Flawed Giant

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

More a history than a biography, FLAWED GIANT: LYNDON JOHNSON AND HIS TIMES, 1961-1973 completes the account of Lyndon Johnson that Robert Dallek began with LONE STAR RISING: LYNDON JOHNSON AND HIS TIMES, 1908-1960 (1991). Readers who wish to understand Johnson’s character and its formative influences need to begin with the first volume. In FLAWED GIANT, one catches only glimpses of the human being underneath the public figure, in part because there is so much of the public figure to recount, in part because Johnson—a troubled, difficult, well meaning man—was so complex.

The strands of Dallek’s book, identified by section headings, outline major themes of the executive career. As Vice President, Johnson was an unhappy but loyal subordinate of President John F. Kennedy, spending his time and energy on foreign travels, the space program, a committee devoted to equality of opportunity, and personal pursuits.

Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Johnson assured a smooth transition to the new administration. In his own tenure, lasting five years and two months, Johnson emerges as a master of domestic politics and domestic programs. Dallek fully accounts for his mastery of the legislative process that resulted in more major domestic programs and bills than any previous president had achieved. Even greater detail is devoted to the war in Vietnam, the tragedy of Johnson’s Administration. Dallek makes plain why the war moved on inexorably, in part because of Johnson but mainly because war policy was rooted in decades of reasonably successful United States foreign policy.

Dallek is too cautious to predict Johnson’s place in history, though he strongly endorses the view that he will not be a forgotten President.

Sources for Further Study

Campaigns and Elections. XIX, June, 1998, p. 10

The Economist. CCCXLVII, April 18, 1998, p. S8.

Foreign Affairs. LXXVII, July, 1998, p. 118.

Insight on the News. XIV, June 8, 1998, p. 36.

Library Journal. CXXIII, March 15, 1998, p. 74.

Los Angeles Times. March 16, 1998, p. A15.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, April 12, 1998, p. 5.

Newsweek. CXXXI, April 20, 1998, p. 66.

The Washington Monthly. XXX, May, 1998, p. 41.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVIII, April 26, 1998, p. 1.