Randall B. Woods - LBJ: Architect of American Ambition

"Hubert Humphrey (LBJ's VP) would later make an insightful observation concerning LBJ's empathy for those fighting and dying in Vietnam: 'When you send men into battle, you know some are going to lose their lives. That is an awful part of political power. I don't suppose it is easy for anyone, but military people are at least trained in war. Most politicians are not. Yet the compassion breeds an irony: once an early order causes the first person to die, leaders feel required to justify what has been done. Thus, the compassion helps to create an insidious condition that leads, I fear, not to less killing, but to more.'" (p. 738)
I started this book late last year. Although it took me more than three months to finish it, the reason wasn't that I didn't enjoy it. First, it's a huge book at about a thousand pages of fairly small type. Second, I was always reading something else at the same time. I've read several other, Japan-related books and dozens of issues of Mangajin and Nihongo Journal during that same time frame in preparation for moving to Japan.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was an intriguing man. I learned tons of previously unknown things from this book. Although I don't agree with everything, or maybe even many of the things that LBJ stood for, I have no regrets about reading this many pages about him. The reader doesn't learn just about LBJ in these pages. The 50s and 60s, Vietnam, the civil rights movement, and many other critical moments in history, showing us how we got to where we are now, are presented in this readable narrative.

"The most militant civil-rights advocate ever to occupy the White House, reviled by Negro militants; a Southerner scorned by Southerners as a turn-coat; a liberal despised by liberals despite the fact he achieved most of what they had sought for thirty years; a friend of education, rejected by intellectuals; a compromiser who could not compromise a war ten thousand miles away." (p. 881)

from the publisher:
A distinguished historian of twentieth-century America, Woods offers a wholesale reappraisal and sweeping, authoritative account of the life of one of the most fascinating and complex U.S. presidents.