Robert Caro | 2003 | 1,232 pages
Many know Robert Caro as the author of The Power Broker, a biography of New York planner/builder Robert Moses and one of the finest American political biographies ever written. Master of the Senate, Caro’s third installment of his Lyndon Johnson pentalogy, carries through the central theme in all of Caro’s writing: power and its uses. He is fascinated with the history of power and the men who thirst for and achieve it at the highest levels. It’s why he first trained his pen on Moses, probably the most powerful man in the history of New York and arguably the greatest builder America has ever seen. And, clearly, it’s why Caro chose Johnson as the single subject for every other book he’s ever published — the four Years installments. A fifth, the final installment, has been announced.
Master of the Senate tracks Johnson's astonishingly productive and hugely controversial 12-year Senate career, one in which he rose to become Majority Leader just after his 40th birthday (making him the youngest Majority Leader in American history by more than ten years) and transformed the office from a sleepy job nobody wanted into the second most powerful in the land. With a technician's tenacity and novelist's flair for storytelling, Caro tracks the years that Ladybird Johnson would later call 'our happiest,' including the titanic struggle with his own southern caucus for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 that set the stage for the history-altering civil rights acts of the 1960s that would come under his presidency.
Throughout, Caro is careful to chronicle Johnson's dark side — his deception, abuse of power and vanity — which he put to work to propel his career at critical moments. It is a fascinating look at what it takes to attain political power in America, and what power can do once it is attained.
For anyone interested in readable, engaging political biographies or analyses of power and its uses and abuses, start with The Path to Power, the first installment in Caro's Johnson biography, and keep reading.