<i>Johnson at home in Texas in 1915. (Wikimedia Commons)</i></br>“In Caro’s telling, power’s most consistent purpose for Johnson was to assuage his youthful hurt, to fill an empty place in his soul. In truth, Johnson exaggerated his childhood deprivations; he had never been as poor as he liked to let on.”
<i>Johnson City High School in Texas, 1924. Johnson is in the back row, fifth from left. (Johnson Library)</i></br>“‘A tall, gangling youth, humiliated and ridiculed during an impoverished boyhood in a tiny, isolated Texas Hill Country town,’ as Caro describes him in the biography’s second volume, Johnson began his climb in college, shamelessly cultivating relationships with anyone who could help him get ahead.”
<i>Campaigning in Texas for the U.S. Senate, 1941. (Johnson Library)</i></br>“After graduating, he entered politics, working in Texas state government and ultimately winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1937.”
<i>On August 28, 1963, the White House hosted a meeting with the leaders of the March on Washington. Martin Luther King, Jr. is third from left. (Wikimedia Commons)</i></br> “In the most recent volume, Caro weaves the dark and bright threads tightly together. The dark Johnson bemoans his emasculation as vice president, longing for the power that will restore his self-esteem. The bright Johnson emerges from Kennedy’s shadow ready to act on behalf of those who need his help.”
<i>Johnson being sworn in as president aboard Air Force One.</i></br> “Caro lingers on every embarrassment of the vice presidency, a period of humiliation for Johnson that ended only when President John F. Kennedy was killed and Johnson ascended to the Oval Office.”
<i>An illustration by Joaquin de Alba that appeared in the afternoon tabloid, the Washington Daily News. (Wikimedia Commons)</i></br> “Charles de Gaulle had chafed at the dominant role of the United States in Europe since the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949. After becoming president of France a decade later, he began to look for ways to knock the United States down a few notches. . . . Johnson’s top advisers urged him to strike back at the French president.”
Johnson Library <i>Johnson in front of Junction Elementary School, which he attended as a child.</i></br> “Every generation gains its impressions of the world at a formative age. In private life, this typically occurs in childhood. In public life, it happens in early adulthood. Johnson’s generation came of age in the 1940s, when the United States dominated the global economy as no country ever had before (or would after)."
<i>In the East Room of the White House in August of 1964, signing the “Gulf of Tonkin” resolution.</i></br> “By the time Johnson became president, the country’s commitments were greater than ever and still growing. South Vietnam was a resource sinkhole that got deeper and wider by the month. Israel was becoming an ally in all but name. The weapons judged necessary to maintain the credibility of the United States’ treaty promises were growing ever more expensive. At the same time, the United States’ share of the world economy was shrinking.”
<i>Johnson’s staff in the White House working on a State of the Union address.</i></br> “That Vietnam is Johnson’s main foreign policy legacy is all the more unfortunate because he proved, on the whole, an able custodian of the American-made international order. He failed as commander in chief; the Vietnam War was a debacle for which he bore primary responsibility. Yet in the grand scheme of world affairs, Vietnam turned out to be a sideshow: a tragic one, disrupting and prematurely ending many thousands of lives, but a sideshow nonetheless.”
<i>Johnson’s funeral, January 24, 1973.</i></br> “Americans like to think of their country as the most powerful in the world, and so it has been for three-quarters of a century. But being the most powerful is a far cry from being omnipotent. Johnson discovered this in the 1960s and made the best of it -- which, on balance, was surprisingly good. Compared to then, the United States today is even less powerful relative to the rest of the world, which makes Johnson’s lesson all the more pertinent.”

Gallery: LBJ the Power Broker

In the latest installment of his epic biography of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro reveals a man who obsessively sought power to assuage a misplaced sense of his own suffering -- but also to help those whose struggles were less abstract. Read H.W. Brands' article “Johnson the Power Broker” here.

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