What Obama Can Learn From LBJ
David Frum: Lyndon Johnson knew how to manipulate
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2012 6:26 PM CDT
US President Lyndon B. Johnson delivers a speech 28 July 1965 in the White House in Washington, DC, about US policy in the Vietnam war, ordering more US troops to Vietnam.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – David Frum detects "an unspoken critique of Barack Obama' in the fourth volume of Robert Caro's massive LBJ biography, The Passage of Power. Whereas Lyndon Johnson cajoled, wooed, and threatened in order to amass support for major bills—like the Civil Rights Act and Medicare—President Obama recoils "from the Johnson style" and embraces "Kennedyesque rhetorical grandeur instead." An Obama-style presidency produces "great phrases to the quotation books" but not "enduring change to the history books," writes Frum in the Daily Beast.

Frum also praises Caro's "powerful prose" and ability to summon LBJ "to vivid, intimate life." This new volume of The Passage of Power covers three years of John F. Kennedy's presidency—when LBJ was politically sidelined as vice president—and LBJ's legislative wins as president from 1963 to 1966. One similarity between LBJ and Obama: "driving opponents crazy," writes Frum. "But the use of power Caro so vividly describes is not something that comes naturally to our current president." (To put this in perspective, Frum has also defended Andrew Breitbart.)

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Showing 3 of 42 comments
stevsie
Apr 16, 2012 9:40 PM CDT
how to be a better gangster.
saucier111
Apr 16, 2012 11:13 AM CDT
In 1964 LBJ came on national tv and lied to the American people. He said that North Vietnamese had fired on one of our ships, it was a lie we shot at them but they would not shoot back at us. On june 8th 1967 the USS liberty was in international waters off of Israel coast. When for no reason Israel attacked our ship first with a torpedo, then bombed, then hammered by artillery but the Uss Liberty would not sink. What would of happened that day if Egyptian intelligence had not been their to record the attack, who would of been blamed. Is this the reason he did not run for a second term. Wake up America our government is a fraud, both democrats and replubicians are only concerned about their oun power.
DarkFrancis
Apr 16, 2012 8:35 AM CDT
LBJ had some wins, for sure. But his legacy as President will be his reversal of Kennedy's decision to pull military trainers out of Vietnam. It was this rash act, taken against the advice of the Secretary of Defence, that set the course towards that conflict and its rampant escalation.The reason Kennedy's quotable quotes and sweeping grand visions place him higher on most lists than Johnson when it comes to rating Presidents is purely down to Johnson's Vietnam folly.