Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 3

Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 3

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by Robert A. Caro

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The most riveting political biography of our time, Robert A. Caro’s life of Lyndon B. Johnson, continues. Master of the Senate takes Johnson’s story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 through 1960, in the United States Senate. Once the most august and revered body in politics, by the time Johnson arrived the…  See more details below


The most riveting political biography of our time, Robert A. Caro’s life of Lyndon B. Johnson, continues. Master of the Senate takes Johnson’s story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 through 1960, in the United States Senate. Once the most august and revered body in politics, by the time Johnson arrived the Senate had become a parody of itself and an obstacle that for decades had blocked desperately needed liberal legislation. Caro shows how Johnson’s brilliance, charm, and ruthlessness enabled him to become the youngest and most powerful Majority Leader in history and how he used his incomparable legislative genius--seducing both Northern liberals and Southern conservatives--to pass the first Civil Rights legislation since Reconstruction. Brilliantly weaving rich detail into a gripping narrative, Caro gives us both a galvanizing portrait of Johnson himself and a definitive and revelatory study of the workings of legislative power.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
Power -- how it is won, used, and abused -- fascinates Robert Caro. It fascinated Lyndon B. Johnson, a born-poor son of backcountry Texas. His statement "I do understand power.... I know where to look for it, and how to use it," reflects a focused intelligence that Machiavelli would have admired.

In this third volume of his magisterial biography of the protean LBJ, Caro brilliantly analyzes his marshaling and manipulation of power. During LBJ's Senate years, as civil rights became a more urgent issue, the power of individuals to block legislation became a major issue. Opposition to civil rights, Caro notes, was the southern senators' ongoing revenge for Gettysburg, a defense of the mythologized southern way of life: gentility in the big house, obedient blacks in field and factory, and respect for God, woman, and tradition.

Caro provides an unforgettable account of LBJ's self-serving late-hour conversion to the Constitution and decency and demonstrates how -- by promise, threat, and trade-off -- he used his power as majority leader to steer the 1957 Civil Rights Bill into law. Caro's explorations of hearts and minds, particularly senators', are unrivaled. Courteous, unyielding Richard Russell; anti-Semitic James Eastland; honorable Paul Douglas; visionary Hubert Humphrey; brilliant Bobby Baker; underrated John Connally -- they and a myriad of others people a Darwinian world. Caro pitches his readers into their gut-felt emotions, into the nation's diverse hopes, fears, and needs. He demonstrates that politics is the art of getting bills passed. When simple, legislation is seldom fair, and vice versa; hence the endless add-ins and strikeouts that accompany congressional enactment of a law.

There are a dozen histories here: the Senate, the committee system, parliamentary procedure, states' rights, voter registration, the Johnson clan, political skullduggery, and more, all intensively researched and wonderfully told. Driving the narrative, energizing every issue, manipulating every situation, is the dynamic, ego-fueled LBJ, the flawed giant and divided personality who could within an hour lovingly cradle a Hispanic child and coarsely abuse his wife, who sought back-at-the-ranch simplicity while ruthlessly manipulating policy and process.

LBJ won the battle for civil rights legislation -- laws that reshaped the nation. He deserves a biographer of the prizewinning Caro's energy and brilliance. (Peter Skinner)

Peter Skinner lives in New York City.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Years of Lyndon Johnson Series , #3
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Chapter 1

The Desks of the Senate The Chamber of the United States Senate was a long, cavernous space—over a hundred feet long. From its upper portion, from the galleries for citizens and journalists which rimmed it, it seemed even longer than it was, in part because it was so gloomy and dim—so dim in 1949, when lights had not yet been added for television and the only illumination came from the ceiling almost forty feet above the floor, that its far end faded away in shadows—and in part because it was so pallid and bare. Its drab tan damask walls, divided into panels by tall columns and pilasters and by seven sets of double doors, were unrelieved by even a single touch of color—no painting, no mural—or, seemingly, by any other ornament. Above those walls, in the galleries, were rows of seats as utilitarian as those of a theater and covered in a dingy gray, and the features of the twenty white marble busts of the country’s first twenty vice presidents, set into niches above the galleries, were shadowy and blurred. The marble of the pilasters and columns was a dull reddish gray in the gloom. The only spots of brightness in the Chamber were the few tangled red and white stripes on the flag that hung limply from a pole on the presiding officer’s dais, and the reflection of the ceiling lights on the tops of the ninety-six mahogany desks arranged in four long half circles around the well below the dais. From the galleries the low red-gray marble dais was plain and unimposing, apparently without decoration. The desks themselves, small and spindly, seemed more like schoolchildren’s desks than the desks of senators of the United States, mightiest of republics.

