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The Barnes & Noble Review October 1997 As seen on "Nightline" and "Larry King Live," and excerpted extensively in Newsweek, the presidential tapes of Lyndon B. Johnson have been unsealed. They are examined in Michael R. Beschloss's Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964. The only president to record his private conversations from his first day in office, The Barnes & Noble Review October 1997 As seen on "Nightline" and "Larry King Live," and excerpted extensively in Newsweek, the presidential tapes of Lyndon B. Johnson have been unsealed. They are examined in Michael R. Beschloss's Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964. The only president to record his private conversations from his first day in office, LBJ ordered the tapes to be locked in a vault until at least the year 2023. But that request has been preempted and the tapes unsealed, providing a close-up look at a president taking power in a way we have never seen before, beginning with John F. Kennedy's murder in November 1963 and continuing through Johnson's campaign for a landslide victory. In Taking Charge, Beschloss, whom Newsweek has called "America's leading presidential historian," has transcribed and annotated the secretly recorded tapes, providing historical commentary that allows us to understand fully the people, crises, and controversies that appear on them. Significant events and revelations chronicled in Taking Charge include the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, including Johnson's conversations with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover about the killing. Although he publicly endorsed the Warren Commission's lone-gunman findings, LBJ privately suspected that President Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, probably backed by Fidel Castro. As early as the spring of 1964, while he prepared for possible military action in Southeast Asia, LBJ privately expressed doubts that the United States could ever win a land war in Vietnam. Johnson feared, after signing the Civil Rights Act, that blacks, inspired by Communists and the man he called "Muslim X" (Malcolm X), might riot and bring about a national white backlash against civil rights. The Johnson White House tapes provide us with an intimate look at Johnson's complex, changing relationships with Lady Bird and the rest of his family, Jacqueline Kennedy, ex-Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, and members of the White House staff. Taking Charge is not only a unique exploration of a momentous presidency but also a highly personal look at the private man who took office after an American tragedy and led the nation into some of its most tumultuous years.


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The Barnes & Noble Review October 1997 As seen on "Nightline" and "Larry King Live," and excerpted extensively in Newsweek, the presidential tapes of Lyndon B. Johnson have been unsealed. They are examined in Michael R. Beschloss's Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964. The only president to record his private conversations from his first day in office, The Barnes & Noble Review October 1997 As seen on "Nightline" and "Larry King Live," and excerpted extensively in Newsweek, the presidential tapes of Lyndon B. Johnson have been unsealed. They are examined in Michael R. Beschloss's Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964. The only president to record his private conversations from his first day in office, LBJ ordered the tapes to be locked in a vault until at least the year 2023. But that request has been preempted and the tapes unsealed, providing a close-up look at a president taking power in a way we have never seen before, beginning with John F. Kennedy's murder in November 1963 and continuing through Johnson's campaign for a landslide victory. In Taking Charge, Beschloss, whom Newsweek has called "America's leading presidential historian," has transcribed and annotated the secretly recorded tapes, providing historical commentary that allows us to understand fully the people, crises, and controversies that appear on them. Significant events and revelations chronicled in Taking Charge include the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, including Johnson's conversations with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover about the killing. Although he publicly endorsed the Warren Commission's lone-gunman findings, LBJ privately suspected that President Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, probably backed by Fidel Castro. As early as the spring of 1964, while he prepared for possible military action in Southeast Asia, LBJ privately expressed doubts that the United States could ever win a land war in Vietnam. Johnson feared, after signing the Civil Rights Act, that blacks, inspired by Communists and the man he called "Muslim X" (Malcolm X), might riot and bring about a national white backlash against civil rights. The Johnson White House tapes provide us with an intimate look at Johnson's complex, changing relationships with Lady Bird and the rest of his family, Jacqueline Kennedy, ex-Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, and members of the White House staff. Taking Charge is not only a unique exploration of a momentous presidency but also a highly personal look at the private man who took office after an American tragedy and led the nation into some of its most tumultuous years.

