Few figures in American history are as compelling and complex as Lyndon Baines Johnson, who established himself as the master of the U.S. Senate in the 1950s and succeeded John F. Kennedy in the White House after Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963.
Charles Peters, a keen observer of Washington politics for more than five decades, tells the story of Johnson's presidency as the tale of an immensely talented politician driven by ambition and desire. As part of the Kennedy-Johnson administration from 1961 to 1968, Peters knew key players, including Johnson's aides, giving him inside knowledge of the legislative wizardry that led to historic triumphs like the Voting Rights Act and the personal insecurities that led to the tragedy of Vietnam.
Peters's experiences have given him unique insight into the poisonous rivalry between Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy, showing how their misunderstanding of each other exacerbated Johnson's self-doubt and led him into the morass of Vietnam, which crippled his presidency and finally drove this larger-than-life man from the office that was his lifelong ambition.
Charles Peters is the author of Five Days in Philadelphia and How Washington Really Works, among other books. He is the founder of The Washington Monthly, that he edited for thirty-two years, following a career in politics and government which included serving in the West Virginia legislature, working on John F. Kennedy's 1960 campaign, and helping to launch the Peace Corps. He lives in Washington, D.C.
When Lyndon Baines Johnson entered this life on August 27, 1908, rural America was a vastly different place than it is today. Although motor cars had begun to appear in cities, the horse and buggy provided the only means of transportation in the countryside. Passenger trains traveling over a rail network much more extensive than today's did give many rural Americans access to cities and the business, cultural, and educational opportunities they offered.