November 27th, 2012
03:17 PM ET

Should Obama learn from Johnson?

Fareed Zakaria speaks with historian Robert Caro, author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Lyndon Johnson, about drawing parallels between the Johnson and Obama presidencies.

People cite your book now as a kind of totemic source to make this point that Johnson knew how to schmooze, he knew how to use power, he knew how to push the buttons of Congress. And that Obama is aloof and less interested. So give us your sense, because it's a different landscape. Johnson did have Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate.

I'll take the opportunity of this show to say, although my book is constantly used to show that Barack Obama should be more like Lyndon Johnson, that's not a lesson I get at from the book. I think it's a misreading of it.

[With] Obama, you go back to that same thing – the moral arc of the universe bends slowly, but it bends toward justice. You know, Obama made a considerable bend in that. If you look back at Obama’s first term, you ask what are historians going to be saying about this in a century? They're going to be saying, “what's a major thing?”

He gave health insurance to, I think it's 33 million people who hadn't had it before, the peace of mind that that brings. That's not a small thing, that's a big thing. He wound down two wars.

So I'll start off by saying lets not compare the two.

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Topics: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • History

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    Obama has to prove that he isn't just a poster child for the societal progress epitomised by his election campaign. No doubt the process of governing and the deadweight of a crippling recession have brought him back to reality. Now his presidency is no longer about symbolism, but results. He might learn from Johnson, who called everybody in the Congress, whenever he needed support.

    November 28, 2012 at 9:10 am | Reply
  2. USN Ret.

    Well Johnson lied about the Tonkin Gulf incident and we ended up with 250,000 troops in Vietnam and 50,000+ dead. Johnson was a liar and so the comparison is a good one.

    November 28, 2012 at 10:16 am | Reply

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