Lyndon Johnson

David Frum: Read This Book, Obama!

Apr 15, 2012

Emerging from JFK's shadow, Lyndon Johnson wielded power ruthlessly—and delivered big results for liberals. In this week's Newsweek, David Frum on what Obama could learn from Robert Caro's new biography.

The fourth volume of Robert Caro’s great biography of Lyndon Johnson—The Passage of Power—tells a story from seemingly long ago. Page after page conjures up a vanished world: a world in which labor unions had clout and lunch counters were segregated. Yet it’s also a world deeply familiar to us: a world in which urgent national problems go unaddressed year after year, and Americans despair over the paralysis of their government. This fourth volume spotlights a moment when suddenly that government moved, fast and decisively. For three years under President John F. Kennedy, the cause of civil rights inched forward, if it moved at all. Then, suddenly, Kennedy was dead—and seven months later, so too was legal segregation.

To this day, the mystique of John F. Kennedy lingers. One third of Americans rate Kennedy a great president, and professional historians typically bestow generous accolades on him as well. read more