Flawed giant : Lyndon Johnson and his times, 1961-1973 /

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Main Author: Dallek, Robert
Format: Book
Published: New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
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Review by Booklist Review

This sequel to Lone Star Rising (1991) is a formidably researched account of LBJ's career in the White House and incorporates nearly half of the thousands of tape recordings Johnson secretly made. (The other half remain sealed.) The title encapsulates most opinions about Johnson: the idealism and political acumen that created the Great Society programs, coexisting with Johnson's exaggerated personality--hardworking, intelligent, demanding, coarse, self-pitying. From the tapes, Dallek recounts the self-doubt and anguish that dogged LBJ on Vietnam, but the recordings also reveal his lack of candor with the public about American aims there. No doubt if LBJ could reach beyond the grave to browbeat Dallek with the famous Johnson "treatment," he would also go after Dallek's criticisms of the Great Society--not of its intentions--but of the ad hoc way it was enacted and the financial illusions about what it would cost, especially in competition with an endless war. Not the last word on Lyndon, but darn close to it, Dallek's detailed portrait spots the myriad complexities and nobilities of his subject. Gilbert Taylor

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In his sequel to Lone Star Rising, Lyndon Johnson & His Times, 1908-1960, Boston University historian Dallek draws from recently released presidential papers and transcripts, as well as interviews with Johnson protégés such as Bill Moyers, to vividly depict LBJ's tumultuous years as vice-president and president. If not as engaging or evocative as other biographers, Dallek is always objective, chasing the facts whether they lead to the detriment or to the advantage of his troubled protagonist. The book is particularly strong in juxtaposing the magisterial, single-handed architect of sweeping domestic reform in the Great Society with the public-school-educated, provincial legislator from the Texas hill country who felt inadequate when it came to matters of international relations. As Dallek shows, Johnson yielded too often (sometimes against his better instincts, almost always against his own best interests) to Ivy-educated advisers on such problems as Vietnam. Then we have Johnson's private war with Bobby Kennedy, of whom he said: "[Bobby] skipped the grades where you learn the rules of life. He never liked me, and that's nothing compared to what I think of him." All told, Flawed Giant provides a complex yet elegantly rendered portrait of Lyndon Johnson as vice-president, president and man. 32 halftones not seen by PW. $50,000 ad/promo; cover feature in Atlantic Monthly; History Book Club and BOMC alternates; 6-city author tour. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Dallek's first volume on LBJ, Lone Star Rising (LJ 6/15/91), brought the young Texan to Washington as a congressional reformer, New Dealer, and Senate Majority Leader. The new book finds Johnson in the White House as Kennedy's often miserably insecure Vice President, then as the truly inspired Chief Executive battling for Civil Rights legislation and his Great Society reforms. But he was also the sadly disconnected steward of America's tragic Vietnam conflict. Dallek's fascinating portrait of LBJ goes to the possible sources of his paranoia, which "at times came frighteningly close to clinical." Until more Johnson tapes are released, this is the most comprehensive view available of this "brilliant, highly effective but deeply troubled man." (LJ 3/15/98) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Presidential historian Dallek (History/Boston Univ.; Hail to the Chief, 1996) has all the dogged persistence of the scholar, but little of a master biographer's panache. Yet even in his conventional telling, LBJ emerges as a Texas-tall-tale hero who walks improbably into an almost Sophoclean tragedy. LBJ's probably apocryphal rejoinder to German chancellor Ludwig Erhard's query on whether he had been born in a log cabinŽ``No . . . I was born in a manger''Žcaptures the Texan's grandiosity, yet Dallek also reveals a politician of surpassing intelligence and drive undone by raging insecurity. Picking up where his 1991 volume Lone Star Rising left off, Dallek begins with a chapter on Johnson's two years of frustration and irrelevance as vice president. John Kennedy's assassination filled him with ``the guilt of a competitive older brother . . . who suddenly displaces his younger, more successful rival,'' but also catapulted him into the only suitable outlet for his whirlwind energy. Dallek offers a comprehensive account of how LBJ masterminded epochal reform measures that affected nearly every American, including civil rights, Medicare, federal aid to education, consumer protection, and environmentalism. Yet he also acknowledges that Johnson spent millions on the war on poverty in what really was an experiment. Few Oval Office occupants had more extensive pre-presidential experience in foreign affairs than Johnson, but Dallek demonstrates that, as early as his response to anti-American agitation in Panama in 1964, LBJ behaved erratically. In Vietnam, his confusion reflected both a sincere commitment to halting communism and a mounting paranoia that Dallek says ``raises questions about executive incapacity that can neither be ignored nor easily addressed.'' Dallek's extensive use of oral histories and interviews has uncovered some fascinating details (e.g., Johnson favored Nelson Rockefeller as his successor), but ultimately does little to encourage new understanding of LBJ. But this remains a fair, impressively researched reassessment of this most complicated of presidents. (Feature in the Atlantic Monthly; $50,000 ad/promo; Book-of-the-Month Club/History Book Club selection; author tour)

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