Means of Ascent, The Years of Lyndon Johnson Volume 2, Robert A Caro, Alfred A Knopf, 1990, 412 pp
The second volume of Caro's biography of Lyndon B Johnson is the sordid tale of how he stole his election to the US Senate. That is right. He did! At the time, he was accused of doing so but not busted for it. It was 1948, he lawyered up and escaped justice in the courts. Caro did the research and uncovered facts that had been buried for decades.
Coming in at 412 actual reading pages (not counting notes and index) this volume is approximately half the length of Volume 1, The Path to Power. It covers just seven years. The sense of a man who would do anything and everything to reach his goal of being President of the United States with the underlying thirst for power and the determination to "be somebody" continues. This is Caro's thesis about the man.
I have been discussing POTUS 35 with various friends and acquaintances ever since I finished the first volume in August. Many of them feel he was a great and important Commander-In-Chief. I began reading the series with the negative bias I formed against the man in the late 1960s when I was an anti-war hippy. Nothing I have read so far has disabused me of that bias. I will keep going and attempt to maintain an open mind.
Was his Great Society really great? Was his Civil Rights bill actually effective? Did he know what he was doing in Vietnam? Most important for me is to discover if he ever became a true statesman and leader with the good of our country as his prime motivation, or at least part of it. I get it that being President is a hard job and they all make mistakes.
The next volume, Master of the Senate, should be another eye-opener regarding how our upper legislative body works. It will be the longest volume yet at about 1100 pages. Am I up for the challenge? You bet.
(Means of Ascent is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)