Michael Beschloss's *Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes 1963-64* generated some excitement upon its release, but the material contained in this volume merits more attention today than that reception delivered. Compiled from Oval Office tapes made by LBJ for documentary purposes, we are provided with a few choice cuts regarding the Kennedy assassination (a conversation between LBJ and Jacqueline Kennedy, giving some of the flavor of Johnson's legendary parliamentary tactics) but also a great deal of material pertaining to the "initial conditions" for Johnson's presidency: namely, his loss of political co-ordination with southern Democrats strongly opposed to the brewing conflict in Vietnam and Johnson's growing closeness with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.
The period of time covered by these tapes included great legislative victories for LBJ, including the passage of the Civil Rights Act (one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation ever enacted by Congress), but for those still concerned with the less-than-salutary effects of the "Best And The Brightest" scenario upon the American polity this will be a revelatory document indeed. At the start of the "Great Society", one of US politics' famed control freaks demonstrates practically no "steering" ability with respect to the direction of discourse concerning matters of federal moment: suggesting that this period was not quite as told on all levels, like many other administrations studied more intensively in terms of their ramifications for ordinary life. Currently the first of two volumes devoted to such material, and a must for any serious student of political power.