Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President

By Robert Dallek | Go to book overview

Preface

This relatively brief book is an abridgment of my two-volume life of Lyndon B. Johnson, published in 1991, Lone Star Rising, and in 1998, Flawed Giant. It is not a revision of those studies but an attempt to bring them within the reach of a wider audience, especially students, that has neither the time nor the inclination to read more than 1,200 pages on Johnson's life and times.

While preparing this condensed history, I had an opportunity to think anew about this extraordinary man and reconsider his impact on the national well-being. Controversies about Johnson's presidency, which remained relatively intense when I published the first volume twenty years after he had left office, have now, fifteen years later, subsided. Arguments over principal Great Society programs such as civil rights, MedicareMedicaid, and federal aid to education have all but disappeared. Debate remains over how best to manage racial equality of treatment, to fund health insurance programs for the elderly and the poor, and to use federal monies to improve instruction and learning in the schools. But only a very small number of die-hard critics would suggest abolishing these social reforms.

Likewise, Johnson's great foreign policy failure, Vietnam, has become more an object of historical curiosity and an analog for what not to do in an overseas conflict than an ongoing source of angry debate. The defeat of Soviet communism and a search for foreign policies that can effectively meet the challenges of a post–Cold War world—above all the threat of Islamic terrorism since September 11, 2001—have eclipsed lingering resentments toward Johnson's unsuccessful fight to preserve South Vietnam from a Communist takeover.

The ebbing of the controversies might have pushed Johnson to the back of our historical consciousness. But to the contrary, he remains a largerthan-life figure whose political career continues to have current significance. His conscious effort to bring the South into the mainstream of the

-ix-

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Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface ix
  • Lyndon B. Johnson *
  • 1 - The Making of a Politician 1
  • 2 - The Congressman 36
  • 3 - The Senator 72
  • 4 - The Vice President 112
  • 5 - From JFK to LBJ 145
  • 6 - Landslide Lyndon 171
  • 7 - King of the Hill 190
  • 8 - Foreign Policy Dilemmas 208
  • 9 - Retreat from the Great Society 227
  • 10 - Lyndon Johnson''s War 251
  • 11 - A Sea of Troubles 272
  • 12 - Stalemate 295
  • 13 - Last Hurrahs 318
  • 14 - Unfinished Business 343
  • 15 - After the Fall 362
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 379
  • Index 382
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