Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream
Doris Kearns Goodwin
This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.
An engrossing biography of President Lyndon Johnson from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Team of Rivals
Hailed by the New York Times as “the most penetrating, fascinating political biography I have ever read,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s extraordinary and insightful book draws from meticulous research in addition to the author’s time spent working at the White House from 1967 to 1969. After Lyndon Johnson’s term ended, Goodwin remained his confidante and assisted in the preparation of his memoir. In Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream she traces the 36th president’s life from childhood to his early days in politics, and from his leadership of the Senate to his presidency, analyzing his dramatic years in the White House, including both his historic domestic triumphs and his failures in Vietnam. Drawn from personal anecdotes and candid conversation with Johnson, Goodwin paints a rich and complicated portrait of one of our nation’s most compelling politicians.
Team of Rivals by Ms. Goodwin is one of the best history books I've ever read. The Bully Pulpit, also by Ms. Goodwin, was a disappointment.
But this "biography" of Lyndon Johnson is truly awful. I have the benefit of having read Robert Caro's biography of Johnson and therefore know many of the ways that Ms. Goodwin's version is simply wrong. For example, Johnson's election as head of the student body in college, and his election as the Speaker of the "Little Congress," were both the result of out-and-out cheating on Johnson's part. Indeed, Johnson cheated in almost every election in which he ever participated, and not by a little, by a lot. For a would-be biographer to miss his cheating is a big deal.
Ms. Goodwin spoke with Johnson extensively when he was old and she was a very young woman. Perhaps as a result, the book reads more like stenography than biography. I can imagine a young Ms. Goodwin believing that Johnson was really confiding in her. But if you know Johnson, you know that he wasn't confiding in her at all. He was giving his version of history and playing on her psychological weaknesses to make her believe him. Far too often, she takes his stories at face value when she should be taking them with a whole shaker of salt.
We are left with a sanitized, one-dimensional version of Johnson's life, one that bears only a faint resemblance to actual events.
Lyndon Johnson was a fascinating, great man. Ms. Goodwin does both her subject and her readers a great disservice with this book.