When a person stood on the floor of the Senate Chamber, however—in the well below the dais—the dais was, suddenly, not plain at all. Up close, its marble was a deep, dark red lushly veined with grays and greens, and set into it, almost invisible from the galleries, but, up close, richly glinting, were two bronze laurel wreaths, like the wreaths that the Senate of Rome bestowed on generals with whom it was pleased, when Rome ruled the known world—and the Senate ruled Rome. From the well, the columns and pilasters behind the dais were, suddenly, tall and stately and topped with scrolls, like the columns of the Roman Senate’s chamber, the columns before which Cato spoke and Caesar fell, and above the columns, carved in cream-colored marble, were eagles, for Rome’s legions marched behind eagles. From the well, there was, embroidered onto each pale damask panel, an ornament in the same pale color and all but invisible from above—a shield—and there were cream-colored marble shields, and swords and arrows, above the doors. And the doors—those seven pairs of double doors, each flanked by its tall columns and pilasters—were tall, too, and their grillwork, hardly noticeable from above, was intricate and made of beaten bronze, and it was framed by heavy, squared bronze coils. The vice presidential busts were, all at once, very high above you; set into deep, arched niches, flanked by massive bronze sconces, their marble faces, thoughtful, stern, encircled the Chamber like a somber evocation of the Republic’s glorious past. And, rising from the well, there were the desks.

The desks of the Senate rise in four shallow tiers, one above the other, in a deep half circle. Small and spindly individually, from the well they blend together so that with their smooth, burnished mahogany tops reflecting even the dim lights in the ceiling so far above them, they form four sweeping, glowing arcs. To stand in the well of the Senate is to stand among these four long arcs that rise around and above you, that stretch away from you, gleaming richly in the gloom: powerful, majestic. To someone standing in the well, the Chamber, in all its cavernous drabness, is only a setting for those desks—for those desks, and for the history that was made at them.

The first forty-eight of those desks—they are of a simple, federal design—were carved in 1819 to replace the desks the British had burned five years before. When, in 1859, the Senate moved into this Chamber, those desks moved with them, and when, as the Union grew, more desks were added, they were carved to the same design. And for decades—for most of the first century of the Republic’s existence, in fact; for the century in which it was transformed from a collection of ragged colonies into an empire—much of its history was hammered out among those desks.

Daniel Webster’s hand rested on one of those desks when, on January 26, 1830, he rose to reply again to Robert Hayne.

