By: Robert A. Caro

Writing his fourth volume about Lyndon Johnson, a masterful biographer, Robert A. Caro, began this tale in 1960 as Johnson unsuccessfully attempts to wrest the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party from John F. Kennedy. Caro then describes Johnson’s unhappy time as Kennedy’s Vice President, with his shocking ascension to the presidency after President Kennedy’s assassination.

I had never known of the searing hatred between Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy. This manifested itself most vividly when Johnson was in a subordinate position to the Kennedys during his time as Vice-President.

Caro rightly extols the virtues of Johnson in guiding significant legislation through the House and Senate after he became President. Johnson was a superb legislative tactician. I am not certain that Caro balances his admiration for Johnson’s tactical brilliance with sufficient emphasis on his enormous character flaws. Johnson was, after all, a crook, and even Caro thinks that the Kennedys were about to dump him from the re-election ticket because of his involvement with his aide, Bobby Baker, in some felonious financial activities.

Another mild criticism is the unevenness of Caro’s prose. For example, Caro’s depiction of President Kennedy’s funeral is incredibly moving and beautifully written. On the other hand, in writing about more mundane matters, he uses prose with a lazy and sloppy quality with too much reliance on dashes instead of commas.

All in all, though, this biography is worth your time and attention.

-- Bob Kopf