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5.0 out of 5 stars This one you need to hear, not read
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...
Published on June 7 2004 by Kelly L. Norman

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2.0 out of 5 stars The Uncritical Presidency
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...
Published on April 3 2004 by Jeffrey Rubard


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5.0 out of 5 stars This one you need to hear, not read, June 7 2004
By 
Kelly L. Norman "li'l rock & roller" (Plymouth, MI United States) - See all my reviews
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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. Throughout the tapes, Johnson is shown trying to get his head around the little "police action" in Southeast Asia he inherited....what would be the downfall of an otherwise successful presidency. That won't happen until a further volume, however; this set of tapes covers only 1963 and 1964. Beschluss's comments (he reads his writing himself) tie the excerpts together chronologically and provide a little editorializing, but solid opinions based on knowledge of the time.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these tapes; I felt as though I was hearing history. In addition, I learned more about one of the most colorful politicians of the twentieth century.
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2.0 out of 5 stars The Uncritical Presidency, April 3 2004
By 
Jeffrey Rubard (Beaverton, OR US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes 1963 1964 (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating history before the spin masters filter it, March 23 2004
By 
Craig Matteson (Saline, MI) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes 1963 1964 (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars The Editing and Footnotes Make it an Interesting Book, June 27 2002
By 
John G. Hilliard (Toronto Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Taking Charge (Hardcover)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars All too human, March 27 2002
By 
pgk (The Hague Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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 another, integrated in this incomparable person. You live with him through his trial and triumph after the assasination of JFK and through his madddening insecurity that would destroy his preseidency in the end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars LBJ's tapes do us a favor for history, Nov. 18 2001
By 
David Traill (Stuart, FL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Taking Charge (Hardcover)
President Lyndon Johnson's tapes are exactly why modern presidents might want to leave the recorders off. We can read all kinds of conversations here- from his domestic problems with civil rights, to his election, to the war in Vietnam. We also can see how tender he was towards his wife, while still having affairs with other women. Michael Beschloss does us all a favor by providing transcripts of the tapes' key moments in the first two years of LBJ's presidency, with background material to explain all of their significance. Vietnam War researchers and U.S. history buffs will need to make this book a guaranteed spot on their shelves. Please note, too, that the auditapes are also available- but not all of the material in the book is found on the tapes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars TAKING CHARGE THE AUIDO TAPE EDITION, Sept. 27 2000
By 
jeffrey oblak (West Newton, PA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Taking Charge (Hardcover)
THE AUDIO TAPES OF TAKING CHARGE IS A MUST FOR ANY STUDENT FOR THE PRESIDENCY OF LYNDON BANIES JOHNSON.
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5.0 out of 5 stars LBJ TAPES, Sept. 27 2000
By 
jeffrey oblak (West Newton, PA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Taking Charge (Hardcover)
TAKING CHARGE:THE JOHNSON WHITE HOUSETAPES,1963-1964.IS TRANSCRIPTS OF LYNDON BANIES JOHNSON THE 36th PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES's FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE.COMPLETE WITH TEXT AND BLACK AND PHOTOS THIS BOOK TELLS OF HIS PRESIDENCY IN OWN WORDS.THIS BOOK IS A MUST FOR ANY STUDENT OF THE LBJ PRESIDENCY
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5.0 out of 5 stars Special opportunity to hear history as it actually happened!, Jan. 12 2000
By 
Found this audio tape absolutely mesmerizing. To hear actual conversations related to hisorical events immediately following President Kennedy's assassnation was both fascinating and enlightening. Gave me an entirely new perspective of LBJ, his character and accomplishments. Also an excellent insight into what really goes on behind the scenes in our nation's capital. A strong reminder that what we read and hear via the news media is often 'less than accurate'. For me, this tape debunked many concepts I held related to LBJ and other political figures, especially Robert Kennedy. I was particularly surprised to hear the amount of respect and warm feelings that LBJ and Jackie Kennedy apparently held for each other. I reccomend this book and/or audio tape to anyone interested in better understanding the nature of our political system. A real eye opener for me. I will never accept the images that our news medial creates about our political leaders again.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Unedited Piece of History, Feb. 2 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Taking Charge (Hardcover)
Johnson's recorded conversations provide some important insight into this turbulent period in history. LBJ's selection of the Warren Commission to apparently chose individuals who would support the lone gunman theory so that the issue could be closed quickly and the crisis resolved. And he admits that he himself did not agree with some of the conclusions of the Commission's findings, like the idea that the same, single bullett that wounded Connally also killed Kennedy.
I am looking forward to more volumes on the LBJ tapes. This book covers less than one year of the president's time in office. The escalation of the war in Vietnam and what LBJ has to say about it on tape will be interesting to find out.
Author Michael Beschloss does a great job using footnotes to clarify exactly what is being talked about. This is a good read for those who like the "cut and dried" uncensored style of reading. You can't argue with actual spoken words!
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Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes 1963 1964
Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes 1963 1964 by Michael R. Beschloss (Paperback - Sept. 18 1998)
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