Thursday, August 20, 2009

You Can't Call Him Johnson

Former Lyndon Johnson aide Tom Johnson -- and, as publisher of the LA Times when it was still the LA Times, my mother's former boss -- is circulating this account of how the one-time Senator majority leader would've passed a health care bill:
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 WH tours to appointment of federal jobs and commissions

He would make phone call or have an in-person personal 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 Gonzales calling Hispanics, Henry Ford 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 reelection

He would be sending 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 Senator Russell and 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, hug, and get the bill passed.

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