18 October 2007

WWJD (What Would Johnson Do?)

Whenever I see the congressional Democrats once again pissing all over themselves and turning potential legislative victories into defeats, I think to myself, WWJD? That's right, what would Lyndon Baines Johnson have done when he ran the senate and the congressional Democrats from 1953 to 1961?

While I would like to forget most of his presidential years, I truly admire LBJ's legislative qualities. Outside of Henry Clay, Johnson has been the most masterful congressional strategist in American history.

So what would Johnson have done in this current Turkish-Armenian situation that the Democrats have once again fumbled? Not only can I guess how LBJ would have diffused the situation--but I sense he is laughing his Texas ass off every time he sees this current group of amateurs get thrashed by a president with a 24% approval rating. Senator Johnson would have been running all over this half-witted moron in the White House.

Here is what LBJ would have done. First, he would not have allowed a vote on genocide. Why risk defeat on something that offered few gains for the party? Instead, LBJ would have drawn up a resolution saying nothing about genocide, and nothing about Turkey. His vague proposal would have, however, contained glowing praise for the Armenians, their culture, their history, and all they have endured. It would have been a resolution that even the Republicans would have been forced to support--how could they vote against bill celebrating Armenia?

Granted, the Armenians would have been in LBJ's office complaining that his legislation didn't go far enough, that it didn't even mention what the Turks did to their ancestors. To pacify them, Johnson probably would have invited them all down to his Texas ranch. After treating them to a feast, he would have mentioned again what a great people they were and how in six months they would be receiving a $4-5 million check for a national project they desperately needed. That last perk would have come on a whisper--nothing guaranteed, but the Armenians could be sure that the money would show up in the not so distant future.

LBJ would then have sent one of his aids (Jack Valenti probably) to meet with the Turks. Valenti would have calmly informed the Turks that they owed Johnson for this one--he let them slide out of an uncomfortable international situation. They could expect to repay him soon on a defense bill, or a foreign aid appropriation.

Not only would the Democrats NOT have suffered a defeat--but they would have actually gained a victory. And LBJ would have been bragging to reporters the very next day about what great friends the Democrats had been to the Armenians. The Republicans, initially sensing a victory--had gained nothing. They had been co-opted by the Machiavellian Democrats. A sticky situation had been diffused and the party lost nothing.

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi seem incapable of figuring out how to do this. They turn everything into a defeat. They do not appear to understand what is worth fighting for, and what is worth sacrificing. I suggest they stay up late some evening reading about LBJ or Henry Clay (or even Old Joe Cannon)--it might do them some good. Since I trust they read Books and Bait, I will even offer them the following suggestions:

Robert Remini, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union
Merrill Peterson, The Great Triumvirate: Webster, Clay, and Calhoun
Robert Caro, The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
Robert Caro, Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
Robert Caro, Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson


Hutchings said...

Interesting perspective DEW-thanks!

Could you imagine Harry Reid trying to give anybody the "Johnson treatment"? Time for new leadership...

Anonymous said...

I agree--the Democrats need to be better political strategists. They are always afraid to make someone amd.