Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...
"The Lyndon Johnson I worked with was brave and brutal, compassionate and cruel, incredibly intelligent and infuriatingly insensitive, with a shrewd and uncanny instinct for the jugular of his adversaries. He could be altruistic and petty, caring and crude, generous and petulant, blatantly honest and calculatingly devious—all within the same few minutes."
- Joseph Califano, special assistant to the President, 1965–69
This was an audio experience unlike any other. This book aims to portray the magnitude, paradoxical nature and complexity of Lyndon Baines Johnson through the recollections of those around him. However, what made this so incredible as an audiobook was that they actually spliced in speeches and phone calls when possible. Hearing LBJ on the phone with the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie O, Eisenhower and (perhaps especially) Lady Bird, made this feel like a real living, breathing history.
That author, Mark Updegrove, gives us LBJ in all of his complexity is a rarity unto itself. History seems to have taken every opportunity to "put a dark twist to something Johnson did." While he was by no means innocent of accusations lobbed at him (especially with respect to Vietnam), this has resulted in a skewed sense of the ways in which the Johnson Administration changed the lives of American Citizens.
Vietnam came at the end of Johnson's stint as POTUS, and we seem to remember endings best. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Office of Economic Opportunity- Johnson's legislation was not insignificant. While I don't have a conclusion to draw from all this, the tragedy that was LBJ's time in office and legacy became richly apparent to me by the end of this book. As a people, we seem to need villains (and I am no exception).
Updegrove mentions (and I'll leave you with) the covers of Time Magazine that bestowed LBJ with the title of "Man of the Year" (the first in 1965, the latter in '68) which capture a certain sense of his fall from grace.