Ruthless was once the preferred adjective to describe Bobby Kennedy as attorney general in his brother’s office. Former assistant to Joseph McCarthy (really), Bobby Kennedy in 1963 gave his consent for the FBI to listen to Martin Luther King. Listening was kept under wraps until 1968, but Bobby’s style without a prisoner as attorney general reflected the staunch realism that was one of the main selling points of JFK’s presidency. Democrats would no longer be seen as marshmallow men unwilling to go from start to finish with the Soviet Union like Adlai Stevenson and Hubert Humphrey, both defeated by Kennedy for the 1960 nomination.
Lyndon Johnson later adopted many of the same tactics. Her rude humiliation to her loyal collaborators makes Andrew Cuomo’s rebuke to Albany insiders resembling a chapter from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Both as Senate Majority Leader and President, LBJ was known for Johnson Treatment, a persuasive technique that was both a threat, a relentless argument, and part of promises of favors like contributions to the Church. Texas tanker campaign.
Emanuel and Cuomo both grew up hearing echoes of the Kennedy and Johnson years and perhaps subconsciously singled out their approach to politics. But rogue behavior was not Johnson’s real political strength. Johnson was able to pass the historic legislation of his presidency – the Civil Rights Bills, the Creation of Medicare, and the War on Poverty – not only because of his harassment, but mostly because of a …
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