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The author of Lincoln's Boys takes us inside Lyndon Johnson's White House to show how the legendary Great Society programs were actually put into practice: Team of Rivals for LBJ. The personalities behind every burst of 1960s liberal reform - from civil rights and immigration reform, to Medicare and Head Start. "Absorbing, and astoundingly well-researched -- all good The author of Lincoln's Boys takes us inside Lyndon Johnson's White House to show how the legendary Great Society programs were actually put into practice: Team of Rivals for LBJ. The personalities behind every burst of 1960s liberal reform - from civil rights and immigration reform, to Medicare and Head Start. "Absorbing, and astoundingly well-researched -- all good historians do their homework, but Zeitz goes above and beyond. It's a more than worthwhile addition to the canon of books about Johnson."--NPR "Beautifully written...a riveting portrait of LBJ... Every officeholder in Washington would profit from reading this book." --Robert Dallek, Author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 and Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life 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.


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The author of Lincoln's Boys takes us inside Lyndon Johnson's White House to show how the legendary Great Society programs were actually put into practice: Team of Rivals for LBJ. The personalities behind every burst of 1960s liberal reform - from civil rights and immigration reform, to Medicare and Head Start. "Absorbing, and astoundingly well-researched -- all good The author of Lincoln's Boys takes us inside Lyndon Johnson's White House to show how the legendary Great Society programs were actually put into practice: Team of Rivals for LBJ. The personalities behind every burst of 1960s liberal reform - from civil rights and immigration reform, to Medicare and Head Start. "Absorbing, and astoundingly well-researched -- all good historians do their homework, but Zeitz goes above and beyond. It's a more than worthwhile addition to the canon of books about Johnson."--NPR "Beautifully written...a riveting portrait of LBJ... Every officeholder in Washington would profit from reading this book." --Robert Dallek, Author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 and Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life 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.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mackey

    “We have the opportunity to move, not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.” Lyndon Johnson I find that reading and reviewing books about recent history often is difficult for two reasons: not enough time has passed since the events themselves and our own opinions and thoughts about the event cloud our judgement. Keeping both of those things in mind, I found “Building the Great Society” to be a thoroughly documented, well written synopsis of “We have the opportunity to move, not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.” Lyndon Johnson I find that reading and reviewing books about recent history often is difficult for two reasons: not enough time has passed since the events themselves and our own opinions and thoughts about the event cloud our judgement. Keeping both of those things in mind, I found “Building the Great Society” to be a thoroughly documented, well written synopsis of Lyndon Johnson’s inner sanctum, his dealings with Congress at the time and ultimately what became his legacy – The Great Society Legislation. Johnson was not a favorite president, he wasn’t even well liked at the time. He gets blamed, often, for the US involvement in Vietnam and, to an extent rightly so since it was during his tenure that the war escalated. However, this book is not about foreign policy and the Vietnam War gets very little coverage. This is about Johnson’s domestic policy for which he is not given nearly enough credit. It is important to remember that one of the most popular presidents had been assassinated, the world, including the US, was rushing head-long into a civil rights movement that was growing more violent by the day, and the Cold War had been escalated by both Eisenhower and the USSR. All of this was placed on Johnson’s shoulders with the death of Kennedy. Building the Great Society walks us through the various pieces of legislation that, quite literally, put a grieving country back together again and through its expansion into social programs helped, not only the poor, the African Americans, but introduced the first vestiges of rights for women. As hard as it is to imagine or remember, prior to the 1960s, women were not allowed to have their own bank accounts, own their own property without having a man – husband, father, uncle – SOME MALE – cosign with them. When we think of domestic policy in the 60s, the very basic human rights that we take for granted today, simply did not exist then. Sadly, far too many Americans assume those rights always have and always will exist for all. Clearly, they have not and will not. I never was a fan of Johnson when I was younger. It is only recently – visiting his library, reading books such as this one – that I have come to understand his, and his wife’s, contribution to America. Whether you like him or not, know nothing about his presidency or simply would like to know more, I highly recommend Building the Great Society. It is a thorough and unbiased look at the Johnson years. Much appreciation to the author, Joshua Zeitz, #Netgalley and #Penguin-Viking Press for my copy of this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. LBJ Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson's White House by Joshua Zeitz is the story of LBJ’s grand plan for the United States. Zeitz is the author of several books on American political and social history and has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Dissent, and American Heritage. Zeitz appeared as a commentator on two PBS documentaries – Boomer Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. LBJ Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson's White House by Joshua Zeitz is the story of LBJ’s grand plan for the United States.  Zeitz is the author of several books on American political and social history and has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Dissent, and American Heritage. Zeitz appeared as a commentator on two PBS documentaries – Boomer Century, and Ken Burns' Prohibition — and has commented on public policy matters on CNBC and CNN International. He has held faculty positions at Harvard, Cambridge, and Princeton and is the author of four books. Today, Johnson is probably more associated with the Vietnam War than with his Great Society.  Zeitz looks at the president and his staff along with the Great Society and Civil Rights programs without making Vietnam the central point of the presidency.  The war does come into the book near the end, but the primary discussion is not the war. LBJ was a Texan and it showed in some very stereotypical ways.  He was gruff and used his power and favors owed to gain what he wanted.  He was not above intimidating his staff and opponents.  In one example while swimming with one of his senior staff, Johnson stopped at the right spot where his feet firmly touched the bottom of the pool but the shorter staff member needed to tread water while Johnson poked at the staffer’s chest and berated him.  Johnson always took a position of power.  He also enjoyed panicking guests by driving his (amphibious) car into the lake on his ranch while yelling that the brakes went out.   Johnson could be a bully but he did have a soft spot.  He was a teacher in poor, primarily Mexican communities.  The racism and poverty had a deep effect on Johnson.  America was at its highest point of wealth and industry.  The vast richness of the United States should not be squandered.  All Americans should benefit.  Johnson spoke In a 1965 Speech at the signing of the Higher Education Act in San Marcos, TX: I shall never forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that little Welhausen Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain of realizing and knowing then that college was closed to practically every one of those children because they were too poor. And I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American. Johnson worked on many programs that would seem out of place for his public image. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a project that evaded Kennedy.  Johnson used all his power and influence to push through the Act.  It became the starting point for his Great Society Program which became the 1964 campaign slogan.  Johnson believed that the Civil Rights Act had cost him and the Democrats the South. Johnson did, in fact, lose the Deep South (and Arizona) to Goldwater but carried the rest of the country.  He had a mandate for his Great Society.  The Voting Rights Act was pushed through despite resistance from southern leaders. He appointed Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court and Robert C. Weaver became the first African-American to hold a cabinet position. Head Start, Food Stamps, National Endowment for the Arts and the Federal Work Study Program all saw their start under Johnson.   Medicare, Medicaid, and public broadcasting all saw growth under LBJ.  Johnson’s Great Society did not come easily. Congress became conscious of costs, especially with the growing spending on Vietnam, and racial issues in southern states.  In the north civil rights was support in word but not always deed.  People would pay lip service to civil rights but resist desegregation of schools.  Much like the words of  Shakespeare’s Mark Antony, Johnson too seemed to have experienced "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”  Vietnam overshadowed the good Johnson accomplished.  He felt the unfairness and once remarked: If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: "President Can't Swim.". Zeitz gives the reader an inside look at the Johnson presidency.  His staff members and inner workings of the presidential policies are examined in detail.  Original source material and first-hand accounts as reference material make this book an excellent account of LBJ’s years as president.  Also, moving Vietnam to the backburner allows the read to see the “good” Johnson intended to accomplish with his presidency.  Personally, Johnson was far from perfect; professionally, too, he believed the ends sometimes justified the means.  An important work on the man who shaped modern liberal policy and improved the lives of many Americans.   Available January 30, 2018