Every desk in the domed, colonnaded room that was then the Senate’s Chamber was filled that day—some not with senators but with spectators, for so many visitors, not only from Washington but from Baltimore and New York, had crowded into the Chamber, overflowing the galleries, that some senators had surrendered their seats and were standing against the walls or even among the desks—for the fate of the young nation might hang on that reply. In the South, chafing under the domination of the North and East, there was a new word abroad—secession—and the South’s leading spokesman, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, had, although he was Vice President of the United States, proposed a step that would go a long way toward shattering the Union: that any state unwilling to abide by a law enacted by the national government could nullify it within its borders. In an earlier Senate speech that January of 1830, the South, through the South Carolina Senator Robert Y. Hayne, had proposed that the West should join the South in an alliance that could have the most serious implications for the future of the Union. The specific issue Hayne raised was the price of public lands in the West: the West wanted the price kept low to attract settlers from the East and encourage development; the East wanted the price kept high so its people would stay home, and continue to provide cheap labor for northern factories. The East, whose policies had so long ground down the South, was now, Hayne said, trying to do the same thing to the West, and the West should unite with the South against it. And the Senator raised broader issues as well. Why should one section be taxed to construct a public improvement in another? “What interest has South Carolina in a canal in Ohio?” And what if Ohio didn’t want it? Why should the national government decide such issues? The sovereignty of the individual states—their rights, their freedom—was being trampled. The reaction of many western senators to Hayne’s proposal of an alliance had been ominously favorable; Missouri’s Thomas Hart Benton asked the South to “stretch forth” a “protecting arm” against the East. And to Webster’s first speech in response, Hayne—slight, slender, and aristocratic in bearing although dressed in a “coarse homespun suit that he had substituted for the hated broadcloth manufactured in the North”—had passionately attacked the North’s “meddling statesmen” and abolitionists, and had defended slavery, states’ rights, and nullification in arguments that were considered so unanswerable that the “white, triumphant face” of a smiling Calhoun, presiding over the Senate as Vice President, and the toasts in Washington taverns to Hayne, to the South, and to nullification reflected the general feeling that the South had won. And then two days later, on the 26th, Senator Webster of Massachusetts, with his dark, craggy face, jet-black hair, and jutting black eyebrows—“Black Dan” Webster, with his deep booming voice that “could shake the world,” Webster, Emerson’s “great cannon loaded to the lips”—rose, in blue coat with bright brass buttons, buff waistcoat, and white cravat, rose to answer, and, as he spoke, the smile faded from Calhoun’s face.

He stood erect as he spoke, his left hand resting on his desk, his voice filling the Chamber, and, one by one, he examined and demolished Hayne’s arguments. The claim that a state could decide constitutional questions? The Constitution, Webster said, is the fundamental law of a people—of one people—not of states. “We the People of the United States made this Constitution. . . . This government came from the people, and is responsible to them.” “He asks me, ‘What interest has South Carolina in a canal to the Ohio?’ The answer to that question expounds the whole diversity of sentiment between that gentleman and me. . . . According to his doctrine, she has no interest in it. Accourding to his doctorin, Ohio is one country, and South Carolina is another country. . . . I, sir, take a different view of the whole matter. I look upon Ohio and South Carolina to be parts of one whole—parts of the same country—and that country is my country. . . . I come here not to consider that I will do this for one distinct part of it, and that for another, but . . . to legislate for the whole.” And finally Webster turned to a higher idea: the idea—in and of itself—of Union, permanent and enduring. The concept was, as one historian would note, “still something of a novelty in 1830. . . . Liberty was supposed to depend more on the rights of states than on the powers of the general government.” But to Webster, the ideas were not two ideas but one.

When my eyes shall be turned for the last time on the meridian sun, I hope I may see him shining brightly upon my united, free and happy Country. I hope I shall not live to see his beams falling upon the dispersed fragments of the structure of this once glorious Union. I hope that I may not see the flag of my Country, with its stars separated or obliterated, torn by commotion, smoking with the blood of civil war. I hope I may not see the standard raised of separate State rights, star against star, and stripe against stripe; but that the flag of the Union may keep its stars and its stripes corded and bound together in indissoluble ties. I hope I shall not see written, as its motto, first Liberty, and then Union. I hope I shall see no such delusion and deluded motto on the flag of that Country. I hope to see spread all over it, blazoned in letters of light, and proudly floating over Land and Sea that other sentiment, dear to my heart, “Union and Liberty, now and forever, one and inseparable!”

