Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson's White House

by Joshua Zeitz

Hardcover, 2018





Viking, (2018)


LBJ's towering political skills and his ambitious slate of liberal legislation are the stuff of legend: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, and environmental reform. But what happened after the bills passed? One man could not and did not go it alone. Joshua Zeitz reanimates the creative and contentious atmosphere inside Johnson's White House as a talented and energetic group of advisers made LBJ's vision a reality. They desegregated public and private institutions throughout one third of the United States; built Medicare and Medicaid from the ground up in one year; launched federal funding for public education; provided food support for millions of poor children and adults; and launched public television and radio, all in the space of five years, even as Vietnam strained the administration's credibility and budget. Bill Moyers, Jack Valenti, Joe Califano, Harry McPherson and the other staff members who comprised LBJ's inner circle were men as pragmatic and ambitious as Johnson, equally skilled in the art of accumulating power or throwing a sharp elbow. Building the Great Society is the story of how one of the most competent White House staffs in American history - serving one of the most complicated presidents ever to occupy the Oval Office - fundamentally changed everyday life for millions of citizens and forged a legacy of compassionate and interventionist government.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Schmerguls
5588. Building the Breat Society Inside Lyndon Johnson's White House, by Joshua Zeitz (read 21 Oct 2018) This book was published in early 2018 and is by author born in 1974--long after LJ had left t he White House but it does a workmanlike job telling how LBJ came into the presidency determined to accomplish much. He wanted to win big in 1964 and he did and set out to match or outdo FDR's 100 Days. He succeeded in instituting Medicare, which now is as revered as Social Security. He also obtained the Voting Rights bill which did more than anything else to to diminish Southern resistance to civil rights, so that racists like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond had to seek black votes. The story of the efforts and tensions in the LBJ White House is well told and one has to regret that the Vietnam War brought LBJ's great work to an end. The book shows that Humphrey might have won in 1968 if the Republicans had not gotten South Vietnam to scuttle the chance for peace in October 1968--causing four more years of war and thousands more deaths.… (more)


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