Obama to channel LBJ to pass health care reform

The message from the White House to members of Congress is that, yes, Obama is going to become much engaged in the health care debate. His model is Lyndon Baines Johnson:

In mapping its strategy, the Obama team chose to take its cues from another Democratic senator-turned-president: following the legislative model employed by Johnson to enact Medicare in 1965.

“There are two qualities these presidents have in common,” said White House senior adviser David Axelrod. Like Obama, Johnson “had a big vision and drove the country toward it, and second, he had a great appreciation for the legislative process.”

Early on, Obama and health czar Nancy-Ann DeParle discussed the parallels with Johnson and creation of the health program that serves 45 million seniors and people with disabilities today. Just as Johnson gave legendary lawmaker Wilbur Mills (D-Ark.) latitude to craft the Medicare bill, Obama has asked Congress to write the health-care revamp legislation.

And just as Johnson was known for his powers of personal persuasion, Obama, a former senator himself, has assiduously cultivated and cajoled lawmakers.

The president has to use his bully pulpit and those powers of persuasion, but this is all for naught if we get a bill that doesn’t actually reform health care. Empowering and protecting the insurance companies, as so many Democrats still want to do, doesn’t accomplish reform. If Obama wants to channel enact real reform, he’ll push hard for a real public option, not a weak, watered down co-op provision. We’ll learn a lot about Obama’s commitment by hard how he fights for the public option.

One difference between Obama and LBJ is that the Post notes Obama still “covets” bipartisanship. Johnson had served in the Senate for decades, eventually becoming Majority Leader. My sense is that LBJ just wanted to get the job done and didn’t “covet” anything except winning. We need that part of LBJ, too.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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