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I was in Seventh grade in the spring of 1964 when I was asked who I was voting for in the mock election. I asked who was running. "Well," I was told, "there's Barry Goldwater who wants war and may use the Atom bomb, and there's LBJ who wants to end poverty." I voted for LBJ, enchanted by his Great Society idealism. I have been fascinated by President Johnson for years and have read multiple biographies him. My political awareness was formed under his presidency. I was a junior in high school when I was in Seventh grade in the spring of 1964 when I was asked who I was voting for in the mock election. I asked who was running. "Well," I was told, "there's Barry Goldwater who wants war and may use the Atom bomb, and there's LBJ who wants to end poverty."  I voted for LBJ, enchanted by his Great Society idealism. I have been fascinated by President Johnson for years and have read multiple biographies him. My political awareness was formed under his presidency. I was a junior in high school when President Johnson gave his speech that ended announcing he would not seek reelection. Building the Great Society by Joshua Zeitz is exactly the kind of book I enjoy, one that puts my personal memories into historical perspective, fleshed out with historical insight that I lacked at the time. I also appreciated learning how the programs impacted lives and the motivation behind their critics' desire to dismantle them. ***** In 1963 America was at a pinnacle of economic boom, with the rise of the Middle Class and a huge increase in the Gross National Product. It was a time of fast food restaurants and power steering, electricity in every home powering refrigerators and televisions and stereos. My family had just moved to Metro Detroit, Dad seeking employment in the auto industry. Getting that job gave my family economic stability and badly needed health care. At the same time millions of Americans were left behind in poverty, including populations in Appalachia and rural America. One-fifth of the population lived at or below the poverty line of $3,000 for a family of four. The majority of the impoverished were Caucasian, but a higher percentage of African Americans were impoverished--40%. And female headed households were 50% impoverished. After assuming the presidency following the assassination of President Kennedy, President Johnson identified himself as a "Roosevelt New Dealer" who found Kennedy "a little too conservative." But his history of voting with the Dixiecrats against legislation addressing African American equality left many doubtful. Zeitz paints a picture of Liberals' belief in the sustainability of the Great Society programs, writing that "the idea that the economy might someday stop growing rarely factored seriously into liberal thinking." Government's impact in solving social ills was not a new idea. The New Deal Programs envisioned by President Johnson were rooted in the New Deal public works programs of President Roosevelt. "The War on Poverty" was an term first used by President Kennedy in a 1960 campaign speech. "The Great Society" was the title of a book by Walter Lippmann. President Johnson used the term "Great Society" in a speech at the University of Michigan in May, 1964, drafted by Richard Goodwin.  According to Charles Roberts, Bill Moyers was the "Presidents' good angel, representing his conscience when there's a conflict between conscience and expediency."  The Great Society programs were not instituted predominately for urban African Americans; that stereotype came later, from Republicans who were hostile to the programs. Zeitz follows Johnson's presidency and the events of the time: the impact and legacy of the Great Society programs; the Viet Nam War siphoning money and energy away; Robert Kennedy's candidacy and assassination; riots and civil unrest at home; the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.; George Wallace and his platform of rage and hate (that gave my little brother nightmares!); and Nixon's secret campaign to sabotage Johnson's peace talks. Nixon did not dismantle all the programs; many continued to thrive while other did not. It was a time of environmental awareness, and Nixon established the EPA and NOAA and addressed clean air and water issues. The economic theories of the early 60s did not pan out. Poverty is still with us. But the Great Society programs have impacted society for the better, especially in areas of equality, access to food and health care. Zeitz warns that the Trump administration dismantling the Great Society programs may cause a backfire: "When the pendulum swings back, it may swing hard," with a more radical approach. More than 'just' a history lesson, this book also informed me about the changing attitudes and policies concerning social issues and especially how we got to 'here', a time when Republican leaders are determined to dismantle the Great Society legacy.  I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Randal White

