Richard Cohen: Obama Should Embrace LBJ's Lessons





Richard Cohen writes a weekly political column that appears on Tuesdays .

Barack Obama has read and been influenced by Robert A. Caro’s classic biography of Robert Moses, “The Power Broker.” From the evidence, it is far from clear, though, that the president has read Caro’s other books, the latest being the fourth installment of his massive Lyndon B. Johnson biography — “The Passage of Power.” He should immediately read it. It will teach him how to be president.

Maybe I should have written that it will teach him how to be a better president. Where Johnson was strong and unparalleled — personal relationships with much of Washington — Obama is frighteningly weak. Last week I asked a member of the Senate if he knows of anyone who really knows Obama. He said he does not.

Washington is thick with stories about Obama’s insularity and distance. We hear how he does not listen to criticism — he sometimes just walks out of the room — and how he sticks to a tight circle of friends. His usual weekly golf game is mostly limited to the same people — and when he played a round with House Speaker John Boehner(R-Ohio), it was treated as an exceptional event. When, for whatever reason, Politico analyzedObama’s golf outings (June 6, 2011), it found that Obama’s “golf circle has actually gotten much tighter over the past 21/ 2years” — none of them politicians or, heaven forbid, journalists.

Lyndon Johnson, in contrast, would not think of wasting a golf game on the game itself…




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