Richard Cohen advises Obama to read Robert Caro’s latest biography of LBJ and learn how to make friends and influence people like Johnson did.
Dream on. In an alternate universe, maybe. In this one, a person can learn a few things and change somewhat as he/she goes through life, but change that basic virtually never happens.
Obama will never become a people person, like LBJ. Johnson relished pressing the flesh, and wheeling and dealing in the Senate for the many years he was a titanic figure there, persuading and arm-twisting and threatening and cajoling. Obama’s power is through the power of his silver tongue (I always saw it as tin, but I know a lot of people differ), his extension of executive power through czars and agencies, his reliance on a couple of leaders in Congress such as Nancy Pelosi (as long as Democrats were in charge, that is), and the assistance of his fawning allies in the press.
It’s hard to come to any conclusion except that Obama is a cold fish, as Cohen seems to recognize. Our current president is uncomfortable among people and crowds, preferring to stay with a small group of very trusted advisors, and only appearing for a short time at events and doing the bare minimum of schmoozing.
He’s never really had to do more than that. He looks down on people from his Olympian heights, removed and distant, above it all, seemingly calm and thoughtful. That’s what’s always worked for him in the past, and it’s suited his temperament, as well.
It’s ludicrous for Cohen to expect a man with that personality, and who spent only a couple of years of a single term in Congress before running for president, to have somehow amassed the skills and the knowledge base of LBJ, a master of power, people, and Congress. Very few people could emulate him, and Obama is probably the least likely person to do so.