    Interesting, however, not earth shattering. I much preferred Robert Caro's biography of LBJ. There just is not a lot of new ground covered here.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jim Cullison

    The best antidote to excessive anxiety about current events is immersion in American history, and with this fascinating book on the Great Society's construction crew, Joshua Zeitz provides a most sturdy prescription for headline-related despair and dismay. In his meticulously detailed and always absorbing history of LBJ's White House, Zeitz focuses on the hitherto overlooked Dream Team that made the Great Society happen: LBJ's staff. The authentically visionary (if behaviorally vile) colossus The best antidote to excessive anxiety about current events is immersion in American history, and with this fascinating book on the Great Society's construction crew, Joshua Zeitz provides a most sturdy prescription for headline-related despair and dismay. In his meticulously detailed and always absorbing history of LBJ's White House, Zeitz focuses on the hitherto overlooked Dream Team that made the Great Society happen: LBJ's staff. The authentically visionary (if behaviorally vile) colossus that was Lyndon Baines Johnson is often relegated to the periphery of Zeitz' narrative, allowing the reader to learn about Bill Moyers, Larry O'Brien, Harry McPherson, Joe Califano, and other highly talented and tenacious young men who toiled tirelessly on behalf of some truly remarkable and enduring social achievements. Zeitz has performed an outstanding historical service by furnishing this riveting account of momentous times and monumental achievements in American governance. A very great read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Armen

