THE TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY OF LYNDON JOHNSON by Joseph A. Califano Jr.

THE TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY OF LYNDON JOHNSON

The White House Years
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 From LBJ's domestic adviser, a memoir that shows the President ``with the bark off''cagey, crude, demanding, and, finally, Shakespearean in his pitiful descent from power. Here, unlike in Governing America (1981), his take-no- prisoners account of his unhappy tenure as HEW Secretary under Jimmy Carter, Califano (America's Health Care Revolution, 1986) has had more time to reflect and fewer axes to grind, and the result is all to the good. He depicts LBJ not as Robert Caro's monster of ambition or speechwriter Richard Goodwin's clinical paranoid, but as a masterful President who, despite an often recalcitrant Congress and his own deep personal flaws, delivered the astonishing Great Society legislation. Future LBJ biographers will be combing this account for some of the more priceless anecdotes of this hard- driving pol at work: installing a telephone in Califano's office bathroom so that the young aide could always be at his beck and call; calling in the press before a flummoxed new appointee could change his mind about accepting the post; or winning a key vote on civil-rights legislation by identifying a Congressman's secrethis black mistress. The second half of the narrative takes an increasingly more somber tone, with Johnson unsuccessfully using all his energy and intelligence to keep the economy afloat, conclude the Vietnam War, and extend his landmark social-welfare programs. New light is shed on the deterioration of the President's relationship with Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, his folly in nominating crony Abe Fortas as Supreme Court Justice, his contempt for Richard Nixon and Robert Kennedy, and his turning to religion in crises. One of the better White House ``palace guard'' memoirs of latea compassionate, blessedly self-effacing tribute to a President who ``put the thumb of government on the scale for the vulnerable among us.'' (Black & white photographsnot seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-66489-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1991




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