The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995 Page: 298
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Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly
for social change with their authoritarian codes of speech and behavior
and with their celebration of their own scholarship as a form of political
advocacy. New Left accounts of the Vietnam War and the Cold War still
bristle with an indignation reminiscent of the student rallies of the
196os, even though the New Left has clearly reached middle age. Popu-
lar writers, not to be outdone by their academic counterparts in the
competition to condemn the past, have converted the art of biography
into another branch of tabloid journalism. Preoccupation with personal
scandal and reliance on dubious sources have taken precedence over
any serious discussion of the public achievements of the people being
studied. No one has been hurt more by this approach than another fix-
ture of the 196os-John F. Kennedy. In comparison to the battering of
Kennedy's historical reputation, Caro's attacks against Lyndon Johnson
appear almost genteel. While serious scholarship still survives and in
some areas flourishes, the once-revered standards of the historical pro-
fession-detachment, balance, respect for the integrity of the past; that
is, trying to understand the past on its own terms-are now the subject
of heated controversy.
Despite all of these conditions that have reshaped the study of the
past, a historian from UCLA has proven me wrong in my assessment of
the prospects for a fair-minded biography of Lyndon Johnson. At the
time of the publication of my article, Robert Dallek's book, Lone Star Ris-
ing: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, I9o8-z96o, appeared.2 With this first
installment of a projected two-volume study, Dallek examines Johnson's
life through his election to the vice-presidency in 1960. This book is an
old-fashioned biography. Dallek does not overlook Johnson's personal
shortcomings or his indulgence in political corruption, but the author's
main concern is explaining Johnson's success and failure as a political
leader. That public record is, after all, the most important reason for re-
membering Lyndon Johnson. Dallek also carefully reconstructs the
changing political environment in which Johnson operated from the
time of his arrival in Washington as a congressional aide in December
1931 through his service as Democratic majority leader in the Senate in
the 1950s. The reader comes to understand the issues that Johnson ad-
dressed, the political circumstances that encouraged and constrained
his actions, the range of choices available to him, and the ways in which
he maneuvered to reshape this political environment to suit his own
purposes. As the subtitle of the book indicates, Dallek is determined to
place Johnson in "His Times."
Robert Dallek, Lone Star Rzszng. LyndonJohnson and Hzs Times, z9o8-i96o (New York" Oxford
University Press, 1991).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995, periodical, 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/m1/336/: accessed May 27, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.