    There are few Presidents who have changed the way that Americans live. In the past 50 years, there is Nixon (the Environmental Protection Agency), Reagan (the rise of right-wing rhetoric), Bush II (the War on Terror) and far more than any of these - Lyndon Baines Johnson. Here is a short list of the major legislation that was passed during his brief time as President (Nov. 1963 to Jan 1969): 1963 1. College Facilities 2. Clean Air 3. Vocational Education 4. Indian Vocational Training 5. Manpower There are few Presidents who have changed the way that Americans live. In the past 50 years, there is Nixon (the Environmental Protection Agency), Reagan (the rise of right-wing rhetoric), Bush II (the War on Terror) and far more than any of these - Lyndon Baines Johnson. Here is a short list of the major legislation that was passed during his brief time as President (Nov. 1963 to Jan 1969): 1963 1. College Facilities 2. Clean Air 3. Vocational Education 4. Indian Vocational Training 5. Manpower Training 1964 1. Inter-American Development Bank 2. Kennedy Cultural Center 3. Tax Reduction 4. Farm Program 5. Pesticide Controls 6. International Development Association 7. Civil Rights Act of 1964 8. Water Resources Research 9. War on Poverty 10. Criminal Justice 11. Truth-in-Securities 12. Food Stamps 13. Housing Act 14. Wilderness Areas 15. Nurse Training 16. Library Services 1965 1. Medicare 2. Medicaid 3. Elementary and Secondary Education 4. Higher Education 5. Bilingual Education 6. Department of Housing and Urban Development 7. Housing Act 8. Voting Rights 9. Immigration Reform Law 10. Older Americans 11. Heart, Cancer, Stroke Program 12. Law Enforcement Assistance 13. Drug Controls 14. Mental Health Facilities 15. Health Professions 16. Medical Libraries 17. Vocational Rehabilitation 18. Anti-Poverty Program 19. Arts and Humanities Foundation 20. Aid to Appalachia 21. Highway Beauty 22. Clean Air 23. Water Pollution Control 24. High Speed Transit 25. Manpower Training 26. Child Health 27. Community Health Services 28. Water Resources Council 29. Water Desalting 30. Juvenile Delinquency Control 31. Arms Control 32. Affirmative Action 1966 1. Child Nutrition 2. Department of Transportation 3. Truth in Packaging 4. Model Cities 5. Rent Supplements 6. Teachers Corps 7. Asian Development Bank 8. Clean Rivers 9. Food for Freedom 10. Child Safety 11. Narcotics Rehabilitation 12. Traffic Safety 13. Highway Safety 14. Mine Safety 15. International Education 16. Bail Reform 17. Auto Safety 18. Tire Safety 19. New GI Bill 20. Minimum Wage Increase 21. Urban Mass Transit 22. Civil Procedure Reform 23. Fish-Wildlife Preservation 24. Water for Peace 25. Anti-Inflation Program 26. Scientific Knowledge Exchange 27. Protection for Savings 28. Freedom of Information 29. Hirshhorn Museum 1967 1. Education Professions 2. Education Act 3. Air Pollution Control 4. Partnership for Health 5. Social Security Increases 6. Age Discrimination 7. Wholesome Meat 8. Flammable Fabrics 9. Urban Research 10. Public Broadcasting 11. Outer Space Treaty 12. Modern D.C. Government 13. Federal Judicial Center 14. Deaf-Blind Center 15. College Work Study 16. Summer Youth Programs 17. Food Stamps 18. Urban Fellowships 19. Safety at Sea Treaty 20. Narcotics Treaty 21. Anti-Racketeering 22. Product Safety Commission 23. Inter-American Bank 1968 1. Fair Housing 2. Indian Bill of Rights 3. Safe Streets 4. Wholesome Poultry 5. Commodity Exchange Rules 6. School Breakfasts 7. Truth-in-Lending 8. Aircraft Noise Abatement 9. New Narcotics Bureau 10. Gas Pipeline Safety 11. Fire Safety 12. Sea Grant Colleges 13. Tax Surcharge 14. Housing Act 15. International Monetary Reform 16. Fair Federal Juries 17. Juvenile Delinquency Prevention 18. Guaranteed Student Loans 19. Health Manpower 20. Gun Controls 21. Aid-to-Handicapped Children 22. Heart, Cancer and Stroke Programs 23. Hazardous Radiation Protection 24. Scenic Rivers 25. Scenic Trails 26. National Water Commission 27. Vocational Education 28. Dangerous Drug Control 29. Military Justice Code 30. Tax Surcharge It is an overwhelming record of legislation that changed America forever and for better. When advisers cautioned him that he was going to be hurt politically because of his stand on racial prejudice, he responded, "what the hell is the Presidency for if you can't do what is right." Yes, LBJ had his faults, but all politicians have those faults - the need for attention, to be loved, to wield power.. But there is no politician that can match his achievement. Of course, he was wrong on Vietnam, but he knew that. Just listen to the tapes of his private conversations and you will hear a man who knows that the war in Vietnam was going nowhere, was wasting billions of dollars and costing tens of thousands of lives for nothing - for less than nothing. So why did he keep it up? That is a question that would take a book to answer - a book about the America that had created the lie of monolithic communism and then came to believe its own lie. So, read Joshua Zeitz' Building the Great Society and see what a real President looks and sounds like. See how a real President deals with injustice and prejudice. Listen to the great words that inspire and speak to our better angels and hopes and not our worse fears and phobias. Listen to Lyndon Baines Johnson, our greatest modern President.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Dee

    A fascinating look into the LBJ White House, Joshua Zeitz takes a close look at the personalities and policies that shaped Johnson’s Presidency. Many of these men (and they are almost all men) are familiar figures to those of us who were sentient during the Johnson administration, but the interplay of their personalities and particularly their relationships with the president are detailed and human. Although Zeitz treats the passage of the Civil Rights Bill in detail, he doesn’t shed any new A fascinating look into the LBJ White House, Joshua Zeitz takes a close look at the personalities and policies that shaped Johnson’s Presidency. Many of these men (and they are almost all men) are familiar figures to those of us who were sentient during the Johnson administration, but the interplay of their personalities and particularly their relationships with the president are detailed and human. Although Zeitz treats the passage of the Civil Rights Bill in detail, he doesn’t shed any new light on the transformation of LBJ from a typical southerner to an advocate of civil rights… a transformation that I still find baffling and fascinating. Although much doubt can be cast on the means that the Johnson administration employed to end segregation and poverty and, there is no question in my mind that their aim was true, and the Democratic party is still struggling to understand and implement their goals. The highly poliitically disruptive tactics of Johnson’s team and the high costs and tenacity of the Vietnam war led to its ultimate downfall, but along the way they raised a generation of political activists equal to the founders. The lessons of the Great Society are still with us. The deep class/racial resentment that fueled Wallace’s political campaign flared to hideous rebirth in 2016. History being the best teacher might have led to Trump being taken seriously, as was Goldwater. Zeitz spends some time at the end of the book discussing the parallels between the Nixon administration and the Trump administration, both follow-ons to deeply liberal presidencies, but the view is understandably foreshortened.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    This is an informative book about the monumental social revolution President Lyndon Johnson initiated with his Great Society programs. Author Joshua Zeitz brings the White House cabinet to life regarding the historical reasoning and the implementation of signature programs such as Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act. These programs all had opposition going through Congress and implementation in various states that vividly painted both de facto and de This is an informative book about the monumental social revolution President Lyndon Johnson initiated with his Great Society programs. Author Joshua Zeitz brings the White House cabinet to life regarding the historical reasoning and the implementation of signature programs such as Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act. These programs all had opposition going through Congress and implementation in various states that vividly painted both de facto and de jure segregation in the mid 1960s. None of this was implemented without Southern political backlash and this book illustrates resistance Southern states initially had regarding equal treatment under Medicare/Medicaid to name one example. The drawback to this book is the process of implementing legislation often is mundane and individual cabinet members did not necessarily stand out due to my lack of familiarity with many individuals that served LBJ. The Vietnam War is mentioned but namely as a backdrop to how it stalled Great Society programs and how the nation would be in a state of political/social revolt in 1968. The afterward to this book was quite strong and it summarized Johnson's domestic achievements fifty years later. It also compared the inter-agency and bureaucratic workings Johnson utilized to achieve his public policies. Zeitz compared it to the present-day approach of how President Trump implements policy which showcases awareness of the current events, a contrast of Presidencies, and the relevance Lyndon Johnson's programs have in the present.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    A very insightful and balanced look at the great society and LBJ's presidency

