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Master of the Senate

The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume III (Part 3 of a 3-Part Recording)
Written by: Robert A. Caro
Narrated by: Grover Gardner
Length: 20 hrs and 16 mins
5 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

 

Master of the Senate, audiobook three of the Years of Lyndon Johnson, carries Johnson’s story through one of its most remarkable periods: his 12 years, from 1949 to 1960, in the United States Senate. At the heart of the audiobook is its unprecedented revelation of how legislative power works in America, how the Senate works, and how Johnson, in his ascent to the presidency, mastered the Senate as no political leader before him had ever done. 

It was during these years that all Johnson’s experience - from his Texas Hill Country boyhood to his passionate representation in Congress of his hardscrabble constituents to his tireless construction of a political machine - came to fruition. Caro introduces the story with a dramatic account of the Senate itself: how Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun had made it the center of governmental energy, the forum in which the great issues of the country were thrashed out. And how, by the time Johnson arrived, it had dwindled into a body that merely responded to executive initiatives, all but impervious to the forces of change. 

Caro anatomizes the genius for political strategy and tactics by which, in an institution that had made the seniority system all-powerful for a century and more, Johnson became majority leader after only a single term - the youngest and greatest Senate leader in our history; how he manipulated the Senate’s hallowed rules and customs and the weaknesses and strengths of his colleagues to change the unchangeable Senate from a loose confederation of sovereign senators to a whirring legislative machine under his own iron-fisted control. 

Caro demonstrates how Johnson’s political genius enabled him to reconcile the unreconcilable: to retain the support of the Southerners who controlled the Senate while earning the trust - or at least the cooperation - of the liberals, led by Paul Douglas and Hubert Humphrey, without whom he could not achieve his goal of winning the presidency. He shows the dark side of Johnson’s ambition: how he proved his loyalty to the great oil barons who had financed his rise to power by ruthlessly destroying the career of the New Dealer who was in charge of regulating them, Federal Power Commission Chairman Leland Olds. And we watch him achieve the impossible: convincing Southerners that although he was firmly in their camp as the anointed successor to their leader, Richard Russell, it was essential that they allow him to make some progress toward civil rights. In a breathtaking tour de force, Caro details Johnson’s amazing triumph in maneuvering to passage the first civil rights legislation since 1875.   

Master of the Senate, told with an abundance of rich detail that could only have come from Caro’s peerless research, is both a galvanizing portrait of the man himself and a definitive and revelatory study of the workings and personal and legislative power.

©2002 Robert A. Caro, Inc. (P)2002 Books on Tape, Inc.

What the critics say

“A wonderful, a glorious tale.... It will be hard to equal this amazing book. It reads like a Trollope novel, but not even Trollope explored the ambitions and the gullibilities of men as deliciously as Robert Caro does. Even though I knew what the outcome of a particular episode would be, I followed Caro’s account of it with excitement. I went back over chapters to make sure I had not missed a word.... Caro’s description of how [Johnson passed the civil rights legislation] is masterly; I was there and followed the course of the legislation closely, but I did not know the half of it.” (Anthony Lewis, The New York Times Book Review

“A masterpiece.... Robert Caro has written one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age.” (Daniel Finkelstein, The Times, London)   

“Mesmerizing.... [It] brings LBJ blazing into the Senate.... A tale rife with drama and hypnotic in the telling. The historian’s equivalent of a Mahler symphony.” (Malcolm Jones, Newsweek)     

What members say

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Shouldn't be split into three

There is no reason why this book should be divided into three volumes. Cash grab.

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  • PS
  • 2016-08-03

WONDERFUL BOOK - BADLY PRESENTED BY AUDIBLE

Would you consider the audio edition of Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 3 to be better than the print version?

Not better, but it adds a certain dimension to hear it as well as being able to read it.

What did you like best about this story?

It isn't a story. It's a beautifully written biography.

Have you listened to any of Grover Gardner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I don't know. He does a very good job on this series.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

How the most powerful man in the world was brought down by his own failings.

Any additional comments?

It's bad enough that Audible charges you three times for one book. But even worse, it's impossible to tell from the tiny icons, which are all identical, which volume and which part show up on your mobile. Couldn't Audible at least have made the three volumes different colors, and put a big number on the front to tell us what part of what volume we were looking at?

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • 2017-11-03

Senior Senator from Texas Musters the Senate

The last 1/3 of Master of the Senate examines how, in the role of the Senate Majority leader, LBJ pushed through a reluctant Senate the Civil Rights Act of 1957. While this was a minor piece of civil rights legislation, it was a crack in the wall (much of that wall was built by Southern Senators) for civil rights. It also anticipated later actions and techniques LBJ would use to expand on civil rights. This section also explores the changing dynamic in the Senate and United States regarding civil rights (Brown v Board of Education) as well as the intense racism towards blacks that persisted in many areas of the South. This section also details LBJ's early toe-dipping into presidential politics (and his failures and lessons). It concludes by looking at how LBJ used information gathering (he was a master), pressure, and asymmetric information and deal-cutting, to shepherd through a watered down form of civil right's legislation, the first that had been passed since reconstruction (the Civil Rights Act of 1875). The book ends with LBJ moving from the presidency into the vice presidency and the awkward transition as he left behind the chamber that gave him power, prestige, and indeed happiness.

