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. Download and start listening now!