Robert Weisbrot

Robert Weisbrot is the author, with G. Calvin Mackenzie, of The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s (Penguin) and teaches American history at Colby College.

 

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The Good Lyndon

Finally, Robert Caro lightens up on LBJ.

Courtesy AP Images
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro, Knopf, 736 pages, $35.00 “Hey, hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?” became a standard refrain at rallies against “Lyndon Johnson’s war” in Vietnam. The term “credibility gap,” if not the dissembling that led to it, originated with Johnson’s presidency. The Democratic Party seemed bound for permanent majority status after a landslide victory in 1964, but the polarization that stained Johnson’s last year in office spilled over into riots at its 1968 convention. Yet early in his sudden presidency, as he comforted a grieving nation and orchestrated the passage of historic measures to extend civil rights and battle poverty, Johnson appeared a good bet to have his likeness carved on Mount Rushmore. How would the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s monumental yet famously unforgiving biography of the 36th president account for Johnson’s high phase of triumph and inspiration? The charged anticipation of The Passage of...