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Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson III Paperback – Apr 25 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1232 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 25 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394720954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394720951
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 4.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #114,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Oct. 15 2003
Format: Hardcover
Like many others, I have read everything by Caro. Path to Power, the first part of the Johnson biography, I regard as the best book i have ever read. Others do too - William Hague, the former leader of the Conservative Party in Britain said so too.
Therefore Master of the Senate has a lot to live up to. Sadly it doesn't come close. Here's the flaws I see:
1. The long introductory section on the Senate is workaday stuff and not necessary. Johnson himself does not appear until after page 100, and even then Caro is still summarising the story so far.
2. Far too much emphasis is laid on the 1958 Civil Rights Act. Chapter after chapter is spent building up to one bill, and then Caro glosses over 1958-1960 in a few pages.
3. I think he also mis-interprets the 1958 bill. We find out afterwards that Johnson presided over a number of other civil rights bill in 58/59, some of which contradicted and over-wrote the 58 legislation.
4. Caro's editors have over-indulged him. The book could have done with a good pruning in places. This would have been an excellent 700 pager. Instead we get 1200 pages about just a few years in Johnson's life. Three tomes in, and we still haven't got to the 1960 convention. Going at the same pace, the last book will have to be over 2,000 pages.
It's not all negative. This is the definitive Johnson biography and we are watching one of the world's greatest biographers at work. I just think the project has come a little off the rails here and Master of the Senate will never be held in the same regard as its two predecessors. Let's hope Caro can somehow round off this magnum opus with a fitting Volume 4.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jim on June 23 2004
Format: Paperback
I should start by saying I feel badly that I am only giving this book two stars, but I think the biggest factor affecting the rating should be the book's substance and general tone, and that is what I take issue with. That said, I will point out that the style of writing is classic and the sort that only appears in great works of nonfiction. Caro really is a very skilled writer and others should emulate his phraseology.
The problem with the book is that, even though it's 1000 pages long, it feels oddly unsatisfying. I read it through and found myself asking, "Wait, how did he get control of the Senate again?" When you really look at it, Caro tends to say things like, "If so-and-so senator couldn't be persuaded by money or by concessions [or whatever else], then Johnson would just use his power to get the vote." Caro seems to keep using this phrase - Johnson would just use his "power" - to explain things. But that doesn't explain anything, and when you dig down to see what it means, Caro doesn't have any more of an answer than anyone else. He fails to really convey the "why" of things - why no one would vote for Estes Kefauver to get one some committee, or why everyone followed Russell's word so closely, or why the Policy committee decided so much. Any attempt to explain it just hits up against some well-written but basically empty passage saying how "clever" or "feared" or "powerful" Johnson or Russell was.
The real reason for this failure is the basic exaggeration of Johnson's power. Caro makes him out to be the wisest, cleverest person since Solomon. But instead of being "Master of the Senate," Johnson is really just "Master of His Times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas C. Leddo on Oct. 19 2003
Format: Hardcover
It's not often that one can depict a non-fiction book of over 1,000 pages, much of it about the intricacies of legislative decision-making in the United States Senate, as a page-turner. Yet Robert Caro, in this magisterial biography of Lyndon Johnson's 11-year Senate career, has achieved such a distinction. He does this by combining one overarching purpose--to show how LBJ's quest for power, his single ambition to become president, reveals itself during his Senate years----with a fiction writer's storytelling skills.
The highlight of Johnson's Senate years came in 1957, when he shepherded, against almost insurmountable odds, passage of the first Federal civil rights bill since Reconstruction. The final bill was a greatly watered-down version of what was initially proposed and supported by liberals as well as Republican's looking to increase their share of the black vote. Johnson knew that majority support for a civil rights bill with any teeth meant little, since segregationist Southern Democrats would never let such a bill be voted on, using their time-honed practice of filibuster. So Part III of the law, outlawing segregation in public places, was removed, allowing only the voting rights section to remain. And even in the area of voting rights the inclusion of a jury trial amendment almost guaranteed limited enforcement in the south. But Johnson also recognized, as belatedly did much of the rest of the country, that however small a step the approved bill was, it was nevertheless a milestone-signifying that the southern Democrats hold on power could be broken.
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