The Obama Treatment
by Charles Lemos, Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 08:51:13 PM EST
It's fair to say, BHO is no LBJ at least in terms of persuasion techniques. Each President, no doubt, has their own style. LBJ's style known as "The Treatment", of course, is lore.
The Treatment could last ten minutes or four hours. It came, enveloping its target, at the LBJ Ranch swimming pool, in one of LBJ's offices, in the Senate cloakroom, on the floor of the Senate itself -- wherever Johnson might find a fellow Senator within his reach.
Its tone could be supplication, accusation, cajolery, exuberance, scorn, tears, complaint and the hint of threat. It was all of these together. It ran the gamut of human emotions. Its velocity was breathtaking, and it was all in one direction. Interjections from the target were rare. Johnson anticipated them before they could be spoken. He moved in close, his face a scant millimeter from his target, his eyes widening and narrowing, his eyebrows rising and falling. From his pockets poured clippings, memos, statistics. Mimicry, humor, and the genius of analogy made The Treatment an almost hypnotic experience and rendered the target stunned and helpless.
While LBJ's gift was that of mouth, it seems clear that Obama's gift is more that of the ear. LBJ's treatment was oral, Obama's treatment is aural. The man is one moving calm, cool, composed, confident and collected listening post. Just look at his activities since coming to Washington. He met with Democratic legislators and got an earful of push back on the tax component of the fiscal stimulus but as they emerged from the meeting it was the legislators who were singing Obama's praises. "He listens," said the Speaker of the House. He then meets with conservative columnists for dinner at the home of George Will. My initial thoughts were fears for his safety - I hope he brought a food taster I remember thinking - but it was them who were in danger, not Obama. The meeting was off-the-record but it's clear that it went well. And so did the listening offensive the next day with more liberal columnists. Today on the Sunday talk shows both neo-con William Kristol and the centrist-liberal EJ Dionne both waxed eloquent on Obama's qualities.
KRISTOL: You know, he is privately -- this wasn't really private -- but you know, among nine or ten people, he wasn't really that different from the way he is publicly, you know. Cool, calm, confident. He was like talking to a very intelligent, moderately liberal law professor, you know, debating a bunch of issues." [Fox News Sunday]
DIONNE: The really striking thing is, it was like we're around a table and it was like Professor Obama teaching a seminar on how you deal with whole lot of crises at the same time and stay calm. I mean, it was very sort of focused and easy going in the midst of all of this. [ABC'S This Week]
Today comes word that the President-elect is consistently seeking out the counsel of his vanquished Autumnal rival Senator McCain. From the New York Times:
Not long after Senator John McCain returned last month from an official trip to Iraq and Pakistan, he received a phone call from President-elect Barack Obama.
As contenders for the presidency, the two had hammered each other for much of 2008 over their conflicting approaches to foreign policy, especially in Iraq. (He'd lose a war! He'd stay a hundred years!) Now, however, Mr. Obama said he wanted Mr. McCain's advice, people in each camp briefed on the conversation said. What did he see on the trip? What did he learn?
It was just one step in a post-election courtship that historians say has few modern parallels, beginning with a private meeting in Mr. Obama's transition office in Chicago just two weeks after the vote. On Monday night, Mr. McCain will be the guest of honor at a black-tie dinner celebrating Mr. Obama's inauguration.
Over the last three months, Mr. Obama has quietly consulted Mr. McCain about many of the new administration's potential nominees to top national security jobs and about other issues -- in one case relaying back a contender's answers to questions Mr. McCain had suggested.
A President who listens is quite a departure from our "decider". I googled "Bush Listens" and received 11.4 million results. Google "Obama Listens" and you'll get 20.5 million results. That's quite a charmed listening offensive. Listening, that's the Obama Treatment and for now it seems that the Obama Treatment is leaving many with a hypnotic experience and rendering them stunned if not helpless.