"The main emotion that the reader, or at least one reader, comes away with is anger: anger at a government that for so long could tolerate a body of leaders who succeeded at stalling the cause of reform in this country, and anger at a citizenry that also would allow such a government to rule them. If nothing else, Caro has given concrete illustrations of how democracy can go awry in the hands of selfish, power-hungry men." D. K. Holm, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
The most riveting political biography of our time, Robert A. Caros life of Lyndon B. Johnson, continues. Master of the Senate takes Johnsons story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 through 1960, in the United States Senate. Once the most august and revered body in politics, by the time Johnson arrived the Senate had become a parody of itself and an obstacle that for decades had blocked desperately needed liberal legislation. Caro shows how Johnsons brilliance, charm, and ruthlessness enabled him to become the youngest and most powerful Majority Leader in history and how he used his incomparable legislative genius--seducing both Northern liberals and Southern conservatives--to pass the first Civil Rights legislation since Reconstruction. Brilliantly weaving rich detail into a gripping narrative, Caro gives us both a galvanizing portrait of Johnson himself and a definitive and revelatory study of the workings of legislative power.
"Although Caro grudgingly acknowledges Johnson's achievements, the real juice of this book lies in his tales of Johnson's underhanded and self-serving behavior. Unlike some biographers (David McCullough, for example, who seems to fall in love with the presidents he chronicles), Caro is fatally attracted to the kind of man he can hate. Nothing gets his Oedipal adrenaline going like a successful, powerful man of great accomplishment and impure heart. Especially if that man is a liberal. Character flaws are Caro's specialty." Ronald Steele, Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
Master of the Senate, Book Three of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, carries Johnson's story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 to 1960, in the United States Senate.
At the heart of the book is its unprecedented revelation of how legislative power works in America, how the Senate works, and how Johnson, in his ascent to the presidency, mastered the Senate as no political leader before him had ever done.
It was during these years that all Johnson's experience--from his Texas Hill Country boyhood to his passionate representation in Congress of his hardscrabble constituents to his tireless construction of a political machine--came to fruition. Caro introduces the story with a dramatic account of the Senate itself: how Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun had made it the center of governmental energy, the forum in which the great issues of the country were thrashed out. And how, by the time Johnson arrived, it had dwindled into a body that merely responded to executive initiatives, all but impervious to the forces of change. Caro anatomizes the genius for political strategy and tactics by which, in an institution that had made the seniority system all-powerful for a century and more, Johnson became Majority Leader after only a single term-the youngest and greatest Senate Leader in our history; how he manipulated the Senate's hallowed rules and customs and the weaknesses and strengths of his colleagues to change the "unchangeable" Senate from a loose confederation of sovereign senators to a whirring legislative machine under his own iron-fisted control.
Caro demonstrates how Johnson's political genius enabled him to reconcile the unreconcilable: to retain the support of the southerners who controlled the Senate while earning the trust--or at least the cooperation--of the liberals, led by Paul Douglas and Hubert Humphrey, without whom he could not achieve his goal of winning the presidency. He shows the dark side of Johnson's ambition: how he proved his loyalty to the great oil barons who had financed his rise to power by ruthlessly destroying the career of the New Dealer who was in charge of regulating them, Federal Power Commission Chairman Leland Olds. And we watch him achieve the impossible: convincing southerners that although he was firmly in their camp as the anointed successor to their leader, Richard Russell, it was essential that they allow him to make some progress toward civil rights. In a breathtaking tour de force, Caro details Johnson's amazing triumph in maneuvering to passage the first civil rights legislation since 1875.
Master of the Senate, told with an abundance of rich detail that could only have come from Caro's peerless research, is both a galvanizing portrait of the man himself--the titan of Capital Hill, volcanic, mesmerizing--and a definitive and revelatory study of the workings and personal and legislative power.
About the Author
Robert A. Caro was graduated from Princeton University, was for six years an award-winning investigative reporter for Newsday,
and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.
To create The Power Broker, Caro spent seven years tracing and talking with hundreds of men and women who worked with, for, or against Robert Moses, and examining mountains of files never before opened to the public. The Power Broker won both the Pulitzer Prize in Biography and the Francis Parkman Prize, awarded by the Society of American Historians for the book that “exemplifies the union of the historian and the artist.” It was chosen by Modern Library as one of the hundred greatest nonfiction books of the twentieth century.
To research The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Caro and his wife, Ina, moved from his native New York City to the Texas Hill Country and then to Washington, D.C., to live in the locales in which Johnson grew up and in which he built, while still young, his first political machines. He has spent years examining documents at the Johnson Library in Austin and interviewing men and women connected with Johnson’s life, many of whom had never before been interviewed. The first volume of the Johnson work, The Path to Power, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for the best nonfiction work of 1982. The second volume, Means of Ascent, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for 1990. In preparation for writing Master of the Senate, the third volume, Caro immersed himself in the world of the United States Senate, spending week after week in the gallery, in committee rooms, in the Senate Office Building, and interviewing hundreds of people, from pages and cloakroom clerks to senators and administrative aides. Master of the Senate won the 2002 National Book Award for Nonfiction.
Among the numerous other awards Caros has won are the H.L. Mencken Award, the Carr P. Collins, Award from the Texas Institute of Letters, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
His website is www.robertcaro.com.