30 review for Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes 1963-64

  1. 5 out of 5

    Louise Yarnall

    Fascinating to see how LBJ operated at the outset of his presidency. He relied on J. Edgar Hoover to keep tabs on the civil rights leaders and Robert Kennedy. He worked closely with Georgia's Richard Russell, McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk, and many other close confidants to strategize the Great Society legislation and the Civil Rights Act, while struggling mightily to manage the well-connected Kennedy clan, who worked the media and their elite connections going back generations. Very interesting to Fascinating to see how LBJ operated at the outset of his presidency. He relied on J. Edgar Hoover to keep tabs on the civil rights leaders and Robert Kennedy. He worked closely with Georgia's Richard Russell, McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk, and many other close confidants to strategize the Great Society legislation and the Civil Rights Act, while struggling mightily to manage the well-connected Kennedy clan, who worked the media and their elite connections going back generations. Very interesting to see how everyone on both sides of the aisle thought Robert McNamara could do no wrong. McNamara had more self doubt. Just a fascinating read with terrific footnotes from Lady Bird's diary and memoirs of many other players.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Robert A. Smith

    Want to be a fly on the wall as a U.S. President talks on the phone to Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Robert McNamara, J. Edgar Hoover and other giants of the 1960s? Get the audio book of The Johnson White House Tapes and you'll have a dozen CDs of priceless conversations from that era. Listening to these, I came away with a much greater appreciation for LBJ, the Democratic Party's forgotten president. Johnson's phone calls prove he played a major role in the success of the Civil Rights Want to be a fly on the wall as a U.S. President talks on the phone to Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Robert McNamara, J. Edgar Hoover and other giants of the 1960s? Get the audio book of The Johnson White House Tapes and you'll have a dozen CDs of priceless conversations from that era. Listening to these, I came away with a much greater appreciation for LBJ, the Democratic Party's forgotten president. Johnson's phone calls prove he played a major role in the success of the Civil Rights movement. As a Southerner, he played both sides of the fence, engaging movement leaders like King, while mollifying Southern Democrats who dead set against equality for "Negroes." Eventually he passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a monumental achievement. Unfortunately at the same time he was being drawn deeper and deeper into the morass of Vietnam -- something you also hear about in conversations with his generals and defense secretary. Fascinating.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gill

    Actually I'm listening to this one in the audible.com version. For this book, that is actually better I think than text since hearing the real voices from the tapes adds a lot to the experience. One reason I like this book is that it makes it so clear how the historical record takes time to emerge and following current events in the news gives a very misleading and incomplete impression of what is happening. This should make us humble. We should think that we won't really know a lot of the facts Actually I'm listening to this one in the audible.com version. For this book, that is actually better I think than text since hearing the real voices from the tapes adds a lot to the experience. One reason I like this book is that it makes it so clear how the historical record takes time to emerge and following current events in the news gives a very misleading and incomplete impression of what is happening. This should make us humble. We should think that we won't really know a lot of the facts for decades and so we shouldn't be too dogmatic in our judgments. Most of us can't suspend judgment for five minutes, much less for 40 years. My second reason is to see, once again, how much the decisions that are made on world-historic events are done on the basis of misinformation and petty personal concerns. Montaigne wrote about it 450 years ago,but to actually listen to Johnson's fantasies and fears is sobering.

  4. 4 out of 5

    P.S. Winn

    After the nation goes through a tragedy like no other, Johnson took the Presidency and tried to hold on. This work examines not only the man but the relationships he has with those close to him. Good book to read and remember life in those days.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Russ Weimer

    Interesting if you like voyeristic reading.....

