The Johnson White House Tapes
Commentary By Steve Labinski
Historian Michael Beschloss has released two books of printed transcripts from the
Johnson White House Tapes. We look at both books here.
Many people still do not know that Lyndon Johnson recorded every minute of every one of his private telephone
calls while President of the United States. From the moment he took over the oval office in 1963, Johnson ordered state-of-the-art
recording equipment installed to save everything for posterity.
Recently the Lyndon Johnson Library in Austin, Texas has been gradually releasing these tapes to the public.
Historian Michael Beschloss has edited the tapes into a set of interesting books which would interest any
student of the 1960s, or Presidential historian. Beschloss has made comments and notations to all conversations,
giving the reader a context for the calls.
It is interesting to note that only Johnson knew the calls were being recorded, the other parties did not.
The result is a transcription of how leading figures of the world spoke candidly to the President of the United
Why did Johnson do this? Perhaps he wanted people to remember him working with these major figures,
brokering deals and being friendly. Perhaps LBJ wanted to control as much as possible what
history thought of him. Historians like Beschloss, Robert Caro and Robert Dallek
have chronicled their conclusions on this subject in their major biographical works on Lyndon Johnson.
For now, if you wish to literally be a fly on the wall of the Oval Office, look at these books. Taking Charge starts immediately upon
the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There are conversations about who killed JFK, and Johnson's
handling of the Warren Commission. The book conatins much about the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, which
faced substantial trouble in the Senate from Southern Senators. There are conversations about
Robert Kennedy's drive to be Vice President, and other business regarding his upcoming
election in November, 1964. There are significant conversations on the expanding war
in Vietnam with powerful figures like Adlai Stevenson, McGeorge Bundy and Senator Richard Russell (D, GA).
A friend of mine listened to the CD-Audio verison of this book on his drive down
from Minneapolis, MN to Texas for Christmas. He loved it, and it made the long trip
terrific accompanyment. In the case of this book, audio-book listeners will hear the actual LBJ
The second book in the series is titled Reaching For Glory.
In this edition, it is late 1964
and Johnson just won his re-election, defeating old Senate counterpart Barry Goldwater. It requesting in'his speech to Congress
to pass the Civil Rights Bill of 1965. We get to read the President's comments and thoughts
on Alabama Governor George Wallace, and conversations with other Southern figures and behind
the scenes applications of the famous arm-twisting "Johnson treatment".
Johnson was the
kind of man who only played ball when he knew he could win. During this time, he's up at bat
and going full swing.
Lyndon B. Johnson Political / Collectible Memoribilla:
Visit our political collectibles page for
Lyndon B. Johnson. Lots of interesting stuff!
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