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Download The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson Audiobook (Unabridged)

Extended Audio Sample The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Unabridged), by Robert A. Caro
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,930 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Robert A. Caro Narrator: Grover Gardner Publisher: Brilliance Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The Passage of Power is Robert Caro's fourth installment in his biography of Lyndon B. Johnson. It follows perhaps the most interesting part of Johnson's political career, from 1958 until 1964. During this time, Johnson served as Senate Majority Leader, Vice President and finally President of the United States. The book also discusses Johnson's role as a powerless Vice President in an administration that didn't like him and trusted him even less.

More than half of the book is focused on the assassination of then-president John F. Kennedy in November of 1963 and the aftermath as Johnson became president. Other books, movies and documentaries have shown us the JFK assassination through the vantage point of Kennedy family members and even those involved in the subsequent Warren Commission investigation. The Passage of Power, though, is a biography of Johnson so we get to look at the circumstances surrounding that November afternoon from Johnson's point of view for the first time.

The Passage of Power details the first weeks of Johnson's presidency in-depth. This includes every step of the way, from the controversy surrounding his swearing in before ever leaving the ground in Dallas to his work with congress on pushing through legislation to begin the War on Poverty. It ends just after Johnson's first State of the Union address in January 1964.

Robert A. Caro is best known for his political biographies, primarily those of Robert Moses and the series about Johnson. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes in Biography and the National Book Award, among many others, for his work.

The Passage of Power is the fourth of five planned books in the The Years of Lyndon Johnson series. Caro has been working on the volumes since the mid-1970s, completing almost a decade o f research between each book. The previous volumes were released in 1982, 1990 and 2002. The Passage of Power was published in 2012.

The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career - 1958 to 1964. It is a time that would see him trade the extraordinary power he had created for himself as Senate Majority Leader for what became the wretched powerlessness of a Vice President in an administration that disdained and distrusted him. Yet it was, as well, the time in which the presidency, the goal he had always pursued, would be thrust upon him in the moment it took an assassin's bullet to reach its mark.

For the first time, we see the Kennedy assassination through Lyndon Johnson's eyes. We watch Johnson step into the presidency, inheriting a staff fiercely loyal to his slain predecessor; a Congress determined to retain its power over the executive branch; and a nation in shock and mourning. We see how within weeks - grasping the reins of the presidency with supreme mastery - he propels through Congress essential legislation that at the time of Kennedy's death seemed hopelessly logjammed and seizes on a dormant Kennedy program to create the revolutionary War on Poverty.

Caro makes clear how the political genius with which Johnson had ruled the Senate now enabled him to make the presidency wholly his own. This was without doubt Johnson's finest hour, before his aspirations and accomplishments were overshadowed and eroded by the trap of Vietnam.

It is an epic story told with a depth of detail possible only through the peerless research that forms the foundation of Robert Caro's work, confirming Nicholas von Hoffman's verdict that Caro has changed the art of political biography.

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Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Peter Cohron | 2/20/2014

    " Biography at its best, the entire four books (so far). Caro's prose grabs you--perhaps only William Manchester wrote non-fiction this well. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Jo | 2/9/2014

    " If Robert A. Caro dies or is otherwise prevented from completing "The Years of Lyndon Johnson" I will be really, really unhappy -- and I certainly won't be alone. . . . "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Page | 2/5/2014

    " My views of LBJ have been shaped by his racist tendency to side with racist Democrats in the Senate in the 1950s and his governing of the destruction of the country between 1965-1969. But this book dealing, mainly, with the transition between JFK's and LBJ's term is fascinating. Would LBJ sound like a Republican on taxes and civil rights had JFK not been killed? Perhaps. But I did find some amount of respect for him, and Caro excels as a narrator to history. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Andrew | 2/3/2014

