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Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes 1963 1964 [Audio Cassette]

4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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5.0 out of 5 stars This one you need to hear, not read June 7 2004
Format:Audio Cassette
The story is told that when Nixon took office, LBJ showed him around the White House and revealed a hidden taping system. He made the argument that everything a president said or did should be taped for posterity.
Johnson has fared a little better than Nixon viz. the results of such executive record keeping. In the case of excerpts chosen by Michael Beschluss for these tapes (and as the review title suggests, do by the audio version), there is no criminal activity uncovered. Instead, we hear things as diverse as conversations with Martin Luther King about the Civil Rights Act, arm-twisting of Southern Democrats to get that and other progressive laws passed, chilly exchanges between the President and Attorney General Robert Kennedy after President Kennedy's death, and a hilarious exchange with a flabbergasted New York tailor as Johnson asks the tailor to make trousers for him, describing exactly how they should fit around the Presidential....er, anatomy. Of course, there are heartfelt conversations with both Jacqueline and Rose Kennedy immediately after President Kennedy's death. In one very sweet exchange, Jackie refers to media criticism of his calling her "honey" as they flew with the president's body from Dallas to Washington. Kennedy insisted she felt positive about the term of endearment."Honey is loving word, a wonderful word," she tells him.
The 35th President comes across with a multifaceted personality: the dogged politician who won't take no for an answer (and won't forget a favor given); the Texas rancher who doesn't believe in coddling his dogs; the old fashioned Southern gentleman who addressed female officials with charm and not a little flirtation.
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2.0 out of 5 stars The Uncritical Presidency April 3 2004
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.
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The transcripts included here are fascinating. Especially those related to the Kennedy Assassination and the Gulf of Tonkin. They give strong evidence for what Johnson knew and believed at the time rather than the much later revisions of what he is supposed to have believed. Mr. Beschloss have provided a great service to us so we can get to the reality of things rather than the thrice-spun revisions too many books, movies, and TV shows spew out in order to advance some cockamamie view of the world.
It is also interesting to read his conversations with folks on a personal basis. The chitchat is quite helpful in seeing Johnson as a person. His private opinions of the Warren Commission and of Oswald's role in the assassination are also fascinating.
Mr. Beschloss also supplies helpful footnotes to provide context and clarify so of the statements that would otherwise be opaque. There is also an appendix telling us why we have access to the tapes now rather than in 2023 or later as was Johnson's intention (short answer: Oliver Stone's film "JFK" led congress to open up virtually all records on the assassination to help quell the paranoia of conspiracy theorists). There is also a list of the people included in the book with a line about who they are and their birth and death dates. There is also an appendix including a few conversations specifically on the Warren Commission Report.
I bought my copy as a first edition with the attached audiotape of a few selections. It would be nice to get these tapes in a complete version on DVD.
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I have general interest in the Presidency so I was interested in this book to see what the unedited / un-spun conversations in the Oval office are really like. I was not disappointed. We get the whole range of day to day items that are covered by LBJ, from arranging to get free haircuts for his family and inexpensive western clothing for his staff to setting up the Warren Commission and pushing his civil rights bills. The items that I found the most interesting were the conversations around the assassination of JFK and the Vietnam War. The calls with J. E. Hover in the days after the event are interesting to the point of gripping. You get true emotion from the conversations.
What made the book really work was the great editing and very helpful lead comments and footnotes by the author. I was somewhat concerned that I would get lost in the less then precise conversations between familiar people, but the footnotes add all the clarity one would need to understand who is speaking and about what. I also found it very interesting to see LBJ working the phones; he does everything from out right [bottom] kissing to demanding. All of it is surrounded by his down home Texas language that seams to bring the office of the President a little closer to home.
For the general political reader like myself there were a few slow spots in the book, talking about minor political scandals of the day was not interesting to me, but overall these are few and do not take away from the overall book. I would not suggest this to be your first book on LBJ or the politics around the Vietnam War, but if you are interested in the topics you will not be disappointed.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars More un-American Council on Foreogn Relations Propaganda
I ranked this book with one star only because zero stars is not an option. The Author, Michael Beschloss is a member of the super-evil Council on Foreign Relations (CFR,) a secret... Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars All too human
A marvel this book is. LBJ in his outsize character comes through, its flaws and brilliance both. The folksy and earthy Texan and the finetuned DC-powermachine exist next to one... Read more
Published on March 27 2002 by pgk
4.0 out of 5 stars LBJ's tapes do us a favor for history
President Lyndon Johnson's tapes are exactly why modern presidents might want to leave the recorders off. Read more
Published on Nov. 17 2001 by David Traill
Published on Sept. 27 2000 by jeffrey oblak
5.0 out of 5 stars LBJ TAPES
Published on Sept. 27 2000 by jeffrey oblak
5.0 out of 5 stars Special opportunity to hear history as it actually happened!
Found this audio tape absolutely mesmerizing. To hear actual conversations related to hisorical events immediately following President Kennedy's assassnation was both fascinating... Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2000 by Page Turner
4.0 out of 5 stars An Unedited Piece of History
Johnson's recorded conversations provide some important insight into this turbulent period in history. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding work of history and commentary
I was 3 when Lyndon Johnson came to power, so my only memories of him were of his decision not to run in 1968 and his historical villification for Vietnam. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 1998 by CHRIS
5.0 out of 5 stars Book's a knockout; tape's even better.
I imagine folks' response to this book/tape will be dependent on their age, how well they remember the days depicted. Read more
Published on Jan. 16 1998
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