The story behind LBJ's pursuit of the civil rights bill
President Lyndon Johnson, domineering and manipulative, lives on in American memory as the classic power broker. He bullied opponents, sweet-talked skeptics, and chewed out subordinates. He oozed confidence as he passed one piece of landmark social legislation after another, even as his cockiness helped to mire the country in Vietnam. Yet this is not the Johnson who emerges from volumes seven and eight of The Presidential Recordings, a transcription of his phone conversations from June 1 to July 4 of 1964.
The power broker was in top form at the beginning of this five-week span, guiding the Civil Rights Act through a divided United States Senate. By the end, the master politician was plotting his re-election campaign. But in between, we hear Johnson's voice hitting unfamiliar registers—this collection also includes a DVD with audio footage—as it crackles across the decades....
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