THE TRAGEDY OF LYNDON JOHNSON by Eric F. Goldman

THE TRAGEDY OF LYNDON JOHNSON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Princeton's Professor Goldman spent almost three years (1963-1966) as the ""White House intellectual in residence"" or the ""Johnson Schlesinger."" In the initial period of face-lifting the image, he once considered having a book written on Johnson, dismissed it since it might be, like earlier attempts, a ""disaster of sycophancy."" His own book followed his resignation and as longtime moderator of The Open Mind, he has attempted to give a more qualified view. Whereas Goldman never subdues the boorish, bullying, vain, ambitious, feudal characteristics of Sam Johnson's Boy who landed The Accidental Presidency, he also never lets you forget Johnson's seemingly inexhaustible energy, his remarkable intelligence however unbooklarned, and his shrewd sense of politics as the skill, if not the art, of the possible. Goldman covers everything during this time with background on what preceded it: Johnson's campaign and election; his domestic legislation (""Could anybody do better""--Johnson); his prime interests and later conversion to Civil Rights; Lady Bird who knows her limitations; the Johnson aides (""Valuable hunks of humanity who can do anything""); and foreign policy which even Lady Bird said wasn't ""Lyndon's kind of Presidency."" To the cumulative debacle here, the intellectual elite contributed enormously and Goldman spends much space on the White House Festival (viz. fiasco) of the Arts over which he attempted to preside. . . . The tragedy however is more than his last line epitaph--""the wrong man from the wrong place at the wrong time under the wrong circumstances""--but that of a man no one could like. Obviously not even Professor Goldman. However this is the first intimately informed book about Johnson with predictable negative (Johnson; The New York Review; Newsweek among others) as well as popular (the mass market) reactions: not the least of its virtues, its style--one of Johnson's desiderata--""punchy.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1969
Publisher: Knopf