  10. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    Lyndon Johnson is either the best president or the worst. His efforts on Civil Rights and The Great Society were politically risky and I'm convinced he accomplished more than Kennedy would have. But Vietnam... Joshua Zeitz leaves that dilemma to the reader as he explores the inner workings and the personalities all around Johnson inside the White House. It's a revealing picture of what happened during the transition, then the in house debates over Civil Rights and Medicare and sneaking up from Lyndon Johnson is either the best president or the worst. His efforts on Civil Rights and The Great Society were politically risky and I'm convinced he accomplished more than Kennedy would have. But Vietnam... Joshua Zeitz leaves that dilemma to the reader as he explores the inner workings and the personalities all around Johnson inside the White House. It's a revealing picture of what happened during the transition, then the in house debates over Civil Rights and Medicare and sneaking up from the shadows, Vietnam. For my money the most surprising profile was of Bill Moyers, who was a young aide who was rather serious and pious (he had been a preacher), but turned out to have a ruthless side when it came to handling the press and even the White House staff. Building the Great Society is my appetizer before I tackle Robert Caro's multi volume biography of LBJ. (Thanks to Penguin/Viking and NetGalley for a digital review copy.)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matt Hooper

    "When [Joe] Califano caved on several of [John, a GOP adversary] McClellan's key demands, LBJ rose from his chair and fixed his intense stare on the young aide. 'Open your fly,' he instructed. Califano laughed obligingly, 'knowing he wasn't serious but surprised nonetheless.' 'Unzip your fly,' the president repeated, 'because there's nothing in there. John McClellan just cut it off with a razor so sharp you didn't even notice it.' The president proceeded to reach the errant senator by telephone. "When [Joe] Califano caved on several of [John, a GOP adversary] McClellan's key demands, LBJ rose from his chair and fixed his intense stare on the young aide. 'Open your fly,' he instructed. Califano laughed obligingly, 'knowing he wasn't serious but surprised nonetheless.' 'Unzip your fly,' the president repeated, 'because there's nothing in there. John McClellan just cut it off with a razor so sharp you didn't even notice it.' The president proceeded to reach the errant senator by telephone. 'John,' he began, 'I'm calling about Joe Califano. You cut his pecker off and put it in your desk drawer. Now I'm sending him back up there to get it from you.'" -- page 280, "Building The Great Society" I've read more about Lyndon Baines Johnson than any other human being living or dead. Which, for many, begs the question: Why? Read that excerpt above and answer this question in return: Why not? Was ever there a more entertaining, more humane, more flawed, more complicated, more politically-savvy man behind the big desk in the Oval Office than LBJ? No. Period. So I have and will continue to read every Johnson tome I can acquire, from Robert Caro, to Robert Dallek, to Doris Kearns Goodwin, to Merle Miller, to Bill Manchester, to Betty Caroli. No one had to twist my arm -- I was not going to skip Joshua Zeitz's new book, "Building The Great Society -- Inside Lyndon Johnson's White House." And I'm glad I didn't skip it, as it is a very fine book, indeed. Zeitz chronicles not just the LBJ presidency (which is infinitely interesting in it's own right), but also the lives of his coterie of White House aides. People like Jack Valenti, Horace Busby, Bill Moyers, the aforementioned Joe Califano and Harry McPherson; the men who largely assembled the 36th president's sweeping legislative agenda. The story of how these varied and occasionally bombastic personalities managed to coalesce into perhaps the highest-functioning staff in White House history is quite a page-turner. With Robert Caro's long-awaited fifth and final volume (chronicling the bulk of the Johnson presidency, as well as his retirement and death) still to-be-completed, Zeitz's timely book does more than whet the appetites of LBJ fanboys. It is well-researched and well-written enough to stand on its own as a strong analysis of this complicated period in American history. Other than Caro and Robert Dallek, no one has done a better job than Zeitz of capturing the warring personalities not just within LBJ's White House, but within LBJ himself. Readers ride the roller coaster of moods for which former president was famous -- and they become acquainted with his predilection for strange work hours, nonstop phone calls and, often, his surplus of comfort with his own body (the anecdote of a Johnson aide being ask to identify a possible boil on the commander-in-chief's backside is worth the price of the book alone. Spoiler alert: it was a boil.) Crassness and Vietnam War mismanagement aside, who has ever done more good for more Americans in such a short time than Lyndon Baines Johnson? Head Start. Medicaid. Medicare. Civil Rights Bills 1 and 2. Voting Rights Act. The Food Stamp Act. Volunteers in Service to America. Model Cities. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Higher Education Act. Teacher Corps. National Endowment for the Arts. National Endowment for the Humanities. The Public Broadcasting Act. The Federal Transit Administration. The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act. The Truth-in-Lending Act. The administration of Lyndon Johnson fundamentally changed America, largely for the better. Millions were lifted out of poverty -- just as LBJ had set out to do. Not every piece of legislation worked as intended, but most worked well enough. Most are still the law of the land. This book tells the story of how that legislation came to be, pure and simple. Zeitz chronicles the legislative bargaining and pressuring, the administrative headaches, the triumph of government bureaucracy (it happens, occasionally), the noble goals and both the met and unmet expectations of The Great Society's programs. Zietz doesn't get bogged down in Vietnam -- something that would have greatly benefitted his subject. "That bitch of a war," as Johnson famously described it, sucked the oxygen and the funding out of many of LBJ's landmark domestic programs. And, well, good for Zeitz. There are plenty of great books on the war in Vietnam, but very few books focused almost exclusively on The Great Society. The author stays in his lane and true to his mission. It's the corollary to every discussion about the Johnson administration -- what more could he have accomplished if not for the war? Can Johnson really be considered a great president in spite of his atrocious handling of that conflict? Who can say? What we can say is that Johnson almost single-handedly stitched together a robust safety net for the country's most vulnerable citizens -- guaranteeing civil rights and desegregation, food and housing access, seat belts and public radio, and healthcare for both the aged and the poor. To some, he introduced an invasive species of socialism into our famously individualistic democracy. To others, he didn't go nearly far enough in his effort to engineer social change. Controversial leaders, particularly those who sacrifice their own power and political capital in pursuit of a stretch goal, are often pilloried in this way -- taking fire from all sides. (My guess is that Martin Luther King, Jr., felt similarly.) Zeitz doesn't sugar-coat Johnson's failings, his crassness, his vanity, his maniacal management style or his occasional poor decision-making. He does argue -- effectively, I might add -- that LBJ changed America for the good and did so with the best of intentions. His relentless pursuit of legislative victories was less to suit his own substantial ego, but truly to benefit Americans who bore the weight of an unjust, unfair and unequal society.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Steven Meyers

