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Finding His Inner Lyndon Johnson

Does Obama know how to pull the levers of power on Capitol Hill?

12:00 AM, Jun 25, 2009 • By GARY ANDRES
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Finally, how personally involved does he get? Obama needs to direct the sausage-making factory without descending too far into it. This means White House meetings and maybe even a few surprise visits to Capitol Hill to "cut the final deal." But he should keep some distance too. If lawmakers get off track and produce something politically unpopular, the White House can appear less connected.

Lyndon Johnson understood the contours of the legislative process--compromise, credit sharing, hardball and personal involvement. He knew the buttons that would make lawmakers say yes; he could bridge the internal cleavages within his own party; and he recognized when to deal the minority in--and when to ignore it.

These skills are a different set of tools than we've seen used by this president thus far. Barack Obama needs to find his inner Lyndon Johnson over the next few months--or leave many Americans believing "change" was just an empty political slogan after all.

Gary Andres is vice chairman of research at Dutko Worldwide in Washington, D.C., and a regular contributor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD Online.