I finally finished Robert Caro's 4th, and penultimate, volume on the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson. A quick recap here, and a more lengthy exposition once I've fully digested it.
The great problem with Caro, coming out of the blocks, is that it takes 10 years to produce a volume. So he has been at this for 45 years, 30 in print. But each volume is a treasure, to be awaited, abided.
Only I felt this volume sucked. It was virtually unreadable. Caro finally cast aside his gimlet eye, his historian's reach of arm, and so hagiographied John F. Kennedy I felt the regurgitation in my throat. It was all by way of setting the table, so to speak, for LBJ's brilliant run in the first 5 months of his presidency to pass those noble civil rights bills that JFK couldn't manage to attend to. So busy was he managing his pain. Caro neglected to mention the whores.
Worse, the writing, the lack of the historian's gimlet eye, made the tome insufferable. A small example: LBJ wanted to pass Kennedy's tax cut bill. Why? Because any civil rights bill would be locked up in committee if anything else was pending. The Southern strategy. Fair enough, and true. But Caro would have you believe every politician, on both sides of the aisle, knew a tax cut would spur growth. The liberals wanted the tax cut to spur tax revenues to spend on social programs, and the conservatives wanted to kill the tax cut because they knew it would increase revenues that would be spent on social programs.
Caro would have us believe everyone in Washington knew tax cuts led to growth and increased revenues, but conservatives wanted to block it so the extra money wouldn't be spent on Negroes.
So the entire Washington establishment was drinking from the Laffer Curve cup in 1963? Bullshit. JFK was fighting the liberals in both parties for that cut.
Caro was a young man out of college in 1963. A liberal's liberal, he still lives the life of those heady days, and drinks the warm tea of socialism. He's like an autistic savant who cannot help but piss himself even as he is extracting pi to the 24th decimal.
As I said, a quick thought on the book. There is certainly some greatness there, but not the wickedly delightful genius that gave us the first 3 volumes.
Caro even mentions Obama in a historical tract that ends in 1964, and, startlingly, mentions himself no less than 4 times in the book. The upside is I no longer have to wait in agony for his next volume. For I do not think I will care for it.