Tears in the crowded Senate gallery; tears on the crowded Senate floor. “Even Calhoun,” it was said, “revealed the emotions he tried so hard to conceal. Love and pride of country—these were things he could understand, too.” Men and women were weeping openly as Daniel Webster finished. Among those men were western senators, ardent nationalists, who had “thrilled to the patriotic fervor of Webster’s final words.” Those words crushed the southern hope for an alliance with the West. They did more. Webster revised the speech before it was published in pamphlet form, trying to convert the spoken words, “embellished as they had been by gestures, modulations of voice, and changes of expression, into words that would be read without these accompaniments but would leave the reader as thrilled and awed as the listening audience had been.” He succeeded. Edition followed edition, and when copies ran out, men and women passed copies from hand to hand; in Tennessee, it was said, each copy “has probably been read by as many as fifty different” persons. “No speech in the English language, perhaps no speech in modern times, had ever been as widely diffused and widely read as Webster’s Second Reply to Hayne,” an historian of the period was to write. That speech “raised the idea of Union above contract or expediency and enshrined it in the American heart.” It made the Union, as Ralph Waldo Emerson would put it, “part of the religion of this people.” And the only change Webster made in those ringing last nine words was to reverse “Union” and “Liberty,” so they read: “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!” Those words would be memorized by generations of schoolchildren, they would be chiseled in marble on walls and monuments—those words, spoken among those desks, in the Senate.

The long struggle of the colonies that were now become states against a King and the King’s representatives—the royal governors and proprietary officials in each colony—had made the colonists distrust and fear the possibilities for tyranny inherent in executive authority. And so, in creating the new nation, its Founding Fathers, the framers of its Constitution, gave its legislature or Congress not only its own powers, specified and sweeping, powers of the purse (“To lay and collect Taxes . . . To borrow Money on the credit of the United States . . . To coin Money”) and powers of the sword (“To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal . . . To raise and support Armies . . . To provide and maintain a Navy . . .”) but also powers designed to make the Congress independent of the President and to restrain and act as a check on his authority: power to approve his appointments, even the appointments he made within his own Administration, even appointments he made to his own Cabinet; power to remove his appointees through impeachment—to remove him through impeachment, should it prove necessary; power to override his vetoes of their Acts. And the most potent of these restraining powers the Framers gave to the Senate. While the House of Representatives was given the “sole power of Impeachment,” the Senate was given the “sole power to try all Impeachments” (“And no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of Two Thirds of the Members present”). The House could accuse; only the Senate could judge, only the Senate convict. The power to approve presidential appointments was given to the Senate alone; a President could nominate and appoint ambassadors, Supreme Court justices, and all other officers of the United States, but only “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” Determined to deny the President the prerogative most European monarchs enjoyed of declaring war, the Framers gave that power to Congress as a whole, to House as well as Senate, but the legislative portion of the power of ending war by treaties, of preventing war by treaties—the power to do everything that can be done by treaties between nations—was vested in the Senate alone; while most European rulers could enter into a treaty on their own authority, an American President could make one only “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” As Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. was to write:

The Founding Fathers appear to have envisaged the treaty- making process as a genuine exercise in concurrent authority, in which the President and Senate would collaborate at all stages. . . . One third plus one of the senators . . . retained the power of life and death over the treaties.

Nor was it only the power of the executive of which the Framers were wary. These creators of a government of the people feared not only the people’s rulers but the people themselves, the people in their numbers, the people in their passions, what the Founding Father Edmund Randolph called “the turbulence and follies of democracy.”

The Framers of the Constitution feared the people’s power because they were, many of them, members of what in America constituted an aristocracy, an aristocracy of the educated, the well-born, and the well-to-do, and they mistrusted those who were not educated or well-born or well-to-do. More specifically, they feared the people’s power because, possessing, and esteeming, property, they wanted the rights of property protected against those who did not possess it. In the notes he made for a speech in the Constitutional Convention, James Madison wrote of the “real or supposed difference of interests” between “the rich and poor”—“those who will labor under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings”—and of the fact that over the ages to come the latter would come to outnumber the former. “According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the latter,” he noted. “Symptoms, of a leveling spirit, as we have understood, have sufficiently appeared in certain quarters to give notice of the future danger.” But the Framers feared the people’s power also because they hated tyranny, and they knew there could be a tyranny of the people as well as the tyranny of a King, particularly in a system designed so that, in many ways, the majority ruled. “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power,” Madison wrote. These abuses were more likely because the emotions of men in the mass ran high and fast, they were “liable to err . . . from fickleness and passion,” and “the major interest might under sudden impulses be tempted to commit injustice on the minority.”

