Posts Tagged ‘LBJ’
October 26th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
Obama and America’s Historic Poverty Rate

Byron York says when it comes to talking about America’s historically high poverty rate, “Barack Obama ignores the issue when it comes time to campaign. A sky-high poverty rate doesn’t fit his theme that things are getting better. So he doesn’t talk about it.”

“But the problem is still there. According to the Census Bureau, the poverty rate has gone from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 13.2 percent in 2008 to 14.3 percent in 2009 to 15.1 percent in 2010 to 15.0 percent in 2011. The last time it was higher than 15.1 percent was in 1965, when the nation’s anti-poverty programs were just taking effect.”

For all his pretensions about being the next FDR, it looks like President Obama’s tenure could signal the death knell for LBJ’s expensive and failed Great Society.

July 3rd, 2010 at 8:51 pm
Did Bill Clinton Eulogize Himself?

That’s the contention of Slate’s Steve Kornacki, who heard more than an aw-shucks defense of the late Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) from the former president.  Byrd was a former Klansman who Clinton seems to think rode the changing tides of racial (in)tolerance to an unbroken 51 year Senate career.

But to hear Clinton tell it, Byrd’s Klan membership — and, more broadly, the ghastly record on racial issues that marked his first three decades in Congress — was more the product of a cynical career calculation. He knew it was wrong but figured it would help him get ahead, and then, when he finally did establish himself in Washington, he tried to make up for it by using his power for good. (A similar portrait of LBJ emerges in Robert Caro’s exhaustive biographical series.)

Watching Clinton today, I couldn’t help thinking that the former president, intentionally or not, was also talking about himself and his own approach to politics. Like LBJ, Clinton never really saw the point in making principled-but-unpopular stands in election years. The important thing, he seemed to believe, was to be in office and to make as many right decisions then as politics would allow.

Ah, the courage to be conniving.  Thanks to Kornacki’s insight, Americans can relearn a lesson they’d probably prefer to forget: When it comes to rationalizing bad behavior by politicians, Bill Clinton is the undisputed master.

December 7th, 2009 at 1:36 pm
Obama: The Admonisher-in-Chief

Remember when then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said that while Obama’s likening himself to Martin Luther King, Jr., was nice, it was really President Lyndon Johnson who changed civil rights from a rhetorical dream into legislative reality?  As usual, Clinton was criticized for speaking truth in public.  But her observation – and comparison – still rings true today.

Flash forward to President Obama’s remarks to Senate Democrats on Sunday.  While his midday sermon was long on admonishments to find common ground, it didn’t give any direction on how on to find it.  The lack of setting down definitions or benchmarks for success, or even support for moderates needing a safe harbor during tough re-election campaigns, indicates that Obama has no clue how to line up 60 votes in his own caucus.  LBJ never seemed to have that problem.  Hillary Clinton’s recognition of this indicates she may have learned more from her failures as First Lady health czar than Obama has over a lifetime of risk aversion.

This is a trend.  Since at least his time in law school, Obama has studiously avoided even the appearance of a paper trail.  He’s also managed to spend a decade as an elected legislator without authoring a single consequential piece of legislation.  Simply put, the man doesn’t know how to horse trade, cajole, and get a bill on his desk for signature.  One wonders how much less effective he’d be without a majority in both chambers.