Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House...

Editor's Choice

November 18, 2001|By Michael Pakenham

Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes, 1964-1965, edited by Michael R. Beschloss (Simon & Schuster, 495 pages, $30).

This is the second volume of the most illuminating document to come out of the tragic and triumphant presidency of Lyndon Johnson. Beschloss is -- as he was in Taking Charge -- patient and impassioned, even-handed but dramatically focused as explores the transcripts of LBJ conversations, many of them recorded without the knowledge of the other speakers. News columns and political commentators have and will continue to report on the fresh details brought out here. But the profound value of the book is as an irreplaceably revealing source of the inner facts of the most important part of Johnson's career -- his election, his immense accomplishment of civil rights legislation, and the beginnings of his cataclysmic immersion of the United States in the Vietnam War. The other side of the drama is the book's fascinating and repellent revelations of the almost -- but not quite -- incomprehensible depths of Johnson's personal insecurity as a man and as a leader, and his capacities to be bitter, punitive and vindictive. This is a book that no one with a serious concern for the role of U.S. leadership can be without.

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