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Advice to President Obama from Atlanta’s Tom Johnson; What would LBJ do

Tom Johnson knows a thing or two about power and how to use it.

Before he became chief executive of the CNN News Group, Johnson had a multifaceted career in politics and journalism.

Back in the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson, no relation, brought him on as a White House Fellow. He worked for the president in various positions, including as one of the administration’s press secretaries.

Later Johnson followed the former president to Texas where he served as executive assistant of LBJ’s Texas Broadcasting Co.

Tom Johnson sent me this email and I thought it was worth sharing. Although it was picked up by CNN.com, I figured several of my Atlanta readers may have missed it and would enjoy Johnson’s perspective.

Subject: What LBJ Would do!

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.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


1 Comment

  1. Jerry Abbott August 26, 2009 9:22 am

    When you consider that during LBJ’s time in the White House we were ‘governed’ and in today’s political makeup
    the people are ‘ruled., it is difficult to imagine just what effect a true governing body would have on our nation.
    Certainly far better than what we are subject to.Report


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