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Kwok

    A book that transcribes and provides commentary on the LBJ tapes in the time from his ascendancy until the 1964 election. This book allows the reader to get into the mind of LBJ and see how he cajoles, threatens and often gets his way. This books show a master politician at work. Highly recommended for fans of LBJ. This isn't a biography so there are other books for that such as Bob Caro's Passage of Power or Master of the Senate.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Phillip

    This is a book of audio transcripts...so it can only be SO exciting. That being said, I did learn a lot -- I had sort of known about the Bobby Baker scandal, but I had thought it had disappeared after Jack Kennedy died. Nope! LBJ was fighting that issue for years. I also found it interesting that LBJ almost decided not to run the week before the 1964 convention because he felt that the issue with the seating/challenging of the all-white Mississippi delegation just showed he was powerless. I also This is a book of audio transcripts...so it can only be SO exciting. That being said, I did learn a lot -- I had sort of known about the Bobby Baker scandal, but I had thought it had disappeared after Jack Kennedy died. Nope! LBJ was fighting that issue for years. I also found it interesting that LBJ almost decided not to run the week before the 1964 convention because he felt that the issue with the seating/challenging of the all-white Mississippi delegation just showed he was powerless. I also had the same eerie feeling with the Nixon tapes -- everyone just feels so amateur and often talking about mindless things. But I certainly got the feeling that LBJ used the phone ALOT -- he is constantly talking to his various staff/executive branch members, as well as members of Congress and other outside the government opinion shapers. I found it interesting how often he was speaking directly with newspaper columnists. LBJ's close relationship with Bob McNamara (who he would have REALLY wanted as his vice president, despite being a Republican), his battles (whether real or imagined) with Bob Kennedy, and the events of Vietnam are all interesting in this book.

  8. 4 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 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Lepard

    Any political or policy wonk should listen, not read, this book. I listened to it while traveling and found myself not wanting the book to be interrupted by stops for fuel. The author did a fantastic job of focusing on the select tracks that helped give the listener a good perspective of the critical and sometimes humerus events of Johnson's first term. I was enthralled by the discussion about his 1964 election. Listening to the audio version provides the listener the opportunity to feel like Any political or policy wonk should listen, not read, this book. I listened to it while traveling and found myself not wanting the book to be interrupted by stops for fuel. The author did a fantastic job of focusing on the select tracks that helped give the listener a good perspective of the critical and sometimes humerus events of Johnson's first term. I was enthralled by the discussion about his 1964 election. Listening to the audio version provides the listener the opportunity to feel like they're having the conversation with LBJ. I don't care which way ones personal politics swing, listening to the detailed thoughts of the leader of the country is a glimpse into the incredibly stressful and joyful aspects of the position. My only complaint is not having more depth. But, to get more would require much more time than one book should provide.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Louis Picone

    I was included to read this after hearing on a radio program that it was the best presidential book ever written. Its difficult to say its the best, but it definitely gives better insight into the day to day life of being president than any other boom I've read. Its fascinating hearing his candid conversations from the day he became president through August 1964 which includes the escelation in Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incudent, his tension with RFK, picking a VP, etc.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mel [profile closed]

    It was said that Johnson ran in fear of the Kennedys, and his White House tapes seem to prove it. He continued to pour troops into Vietnam because he was afraid that Robert and Teddy Kennedy would paint him as weak on the war.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Howard

    Actually I "read" the audiobook, which includes the recordings, while driving back and forth across the USA in my car between 1998 and 2004. The book is a collection of transcripts drawn from the recordings. Both versions include the editor's commentary.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Mustread

    Read this before going to the Johnson Library in Austin. Made me more sympathetic to Johnson, as I was definitely not a fan of his in the 60s!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    Fascinating to read the unvarnished and off-the-record conversations of some major players in the mid 1960s. Looking forward to reading the second volume, and also the third when it comes out.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike Stacey

    Felt like the tapes were spliced a little too much. Truly loved the audio though. Excited for 2020 when the rest of the LBJ tapes are released to the public

  16. 5 out of 5

    Reed

    Really well done.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Abdul

    Michael Beschloss did a really good job with this book. I listened to it and really got a feel for the rough and tumble of politics. Looking forward to part 2.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    I liked it but it just kind of stopped. Not a great way to end a book. It was like the author just got tired of it and said I'm done.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    I could not stop reading this.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Garner

  22. 5 out of 5

    Russell

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marc Cooper

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ed

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brad Wood

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brian Rothbart

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hilarie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Will

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mariah

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