View Full Version : Obama, Johnson, and Congress

09-25-2013, 07:09 PM
Interesting comparison of the relationship between LBJ and Obama to Congress. One, like him or not, was a political mover, the other, like him or not, is a political personal hack.

You may of course disagree. Go ahead. Discuss, make my day....

Obama, Johnson, and Congress (http://www.american.com/archive/2013/september/obama-johnson-and-congress)

It opens with the question, "LBJ shepherded vast amounts of major legislation through Congress; President Obama has seen most of his initiatives stymied. What explains this difference?" It examines some possibilities but hones in on the following:

...An anecdote, perhaps, can begin to explain the difference between the two presidents.

Lyndon Johnson once invited a group of freshman congressmen down to the White House in order to lobby them on a bill he wanted passed. Being freshmen, most of them had never been in the Oval Office before and as they filed in they began gawking around at one of the world’s most famous rooms.

“Take a good look around,” Johnson told them with a smile, “because if you’re not with me on this bill, you’ll never see this room again.” This was typical of Johnson’s approach to dealing with Congress. He made a point of knowing whatever there was to know about individual members of Congress, their quirks and prejudices, their weaknesses and strengths. He knew that freshman House members, most just starting their political careers, relished the proximity to power represented by an Oval Office visit.

A naturally gregarious man, he was also an overwhelming physical presence. At 6 feet 3 inches, Johnson is among the tallest of modern presidents.

He used his knowledge of individual representatives and senators in order to convince them to vote his way. And he lobbied them hard. He would spend hours a day, in person and on the phone, lining up his congressional troops in order to pass his ambitious legislative agenda.

This approach came to be called “The Treatment.” ...

As a result, no president since Johnson’s hero Franklin Roosevelt has had as much success in getting controversial legislation through the often balky legislative branch, where each of the 535 members has his or her own political interests and sensitivities. Getting majorities assembled in Congress is like herding cats, and Lyndon Johnson was the master of cat herding.

And then he turns to Obama...

...Barack Obama does not herd cats well. In fact, he doesn’t even try. He is a rather remote figure who obviously does not relish the give-and-take bargaining, the flattery and log-rolling, and the personal interaction that is the essence of how laws are passed in a democracy. Instead, he often seems to treat members of Congress the way a professor (as he used to be) often treats his students. That does not go down well with legislators, most of whom have fully functional egos.

And instead of being the leader in constructing legislation, which would allow him to be in a dominant bargaining position, he has usually allowed Congress to write the specifics. The result, with both the stimulus bill and Obamacare, has been remarkably sloppy and unclear laws.

If Obama stays at arm’s length from congressional Democrats, it is hardly surprising that he is even more distant with the Republicans. Obama was a year and a half into his presidency before he had a one-on-one conversation with Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate.

Ronald Reagan, in contrast, also faced a House held by the other party. But he invited Tip O’Neill, the Democratic speaker of the House, to almost-weekly White House chats, and despite deep political differences, they developed a real rapport. That proved an immeasurable asset in getting Reagan’s agenda through Congress.

Even worse, Obama makes no attempt whatsoever to hide his utter contempt for Republicans in public. For instance, at his press conference in early August, he said, “The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care . . .”

Presidents, at least since George Washington, have always been partisan, but most have almost always stayed above the fray personally....

09-25-2013, 09:23 PM
I remember Johnson well. He had something on every member of Congress and he didn't hesitate to use it.

It is too bad that he was so effective given how destructive of the poor his ideas turned out to be.

09-25-2013, 10:33 PM
So Obama's ineptness is a good thing! :grin:

The point of the OP though, ultimately, is Obama needs to should responsibility and stop blaming everyone else.

Green Arrow
09-25-2013, 11:05 PM
LBJ may have been better at getting things through Congress, but he was a worse President by far. Obama is an incapable liar, but LBJ was plain evil.