The Obama Treatment

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.

Tags: Barack Obama, LBJ, The Treatment (all tags)

Comments

16 Comments

One thing about Obama

is he's so damn smooth and slick yet genuine at the same time, now I see why he succeeds, in a way that I hadn't seen as much before. I'd almost dare to say he's "slicker" than Willie, or Reagan for that matter. And in these times, with noble purposes, unlike Republicans and Bush, this is a damned good trait.

by Lakrosse 2009-01-18 08:59PM | 0 recs
Re: One thing about Obama

No politician (and President's are politicians) is genuine. Its in the nature of the job to tell half truths if for no other than than national security.  Some times people scare me with their naivette. I could lift what you just wrote and cut and paste Bush for Obama.

by bruh3 2009-01-18 09:15PM | 0 recs
I meant Obama comes off

genuine, even tho yes he a is a politician, and I have always pointed this out. And I know you could cut and paste Obama/Bush, but Obama does have decent goals for our country, Bush didn't.

by Lakrosse 2009-01-18 09:18PM | 0 recs
Re: I meant Obama comes off

That's fine. I am very leery even when other voters start to attribute personal emotions like "geniune" and "honest" and "he's not like other politicians" to policians. If you are abstractly discussing what other people feel- fine, but what other people feel in this way is a dangerous concept in a democracy.

Our purpose is set up is to hold our elected officials accountable. Elections are only one tool for doing that.  The danger with Bush was not merely his goals, but that his supporters were willing to give him unthinking, blind support based on attributions and projections about who they thought Bush was as a person.

I have already seen that a few times here and elsewhere.

by bruh3 2009-01-19 05:38AM | 0 recs
Re: One thing about Obama

There are many things you can say about Lakrosse, some of which I said during the campaign. But the one thing he is NOT is an Obama stargazer.

by vcalzone 2009-01-18 11:56PM | 0 recs
Re: The Obama Treatment

The way Obama handles the Repubs reminds me an awful lot of the way Reagan handled the Democrats.

by Bush Bites 2009-01-18 09:22PM | 0 recs
Re: The Obama Treatment

Obama is different which is why a few million will show up on Tuesday. This guy has it all but what I like the most about him, is his integrity. It's time to celebrate, Bush is out, Obama is in.

by canadian 2009-01-18 10:03PM | 0 recs
Re: The Obama Treatment

Oh, LBJ could pull huge crowds to DC.

Unfortunately, they all wanted to lynch him.

by Bush Bites 2009-01-18 10:28PM | 0 recs
Re: The Obama Treatment

Maybe if you think the entire nation consisted of anti-war protestors, I guess.  In the real world, LBJ presided over a progressive domestic agenda the likes of which we can only dream of today.

One out of every three families living below the poverty line at the time the War on Poverty was announced were out of poverty a mere four years later.  Those folks may not have gotten much time on the evening news... but I bet most of them weren't in the mood to lynch LBJ, as you so unfortunately put it.

by Steve M 2009-01-18 10:46PM | 0 recs
Re: The Obama Treatment

You raise  a good point. So many think of the Vietnam war and ignore what LBJ did to help the poor and to improve race relations.

by canadian 2009-01-18 11:12PM | 0 recs
Re: The Obama Treatment

If Obama can do half this, then I think one still would have to argue LBJ was more effective. The problem is people are confusing style with substance. For instance, comparing Obama to Reagan (one person does above) is not all that interesting because Reagan actually did not implement much of the conservative agenda, but LBJ did implement his Democratic agenda (thus who is better as our model?):

Civil rights
  * Civil Rights Act of 1964
  * Voting Rights Act of 1965
  * Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965
  * Civil Rights Act of 1968

War on Poverty
  * Food Stamp Act of 1964
  * Upward Bound
  * Head Start
  * Model Cities Program
  * Economic Opportunity Act of 1964-and the programs it spawned, including:
     > Jobs Corp
     
> Community Action Program
     > VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America)
     
> Community Legal Services

Paul Rosenberg :: Lie of the Day: "Presidents Can Only Do A Few Big Things"
Education
  * Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
  * Higher Education Act of 1965
  * Bilingual Education Act of 1968
Health
  * Medicare
  * Medicaid
Arts and Culture
  * National Endowment for the Arts
  * National Endowment for the Humanities
  * Public Broadcasting Act of 1967:
  * Chartered the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which in turn created:
     > PBS
     
> NPR
  * John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Transportation:
  * Created Department of Transportation.
  * Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964
  * National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966
  * Highway Safety Act of 1966

Consumer protection
  * Cigarette Labeling Act of 1965
  * Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966
  * Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966
  * Child Safety Act of 1966
  * Flammable Fabrics Act of 1967
  * Wholesome Meat Act of 1967
  * Truth-in-Lending Act of 1968
  * Wholesome Poultry Products Act of 1968
  * Land Sales Disclosure Act of 1968
  * Radiation Safety Act of 1968

Environment
  * Wilderness Act of 1964,
  * Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966,
  * National Trails System Act of 1968,
  * Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968,
  * Land and Water Conservation Act of 1965,
  * Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965,
  * Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act of 1965,
  * National Historic Preservation Act of 1966,
  * Aircraft Noise Abatement Act of 1968,
  * National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

by bruh3 2009-01-19 05:42AM | 0 recs
LBJ changed this country forever

There is no question about it. Republicans don't even pretend to want to repeal most of the big stuff he accomplished.

I don't see Obama pushing Congress hard the way LBJ did.

by desmoinesdem 2009-01-19 08:22AM | 0 recs
Re: LBJ changed this country forever

I keep returning the Bill Moyer's interview that I heard last year.

Sorry, I can't remember the interviewee's name.

The core problem is not Obama. The problem is the American people. No one wants to admit to this who are involved in politics, but its true.

We are not a stratified society that is no longer interested in in the hard work of recreating itself yet again.

Right now, today, we could reshape this society based on the advances made in energy technology alone. We choose not to do so. We choose to tweak round the edges.

Is that Obama's fault? Maybe, but it's nothing more than the vessel of what the American people are. We want caution and someone to whom we can project our apirations.

Others probably will disagree. But, that's just the way I see it. That interview on Moyers made me for the firsttime admit this- how does a country like Brazil for example find the will to shift from oil to biofuel? How does a country like South Africa have gay marriage rights? The list of innovations happening abroad is what worries me about here. I don't know if any American leader, Democrat or Republican, could convince the American people to change. Do you?

by bruh3 2009-01-19 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: The Obama Treatment

by the way that list of from Paul Rosenberg, and is not my own.

by bruh3 2009-01-19 05:44AM | 0 recs
Re: The Obama Treatment

i am old enough to remember the lbj treatment of fellow senators, he was legend in his cajoling.

however, upon assuming the office of the presidency lbj might just put you in his caddy and ride the ranch, having once urinating on a poor chap while pausing for a relief station in the middle of texas nothing brush

lbj's opinion of himself soared after assuming office post- jfk killing...he got civil rights passed, he seemed to be a reasonable cold warrior with the commies...and goldwater did make jokes about lobbing nukes into moscow....his method of treatment of others, once inside the bubble that is the presidency...well, obama'a style may also change, to change is human, to err well we are not saints

just noting the lbj treatment was not always so logical and proven by press clippings, rather by intimindation and pissing on people

by blackflag 2009-01-19 12:17AM | 0 recs
by lojasmo 2009-01-19 02:15PM | 0 recs

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