An intimate chronicle of the 1,000 days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, during which there was a sea change in the American electorate.
President Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan both enjoyed huge election landslides, the former in his 1964 re-election bid as the standard bearer of the Great Society programs and the latter leading the conservative backlash in his defeat of Pat Brown as governor of California in 1966. In this sympathetic dual character study, former Newsweek correspondent Darman focuses on these two savvy politicians, who managed to capture the prevailing public mood and convince the voters that the best was yet to come—either for the progressive cause or the less-government-is-better platform, respectively—during a time of wrenching change in American society. Despite the prevailing shock and gloom that ensued after the assassination, LBJ, the depressed vice president largely ignored by Kennedy’s administration, was galvanized by a sense of duty and legacy, becoming the “Man-in-Motion” who effected a staggering number of progressive achievements in the spirit of the dead president: civil rights legislation, poverty alleviation and education reform, Medicare and voting rights, among others. In his accomplishments during his first 100 days of office, LBJ rivaled those of FDR. Soon after, however, everything began to unravel, sowing a sense of anxiety within the country: the racial confrontation on the Selma, Alabama, Edmund Pettus Bridge; escalation of the Vietnam War; and the Watts riots. Although LBJ had crushed Barry Goldwater, the conservatives gained new impetus in Reagan’s more appealingly packaged, moderate, yet still-hard-hitting anti-government speeches. The author masterfully conveys LBJ’s agony, as well as former actor Reagan’s free-wheeling spirit: He was the “Errol Flynn of the B movies” who had aged out of his previous roles and needed a new gig as an American hero.
Ambitious, studious portraits pulled together nicely by Darman.