Top positive review
This one you need to hear, not read
on June 7, 2004
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.