Johnson was a creature of Capitol Hill who had logged 23 years as a lawmaker, including a productive stint as Senate majority leader. He knew his colleagues well, he knew when to flatter or frighten. Many owed him favors; as president, he often called in his markers. Most important, Democratic lawmakers feared him. The current crop of Democrats do not fear Obama. He worked among them in the Senate for only four years and never gained any leverage, LBJ-style…
In Obama’s defense, LBJ never had to deal with the kind of fiscal headaches that persist today. When Johnson was twisting arms for his Great Society agenda, the economy was booming, General Motors and other corporate behemoths were alive and well, and banks were banks. His budget issues weren’t nearly as dire as those currently afflicting Obama.
Johnson also had far stronger prevailing winds at his back; he had won a landslide election in the aftermath of the JFK assassination, and he enjoyed two-thirds majorities in both congressional chambers. And while playing his inside game – most commonly known as “the Johnson treatment,” he had a weapon that Obama dare not employ.
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