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Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes 1964-65

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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 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. Reaching for Glory allows us to live at Lyndon Johnson's side, day by day, through the dramatic, triumphant, and catastrophic year of a turbulent presidency that continues to affect us all.


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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 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. Reaching for Glory allows us to live at Lyndon Johnson's side, day by day, through the dramatic, triumphant, and catastrophic year of a turbulent presidency that continues to affect us all.

30 review for Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes 1964-65

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    This is the second of three volumes in which Michael Beschloss edited and transcribed LBJ's secret White House tapes. It covers 1964-65 and deals with domestic policy - Johnson's concerns about getting his Great Society agenda through Congress, his wariness of Bobby Kennedy and Kennedy's allies within his administration, conversations with politicians, MLK Jr. and the like, and with his advisers; and with foreign policy, almost entirely Vietnam (the war was slowly but surely ramping up) and a cr This is the second of three volumes in which Michael Beschloss edited and transcribed LBJ's secret White House tapes. It covers 1964-65 and deals with domestic policy - Johnson's concerns about getting his Great Society agenda through Congress, his wariness of Bobby Kennedy and Kennedy's allies within his administration, conversations with politicians, MLK Jr. and the like, and with his advisers; and with foreign policy, almost entirely Vietnam (the war was slowly but surely ramping up) and a crisis in the Dominican Republic. Beschloss's criteria for selecting a conversation to include was whether it added anything of historical importance to our knowledge of LBJ, or showed us an unseen facet of the president or those close to him. There's an entire chapter on the Walter Jenkins sex scandal. Jenkins was perhaps LBJ's closest aide, a Catholic, married with six children, and had been caught giving oral sex to a YMCA employee in a basement bathroom of the D.C. YMCA. It happened in 1964, and LBJ was terrified that it would affect his election prospects. It didn't; a privately conducted poll showed that most Americans didn't care. LBJ fussed and fretted on numerous phone conversations as Jenkins "convalesced" in a hospital, the public reason given as nervous exhaustion, before resigning. Jenkins' wife was furious and maintained it was completely out of character for her husband and that he had been entrapped, although it turned out he had a previous arrest for precisely the same thing, in precisely the same location. What was pleasant about the story was how LBJ vowed that when he got out of office he was going to give a big hug to Jenkins, and how Lady Bird felt terrible for the family and vowed to give Jenkins some kind of accounting position managing the Johnsons' personal accounts. And evangelist Billy Graham, presumably not knowing he was being recorded, was full of compassion: "You know, when Jesus dealt with people with moral problems, like dear Walter had - and I was telling Bill I wanted to send my love and sympathy to him...he always dealt tenderly. Always....I know the weaknesses of men, and the Bible says we're all sinners...and I just hope if you have any contact with him, you'll just give him my love and understanding." There's his touching friendship with former president Harry Truman, going back 30 years, and the two men's obvious fondness for each other. LBJ also respected Dwight Eisenhower, the former Republican president, and sought advice from him. Of course, there's the creepy command to the newly widowed Jackie Kennedy: "Give Caroline and John-John a hug for me....Tell them I'd like to be their daddy!" (Jackie's response: "I will.") But mostly I ended up liking Johnson more after reading these conversations. With the caveat that he knew he was being recorded, and had the option to leave any unflattering things unsaid or said before or after the recording button was pushed. Here he is wanting to give a job to Patricia Roberts Harris, a black law professor at Howard University: "Why don't we make her Ambassador to Luxembourg?....These women - I want to move them up. Women and Nigroes." [Beschloss varies the spelling between Negroes and Nigroes depending on Johnson's pronunciation.] Dean Rusk: "...If she were our deputy legal adviser, she'd do a lot more work and be more help to us than...as Ambassador to Luxembourg." LBJ: "Yes, but it wouldn't have the honor and the standing and the status and the glory that all the Nigroes want - and the women....I don't want to send her to Jamaica, but I want to send her to some Scandinavian country or Luxembourg, or something like that." (She did go to Luxembourg as America's first black woman Ambassador.) LBJ wanted to appoint African Americans to high positions in his administration. He called Thurgood Marshall (at that time an Appeals Court judge) and said, "I want you to be my Solicitor General." "Wow!" said Marshall. LBJ continued, "I want you to do it for two or three reasons. One, I want the top lawyer...representing me before the Supreme Court to be a Negro, and to be a damn good lawyer that's done it before...Number two, I think it will do a lot for our image abroad and at home...Number three, I want you to...be in the picture...I don't want to make any other commitments. I don't want to imply or bribe or mislead you, but I want you to have the training and experience of being there [at the Supreme Court] day after day.....I want to do this job that Lincoln started, and I want to do it the right way....I want to be the first President that really goes all the way." And of course LBJ did appoint Marshall to the Supreme Court a year after this conversation, in 1966, after Marshall had gained the Solicitor General experience. It's nice to see LBJ telling Marshall that he's doing this because he values Marshall's expertise, and for image reasons. Marshall would know this anyway, but the honesty is appealing. Finally, Beschloss includes some tapes LBJ had made in recording thoughts for his memoir. Here he is on JFK: "Kennedy was pathetic as a Congressman and as a Senator. He didn't know how to address the chair." [Speak on the Senate floor.] On Bobby Kennedy: "I thought I was dealing with a child. I never did understand Bobby. I never did understand how the press built him into the great figure that he was." As JFK's vice president, LBJ would sometimes get "elbowed out" by Bobby. "[JFK] asked me to do things, I'm sure, Bobby didn't approve...On civil rights, I recommended to the President that no savings and loan association...could continue if they did not make loans for open housing. Bobby called and said, "What are you trying to do? Defeat the President?" " On the Secret Service: "Not all the Secret Service are sharp. It's always worried me that they weren't. They are the most dedicated and among the most courageous men we've got. But they don't always match that in brains. But the problem is, you pay a man four or five hundred dollars a month and you get just what you pay for." (LBJ exempted his own agent, Rufus Youngblood, from this description; he found Youngblood tougher and more intelligent than the others. It was he who had prostrated himself over LBJ at the moment of JFK's assassination.) On bigots: "The greatest bigots in the world are the Democrats on the East Side of New York." Errata: in the cast of characters at the end of the book, Bill Moyers' birth year is given as 1919. Of course, it was 1934.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Neil Pierson

