Then came Dallas and Dealey Plaza, thrusting LBJ into the role he had spent a lifetime chasing, but had come to view as unattainable. With characteristic detail and precision, Caro frames the assassination from Johnson’s vantage point, providing a horrifying, pulse-pounding account of what it was like for a humbled man – even one as ambitious and power-hungry as LBJ – to shoulder the grief and burden of an entire nation.
The circumstances surrounding Johnson just before Kennedy’s death, in Caro’s depiction, warrant reconsideration. Matters such as Johnson’s isolation from the Kennedy team come as little surprise, but the depth of the estrangement dug up by the author lends the situation much more severe context. To cite but one example, LBJ, the vice president, wasn’t even in the room when Kennedy reached his most important decisions during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. By way of comparison, think of Vice President Joe Biden by the side of President Obama during the Osama bin Laden raid or Dick Cheney in almost every meaningful moment of George W. Bush’s two terms.