LBJ: Architect of American Ambition

Architect of American Ambition by Randall B. Architect of American Ambition 3. For almost forty years, the verdict on Lyndon Johnson's presidency has been reduced to a handful of harsh words: Initially, historians focused on the Vietnam War and how that conflict derailed liberalism, tarnished the nation's reputation, wasted lives, and eventually even led to Watergate. More recently, Johnson has been excoriated in For almost forty years, the verdict on Lyndon Johnson's presidency has been reduced to a handful of harsh words: More recently, Johnson has been excoriated in more personal terms: Woods, a distinguished historian of twentieth-century America and a son of Texas, offers a wholesale reappraisal and sweeping, authoritative account of the LBJ who has been lost under this baleful gaze.

Woods understands the political landscape of the American South and the differences between personal failings and political principles. Thanks to the release of thousands of hours of LBJ's White House tapes, along with the declassification of tens of thousands of documents and interviews with key aides, Woods's "LBJ" brings crucial new evidence to bear on many key aspects of the man and the politician.

As private conversations reveal, Johnson intentionally exaggerated his stereotype in many interviews, for reasons of both tactics and contempt. It is time to set the record straight. Woods's Johnson is a flawed but deeply sympathetic character. He was born into a family with a liberal Texas tradition of public service and a strong belief in the public good.

He worked tirelessly, but not just for the sake of ambition. His approach to reform at home, and to fighting fascism and communism abroad, was motivated by the same ideals and based on a liberal Christian tradition that is often forgotten today. Vietnam turned into a tragedy, but it was part and parcel of Johnson's commitment to civil rights and antipoverty reforms. Johnson was a magnetic character, and his life was filled with fascinating stories and scenes. Through insights gained from interviews with his longtime secretary, his Secret Service detail, and his closest aides and confidants, Woods brings Johnson before us in vivid and unforgettable color.

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LBJ: Architect of American Ambition by Randall B. Woods

To ask other readers questions about LBJ , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. I rather suspect that I'm in a small minority over this given what he did during the Vietnam War, but I've always found LBJ an appealing president, because of his work on Civil Rights and the Great Society. This book, at almost pages, is probably as detailed a one book examination of LBJ's life as we're likely to get. To be honest, I found the book somewhat depressing. It describes a man, who because of his poor upbringing and origins in the American South , couldn't be the man he probably wanted to be and stay elected.

I also found the book surprising. I was born only a little before Johnson died, but always imagined him as decisive, because he seemed so effective in the Senate. It seems, from reading this book however, that you'll be presented with a guy who feels he's lacking in something, especially when compared to the JFK brigade in the White House.

The other thing that surprised me is that he strated disliking some aspects of the Great Society, almost as soon the were passed. As an example, one was targeted at getting inner city parents to stay together. Almost immediately, it became clear it wasn't working, which resulted in LBJ grousing about the law regularly. There has been some some criticism of the accuracy of statements in the book.

As an example, it says RFK was assassinated at the Embassy Hotel no he wasn't, it was the Ambassador Hotel , and that certain Senators and Governors have been designated as representing the wrong state. I would agree with some of those criticisms, but I don't necessarily think those errors reduced the book much, because they weren't major. A southern anti-integration Senator is a southern anti-integration Senator, irrespective of whether you have him down as being from Alabama, or Mississippi. I will say, however, though that the errors reduced the credibility of the book some, as it makes you wonder about the accuracy of the research.

In short, I think most people will get something new out of the book, if you can ignore the errors. I enjoyed reading it, and not just because I have a soft sport for Texas, and the area Johnson grew up in.


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Jun 05, Mark rated it liked it. Few presidents generate as much debate today as Lyndon Baines Johnson. From relatively humble roots in Texas, he rose to the pinnacle of power in American politics. Brash and domineering to the point of obnoxiousness, he turned the position of Senate majority leader into the key office in that body through a mastery of wheeling and dealing that served him well as president and ensured the passage of a vast range of legislation that transformed the nation. Yet all of this is weighed against the c Few presidents generate as much debate today as Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Yet all of this is weighed against the controversial involvement in the Vietnam War, a topic that still triggers fervent discussion. Here the author introduces us to the clash between Johnson and Robert Kennedy, a clash that would define much of the politics of the s with its bitterness and political maneuvering. Thrust by circumstance into the office he long sought, Johnson was determined to make the most of the opportunity.

This was especially true for civil rights, where Johnson knew his efforts would prove politically damaging in the traditionally Democratic South.

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But the president persisted because he knew it was the right thing to do, and his Congressional experience proved indispensable in getting the necessary legislation passed. Increasingly embattled by the growing opposition from Congress and the public towards the war, Johnson withdrew from the presidential race and retired from politics at the end of his term, living out his final years shunned and aware that his considerable achievements never met his even greater ambitions. Thoroughly researched and convincingly argued, Woods has produced the best single volume biography of Johnson, one that presents a convincing interpretation of the man and his accomplishments.

Throughout it he takes a favorable tone towards his subject, judging Johnson sympathetically yet not uncritically.

Yet for all of its many strengths, the book is plagued with persistent factual errors, mistakes that could have been corrected with even a modest editing effort. Though a minor problem, it detracts from what is otherwise an excellent study of the life and times of a fascinating man and controversial president. Apr 07, John rated it it was amazing Shelves: I am and have been an admirer of LBJ's for decades, and this biography is one of the most even-handed books on this giant of a man that I have read.