    Be careful what you wish for. You might get it. Lyndon Johnson wanted to become President of the United States. But he was never comfortable or happy once he got there. In retrospect, it's no surprise at all that he didn't run for a second term. As Senate Majority Leader, he was a master at moving legislation in a body where accountability was always shared by at least 49 others. But there's only one president at a time. Throughout his term, Johnson sought the comfort of numbers, but for presiden Be careful what you wish for. You might get it. Lyndon Johnson wanted to become President of the United States. But he was never comfortable or happy once he got there. In retrospect, it's no surprise at all that he didn't run for a second term. As Senate Majority Leader, he was a master at moving legislation in a body where accountability was always shared by at least 49 others. But there's only one president at a time. Throughout his term, Johnson sought the comfort of numbers, but for presidents, there is no such thing. He was a man of huge, unresolved and painful contradictions: Forceful to the point of brutality in getting his way, yet wounded by every word of criticism from any corner. A southerner through and through, yet sincerely and completely committed to the end of segregation and to civil rights. The list goes on and on. If you want to know how we got entangled in Vietnam, you don't have to read some 1200 page tome. Just listen to Johnson's tape recorded phone calls as he agonizes over every step deeper into the Big Muddy. He inherited the U.S. commitment to Vietnam, but he knew we would not win a war there. His choice was to either be the president who pursued a hopeless war, sending thousands of young Americans to die in Asia; or to be the president who broke U.S. treaties, retreated from aggression, and lost Indochina to the Communists. Faced with that choice, he relied on magical thinking, liberally laced with paranoia. He tried to convince himself and us that if we made things difficult enough for the North Vietnamese, they would stop meddling in the affairs of their southern neighbor. The trouble was, North Vietnam never saw the south as a "neighbor." It was all one country, and the meddlers were the U.S. It leaves you wondering what would have happened if he had taken the advice of one elderly senator during the merry-go-round of U.S. puppet governments in Saigon: Install a government that would ask us to go home. The first book of taped transcripts, Taking Charge, is also excellent.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    Reaching for Glory is Lyndon Johnson's taped telephone conversations during 1964 and 1965 -- momentous years that included Medicare and civil rights legislation, escalation of the war in Vietnam, the invasion of the Dominican Republic and much more. And this proved a lot more interesting that you might think. You really gain insight on Johnson's methods -- rhetorically, at least -- and how deeply committed he was to Medicare and the civil rights bills (even knowing he was alienating his own Sout Reaching for Glory is Lyndon Johnson's taped telephone conversations during 1964 and 1965 -- momentous years that included Medicare and civil rights legislation, escalation of the war in Vietnam, the invasion of the Dominican Republic and much more. And this proved a lot more interesting that you might think. You really gain insight on Johnson's methods -- rhetorically, at least -- and how deeply committed he was to Medicare and the civil rights bills (even knowing he was alienating his own Southern constituency) and how he agonized over Vietnam. He was terrified of going down in history as the president who lost a war -- or who lost the Dominican Republic to Castro. It's easy to forget now just how threatening communism was in the 1960s--and how little room for maneuver politicians had in foreign policy. Conversations about the Walter Jenkins scandal (top level presidential aide caught having sex with a man at the DC YMCA) are a reminder of how homosexuality was viewed in that era. Also revelatory was how obsequious and deferential Johnson's top advisers and cabinet secretaries were--clearly unwilling to disagree with the boss even when they knew better. I was among the anti-Johnson, anti-war throngs of the era and rejoiced when he declined to run for re-election in 1968 (we got Nixon instead!) but Reaching for Glory reminded me of the good that he did (Medicare, civil rights) and made me more sympathetic and understanding of his foreign policy decisions.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sgilbert

