The fourth volume in Caro's monumental biography of Lyndon Johnson follows Johnson through his volatile relationship with John and Robert Kennedy in the fight for the 1960 Democratic nomination for president and through Johnson's unhappy vice presidency.
In sparkling detail, Caro shows the new president’s genius for getting to people — friends, foes and everyone in between — and how he used it to achieve his goals ... The other remarkable part of this volume covers the tribulation before the triumphs ... Caro paints a vivid picture of L.B.J.’s misery ... With this fascinating and meticulous account of how and why he did it, Robert Caro has once again done America a great service.
It is a searing account of ambition derailed by personal demons...It is a painful depiction of 'greatness comically humbled'...Most of all, it is a triumphant drama of 'political genius in action' ... Caro combines the skills of a historian, an investigative reporter and a novelist in this searching study of the transformative effect of power — its possession, its loss, its restoration — on the character and destiny of a man who from his teens had one overriding goal: to be president of the United States ... With each volume (a fifth is promised on Johnson’s final decade), the biography gains a cumulative richness that mostly justifies its length and Caro’s fondness for emphatic repetition, as well as frequent digressions into wonderful background material ... With his habitual clear-eyed assessment of a very flawed human being warmed by appreciation for that unexpected heroism, The Passage of Power quite possibly will stand as Robert Caro’s finest moment as well.
Caro is not exactly partial to verbal economy. His books are famous, or infamous, for running on profusely — not just because of the sheer mass of his research but also because of his overflowing literary style ... [I]f Caro’s personalities are multidimensional, they’re nonetheless overdrawn in a way that sows a nagging distrust. At any moment, he showcases only one element of Johnson (or of RFK, or of other characters); typically, it is a portrait of an extreme ... Like Johnson, Caro is capable of magnificence but inconsistent in its application, often wondrous to behold but also maddening ... The LBJ that Caro gives us is not an inaccurate portrait, but it’s certainly a subjective one — an idiosyncratic expression of Caro’s own sensibility ... There is both triumph and tragedy in the work of Caro. For all his prodigious research, painstaking reconstructions and carefully placed semicolons, he hasn’t given us a life of Johnson that will garner those verbal laurels 'authoritative' and 'definitive' that many biographers crave. But it is precisely because of Caro’s marvelously distinctive, proudly personalized method that he cannot give us such a work.