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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

January 18, 2010


The Obamaphiles are scratching around for anything that might work . Eleanor Clift, whose knee jerks so badly she qualifies for early handicap airplane boarding, cites a CQ reports that says, "CQ rates Obama higher than any president in the last five decades in working his will on Capitol Hill, surpassing even the fabled Lyndon Johnson. Obama's success rate in the House and Senate on votes where he staked out a clear position was 96.7 percent, beating previous record-holder Johnson's 93 percent in 1965."

Says Clift: "People may not be talking about Obama's stimulus package in 2050, but fair-minded historians looking back will give him credit for pulling the economy back from the brink, and the $787 billion stimulus bill that he passed during his first hundred days with almost no Republican support was critical to the rescue effort. If Obama gets health-care reform, which seems likely, that will be an enduring achievement despite all the partisan nitpicking. He will have accomplished these things without some of the structural advantages LBJ enjoyed. The filibuster, which has its poisonous history in Southern segregationist efforts to kill civil-rights legislation, has morphed into a routine requirement for a supermajority of 60 votes on everything."

Rachel Madow got real excited about this, too, as she interview sometime historian sometime hack Michael Beschloss:

[][] MADDOW: Empirically, whether or not you like Obama's policies, but from a pure quantitative perspective in terms of what this president has done-how does President Obama's first year stack up against previous presidencies?

BESCHLOSS: Well, he is the equal of Franklin Roosevelt in his first year, LBJ in 1965 or Ronald Reagan in 1981. You know, Obama last year, or two years ago during the campaign, kept on saying, "I want to be a transforming president," like Roosevelt, like Johnson, like Reagan. And the breadth of the kind of things he has done-you're absolutely right to talk about them-I think suggests that that's what he's going to be. . .

MADDOW: That he'd be dealing with the economy. Can you give us some historical context for what challenges he was handed?

BESCHLOSS: It's almost unique in the last century. When FDR came in in 1933, we were in a terrible Great Depression, but in terms of foreign policy, the world was fairly quiet. And Roosevelt could spend his first term basically concentrating on the economy.

If you look at a case, for instance, like LBJ coming in in 1963, had to deal with the death of John Kennedy. But, again, the world was relatively quiet. He was able to concentrate on his domestic program.

In contrast, look at Obama coming in just a year ago. We were teetering--as you said--on the brink of another Great Depression. We had two wars, a struggle with terrorism. This is someone who had to deal with things on all sorts of fronts and engage with every single one of them. [][]

Fortunately, Paul Rosenberg at Open Left cut through the crap:

[][] News flash: Al Qaeda is not the Soviet Union or Red China. The military threats in LBJ's world dwarfed those in Obama's no matter how much Bush/Cheney Kool Aid the denizens of Versailles may drink. What's more, the mere fact that you face a major crisis such as the financial meltdown doesn't really count for much if your response is basically to turn your back on it.

Comparing Obama to FDR is nothing short of laughable. Heck, even on foreign policy, FDR's Good Neighbor Policy was more profound than anything Obama has done. But even the comparison to LBJ is patently absurd as well. Here's a list of Johnson's major accomplishments in his Great Society agenda that were passed in 1965, his first year after winning election on his own:

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

War on Poverty
* Upward Bound
* Head Start

* Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
* Higher Education Act of 1965

* Medicare
* Medicaid

Arts and Culture
* National Endowment for the Arts
* National Endowment for the Humanities

Consumer protection
* Cigarette Labeling Act of 1965

* Land and Water Conservation Act of 1965
* Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965
* Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act of 1965

The Civil Rights or health care accomplishments alone dwarf everything that Obama has accomplished this year. But one doesn't even have to look at such mega-epochal pieces of legislation. Consider how profoundly America has been changed by the Cigarette Labeling Act, or the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act. . . The comparison between Obama and LBJ is not even close to being close.

LBJ was an effective President. Obama is an efficient one. The difference is night and day. The only real valid comparison between the two men is that Obama is doubling down on LBJ's tragic mistake in Vietnam with his own embrace of the neo-cons brain-dead "long war" ideology.[][]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luckily, Obama's AfPak adventure has not been anywhere near the disaster that LBJ's "going long" in Vietnam was.

January 18, 2010 9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LBJ didn't have to get 60% of the votes to get a majority, either. You should probably learn more history, Grasshopper.

January 19, 2010 2:21 AM  
Blogger Samson said...

To the ill-informed anonymous poster ....

Senate rules concerning a fillibuster have been around since the founding of the Senate. And in general, its only gotten easier to end one. It used to take more than 60 votes. I don't know exactly when the changes occurred, but LBJ certainly needed no less than 60 votes to end any filibusters in his day.

Of course, this just so fits the headline. The Democrats are running out of excuses.

And its hilarious listening to the Dems talk about the Senate. Their arguments seem to require that everyone forget that the Dems had the same rules available when Bush was President, but the Dems never fillibustered anything.

The sad truth is that the Dems willingly supported Bush's actions by declining to block them with a fillibuster. Now, they blame Obama's acting like a Republican on the Senate. The problem is, the Democrats have been acting like Republicans consistently for 20 years now.

Please stop voting Democrat!

January 19, 2010 2:34 PM  

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