    " Without a doubt one of the greatest biographies I have ever read and one that completely changed my view of the "Flawed Giant" Lyndon Johnson. Caro's writing is a brilliant mixture between eruditely explicating even the most obscure, minute details of legislative battles while also providing truly inspiring writing on the cause for civil rights and other causes. Caro is unabashedly liberal, which actually makes him a perfect biographer for one of the most contradictory and powerful (personally and politically) men in American history. Just like the trade unions, civil rights leaders, and other left-leaning groups during Johnson's rise to power and early presidency, Caro's prose renders excellently the mixed, suspicious view we are meant to take of Lyndon Johnson. This is the same man who indulged the very worst of anti-Communist paranoia and served the interests of Big Oil, destroying the career of liberal hero Leland Olds and his pursuit of providing cheap electricity to even the most rural areas of America (What is even worse, he himself did not even believe Olds was any sort of threat to the United States, but taking him down would ensure greater power for Johnson, see the previous, equally brilliant volume Master of the Senate). However, this is also the same man who, once he had power, became "the greatest champion that black Americans and Mexican-Americans and indeed all Americans of color had in the White House, the greatest champion they had in all the halls of government. With the single exception of Lincoln, he was the greatest champion with a white skin that they had in the history of the Republic. He was to become the lawmaker for the poor and the downtrodden and the oppressed." Caro's riveting, inspiring, prose engrosses anybody who possesses even a measure of sense of social justice, so vividly does he portray the fight for civil rights and the roots of Lyndon Johnson's compassion and LBJ's visceral, burning hatred of poverty, ignorance, and inequality. One piece of the book that particularly stands out is Caro's analysis of Robert Kennedy and his bitter feud with Johnson. Caro captures quite well not only Robert's personality but also brilliantly compares it to the urbane, unflappable John Kennedy and the larger than life, elemental Johnson. Though one thing that I find interesting about Robert and Lyndon is that Caro never points out how very similar these two were. As becomes clear through not just Passage of Power but the earlier volumes of the Years of Lyndon Johnson, Johnson was capable of both immense compassion and astounding cruelty and callousness. Robert Kennedy was precisely the same way, a man so ruthless, driven by his utter loathing of corruption and dishonesty, especially in causes he believed in (like labor), that in his crusade to root out mafia elements in unions (and specifically his vendetta against Jimmy Hoffa) he became known as "Capitol Hill's resident fascist." However, he could also be capable of an incredible amount of kindness (his visit to Jackie Kennedy after her miscarriage, for instance, even though they hardly knew each other before then, an act Jackie never forgot.). Johnson and Kennedy were two people where the Democratic Party and indeed Washington were just too small for the two of them. It is towards the Kennedys that Johnson showed some of his very worse traits: His sycophancy, cruelty, insensitivity, etc. But it was his insecurity about the Kennedys, indeed his fear, that also inspired him to achieve a truly miraculous presidential transition that was so smooth that we might forget how easily Kennedy's assassination could have led to global catastrophe. These two men brought out the best and worst in each other, and Caro paints a portrait of these two complex but monumental figures of mid-century liberalism. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and, along with Caro's other equally outstanding volumes of the Years of Lyndon Johnson, received a far more nuanced, complex picture of Johnson than I had ever had before. It was said of LBJ that there were as many Lyndons as people who knew him. That may be true, but Caro does an incredible job discovering the real Johnson, the ambitious, sometimes ruthless politician who also possessed a massive compassion for the dispossessed, "The Johnsons of Johnson City," a compassion beat into him by the sun and iron of his days working on the railroad tracks in the Hill Country of Texas, working alongside blacks, Mexicans, and the others left out of the American Experiment at that time. Kennedy, Roosevelt, and other icons of the American Left came to their liberalism through intellectual study; Johnson came to it through the blisters in his hands and teaching the children of Mexican immigrants English in a run down schoolhouse. Caro understands this better than anybody, and this monumental work made me far better understand this most enigmatic and conflicted giant of the 20th Century. "

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