The Making of a War President

From The New York Times:

Johnson_2 He was probably the greatest legislative politician in American history, but he was also one of the most ambitious idealist. He had the rare ability to understand his own flaws and limitations, and he worked hard to overcome them. During the battle over the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a reporter asked him why he was fighting so strenuously for a cause to which he had previously demonstrated only a faint commitment. Johnson replied, “Some people get a chance late in life to correct the sins of their youth, and very few get a chance as big as the White House.” Johnson sought power not just to have it, but to use it to accomplish great things — and for a while he was spectacularly successful.

But Johnson was not always at his best. He could be crude, overbearing, arrogant and often cruel. He harbored deep resentments that frequently undermined his own stature. He had terrible relations with the press. He was personally (and sexually) reckless in ways that make Bill Clinton seem a model of rectitude. He pushed his staff and his congressional colleagues so relentlessly that his legislative achievements were often rushed and deeply flawed. And, of course, he was largely responsible for one of the greatest disasters in American history: a war in Vietnam that he inherited, escalated, fiercely defended and failed to examine with the same courage and clarity of mind that he brought to so many other issues. He was, paradoxically, at once one of America’s most successful presidents and one of its most conspicuous failures.

More here.