Notes and Documents
Robert Caro and George Reedy on
Lyndon Johnson: An Essay Review*
LEWIs L. GOULD*
THE TROUBLE WITH LYNDON," A FRIEND OF THE PRESIDENT TOLD
Eric F. Goldman in the 1960s, "is that he is a sonofabitch. The
next worst trouble is that he is a great sonofabitch. He will probably do
more for the United States, destroying everybody around him, than
any other President." These two books about Lyndon Baines Johnson
agree on the first part of the friend's assessment. For Robert Caro it
provides an organizing principle around which he conducts an ex-
tended examination of "a hunger for power in its most naked
form. .. ." Caro came to the Johnson biography prepared to ad-
mire, and learned to hate.' His work pursues his subject with unre-
lenting zeal across three decades and nearly nine hundred pages.
George Reedy's slim memoir of his years in Johnson's service accepts
the rest of the generalization and offers interesting insights into why
his boss both succeeded and failed as a political leader. Reedy wrote
the book as a way of liberating himself from the memory of the an-
guish and pain of being Johnson's subordinate. Thus, both books are
to some extent exercises in expiation and therapy, and this fact limits
their usefulness for scholarship on Lyndon Johnson.
*The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power. By Robert A. Caro. (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1982. Pp. xxiii+ 883. Illustrations, maps, notes, index. $19.95.) Lyndon B.
Johnson: A Memoir. By George Reedy. (New York: Andrews and McMeel, 1982. Pp.
**Lewis L. Gould is professor of history and chairman of the department at the
University of Texas at Austin. He would like to thank Norman D. Brown, Robert A.
Divine, Sally H. Graham, John S. Latcham, and Craig H. Roell for assistance in the
preparation of this review essay.
1Eric F. Goldman, The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson (New York, 1969), 127 (1st quota-
tion); Robert A. Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power (New York,
1982), xix (2nd quotation). Caro discussed his initial regard for Johnson and his ulti-
mate disillusion in Dallas Times-Herald, Dec. 19, 1982; Minneapolis Star and Tribune,
Dec. 20o, 1982, and the Daily Texan (Austin), Jan. 26, 1983.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117150/. Accessed December 6, 2013.