LBJ's "Old School" Approach to Congress

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson on the LBJ Ranch near Stonewall, Texas, with one of their beagles, in May 1965. (AP Photo/LBJ Library/Yolchi Okamoto) AP/LBJ Library/Yolchi Okamoto

Lyndon Johnson was the best there ever was at getting Congress off the dime. The civil rights bills he passed are just part of the proof and it got some of us wondering how LBJ would have handled the current health care mess.

I thought of my friend Bill Stuckey. The day after he won a Georgia congressional seat as a very young man, LBJ dispatched a government plane to Georgia, flew Stuckey to Andrews Air Force Base, transferred him to a helicopter which delivered him to the White House lawn. He was taken directly to the Oval Office where the President put his arm around him and said, "Son, I need your help."

From that moment, Stuckey said, "I never voted against him."

In a post on the Daily Beast, former LBJ aide Tom Johnson recalled how the "Johnson Treatment" worked.

He said LBJ kept a list of Congress members on his desk along with every special request they had ever made from personal White House tours to federal projects.

He personally horse-traded with them. He had Bill Graham calling the Baptists, Cardinal Cushing calling the Catholics, Henry Ford calling the Republicans. Jack Valenti would have called the Pope, if needed.

He sent pictures to their kids and cufflinks to the members. He knew their financial contributors and pressured them to pressure the members.

He prayed at six different churches, threatened, cajoled, flirted, flattered, hugged and got the bill passed.

I guess that wouldn't work in today's sophisticated world. But it sure worked then.

Andrew Cohen: What Harry Reid Could Learn from L.B.J.
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    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.


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