    President Johnson once said, “You might say that Lyndon Johnson is a cross between a Baptist preacher and a cowboy.” That he was. While I’ve patiently waited decades for the esteemed Robert Caro to finish his five-volume biography on our 36th president I have read a few smaller works about President Johnson. Mr. Zeitz’s ‘Building the Great Society’ is a wonderful fair assessment, especially if the reader has no desire to tackle Mr. Caro’s well over 3,000-page biography. President Johnson and his President Johnson once said, “You might say that Lyndon Johnson is a cross between a Baptist preacher and a cowboy.” That he was. While I’ve patiently waited decades for the esteemed Robert Caro to finish his five-volume biography on our 36th president I have read a few smaller works about President Johnson. Mr. Zeitz’s ‘Building the Great Society’ is a wonderful fair assessment, especially if the reader has no desire to tackle Mr. Caro’s well over 3,000-page biography. President Johnson and his tenure are fascinating complex subjects. The book gives you many examples of how presidential administrations work in our post-World-War-II world. It also shows how our country’s can-do mindset formed after emerging as the most vibrant democracy from the detritus of Hitler’s and Stalin’s horrific foolishness. Mr. Zeitz focuses on the key players in his administration who helped President Johnson implement the Great Society. No one person does it alone, but the president calls the plays and sifts through the various options. Love him or hate him, President Johnson was a political savant who got much of his plan implemented before Vietnam and racism took hold. He also knew how to choose effective administrators in the pursuit of a more just society. ‘Building the Great Society’ also describes the various internal clashes between staff members. Washington D.C. is a hotbed of power and egos. No organization in that town is immune from individuals’ selfish desires. It sometimes seems amazing to think anything gets done in a democracy. The book is broken down into three sections. The first part explains the major staff members in his administration who carried out his orders, the second part runs down through their accomplishments, and the third section shows how Vietnam and racist blowback brought the Great Society initiatives to a halt. President Johnson made bold moves and hoped the nation would follow. We did up to a point but then had our fill of inclusion. The author’s book remains focused on the administration and mostly ignores their interactions with Congress to pass the multitude of life-changing legislation. The president’s accomplishments in such a short period of time are truly breathtaking. ‘Building the Great Society’ gives President Johnson his due. It also shows how the uncouth complex man played the game to advance his objectives, in my humble opinion, better than most presidents. There is never a dull moment in Mr. Zeitz’s work. It was published in 2018 and its conclusion gives the reader a very brief perspective on President Foghorn Leghorn Trump’s Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight as compared to President Johnson’s group of experts. I found the author’s insight to be fascinating and a little comforting. ‘Building the Great Society’ is entertaining as hell and great history. Finishing the book left me with an afterglow and an urge to cuddle with my wife.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Casey Wheeler

