Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960

Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960

Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960

Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960

Synopsis

Like other great figures of 20th-century American politics, Lyndon Johnson defies easy understanding. An unrivaled master of vote swapping, back room deals, and election-day skulduggery, he was nevertheless an outspoken New Dealer with a genuine commitment to the poor and the underprivileged. And he was also a representative figure. Johnson's career speaks volumes about American politics, foreign policy, and business in the forty years after 1930. As Charles de Gaulle said when he came to JFK's funeral: Kennedy was America's mask, but this man Johnson is the country's real face. In Lone Star Rising, Robert Dallek, winner of the prestigious Bancroft Prize for his study of Franklin D. Roosevelt, turns to this fascinating "sinner and saint" to offer a brilliant, definitive portrait of a great American politician. Based on seven years of research in over 450 manuscript collections and oral histories, as well as numerous personal interviews, this first book in a two-volume biography follows Johnson's life from his childhood to his election as vice-president under Kennedy. We see Johnson, the twenty-three-year-old aide to a pampered millionaire Representative, become a de facto Congressman, and at age twenty-eight the country's best state director of the National Youth Administration. We see Johnson, the "human dynamo," first in the House and then in the Senate, whirl his way through sixteen- and eighteen-hour days, talking, urging, demanding, reaching for influence and power, in an uncommonly successful congressional career. Dallek pays full due to Johnson's failings--his obsession with being top dog, his willingness to cut corners, and worse, to get there--but he also illuminates Johnson's sheer brilliance as a politician, the high regard in which key members of the New Deal, including FDR, held him, and his genuine concern for minorities and the downtrodden. No president in American history is currently less admired than Lyndon Johnson. Bitter memories of Vietnam have sent Johnson's reputation into free fall, and recent biographies have painted him as a scoundrel who did more harm than good. Lone Star Rising attempts to strike a balance. It does not neglect the tawdry side of Johnson's political career, including much that is revealed for the first time. But it also reminds us that Lyndon Johnson was a man of exceptional vision, who from early in his career worked to bring the South into the mainstream of American economic and political life, to give the disadvantaged a decent chance, and to end racial segregation for the well-being of the nation.

Excerpt

From Andrew Jackson to Ronald Reagan, the image of the selfmade man has effectively served occupants of the White House. All who could, made much of their rags to riches odyssey. "When I was young, poverty was so common we didn't know it had a name," Lyndon Johnson often said. a poor boy in a remote Texas town isolated from the mainstream of early twentieth-century American life, he grew up without indoor plumbing or electricity and sometimes made do on a bare subsistence diet. the rural small towns in which he received his elementary, secondary, and college schooling did little to broaden his horizons.

Yet Lyndon came to maturity believing he was special--a young man destined for exceptional things. and he was. Fueled by his early poverty, his ambition, like Lincoln's, "was a little engine that knew no rest." It helped carry him to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, the vice presidency and the White House. But ambition alone did not give him the wherewithal, the inner confidence, to imagine himself in the Congress or the Oval Office. His family history gave initial stirrings to such dreams. in one of the many paradoxes that would shape his life, Lyndon was not simply an impoverished farm boy who made good, but the offspring of prominent southern families. Although he suffered painful self-doubts throughout his life, his heritage was a constant source of belief in a birthright to govern and lead. Stories told by his parents and grandparents about famous, influential ancestors were a mainstay of his early years. From the first, he thought of himself not as a poor boy consigned to a life of hardship, but as an heir of Johnsons and Buntons, Baineses and Huffmans, men and women who commanded the respect of their contemporaries and shaped public affairs.

A Texas journalist remembers how Lyndon "reveled in stories of Johnsons and Baineses who'd fought marauding Indians, of old uncles who drove cattle up the famous trails, of a hardy pioneer spirit in his . . .

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