Transcribing, editing, and explaining the most powerful moments from hundreds of hours of newly released LBJ tapes, Michael Beschloss has added another lasting treasure to the American historical record. Reaching for glory exposes the inner workings of the Johnson presidency from the summer of 1964 through the summer of 1965. From behind the scenes, you will hear Johnson pulling the strings of his presidential campaign against Barry Goldwater and pursuing his feud with the new senator Robert Kennedy. He agonizes over Martin Luther King, Jr., and the bloody march on Selma, Alabama, and twists arms on Capitol Hill to pass voting rights, Medicare, and more basic laws than any American president before or since. Above all, you will hear him sending young Americans off to Vietnam while privately insisting that the war can never be won. Winding Johnson's voice and exclusive excerpts from Lady Bird Johnson's private diaries into a gripping narrative, Michael Beschloss provides context and historical insights, showing how profoundly LBJ changed the presidency and the country.
Continuous agonizing over the uncertainty and what to do in Vietnam, despite boasting public statements and taking the US ever deeper into the war, is the theme that goes through the whole book. Also important is of course the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory voting registration practices occurring in many Southern states. Johnson seemed like a man that had a difficult time to change course when people expected that he would continue on the set path. The book gives a good feeling of the messiness of politics, there were always questions about the verifiability of information and uncertainty regarding the consequences of different actions, issues that are often not so prevalent in other political stories.
It would have been interesting to hear some more of the animosity between Johnson and Robert Kennedy.
Tested ideas' popularity with polls.
Johnson's "Great Society" implemented historical progressive measures in the US, in poverty reduction, education, health care and other areas, and perhaps above all in civil rights, including banning of discrimination, segregation and certain voter-qualification tests. However it is Vietnam that he will probably be remembered for.