President Lyndon B. Johnson and Joe Califano chart riot outbreaks in Washington, DC. [LBJ Library photo #A6038-11A by Yoichi Okamoto.]

Working with Congress: Lessons from LBJ

Jan 17, 2013

by Abby Borovitz
[posted at 6:20 p.m. on 01/16/2013 on msnbc.com]

As the country approaches Inauguration Day and welcomes the 113th Congress, it is a time to look ahead. Sometimes the best way to accomplish this is to look back. Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, had to deal with a lot of problems similar to those that now face President Obama.

President Obama has been critcized for failing to develop personal relationships with members of Congress. President Johnson was a master of this. Of course, he had spent far more time on the Hill than did one-term Senator Obama.

From 1965 to 1996 Joseph Califano Jr. was the Special Assistant for Domestic Affairs to President Johnson. He joined the show today to discuss lessons that future presidents can learn from LBJ. He pointed out how LBJ had to find Republicans to support him during a time when the House was controlled by Southern Democrats. Califano compared the Obama administration to the LBJ administration’s support for the Voting Rights Act. Johnson framed the issue as not “whether you are black or white. the issue is whether everybody is equal. And I think what Obama is saying now is its not Democratic or Republican, it’s the safety of our kids. Let’s make the country a little safer.” read more