On November 22, the nation will pause to reflect on the 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. As historian Robert Caro says in "American Experience: JFK," a new documentary by Takeaway partner WGBH, "We will never know whether he would have been a great president—I'd bet on him, but we didn't have that chance." In the wake of Kennedy's untimely death, we are left with puzzle pieces that do not make a complete picture of a presidency.
Robert Caro is the author of the multi-volume Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson.” The most recent installment is entitled "The Passage of Power." He sat down with John Hockenberry to reflect on how the obstacles and successes of President Johnson's presidency compare to those of President Obama's.
Robert Caro talks about The Passage of Power, book four of his monumental biography of Lyndon Johnson. It follows Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most successful periods of his career—1958 to1964, when traded his powerful position as Senate Majority Leader for what became the powerlessness of the vice presidency in an administration that didn’t trust him, and then had the presidency thrust upon him when President Kennedy was assassinated.
In his speech to the nation last Wednesday, announcing troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, President Obama said we needed to refocus on nation-building here at home. This idea echoes the massive ambitions of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in the 1960s. Johnson’s situation seems to somewhat mirror President Obama’s: Johnson brought us the Civil Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, but his broader ambitions were eventually sidelined by the fiscal necessity of Vietnam.