The Years of Lyndon Johnson :: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro is a brilliant account of LBJ’s rise to Senate Majority Leader. How LBJ delivered the first meaningful civil rights reform since Lincoln’s Proclamation was fascinating. How he did so after 20 years of staunch opposition to such an idea is a testament to his ability to influence.
But my primary takeaway, with all due respect to the office of the presidency, is man… what a bastard.
The belligerence towards fellow congressmen, senators, and staff was staggering. His cruelty towards his wife Lady Bird was heart-breaking. His disinterest in his two daughters was disappointing. His interest with other women (congresswomen, no less) was revealing. His consistent fawning and flattery of older senators like Dick Russell was embarrassing (yet impressive in its own right).
The truth is this: his tactics worked.
LBJ knew how to read men – their strengths, weakness, fears, and ambitions. He worked diligently to understand the men in the Senate. One on one. Seven days a week. Year round. No one worked harder.
Once he sufficiently understood the men in the Senate, he manipulated and cajoled, pleaded and intimidated to obtain power. With that power, he put it to good use. LBJ didn’t pursue power for its own sake. He was forever reaching for more power to get things done. To move things forward.
This lesson on power is important for all leaders.
Have you worked for a leader with plenty of power who failed to do anything with it?
It’s all too common.
LBJ amassed his power and then used it to make the Senate function efficently – something it hadn’t done previously. At least not very well. Master of the Senate quotes William S. White in characterizing the Senate prior to LBJ.
“The Senate was the only place in the country where the South did not lose the Civil War… the Senate was the South’s unending revenge upon the north for Gettysburg.”
For 20 years LBJ backed the South in their unending revenge.
And then he ended it.
Bottom Line: Insightful look at LBJ and the inner workings of the Senate. Caro weaves together a tight story that made me want to keep reading. I suggest the abridged version of Master as I did. The real deal is 1200+ pages.
Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com). He’s grinding out 52 books this year. So far he’s ahead of schedule.
7. Lyndon Johnson :: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro
Categories: Libro 52 Challenge