So the Framers wanted to check and restrain not only the people’s rulers, but the people; they wanted to erect what Madison called “a necessary fence” against the majority will. To create such a fence, they decided that the Congress would have not one house but two, and that while the lower house would be designed to reflect the popular will, that would not be the purpose of the upper house. How, Madison asked, is “the future danger”—the danger of “a leveling spirit”—“to be guarded against on republican principles? How is the danger in all cases of interested coalitions to oppress the minority to be guarded against? Among other means by the establishment of a body in the government sufficiently respectable for its wisdom and virtue, to aid on such emergencies, the preponderance of justice by throwing its weight into that scale.” This body, Madison said, was to be the Senate. Summarizing in the Constitutional Convention the ends that would be served by this proposed upper house of Congress, Madison said they were “first to protect the people against their rulers; secondly to protect the people against the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“A wonderful, a glorious tale. . . . It will be hard to equal this amazing book.” Anthony Lewis, The New York Times Book Review

“Caro has a unique place among American political biographers. He has become, in many ways, the standard by which his fellows are measured.” –The Boston Globe

“Caro has changed the art of political biography.” —Nicholas von Hoffman

“Mesmerizing. . . . [It] brings LBJ blazing into the Senate. . . . A tale rife with drama and hypnotic in the telling.” —Newsweek

“Caro’s immersion in the man and period yields a fascinating, entertaining abundance.. . Master of the Senate splendidly reassembles the U.S. Senate of those years.” —Time

“Brilliant . . . Caro achieves a special tension, too rare in history books but essential in epic poetry: the drama of a hero who is wrestling with his enemies, his limitations and his fate to achieve something truly lasting . . . In his hands, the obscure fight over legislation becomes nothing less than a battle for the soul of America . . .It’s a terribly important work, unblinkingly delineating the inner workings of our democracy.”—Chicago Tribune

“A masterpiece . . . Robert Caro has written one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age.” —The Times (London)

“An epic tale of winning and wielding power.” —Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer

"A wonderful, a glorious tale. It will be hard to equal this amazing book. I went back over chapters to make sure I had not missed a word." —Anthony Lewis, New York Times Book Review

"Caro must be America's greatest living Presidential biographer . . . He entrances us with both his words and his research . . . No other contemporary biographer offers such a complex picture of the forces driving an American politician, or populates his work with such vividly drawn secondary characters.” —Richard S. Dunham, BusinessWeek

"Brilliant . . .A riveting political drama.” —Douglas Brinkley, Boston Globe

“The most complete portrait of the Senate ever drawn.” —Michael Wolff, New York

“A terrific study of power politics.”—Steve Neal, Chicago Sun-Times

“In this fascinating book, Robert Caro does more than carry forward his epic life of Lyndon Johnson. With compelling narrative power and with remarkable subtlety and sensitivity, he illuminates the Senate of the United States and its byzantine power struggles. In this historical tour-de-force, Robert Caro shows himself the true 'master of the Senate.' "—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr

Master of the Senate and its two preceding volumes are the highest expression of biography as art. After The Path to Power and Means of Ascent, there shouldn't be much debate about Caro's grand achievement, but let's be clear about this nonetheless: In terms of political biography, not only does it not get better than this, it can't.” —Patrick Beach, Austin American-Statesman

"These [legislative battles] are great stories, the stuff of the legends of democracy—rich in character, plot, suspense, nuttiness, human frailty, maddening stupidity. These should be the American sagas; these should be our epics. Bob Caro has given us a beauty, and I think we owe him great thanks."—Molly Ivins, New York Observer

“Indefatigably researched and brilliantly written . . . Powerful . . . One of Caro’s most valuable contributions is his excavation of the lost art of legislating . . . Rich and rewarding.’ —Ronald Brownstein, Times Literary Supplement

“Epic . . . It is impossible to imagine that a political science class on the U.S. Congress can be taught today that does not reference this book. It is a florid and graphic account of how Congress works, an authoritative work on the history of the Senate and a virtual cookbook of recipes for legislative success for the nascent politician.”—Robert F. Julian, New York Law Journal