This section begins by setting out the state of civil rights in the 1950s, and explores LBJ's own compassion for the poor and repressed (often subverted to his own desire for power). It
Quick note - my two star review for performance has nothing to do with Grover Gardner's read. He did a fantastic job. I'm just pissed at Audible or the producers for dividing this book into 3 sections. Instead of one book that is 54 hrs and 50 minutes long, they divided it into three books (thus three credits). They did this with Michael Burlingame's Lincoln too (but to be fair Burlingame's Lincoln = 109 hrs and 9 minutes). They didn't do it for any of Caro's other LBJ books. They didn't do it with Caro's The Power Broker (66 hrs and 11 mins). I get it that they need to pay for a huge book to get recorded and produced. So? Charge me 2 credits, but breaking it into 18 and 16 hours segments to extract 3 credits seems obnoxious. It isn't as bad as what they originally did with Burlingame's Lincoln. I think that book was originally broken down into 12 (TWELVE!!!) audiobooks with some being only 4 hrs and 34 minutes. That's my only beef really with this book. Brilliant. Well-read. One of the best biographies EVER written.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark Wagner
  • 2015-12-14

Great book, great audio. Shouldn't be three purchases.

This book is amazing. And the reader does an excellent job. It's outrageous that Audible makes you pay for three separate downloads.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeffery
  • 2015-10-16

Consider the abridged version

I always choose unabridged versions. With The Master of the Senate, that could be too much of a good thing. I haven't listened to the abridged version, but...

The three volumes get into so much detail about Senate procedure and minor votes that a good abridgment would be preferable for all but the most detail-oriented listener.

Still, this is only a minor quibble with Caro's masterpiece. The story in Volume 3 of how Johnson finessed the passage of the symbolically ground-breaking (but toothless) Civil Rights Act of 1957 is unparalleled. A great biographer walks us through the subtle strategies of a political genius.

Note: The unabridged Master of the Senate has three volumes. The perspective listener can only tell this by carefully examining nearly illegible cover pictures. Audible should clarify this in the web site's text.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • No Google-able Name :p
  • 2019-01-04

overall rating it's all about production values

I have been fostering irritation since the beginning of this volume of the Years of Lyndon Johnson. audible or some other producer made the decision to sell this 3rd volume of Robert Caro's work in three parts, probably with the justification that it is a very large book. setting aside that there are many long books that exist with an audible for a single purchase price or credit, I bit the bullet because the work has been excellent so far. part 1 of this third volume was just fine. part 2 had five or so chapters repeated from the first part, and then several lines worth of narration from each previous chapter, sometimes a paragraph or two, repeating at the beginning of the next chapter. already, it was smelling like a pads job to make the volume to look justified.

now here in part 3, the third purchase that the publisher has wrong out of a single volume, they could not even bother to remove every instance of the narrator explaining that it is now time to flip or reverse my cassette, or to insert the cassette! 28 times or so, there was a lengthy interruption while this happened, because the tape probably ran out and even that modification was ignored. I can only presume that three separate interns were assigned each part of the volume, and each had their own level of incompetence. however, if we are going to be charged triple for a single volume, the least that could be done is to show the tiniest bit of care that the product is well produced.

Feel free to check my account history, I am not someone that flies off the handle at every little inconvenience. I certainly tried to put this out of my mind, but since I was reminded every 30 minutes or so of the issue it was sort of hard to ignore. given the place of this part in the overall work it is within, I can hardly recommend not purchasing it, watch you should absolutely be prepared to wear a mouthguard against the inevitable teeth grinding that you will suffer.

Nothing much else to say, if you've made it this far in the Years of Lyndon Johnson you're already sold on the author and the narrator, and their excellence continues. I am dictating while traveling, my apologies for any minor errors in grammar or punctuation.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim Hamilton
  • 2018-12-03

Audio file needs to be edited

We don’t need to be told every so often that this book continues on the other side, or on the next, cassette. Those lines can be edited from the audio file.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Joost Sneller
  • 2018-12-02

They tapes are too annoying

Great story again. But the announcement of - and waiting for - changjng sides and tapes is a bit too much of a blast of the past.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • George
  • 2008-08-15

Superb!

An immaculate and delightful political book! There simply is not a more detailed account of political success than Caro's masterpiece. I will add that the audio quality and narrator's voice are both excellent. I humbly recommend to all.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Zachary
  • 2015-09-21

A thrilling end to Johnson's career in the Senate.

Loved it. Well narrated. Encapsulates who the man really was and thoroughly explains the institution and those whom inhabited it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kelly
  • 2013-06-17

Best Political Biography I've Ever Read!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Man it's long, but when it was over, I felt like I was losing an old friend. Good thing Passage of Power was next in the queue. :)

Caro is brilliant. He does an excellent job of weaving in specific themes without being overbearing or redundant. As soon as I get another six months to commit to a book, I plan to dig into his book on Bob Moses.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful