Unplugged: LBJ Had Unique Talent to Pass Medicare


Former President Lyndon B. Johnson had a unique talent for "bullying" and "cajoling" which helped him pass Medicare legislation early in his presidency, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute Stephen Hess and Newsweek's Eleanor Clift agreed on "Washington Unplugged" Wednesday. The guests argued that president Obama does not have the same congressional relationships.

Johnson "was the president of the United States who knew the Senate and the Congress better than any president in history," Hess, a presidential historian, told CBS News' Sharyl Attkisson. "It would be love to have somebody else who had that capacity to twist arms, but there ain't no Lyndon Johnson around." (I dont get what the part in read means, is the quote right?)

Obama "has a different personality. He likes to be above the battle," Clift said. "And in earnest President Johnson was the Senate Majority Leader so he knew…the sweet spot of every senator."

Clift was sure to note that President Johnson enjoyed a larger majority in the Senate – 67 Democrats – when compared to the current number of 60. Yet, she said, "President Johnson could do it alone without Republicans as can President Obama so the force of personality does come into play."

"He was a maestro. He knew every senator and where they buried the treasure and he knew how to dig it up," Hess said of Johnson's legislative power. "There really is no way of duplicating a Lyndon Johnson today."

The presidential historian said "this is sausage making time" and President Obama has to be tougher when dealing with Congress.

Watch the roundtable above as well as a piece using LBJ recordings to explain how the "maestro" passed Medicare.

"Washington Unplugged" appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.


  • Michelle Levi

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