    I actually listened to this book and highly recommend to go that route. LBJ taped all of his conversations which were the major parts of the book, along with Lady Bird's dictated diary. He was quite the reluctant leader in many ways, but one who most definitely expected people to do whatever he said. And his treatment and view of women... not the greatest. He viewed himself as a big civil rights supporter but his choice of language and use of inappropriate words did not match his self-image. Now I actually listened to this book and highly recommend to go that route. LBJ taped all of his conversations which were the major parts of the book, along with Lady Bird's dictated diary. He was quite the reluctant leader in many ways, but one who most definitely expected people to do whatever he said. And his treatment and view of women... not the greatest. He viewed himself as a big civil rights supporter but his choice of language and use of inappropriate words did not match his self-image. Now I will have to listen to/read the other books in this series.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dave Gaston

    An awesome set of audio books. Beshloss does all the setup and color commentary between the actual taped recordings of President Johnson. Johnson had all his phones taped, the oval office, his private lines, the coffee table, the situation room. Beshloss screens the previously sealed archived collection and hand picks critical and sometimes comical sound-bites from throughout Johnson’s ruckus first presidency. It is just an astounding effort. We’ll never again have taped access to the intimate r An awesome set of audio books. Beshloss does all the setup and color commentary between the actual taped recordings of President Johnson. Johnson had all his phones taped, the oval office, his private lines, the coffee table, the situation room. Beshloss screens the previously sealed archived collection and hand picks critical and sometimes comical sound-bites from throughout Johnson’s ruckus first presidency. It is just an astounding effort. We’ll never again have taped access to the intimate running of the White House as we do in this collection (thanks to the Nixon Tape snafu). Lady Bird is there in full glory, Martin Luther King and the Southern black movement. Jacq, Jack and Ted Kennedy jockey for position in the wake of John’s death. Mac’s Vietnam is contemplated, launched and promptly mismanaged. The list goes on and on. It will change your vantage of Johnson to the positive. Powerful stuff.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tommy Kiedis

    Reaching For Glory by Michael Beschloss is "required reading" (listen to the audio version for an extra bonus as it includes LBJ's own voice) for those who want to better understand the enigmatic life that is Lyndon Johnson. Covering the years 1964-1965, Beschloss gives us the unvarnished and "uninterpreted" voice of Johnson, Lady Bird, and many of his associates. I especially appreciated the Editor's Note (some of Beschloss research methodology), the Cast of Characters (listing key players of t Reaching For Glory by Michael Beschloss is "required reading" (listen to the audio version for an extra bonus as it includes LBJ's own voice) for those who want to better understand the enigmatic life that is Lyndon Johnson. Covering the years 1964-1965, Beschloss gives us the unvarnished and "uninterpreted" voice of Johnson, Lady Bird, and many of his associates. I especially appreciated the Editor's Note (some of Beschloss research methodology), the Cast of Characters (listing key players of the time), and the Appendix (some of Johnon's "ramblings" from 1969 as he reflected on his time in the Oval Office. Unfortunately, the Audible version is abridged only so one who would follow both the written and audible versions will have their work cut out for them. That said, it was worth all the time to follow both, which I did.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    The author frames the tape excerpts with very little commentary, which I like because the reader can draw their own conclusions from LBJ's words. The LBJ I saw was an imprerfect, conflicted man with the office thrust upon him trying to find a way forward for civil rights and a way out of Vietnam but without the gifts to do either gracefully.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Barry

    Transcripts from the Johnson White House with commentary by the author. Good stuff for the history buff!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tom Morgan

    Interesting overall. Some of the transcripts were less than vital. Now that the internet has given everyone a voice and a huge megaphone to broadcast it, it's nice to hear the actual motivations behind how and why things are done at the highest levels. While I may not agree with the thinking or like the mores of the times it is compelling to read about.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Bingham

    This book contains transcripts of tapes recorded by Lyndon Johnson during the years 1964-1965. The subject matter is interesting enough, but presented with far more detail than I wanted to plow through.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    fascinating perspective of LBJ's years as president directly from his tapes

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kate Stephens

  13. 4 out of 5

    James

  14. 5 out of 5

    Debfagan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Jepson

  16. 5 out of 5

    Judy Campbell

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katrina Williams

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Henneberger

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steven Davis

  21. 5 out of 5

    JT

  22. 4 out of 5

    Vashre

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jason Altmire

  24. 4 out of 5

    E

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mmorgan

  26. 4 out of 5

    Janie Brown

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joe Votel

  28. 4 out of 5

    Billy Piper

  29. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Holste

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth jones

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