    I received a free Kindle copy of Building the Great Societyby Joshua Zeitzcourtesy of Net Galleyand Penguin Vikingthe publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my nonfiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages. I requested this book as I thave read a great deal about the Presidents of the United States. This is the second book by Joshua Zeitz that I have read I received a free Kindle copy of  Building the Great Society by Joshua Zeitz courtesy of Net Galley and Penguin Viking the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my nonfiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages. I requested this book as I thave read a great deal about the Presidents of the United States. This is the second book by Joshua Zeitz that I have read (Lincoln's Boys). This book is well written and an easy read. It covers LBJ's ascension to the Presidency, the development and implementation of "The Great Society" and its various programs (Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Medicare, Child Nutrition Programs, expansion of food stamps, etc.) and the downfall of his Presidency due to decisions revolving around the Vietnam War. It also covers his staff responsible for various parts of his goals - Bill Moyer, George Reedy, Joseph Califano and others. The book is more enjoyable and interesting if you have not read a great deal about the Johnson Presidency. Other works provide greater depth and insights (Robert Caro's series comes to mind), but still is a good refresher of all of the good things that happened during his terms which are often overlooked due to Vietnam.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Bales

    Zeitz's book explains in some detail the intricacies of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, the most ambitious attempt to restructure the government and aid society ever attempted since the New Deal. Johnson saw himself as the person to finish what Franklin Roosevelt started in the 1930s, and attracted some of the brightest minds in the country to help him do it. Great profiles of people like George Reedy, Bill Moyers, Joe Califano, Jack Valenti and others, (most of them Johnson men but some of them Zeitz's book explains in some detail the intricacies of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, the most ambitious attempt to restructure the government and aid society ever attempted since the New Deal. Johnson saw himself as the person to finish what Franklin Roosevelt started in the 1930s, and attracted some of the brightest minds in the country to help him do it. Great profiles of people like George Reedy, Bill Moyers, Joe Califano, Jack Valenti and others, (most of them Johnson men but some of them holdovers from the Kennedy years, like Larry O'Brien). LBJ sucked the life out of his staff, and although only being president for five years and two months it seemed much longer. John Kennedy said that "We do the hard things," and this continued in the Johnson Administration as LBJ tackled the problems of racial discord, poverty, environmental pollution, lack of access to education and others. As we know, the Vietnam War ultimately destroyed the Great Society, however, many of the programs live on in Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, public television and radio and Head Start. Johnson is a difficult president to fully quantify because when he was good, he was often great and when he was bad, (Vietnam) he was terrible. He's one of the presidents that should always, however, be remembered.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Roger Smitter

    Readers who like political histories will like this book. Those of us who became came of age in the 1960’s will remember AND learn something about our coming of age. Author Zeitz starts us with the events of November 22, 1963. The focus quickly changes into an analysis of how LBJ changed the White House and the country. There’s plenty in the book about the policies that LBJ launched. There were good ones—especially the opening of schools to minority students, the cash for students (like me) used Readers who like political histories will like this book. Those of us who became came of age in the 1960’s will remember AND learn something about our coming of age. Author Zeitz starts us with the events of November 22, 1963. The focus quickly changes into an analysis of how LBJ changed the White House and the country. There’s plenty in the book about the policies that LBJ launched. There were good ones—especially the opening of schools to minority students, the cash for students (like me) used to go to college. That program helped me finish college. But the power of the book is Zeitz’s ability to describe in detail who LBJ used staff members to shape his presidency and the policies. Of course the Vietnam War consistently shows up to to remind us the dark side of LBJ and his staff. In the final pages, Zeitz gives us a few predictions about Trump’s team. Readers who like history will like this book. Those who like 20th century history will enjoy it very much. On a personal note, the influence of my dissertation advisor caused me to pick up the book. Jack was a Texan who loved politics. He would have fully enjoyed this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jethro Jacqiumo

    I decided to read this book on the sole reason that a "War on Poverty" would be virtually unheard of in today's political climate. That and the fact the work that I am doing is heavily involved in with people that are benefiting greatly from many of the programs that were started under the Roosevelt Administration and expanded during the Johnson administration, and even further expanded during the Nixon administration. The author did a nice job of intertwining fun facts with actual information I decided to read this book on the sole reason that a "War on Poverty" would be virtually unheard of in today's political climate. That and the fact the work that I am doing is heavily involved in with people that are benefiting greatly from many of the programs that were started under the Roosevelt Administration and expanded during the Johnson administration, and even further expanded during the Nixon administration. The author did a nice job of intertwining fun facts with actual information (I apologize if those seem interchangeable, but bare with me). So much so that at one point I found myself thoroughly intrigued when reading about the changes Lady Bird made to the White House fengshui. I had a lot of respect for the book and the author, due to the fact that it seemed as neutral as you could get when writing a political book. Up until the conclusion when the author seemed to chime in on our current political climate which I did not care to much for. I didn't want to buy this book to read about the potential failures that the Trump administration could impose (at the time the book was finished Trump most likely had not taken office yet.)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robert S

