Thursday, April 8, 2010

LBJ and Modern America

Just finished reading Kevin J. Fernlund's Lyndon B. Johnson and Modern America - a look at the effect of the West on LBJ's worldview and how his policies effected the West. The book begins with his early life in Central Texas until his announcement that he would not be seeking another term as President in 1968. The author is generally favourable towards the New Deal and the Great Society policies which were so much a part of LBJ's life, but that shouldn't take away from this intriguing look at LBJ's influence on the development of the West (especially his role in the development of the U.S. space program, which is covered more in depth in Merle Miller's biography of LBJ). 

Fernlund asserts that LBJ made two mistakes during his political career: 1) his decision to leave the U.S. Senate. Johnson was perhaps one of the most influential Senate leaders in U.S. history and was a master of legislative process. Fernlund believes that LBJ would have been much more successful in his role as U.S. Senator had he not let Presidential ambitions derail his legislative career; 2) his decision to not seek another Presidential term in 1968. In Ferlund's view, Johnson would have ended the Vietnam War sooner than Nixon and held the country together.

I don't agree with all of Fernlund's conclusions and opinions, but this was an enjoyable book. It's a short read and a good intro to LBJ if you aren't ready to tackle Caro's voluminous work on LBJ.

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