"A panoramic study of how power plays out in the legislative arena. Combining the best techniques of investigative reporting with majestic storytelling ability, Caro has created a vivid, revelatory institutional history as well as a rich hologram of Johnson's character . . . He seems to have perfectly captured and understood Johnson’s capacity for greatness."—Jill Abramson, New York Times

" Master of the Senate forces us not only to rewrite our national political history but to rethink it as well . . . Caro's been burrowing beneath the shadows of the substance of our politics for more than twenty-eight years, and what he finds is both fascinating and surprising . . . Compulsively readable.”—Eric Alterman, The Nation

"A spectacular piece of historical biography, delicious reading for both political junkies and serious students of the political process . . . . Fascinating."—Robert D. Novak, The Weekly Standard

"Vintage Caro—a portrait so deft, vivid, and compelling that you practically feel LBJ gripping your arm and bending you to his will." —Jean Strouse

"Of all the many Johnson biographies, none approaches Caro's work in painstaking thoroughness, meticulous detail and the capture of character . . . A dazzling tour de force that certifies Caro as the country's preeminent specialist in examining political power and its uses."—Paul Duke, Baltimore Sun

"Masterful . . . A work of genius."—Steve Weinberg, New Orleans Times-Picayune

“Caro writes history with [a] novelist’s sensitivity . . . No historian offers a more vivid sense not onl of what happened, but what it looked like and felt like.”—Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

“The richly cadenced prose is hypnotic, the research prodigious, the analysis acute, the mood spellbinding, and the cast of characters mythic in scale. I cannot conceive of a better book about Capitol Hill. An unforgettable, epic achievement in the art of biography."—Ron Chernow

“Destined to rank among the great political profiles of our time. Master of the Senate succeeds only in part because Johnson is such a fascinating figure. The other half of the equation is Caro.” —Steve Kraske, Kansas City Star

“It is, quite simply, the finest biography I have ever read. It is more than that: it is one of the finest works of literature I have encountered.”—Irvine Welsh, New Statesman

"Caro is a gifted and passionate writer, and his all-encompassing apporach to understanding LBJ provides readers with a panoramic history of twentieth-century American politics as well as a compelling discourse on the nature and uses of political power . . . One of the best analyses of the legislative process ever written."—Philip A. Klinkner, The Nation

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
In this fascinating book, Robert Caro does more than carry forward his epic life of Lyndon Johnson. With compelling narrative power and with remarkable subtlety and sensitivity, he illuminates the Senate of the United States and its byzantine power struggles. In this historical tour-de-force, Robert Caro shows himself the true Master of the Senate.
Jean Strouse
Master of the Senate is vintage Caro--a portrait so deft, vivid, and compelling that you practically feel LBJ gripping your arm and bending you to his will.
Ron Chernow
In this magnificent work, Robert Caro has given us the grand and absorbing saga of Lyndon Johnson, the U.S. Senate, and the Democratic Party at mid-century. The richly cadenced prose is hypnotic, the research prodigious, the analysis acute, the mood spellbinding, and the cast of characters mythic in scale. I cannot conceive of a better book about Capitol Hill. An unforgettable, epic achievement in the art of biography.