    Building the Great Society comes at an opportune time as this year (2018) marks the 50th anniversary of LBJ's fall from the Presidency, one that rose to the greatest of heights with work including the "Great Society" before being marred by the Vietnam War. Joshua Zeitz has the unfortunate reality of living in the shadow of LBJ Biographer Robert Caro, like all individuals who decide to tackle one of the most fascinating Presidents to ever hold the highest office in the land. The book is not as Building the Great Society comes at an opportune time as this year (2018) marks the 50th anniversary of LBJ's fall from the Presidency, one that rose to the greatest of heights with work including the "Great Society" before being marred by the Vietnam War. Joshua Zeitz has the unfortunate reality of living in the shadow of LBJ Biographer Robert Caro, like all individuals who decide to tackle one of the most fascinating Presidents to ever hold the highest office in the land. The book is not as thorough or comprehensive as any Caro books but it doesn't need to be. Instead, it focuses on the individuals surrounding LBJ, the men who helped him implement the "Great Society". The book provides mini biographies of those individuals. My biggest fault with the book is that I would have enjoyed more information about the working relationships between people in the LBJ White House. I would have also enjoyed more information about how these individuals helped get legislation like Head Start passed or other important pieces of "Great Society" legislation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    This one caught my eye because I hadn't read anything flat out about any part of Johnson's time as President on purpose. He was discussed in books about other events or people from that era. I figured it was time I read about him on purpose. This focused pretty specifically on his Great Society plan, how he was able to push things through, his staff, and how things ended up working, particularly as Vietnam continued. There was so much than Johnson pushed through that I had no idea came from his This one caught my eye because I hadn't read anything flat out about any part of Johnson's time as President on purpose. He was discussed in books about other events or people from that era. I figured it was time I read about him on purpose. This focused pretty specifically on his Great Society plan, how he was able to push things through, his staff, and how things ended up working, particularly as Vietnam continued. There was so much than Johnson pushed through that I had no idea came from his administration. This wasn't a side of his time in office I had learned much about before. The book itself didn't sugar coat anything and I found the whole thing interesting, and it kept my attention the whole time.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Caitie

    What Lyndon Johnson tried to do during his presidency is still relevant today. Many of his Great Society programs are still in operation, such as Head Start (preschool for kids who are poor and/or in poverty) and Medicare (health care for elderly people). I say this book is still relevant because politicians still make the same (or very similar) arguments about why the United States shouldn't have national health insurance. That argument, which I find to be wrong, is that if everyone had health What Lyndon Johnson tried to do during his presidency is still relevant today. Many of his Great Society programs are still in operation, such as Head Start (preschool for kids who are poor and/or in poverty) and Medicare (health care for elderly people). I say this book is still relevant because politicians still make the same (or very similar) arguments about why the United States shouldn't have national health insurance. That argument, which I find to be wrong, is that if everyone had health care that we would become a "socialized nation." Anyway, what President Johnson managed to do, with the help of Congress--I know, imagine that!--is nothing short of amazing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hasan

    This is a good read that goes over the various Great Society programs that Lyndon Johnson worked to put into place throughout his presidency and how Vietnam became his biggest hurdle and eventually his kryptonite with the American people. If you've read any of the Robert Caro books on LBJ, this isn't that. Caro goes into excruciating and amazing detail about each of the important parts of LBJ's life. This book focuses on the Great Society and goes into detail great behind the purpose of some of This is a good read that goes over the various Great Society programs that Lyndon Johnson worked to put into place throughout his presidency and how Vietnam became his biggest hurdle and eventually his kryptonite with the American people. If you've read any of the Robert Caro books on LBJ, this isn't that. Caro goes into excruciating and amazing detail about each of the important parts of LBJ's life. This book focuses on the Great Society and goes into detail great behind the purpose of some of its more prominent programs. It largely stays away from LBJ's legislative wizardry to get these proposals through the Congress.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matt Holloway

    Johnson’s legislative accomplishments needed a fresh review. Everything about LBJ will be seen through the lens of Robert Caro. I’ve loved Caro’s books but he overstates Johnson’s political ambition, insecurity, and thirst for power. I think Caro is jaundiced by his personal experiences opposing Vietnam. Johnson was a magnificent domestic president and this book helps re-establish that fact.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bob Kuster

    The catch line of the book's title is Inside Lyndon Johnson's White House. I did not feel inside until the Viet Nam war was written about. I blame Robert Caro. He would get you inside the LBJ White House.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    Loved this book—especially the parts about Bill Moyers and his role in the Lyndon Johnson administration. We forget what that President accomplished—Civil Rights legislation, Head Start, Medicare. Not to discount his role in sinking us further into the horrific Vietnam War.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Loved it!! Honest and in-depth review of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and its background.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marshall

    Great behind the scenes book about the Johnson administration’s record of legislative accomplishment.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ray Stadt

    Excellent synopsis of the achievements of the administration and the ups and downs of passing the Great Society legislation. Strong introduction to the movers and shakers within the administration.

  27. 4 out of 5

    WM D.

    The book The great society was a good book. A must read for political junkies

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    Audiobook

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gus Fraley

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Petrzelka

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