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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 30, 2009 / 9 Menachem Av 5769

Why Obama can't pull an LBJ

By Dick Polman


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | As a political junkie who got hooked in the late '60s, I never thought I'd see the day when people would resurrect Lyndon B. Johnson and cite him as a role model.

Back in the day, few thought well of LBJ. He got waist deep in the big muddy of Vietnam, and his sonorous TV demeanor made Ed Sullivan look like Elvis Presley. On the other hand, when it came time to get Medicare passed in '65, he had a great inside game. He sweet-talked some of the congressmen, and smacked the rest of them upside the head — the carrot, the stick, whatever it took.

That was LBJ at his best. Which is why some esteemed commentators are urging President Obama to channel the big fella in the health-care debate. The advice is understandable. Health-care reform is not just an issue; it's a political metaphor that may well determine whether Obama succeeds or fails as president.

His quest to fix the dysfunctional system is grinding through five congressional committees, and it's tough to tell who's in charge. Obama has set broad goals (promote choice, cover the uninsured, control costs), but he has set no specifics on how to achieve those goals. Instead, he says he is waiting "to see what emerges from these committees," few of which seem to agree on anything. Sometimes it seems as if we're all hostage to the whims of a Montana senator named Baucus, whose entire state has half a million fewer people than the city of Philadelphia.

Hence, the call for Obama to seize his "Johnson moment." Doris Kearns Goodwin, the LBJ scholar, wants Obama "to take charge, to draw lines, to pressure, to threaten, to cajole," to basically herd the cats on the Hill. Peter Fenn, a Democratic strategist, has declared, "It's time for a little LBJ," with "some serious arm-twisting for good measure." Dean Baker, who runs a liberal think tank, invokes LBJ and urges Obama to "get the list of every hardball nasty political ploy" that Johnson ever used.

These people are dreaming.

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.

Lacking LBJ's inside moves, Obama has gone with his outside game. His grassroots political arm, Organizing for America, has run TV ads targeting red-state Democratic senators — such as Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — urging them to support sweeping health-care reform. These Democrats aren't exactly quaking in their boots. Conrad says, "It's fine with me." Landrieu says, "It really doesn't matter to me literally one way or the other."

Maybe LBJ could have knocked their heads together, and ordered them not to worry about deepening the deficit. But I wonder about that. 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.

Pork.

That's a dirty word today; so is its synonym, the "earmark." But back in LBJ's heyday, that was a staple of doing business. That's how he was able to cajole and threaten the lawmakers. When someone was dragging his feet on the Medicare bill, Johnson would promise to put a pork project in the congressman's district; if someone crossed LBJ, he'd punish the person by canceling some pork.

There's a great story about the time that Democratic Sen. Frank Church of Idaho voted against one of Johnson's bills. He told the president that he had been swayed by Walter Lippmann, an influential columnist who had attacked the bill in print. LBJ's reply: "Frank, next time you want a dam in Idaho, you call Walter Lippmann and let him put it through."

People seem to want Obama to act like LBJ, but Obama would be fried in the press if he tried anything like that. Pork is a symptom of the old Washington that Obama has vowed to change — which is fine, but let's not forget that the tribal rituals of old Washington helped make Johnson the manipulative wheeler-dealer that he was.

With respect to health-care reform, perhaps the current congressional sausage-making would be more coherent, and perhaps the public would be more reassured, if Obama was drawing lines in the sand. Perhaps he's being too passive and relying too much on his outside game. But even LBJ at his best would have a tough time corralling the conservative Democrats, the grassroots liberals, the doctors, the hospitals, the insurers, the lobbyists, the bloggers, the Tweeters, all the paraphernalia of contemporary politics.

The bottom line, often overlooked, is that health-care reform is now further in the pipeline than ever before. Obama may lack LBJ's inside game, but he deserves some credit for that. And he knows that his window of opportunity won't stay open for long, that "the aura and the halo" will inevitably "disappear."

That was Lyndon Johnson, talking about himself in 1965. For any president, some of the basic political rhythms stay the same.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Dick Polman is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Comment by clicking here.


PREVIOUSLY

02/16/09: Governing in the real world
11/12/08: Forget fringe, Obama taking the center road
08/15/08: What leaders can and cannot do
06/12/08: Obama and McCain would do well to follow a few tips
05/14/08: Obama-Clinton? Stranger things have happened
02/20/08: Clinton faces two unpleasant alternatives at this critical moment in her campaign
01/24/08: If Hillary takes down black guy who embodies the black American dream, she will break the Democratic coalition
01/17/08: Sobs, gulps and a few long sighs: Dems articulate their views
11/08/07: Thompson's federalism draws no ‘amens’ from religious right
11/02/07: Getting white men to jump
10/08/07: Clinton talks reform, but takes cash
07/03/07: Tapping Hillary fashion flap to raise funds
07/27/07: Hillary owes Elizabeth big time
03/09/07: For liberals, Clinton fatigue rooted in policy
03/01/07: Fading memories of Newt: Former speaker could benefit if conservatives forget some of his actions




© 2007, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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