Obama – Trying to Avoid the LBJ Legacy

  • By: Tom McKeown
  • Blog
  • December 22, 2015

Lyndon Baines Johnson won the 1964 presidential election in one of the greatest landslides in history.  During his one and half terms he passed more landmark legislation than many of his predecessors combined.  Among those key achievements were Medicare, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and Head Start.  Unfortunately the most enduring part of his legacy is the quagmire that became the Viet Nam War.  And, it’s not a stretch to say that some of LBJ’s motivation for going full throttle in Viet Nam may have been to not look weak, particularly against some of the bomb throwers in the other party.  Isn’t Barack Obama facing that same dilemma right now?

President Obama’s legislative and diplomatic achievements stand up almost as well as LBJ’s, and will continue to do so in historical light.  There is the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), the Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act,  the American Recovery and Investment Act (The Stimulus), the Fair Pay Act, and the Public Lands Management Act.  But, he knows from history that a sink hole of a war in the Middle East can negate a lot of those accomplishments by drying up funding and eroding public confidence.  So, why would he be stupid enough to re-engage large amounts of US combat troops in Syria and Iraq when it would only encourage both sides in the conflict to shoot at us?

If you listen to the Republican presidential candidates, and I will mention none of them by name, the reason is that if we don’t we will look weak.  They use poorly crafted hyperbole about bombing the “@#!$&” out of ISIS or doing “precision” carpet bombing, but in hard terms they suggest nothing more than current policy, only with a president who will yell louder and act tougher.  In fact the only nationally elected Republicans, those in the Congress, won’t even schedule a vote on the Authorization to Use Force (AUF) bill for Syria and Iraq that President Obama sent over last February.  That’s right, the same group that claims Obama is dictatorial for using executive action on immigration, want him to take unilateral action in going to war!

Seven years ago we hired a president who could keep his cool, avoid unnecessary wars, and fix things at home.  Right now, as at the height of the LBJ presidency, most things in the economy are looking good.  That’s right, the economy is doing very well!  The stock market is up, unemployment is down, and 17 million more people have healthcare.  We absolutely still have things to fix, like race relations and income inequality.  But, do we want to be looking back as a nation ten years from now with thousands more dead, trillions more spent, and nothing to show for it all?

America needs a cool headed leader now more than ever.  It also needs an electorate that can keep the lunatics in the asylum.  Let’s do our job and keep electing presidents who can do theirs.

Connect with Tom

Tom McKeown was recently the CEO and Co-founder of TrenData, which was acquired by isolved HCM in 2021. He currently manages the product team and business unit for their People Analytics offering.

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