I don’t go out of my way reading about politics,, but in short order I fond myself reading three books about the inner workings of politics. This one was to fill the ‘about an American president’ box on my Book Bingo card.
I had vague memories of photos of Johnson picking up his beagle by the ears, showing the world his scar from his gallbladder surgery, and standing beside a stricken Jackie Kennedy in her blood-stained dress as he took the oath of office. Then we were embroiled in the Vietnam war, and that’s about all I remember about him.
This book fills in the details I didn’t know and left me with the impression of a great man. He would have been a great president, too, if he had allowed himself to be entangled in the war. All his skill was in domestic policy, and he is responsible for Medicare, Medicaid, educational programs, and supporting his wife in her efforts to beautify America. He was a masterful leader in the senate, and if he hadn’t been promoted beyond his competency, he would have had a wonderful end to his career.
Instead, he allowed himself to be pulled out of the senate into the shadow of Jack Kennedy, a man he could never have sympathy for. All his skills of getting people to do what he wanted, were wasted in the office of vice-president. Trying to live up to the memory of Kennedy place an unbearable burden on him.
Goodwin’s book tells the whole story from his birth in a small town in Texas, to his death as a failed president. with sympathy and understanding.