Few politicians in the history of the world have been as successfully Machiavellian as was Lyndon Baines Johnson. Most citizens remember him as an accomplished politician that served in the House of Representatives, then in the Senate, and ran successfully as JFK's Vice-President, becoming the Thirty-fifth President of the United States on the occasion of the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The most enduring memory is of his unsuccessful oversight of the Viet Nam "War," and his decision not to run for re-election because of the unpopularity that he suffered as a result.
Some have suggested that Mr. Obama's legacy will suffer a similar fate as a result of his lying about the effect on citizens of the passing of the "Affordable Healthcare Act," the false narratives used to conclude a treaty with Iran on limiting the production of Nuclear arms by Iran, and his readiness to govern through Executive Orders, rather than negotiating with Congress. Be that as it may...and only history and time will reveal what the public wishes to see as the truth...it is worth some time to compare the manner in which these two politicians operated.
Time has revealed much about Johnson that was generally unknown to a majority of Americans until less than a decade ago. He was a tyrant to his staff and his wife...and, actually, to anyone who did not have the power to advance his success...behind closed doors. And in many ways he was a vulgar man by standards (today, perhaps discarded) of the time. He was a genius in detecting the needs of those in power around him and in playing to those needs; he was seen by all as being on "their" side and who thought like "them" even when each of those people were on opposite sides of the spectrum. It is easy to come to the conclusion that Johnson actually had no ideological belief...his ideology was his own success and rapid progression to positions of power.
There is a three volume study of LBJ written by Mr. Robert Allan Caro that, for the student of history and politics, is an essential read.
It is questionable that LBJ could have operated in the manner that provided some much personal and professional success today; the ubiquitous nature of phone cameras coupled with the pressure to fill a 24/7/365 news cycle makes creating different personas for different people and groups impossible.
However, to even a casual observer, there seem to be immense similarities between the approach to professional goals displayed by LBJ and by President Obama.
Let us start by eliminating any discussion of where they are different. Mr. Obama seems to have a firm ideological point of view that is consistent and constant; LBJ did not seem to have any inherent ideology, shifting his public positions as was politically convenient. LBJ was a master at manipulating his fellow politicians and seemed to enjoy the process if not the necessity; Mr. Obama has shown himself to not play with others well, ignoring Congress as much as possible and depending on Executive Orders and an obsequious Supreme Court to accomplish his goals.
Both had very clear goals. LBJ wanted to become President of the United States. Otherwise, his interest was in preserving his own power and reputation as a master of the political craft. Mr. Obama also wanted to become President, but his over-arching desire was and is to move the governance of the United States of America to the Left of the political spectrum, seeking to adopt and establish a democratic socialist norm in Washington, and providing rigid governmental oversight of what has been a primary dependence on Capitalism as the basis for the United States of America.
Both saw deception as legitimate in accomplishing their aims. LBJ would encourage his colleagues and others in power to see him as an ally regardless of his true purpose, hiding the truth until the very last moment, or supplying a rationale to opponents that caused them to not realize how they had been manipulated. His deception was totally successful in that if discovered at all, it was after his goals had been accomplished or after his death.
Mr. Obama's skill was oratorical. When planned carefully and followed meticulously by utilizing the teleprompter, Mr. Obama's use of the English language was matched in the modern era only by President Reagan. The language was nuanced in a manner that every listener or viewer could interpret the words used to be a reflection of each listeners beliefs and desires, much as was done in personal interactions by LBJ. The listener was able...actually encouraged...to hear what they wanted to hear. This was particularly true when Mr. Obama was campaigning...and even after a successful election he continued to campaign, leaving the drudgery of actually administering the government to his trusted assistants.
The spotlight of modern communications prevented Mr. Obama from achieving the level of success LBJ enjoyed in hiding conflicting positions taken with different groups and individuals...but Mr. Obama took what can arguably be called the "Goebbels approach" to that challenge; when lying, do it consistently, never acknowledge it as a lie and imply that those who insist on claiming that a lie was told are doing so because of personal animus or racial animus. As did LBJ, Mr. Obama was able to keep the media on his side by providing "leaks" and interviews to those media outlets that presented him in the most favorable light.
Both surrounded themselves with people who served them, placing family, country and mores far below their dedication to his success.
Mr. Obama's accomplishments prior to being elected to public office have been sealed. When they become available, it would not be surprising to see some evidence of an intense study by Mr. Obama of LBJ's life and the means used to gain power. They both show more than the average level of vanity, temper (and the need to hide that most of the time), high opinion of themselves, looked down on others as "less than" and were ready to sacrifice everything to the accomplishment of their goals.
It is too bad that our public schools have virtually abandoned teaching anything remotely resembling perceptive history or even current events, much less in anything like an objective manner.