Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tom Johnson

What would LBJ do?

Editor's note: As President Barack Obama struggles to win support for health care reform, a former aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson reflects, "What would LBJ do?" Might Obama take a lesson or two from the late Texas Democrat?

• LBJ would have a list of every member of Congress on his desk.

• He would be on the telephone with members (and their key staffers) constantly. "Your president really needs your vote on this bill."

• He would have a list of every special request every member wanted — from White House tours to appointment of federal jobs and commissions.

• He would make a phone call or have an in-person visit with every member individually or in a group. Charts, graphs, coffee. They would get the Johnson Treatment as nobody else could give it.

• He would have a willingness to horse-trade with every member.

• He would keep list of people who support each member financially. A call to each to tell them to get the vote of that representative. (Arthur Krim, Lew Wasserman)

• He would have Billy Graham calling Baptists, Cardinal Cushing calling Catholics, Dr. King calling blacks, Henry Gonzalez calling Hispanics, Henry Ford II and David Rockefeller calling Republicans.

• He would get Jack Valenti to call the pope if it would help.

• He would have speeches written for members for the Congressional Record and hometown newspapers.

• He would use up White House liquor having nightcaps with the leaders and key votes of both parties.

• Each of them would take home cufflinks, watches, signed photos and perhaps even a pledge to come raise money for their next re-election.

• He would send gifts to children and grandchildren of members.

• He would walk around the South Lawn with reporters telling them why this was important to their own families.

• He would send every aide in the White House to see every member of the House and Senate. He would send me to see Sen. Richard Russell and Rep. Carl Vinson because I am a Georgian.

• He would call Kay Graham, Frank Stanton, Robert Kintner and the heads of every network.

• He would go to pray at six different churches.

• He would do newspaper, radio and TV interviews. Especially with Merriman Smith, Hugh Sidey, Sid Davis, Forrest Boyd, Ray Scherer, Helen Thomas, Marianne Means, Walter Cronkite, Phil Potter, Bob Novak.

• He would threaten, cajole, flirt, flatter and hug. And he would get the bill passed.

— Tom Johnson, Special to the Times

Tom Johnson (no relation) served as an aide to President Johnson for eight years, four in the White House and four in Texas (1965-1973). Later, he was publisher of the Los Angeles Times and chief executive officer of CNN.

What would LBJ do? 08/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 7:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. McConnell trying to revise the Senate health care bill by Friday


    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is aiming to send a revised version of his health care bill to the Congressional Budget Office as soon as Friday as he continues to push for a vote before Congress' August recess.

    Protesters rally against the Senate Republican health care bill Wednesday on the east front of the Capitol building.
  2. Police raise likely death toll in London high-rise blaze


    LONDON — The number of people killed or presumed dead in the London high-rise fire has inched up to 80, but the final death toll may not be known for months, British police said at a grim briefing Wednesday.

  3. Rick Baker gives himself a "B" in 1st debate against Rick Kriseman


    Rick Baker gave himself a “B” in his first debate against Mayor Rick Kriseman.

    Rick Baker chats with supporters at a fundraiser at St. Petersburg Yacht Club Wednesday evening
  4. Companies, governments assess damage from latest malware attack


    PARIS — Companies and governments around the world on Wednesday counted the cost of a software epidemic that has disrupted ports, hospitals and banks. Ukraine, which was hardest hit and where the attack likely originated, said it had secured critical state assets — though everyday life remained affected, …

  5. Details of Trump's travel ban still being finalized


    WASHINGTON — Senior officials from the departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security labored Wednesday to finalize rules for visitors from six mostly Muslim nations who hope to avoid the Trump administration's revived travel ban and come to the United States.