seems to be no consensus among presidentiol historians as to where Lyndon Johnson ranks when compared to the other presidents. Some considered him to be in the top 10, whhile others cosider his tenure a disaster. After reading this book it's easy to see why. His famous temper and his hard ball political style is matched at the same level by his compassion and caring. His domestic program sucesses, that have had a positive impact on millions of Americans, is matched by the foreign policy disaster called Viet Nam. An intriguing biography, the book is also a history of one of America's most turbulent time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2012

    I found the book really fascinating with a lot of information I

    I found the book really fascinating with a lot of information I was not aware of. The style was interesting (various quotes from different people) which put different issues in good perspective.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2012

    Highly recommended-great read!

    Highly recommended-anyone living through those turbulent 60's like me
    should have this in there library.
    Johnson was a force in the senate,and could of been a giant as President,if the Vietnam debacle didnt pull him down.
    Mark Updegrove gives wonderful insights from numerous people,especially
    Lady Bird,who was as devoted a spouse as one can be.
    Insightful,with candid photos which show Johnson in many shades.
    Essential reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Lyndon Johnson murdered John Kennedy and it is hard to put a shine on that.

    Hey, I have a question. Isn't it about time that scholarship in Lyndon Johnson addressed a very salient fact? Namely, that LBJ shot his way into the White House? Lyndon Johnson's signature achievement - the civil rights act - was his "get out of jail card" for the JFK assassination. Many liberals justifiably believed that LBJ was behind the murder of JFK, so he had to give them something. Civil rights was LBJ's bone to the liberals who deeply distrusted him. The real agenda of LBJ was to keep himself out of jail and free himself from the Bobby Baker scandal, preserve the oil depreciation allowance for other oil executive perps in the JFK assassination, reward hawks in CIA/military and let his good buddy Hoover keep his job. Mark Updegrove, the director of the LBJ Presidential Library, is in a pickle. Does he tell the TRUTH about Lyndon Johnson or does he get fired from his job? Many, many, many people in life choose to keep their jobs/status/position of privilege rather than tell the truth. Or, more importantly, even seek the truth. This book has the feel of a "rush job" - as if someone said get out something fairly positive on LBJ asap. So apparently the staff just glommed together some LBJ quotes and quotes about LBJ and "bingo!" we have an instant book, wafer thin on any analysis of LBJ and who he really was. Here is one of the quotes that the staff somehow overlooked. Gus Russo: In his oral history, Robert Kennedy bitterly recounted a remark that Johnson supposedly made to someone else after the assassination. "When I was young in Texas, I used to know a cross-eyed boy," Johnson said. "His eyes were crossed, and so was his character... That was God's retribution for people who were bad - and you should be careful of cross-eyed people because God put his mark on them ... Sometimes I think that what happened to Kennedy may have been divine retribution." JFK himself had slightly crossed eyes. [Leo Janos, LBJ speechwriter, Church Committee interview by Rhett Dawson, Oct. 14, 1975 ... also Gus Russo, Live by the Sword, p. 377] Another insightful LBJ conversation that was somehow was overlooked for this effort: the talk that Lyndon Johnson had on the night of 12/31/63, just 6 weeks after the JFK assassination, with his mistress Madeleine Brown at the Driskill Hotel in Austin: "Lyndon, you know that a lot of people believe you had something to do with President Kennedy's assassination." He shot up out of bed and began pacing and waving his arms screaming like a madman. I was scared! "That's bull___, Madeleine Brown!" he yelled. "Don't tell me you believe that ____!" "Of course not." I answered meekly, trying to cool his temper. "It was Texas oil and those _____ renegade intelligence bastards in Washington." [said Lyndon Johnson, the new president; Texas in the Morning, p. 189] I guess that would not put a shine on the LBJ legacy, would it? When will academia start addressing the ugly realities of the JFK assassination in an honest manner? Updegrove's first chapter is entitled "A Man Who Remains a Mystery." LBJ is not a mystery. It is just there are some folks who just don't want to address the dark side of Lyndon Johnson and tell us who he really was.

    0 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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