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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. We've been reporting all week about what's been dubbed the nuclear option. It doesn't bring us any closer to the end of the world, but the decision by Senate Democrats to end filibusters for most presidential nominees may usher in a new era of partisan warfare. Some have framed this week's battle as a breakdown of our political system, and predicted the end of civility in the Senate. Well, we turn now to books and to our series This Week's Must Read, where writer Drew Toal says that the future may not be quite so bleak.

DREW TOAL: The system isn't really broken. I know that because I've read "Master of the Senate," by Robert Caro. It's part of his never-ending biography of President Lyndon Johnson. Johnson was one of the most effective legislators we've ever had even though the Senate, in his day, was just as entrenched as the one we have now.

Here was a Texas Democrat who bent it to his will, and did it in some unconventional ways. It was a mix of cajolery, threats, promises and pleas. And it worked. You may have to read it to believe it but somehow, Johnson managed to get the votes he needed on an important civil rights bill. He got them from liberals and Southern conservatives.

Reading this book, you understand that government getting things done isn't impossible, it's just improbable. All we need is the right person to push it along.

SIEGEL: That was NPR Book's contributor Drew Toal, recommending the book "Master of the Senate." It's the third in Robert Caro's multivolume biography of Lyndon Johnson, who became president 50 years ago today.

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