Califano, once a chief domestic adviser to Lyndon Johnson, paints an intimate, balanced and basically sympathetic portrait of the 36th president. Photos. (Oct.)
Califano, President Johnson's special assistant for domestic affairs from 1965 to 1969, remembers Johnson as a driven, obsessive, yet compassionate leader, similarly described in Robert Dallek's authoritative Lone Star Rising ( LJ 6/15/91). A dedicated and loyal Great Society foot soldier, Califano emphasizes the legislative actions and policy implications of Johnson's programs. Lacking Robert Caro's graceful style and his excessive emphasis on Johnson's ambition ( Means of Ascent , LJ 4/15/91), Califano's memoirs successfully recount the workings of an expansive, caring, yet quixotic government and the actions of a president who tried and cared. Especially noteworthy are Califano's descriptions of Johnson's fateful decision to pursue simultaneously the Vietnam War and the Great Society; Johnson's anguish over the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, his long-time political nemesis; and the emergence of the credibility gap. An important book for most libraries.-- Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp . Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.