Reviews for Indomitable Will : LBJ in the Presidency

Booklist Reviews 2012 March #1
It is likely that Lyndon Johnson's legacy will always be stained by Vietnam. Yet, even those who found him personally insufferable admitted that he was a larger-than-life personality with great vision and boundless energy. Now, 39 years after his death, the dust has settled; Updegrove's valiant and interesting effort to reappraise the man and his presidency is both valuable and necessary. Updegrove is the director of the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, and despite that connection, this is no whitewash. Relying primarily on personal interviews, articles, and memoirs of those who knew and worked for or against Johnson, he shows Johnson in all of his contrasting modes. He could be modest and overbearing, polite and incredibly rude, forgiving and vengeful. Updegrove convincingly asserts that Johnson was unfairly resented by those who loved Kennedy, and Johnson himself resented that fact to the point of paranoia. He does not absolve Johnson of the "sins" of Vietnam, but Updegrove reminds us that Johnson's accomplishments in the areas of civil rights and social legislation demand a just consideration of his place in history. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2012 October
Updegrove, director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, presents an account of Johnson's presidency through the eyes of those who interacted with him: friends, family, staff members, and political supporters and opponents. Rather than a presidential biography, Updegrove seeks to present "a collection of impressions illuminating the totality of who [Johnson] was," while still touching on the major events of LBJ's presidency. The result is a balanced account that draws on the LBJ library's oral history collection, transcripts of Johnson's telephone conversations, memoirs, and books about the Johnson years. Updegrove provides context and transitions, but allows individuals to speak for themselves in quotations--usually brief paragraphs, but occasionally longer. Updegrove's witnesses echo Johnson biographers, who have stressed the president's complexities. Press secretary George Reedy claimed that "as a human being he was a miserable person ... a bully, sadist, lout, and egoist" who nonetheless inspired "strong attachments even with people who knew him for what he was." Texas Governor John Connally described him as "cruel and kind, generous and greedy, sensitive and insensitive, crafty and naive, ruthless and thoughtful." Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty. A. J. Dunar University of Alabama in Huntsville Copyright 2012 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 March #1
Hey, hey, LBJ: The former president, not much talked about these days, comes in for assessment by political colleagues and journalists of the day. Celebrated playwright Clare Boothe Luce once remarked that all presidents are known by a single sentence: Thus, Lincoln freed the slaves; Washington was the father of his country; Clinton--well, you get the idea. For Lyndon Johnson, as LBJ Presidential Library Museum director Updegrove (Baptism by Fire: Eight Presidents Who Took Office in Times of Crisis, 2009, etc.) writes, the sentence would necessarily involve Vietnam, an assessment that is not strictly fair, since Johnson inherited the war. However, as he put it, "I knew from the start that if I left the woman I love--the Great Society--in order to fight that bitch of a war, then I would lose everything." So he did, and in doing so he effectively repudiated his own record by not running for reelection in 1968. One bit of news in this newsworthy book is that Johnson plainly believed that he would have defeated Richard Nixon had he stood for office: "I believe I would have been nominated by that convention," he said near the end of his life, "and that I would have won over Nixon by a substantial margin." Instead, as Updegrove notes, the Democrats chose the bland Hubert Humphrey, who must have seemed a walk in the park after years of the mercurial Johnson, who was a blusterer and bully. However, notes staffer Myer Feldman, "I think Lyndon Johnson had great virtues and great vices, [and] depending on whether that particular day he was emphasizing the vices or the virtues, you liked or disliked him." Other news: Johnson didn't read books; by Dean Rusk's account, Johnson was closely involved in resolving the Cuban Missile Crisis, though Bobby Kennedy later froze him out of the historical record; and Barry Goldwater missed an opportunity by pretending the civil-rights movement didn't exist in the 1964 campaign. A readable, endlessly interesting look at the LBJ years. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 April #1

Few presidents, while in office, were both admired and loathed as much as Lyndon Johnson. Updegrove (director, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, Austin, TX; Baptism by Fire: Eight Presidents Who Took Office in Times of Crisis) brings together secondary sources, previously completed oral histories and interviews, and further interviews he conducted for this book to offer a mostly sympathetic portrayal of LBJ. While he focuses on Johnson's presidency, which soared with the passage of his Great Society legislation in 1964 and 1965 and fell in 1968 because of the Vietnam War and a country still torn apart by race, Updegrove also touches on Johnson's Texas childhood and his post-presidency, cut short by his death in 1973. Lively comments from the author's interviews of and correspondence with Johnson's daughters, close aides, and politicians, notably George McGovern and Walter Mondale, vividly recount Johnson's life and times. VERDICT Updegrove has not attempted a full-scale biography such as Robert Dallek's Lone Star Rising and Flawed Giant or Robert Caro's unfinished multi-volume LBJ biography. General readers wanting an introductory overview filled with anecdotes and reminiscences will like this, as may some scholars, but the latter will chiefly want Robert Caro's next volume: The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (May), covering LBJ from 1960 to 1964.--Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA

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