After reading Robert Caro’s The Power Broker many decades ago, I relished the thought of losing myself in his recently-published four-volume (with another to come) biography of Lyndon Johnson, which I recently finished reading.  Johnson was, Caro suggests, as power-hungry as one can get, and succeeded, albeit due in large part to the twist of fate in Dallas that resulted in Kennedy’s assassination, in reaching his goal of the presidency.  He also amassed a vast personal fortune, and a place in history.  He arguably did much good, especially in the area of civil rights (after he did much bad in that same area).

To me, the book raises an interesting question about power.  If you have to sell out your ideals to achieve it, how much power do you really have?  Johnson may have been able to achieve some his personal goals and his goals for the nation, but he had to make so many compromises and arguably do so much bad that the good and bad can be viewed as a wash.

Johnson was a person of remarkable drive, born of his childhood, during which his family lost everything, including their standing in the community.  His whole life can be seen as a reaction, in the tradition of Citizen Kane, to that childhood.  Whether the rest of us, or even he, is better off is a matter of debate.


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