Of course, it reveals his flaws, which were notorious. More importantly it reveals his surpassing compassion for the old, the weak, the oppressed, the poor. Hillary's right - without LBJ there would have been no Civil Rights Act of , to which the Kennedy's lent only half-hearted support - because they had no feeling, besides contempt I admit it. Hillary's right - without LBJ there would have been no Civil Rights Act of , to which the Kennedy's lent only half-hearted support - because they had no feeling, besides contempt, for anyone except perhaps for other Kennedys.

They had no ambition that didn't arise from family pride. All else was merely manipulation of perceptions for political gain, which served no higher purpose than to satiate personal vanity. See my review of "The Bystander. In this context, LBJ stood absolutely alone, entirely abandoned with his fear and delusions, a pitiable figure.

My sense is that Robert Dalleck is better on Vietnam than Woods, but marginally so. In any case, a spot-on portrait of a man the likes of whom we're not likely to see again in this age of pitiably small politicans. Jun 14, Mel rated it really liked it Shelves: Very informative and detailed biography. As I was a college student during most of LBJ's presidency while looking down the barrel of the draft, I had assumed that I knew most of the details of the period. The biggest surprise was to find that in the fall of Richard Nixon secretly communicated with South Vietnam's Ky and Thieu to thwart any peace proposals pending with North Vietnam so as to assure his election.

LBJ: Architect of American Ambition

Since the damning information had come from illegal wiretaps, and because LBJ wa Very informative and detailed biography. Since the damning information had come from illegal wiretaps, and because LBJ was sure that Nixon was going to win and our country was much too fragile to learn of this treason by their new Chief Executive, he choose to not disclose the truth to the American public.

Many people believe that Reagan followed Nixon's treasonous path by arranging a delay with Iran in the release of the hostages until after the election in his contest with Carter. Jun 29, Andy Miller rated it really liked it. The most balanced biography I've read on Johnson. Acknowledged his shortcomings but gave due credit to progressive things he accomplished. Interesting contrast to Caro's series especially the senate election where Caro painted LBJ to be villian and Coke Stevenson to be hero. Anyway, great read about a complex man in a complex time Jul 17, Mary Alice rated it liked it Shelves: This biography of LBJ casts him in a very favorable light, maybe a little too favorable.

LBJ is portrayed as an extremely compassionate man, and though he could be very compassionate, he usually worked in his own best interests. Woods doesn't always recognize the pragmatism. LBJ was a complicated individual, and he seems a bit flat toward the end of the book, when he is portrayed as whiny and upset much of the time.

It's a long book, and Woods seems to have gotten tired of writing well before th This biography of LBJ casts him in a very favorable light, maybe a little too favorable. It's a long book, and Woods seems to have gotten tired of writing well before the end. The section on the LBJ presidency was a bit too factual with a decided lack of analysis. Woods dutifully tells us about each of the Great Society programs And Woods' account of the final part of LBJ's life, the five years after his presidency, is woefully lacking. Woods has completely run out of steam by the end of LBJ's life.

The earlier part of the book is much more lively. Woods does a good job with the young LBJ, his family and his start in politics. The analysis is pretty good, but not always great, and Woods always gives LBJ's motives the benefit of the doubt unlike many other LBJ biographers. If you want to read a biography of LBJ that tells you about his whole life in just one volume, this isn't a bad way to go. Aug 11, Aaron rated it liked it.

Almost no President has a legacy harder to encapsulate then Lyndon Johnson, and as long as baby boomers dominate political culture, fights over his legacy will remain central to our electoral discourse. As a political history nerd, I have read far more about his Presidency than is prudent or wise. Yet, even I have to wonder why this book was written. To a large extent, this book presupposes a fairly large among of knowledge about Johnson. Its almost a shadow biography, content to follow and amend the popular volumes on Johnson; entertaining in its way, but oddly insubstantial for something the size of a small phonebook.

Oct 10, Kelly rated it really liked it Shelves: While this book was long and certainly not light reading, I did really enjoy learning about this segment of history. I have filled my to read list with much related material, which I always find as a mark of a good book. Highly recommended to history buffs, Texas Historians, or anyone who thinks they might be interested in learning about Lyndon B.

May 20, Bill Ashcraft added it. It lost some credibility for me by having some factual errors the wrong person attributed to the wrong quote, or the wrong date. But, overall, very well done, and it made me reappreciate LBJ as a president who wanted to change things, to be a transformational leader. May 15, Charles rated it liked it. Aug 27, Steven rated it really liked it. A comprehensive and well-written biography. I think it was a fair and candid look at LBJ. It did not gloss over his flaws, which is important.

It did portray the well-known tension between him and RFK as more on the brother of JFK, and the eastern political elite.

It showed how LBJ inherited the Vietnam problem and was always walking a tight rope between the hawks and doves. It did portray LBJ as a victim of the circumstances, and made the reader think that no matter who had become president, we A comprehensive and well-written biography. It did portray LBJ as a victim of the circumstances, and made the reader think that no matter who had become president, we would have ended up in the same situation.

The only downside was that the author got bogged down a bit with political wonkiness of some of the legislation he worked to pass.

Unfortunately the racial tensions and the war placed a dark cloud on a presidency that saw ground breaking civil rights law passed. Thorough, astute, and readable. A New York Times feature on the entrenched poverty of increasing numbers of American workers highlighted the research of Evelyn Nakano Glenn in Forced to Care , noting the many Americans who work in the service sector for dismally low wages but whose additional, off-the-books service to ailing or aging loved ones goes unrecognized and unsupported.

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We asked Professor Jackson about de Gaulle and his process in writing the book. Why has he been ignored for so long? Why is now a good time to take a new look at this titanic figure? The last major biography of de Gaulle was published in French in but since then the de Gaulle archives have bee ….

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