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Master of the Senate 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 3: Master of the Senate by Robert A.Caro (published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2002) A Review by Chris Forse Imagine a political biography in three parts, the third of which appears twelve years after the second and the second eight years after the first. The three volumes represent thirty years of endeavour by its author. Its subject is an unlovely and unloved former President of the United States. The third volume of nearly 1100 pages, covering a 12 year period, far from completing his life story, does not even take us to his election to the (ostensibly) two most powerful positions in the United States ¿ the Vice Presidency and the Presidency. And this trilogy is no labour of love. It is not even a `warts and all¿ biography, rather it is all warts. The subject is Lyndon Baines Johnson (aka LBJ), the 36th US President. The third volume of Robert A Caro¿s triptych The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Master of the Senate, covers his years in the US Senate from 1948-60. Having been entirely captivated by the first two volumes The Path to Power (1982) and Means of Ascent (1990) I did despair of ever seeing a final product. The arrival of the massive third (but not final) volume, being a study of the workings of the US Senate, hardly stimulated a desire to return to a long-abandoned pursuit. But a reading of its first twenty pages changed all that. For here he was again, in all his volcanic, profane, ruthless, driven, hyper-sensitive nakedness: urinating in the senate car-park, defecating while dictating memos to his secretary, molesting a female passenger while driving his car (with his wife), and handing out the `treatment¿: bullying, cajoling, charming his senatorial colleagues in pursuit of this or that cherished goal. Johnson not so much lives in these pages, he threatens to leap out, grab you by the lapels and envelope you in a fraternal embrace. Few political biographies have been so lauded and yet so damned by the critics in academia and the media, as Caro¿s first two volumes. To some he sets standards against which all future political biographies should be measured. To others he is a just a muck-raker, whose overt hatred of his subject, disqualifies him from serious consideration as a writer of History. Few, however, dismiss his quite awesome research and the vivacity and passion of his writing. I veer to the former view, for despite the obvious relish with which Caro exposes the inconsistencies of this elemental figure, there remains both compassionate for the man, and deep respect for his achievements. He is, in this third volume, the greatest US Senator of the last century, a genius no less. He was the man who, by dint of will, transformed a genteel (and reactionary) debating chamber into a great engine of legislation and reform. A man who quite literally stole his election to the Senate in 1948, and ingratiated himself with the southern racists who regarded the Senate as a dam resisting any attempt to bring the fruits of liberty and equality to the nation¿s 18 million black people, and yet became the engineer of the first Civil Rights Act in 75 years. Along the way he destroyed a great liberal public servant by smearing him as a communist even before McCarthy¿s emergence, `lobbied¿ on behalf of Texas oil barons with envelopes stuffed with hundred dollar bills, while breaking successively the `rule¿ of seniority that reserved key committee chairs for the most reactionary and racist members of the Senate, and the power of the filibuster which made any serious consideration of reform impossible. What drove him was an unparalleled determination, present since his youth, to be the first southerner elected to the office of the presidency since the civil war. His will was seared in the barren Hill Country of West Texas, in indescribable poverty (brilliantly evoked in a Steinbeckian chapter entitled The Sad Irons in volume one), and in the humiliations inflicted upon his father, a s
Guest More than 1 year ago
LBJ- is the noble and motivated president who gave birth to the Great Society and the resultant culture that blossomed into our world today. The pivotal legislation of the 1957 Civil Rights act and the disability Programs that still define all that is good in our nation today, is brought to life with a fresh breath of air by Robert A. Caro for a provocative reassessment of the greatest president of the last century. Caro brings the reader to live in the senate the years leading up to LBJ's tenure allowing us a glimpse of what it must have felt for the ambitious LBJ entering this unknown world. In fact, the greatest asset of this wonderful publication is the fact that we can understand the complexity of LBJ¿s gregarious personality as if he were sitting and conversing in the same room as you. However, if you think that Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh are actual news programs, most likely the ability to comprehend the positive impact that men and women of this generation gave to our nation as expressed through the contributions of their president will be less than understandable. For them perhaps the grass is greener in the 'Hooverville' of Goldwater¿s nascent dreams.
Seghetto More than 1 year ago
