Caro has written extensively about LBJ, and all of it is in what I think of as my historical blind spot — that awkward period that was too recent to covered in high school history, but still before I was born. I learned more about Renaissance Italy than about the presidential assassination that shaped the political scene of my childhood.
But I gather that even for those who lived that day, this is fresh perspective. The Week has a nice summary of five revelations from the excerpt, including that LBJ thought his career was over. I guess so much attention goes to the charismatic, martyred president that not much thought gets spared for the guy who took his place.
Caro’s real-time recounting of events is realistically disorienting. Of that day in 1963 in Dallas, a Secret Service agent said, “We didn’t really know what was happening.” The governor had been shot, as well as the president, and the Secret Service didn’t know if other officials were targets, too. It brought back my own memories of Sept. 11, 2001. We know so well now that four planes were taken, it’s easy to forget that for a while, we thought it could be a lot more.
And the way Caro brought together different narrative threads really worked for me. I had to feel bad for the guy who used to be “Master of the Senate” and thought he had ruined his career with bad decisions. But even though I felt for him, I was taken aback by some of his actions and words that morning.
I was left with a vivid picture of a real person, and I’m still not quite sure what to think of him.