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A Better Lbj

April 2024
1min read

Geoffrey C. Ward’s review of Robert Caro’s Means of Ascent (“The Life & Times,” July/August) misses the mark. To characterize the Lyndon Johnson portrayed by Mr. Caro as “a uniformly evil genius, a monster without redeeming social value,” is to overlook Mr. Caro’s own explanation, in the introduction to Means of Ascent , that Lyndon Johnson’s life contained both bright and dark threads.

That bright thread is movingly explored in Path to Power , Volume I of Mr. Caro’s enterprise. There he does not slight Mr. Johnson’s efforts as a teacher and as a congressman servicing his rural Texas constituents. One cannot read Mr. Caro’s extended treatment of Mr. Johnson teaching in Cotulla, Texas, without being genuinely impressed.

Mr. Ward replies: There are precious few bright threads in either book. Caro’s “extended treatment” of Johnson’s teaching career gets precisely 8 pages out of 882.

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