Robert Caro has done it again with his latest addition to the Years of Lyndon Johnson Series. The amount of research put into even the most minute details of the senate experience come through in the account of Johnson's time as the youngest ever Majority Leader of the Senate. The attention spent on explaining the parliamentary maneuvers involved in the 1957 Civil Rights Act getting passed make the book more than just a biography about Lyndon Johnson. There is also a view of Lyndon Johnson and how he dealt with issues of the time. Caro portrays Johnson in a very even manner. While the power Johnson had over the Senate was unrivaled by anyone previously, we see from Caro's account that Johnson also played the political game like no one else had in history. The book is superbly written and even something that might seem as boring as the parliamentary procedure of the Senate comes alive with Caro's gift as a biographer. Many events of Johnson's career that do not play a significant role in how he is remembered (The Leland Olds Renomination hearing) are described in microscopic detail. If you are a reader at all interested in politics, civil rights, senate history, political science, works of great biography, or Lyndon Johnson then this book will be a treat.
watkd25 More than 1 year ago
It was supposed to take me 10-14 days to read this book, instead it took me about 22-25 days to complete. The story continues with Lyndon Johnson's rise to power starting in 1949 when Johnson becomes a senator. Throughout his years in the senate, as the political genius Robert Caro claims him to be, he becomes the youngest Minority Leader and also became the youngest Majority Leader. In the process of doing so, he needed to get respect from southern senators and some of his supporters that were oil and natural gas barons. This required him to destroy Leland Olds' reputation which was I personally was quite disgusted with. But by becoming the Senate Majority Leader, Johnson was able to penetrate through what Robert Caro describes as an impenetrable dam to help pass--for the first time in 82 years--a civil rights bill. Moreover, when reading about the Civil Rights Bill of 1957's passage, Robert Caro vividly describes through meticulous research how Johnson was able to get the necessary votes so that it realistically could pass. The book was vivid in the sense that the endpapers of the hardcover version have pictures of what the senate chamber looks like currently (front) and what it used to look like in 1810-1859 (back). The endpapers helped me picture in my mind what was going on as in the book the author describes senators and where they were sitting or standing and what they were saying. Robert Caro rightfully deserved the Pulitzer Prize for this book because he used an exponential amount of research for this book and the amount of research is evident throughout the book because of the amount of detail. Expect to have an increased vocabulary knowledge base. As with the other volumes, you will need a dictionary. I recorded that in my journey of reading through "Master of the Senate," 613 words which include: general grammar terms, people, architectural terms, theatrical plays, laws, events, books, political terms, and terms regarding parliamentary procedure will need to be reviewed in a dictionary or looked up on the internet because I am unfamiliar with such terms. Expect to have a better understanding of Representatives and Senators in regards to how long their terms last and what authority has been vested to them by the constitution. The analogy of the senate being an impenetrable dam is important to understand, it is very relevant and will be explained throughout the book as the bigger picture. Expect to dedicate many hours to this book. Make room on your bookshelf for this book! Interesting facts: The author reviewed through 1,665,000 documents that consisted of: newspaper clippings, transcripts, office documents, and other forms of documentation. About 240 books were cited in the bibliography and the author conducted 263 interviews for this book. All this information in in the Debts and Note on Sources section. Democratic Senators were reading this book trying to figure out how to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
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Years ago I devoured David McCullough's superb biography of Harry Truman, and ever since have held it in the highest esteem as the best book I have ever read. Well, make room at the top for Robert Caro’s third volume on the years of Lyndon Johnson. Caro tells his story like no one else. Like its two predecessors (The Path to Power [#1] and Means of Ascent [#2]), “Master of the Senate” [#3] is meticulously researched and documented. But more skillfully than ever before, Caro now takes a quantum leap forward as a writer and historian in this massive work. The first hundred pages is perhaps the best history of the United States Senate ever written. Robert Caro has spent his lifetime writing just 5 books – four of which are about this man who raises himself up from his humble beginnings in the hill country of Texas to lead the country through a watershed period of time in history. Don’t be put off by the massiveness of this historic biography. You’ll find that Caro’s style of writing will be as compellingly written as any novel.
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unionmark More than 1 year ago
If, like me, you thought that Caro's biography of Robert Moses (which also won the Pulitzer) was the ultimate in research, exposition and analysis of how the political world worked in NYC for a forty year period in the mid-20th century, this biography of Lyndon Johnson'e rise to power in the US Senate is even a greater achievement. The book offers a complete and supremely engrossing historical narrative of a consummate politician operating within the netherworld of what we like to think of as a "deliberative" body, the US Senate. As Caro very entertainingly informs us, decisions are made within that august body based on many rationales, but very few are made on principles of equity, rightuosness or altruism. Pure self-interest was, and remains, the guiding principle of our elected senatorial representatives, and Caro shows us that, in spades.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Caro brilliantly develops his theme - that johnson was a master politics and power. He masterfully demonstrares that everyhing that Johnson did in the senate was graed towards his single - minded goal of amassing power, and 1 day, utilizing that power to become president.