To make the most of power for himself, a President must know what it is made of.
-- Richard E. Neustadt in Presidential Power
Unique among American statesmen and political leaders, Lyndon Baines Johnson has been near or at the center of power in Washington for all the great political events of our epoch. He arrived in the Capital in 1931, more than a year before Franklin D. Roosevelt, as a twenty-three-year-old secretary to a right-wing millionaire Congressman from Texas. Increasingly, as the years went by and his power grew, he placed his own distinctive touch on each of those events. Among the truly powerful legislative leaders in our history, he is the only one since James Madison who has become the Chief Executive. He succeeded where Henry Clay, Thomas Brackett Reed, and Robert A. Taft failed.
No man in American history became President with a greater relish for power or with more experience in its exercise than did Johnson. Nor did any President assume the office with a prospect so spectacular in its opportunities and so difficult by the very nature of his assumption.
"Men . . . love their martyrs," Dostoevsky wrote, "and honor those whom they have slain." On November 22, 1963, Johnson became President, but it was the martyred John F. Kennedy and the Kennedy legend that men loved. Kennedy left Johnson a plan in domestic affairs that was only partially completed, and this plan, energized by a national longing to atone for Kennedy's assassination, gave Johnson his matchless opportunity. With the same grasp of political genius that marked his earlier years as the Senate's Majority Leader, Johnson completed Kennedy's plan. Then, in unprecedented partnership with Congress, he carried it far forward with a plan of his own, the Great