Johnson, Lyndon Baines

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Why was President Johnson more successful than President Kennedy in pushing his measures through Congress?

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President Kennedy had much less congressional experience than Johnson. LBJ had been involved in politics of one kind or another for virtually his whole adult life. It's no exaggeration to say that politics was everything to him; he ate, slept, and drank politics to the exclusion of all else.

Throughout his time in the United States senate, Johnson came to know its often arcane and mysterious workings inside out, in the process gaining an unparalleled understanding in how to get legislation passed. If you've ever had the chance to read Robert A. Caro's remarkable biography of Johnson, you'll see how he almost single-handedly transformed the office of Senate Majority Leader from a largely formal position into one of the most powerful roles in American politics.

Kennedy, like Johnson, was heavily reliant on Southern senators and congressmen for the passing of his legislative agenda. However, he made little headway, unskilled as he was in the making of compromises necessary to get laws passed, especially those relating to controversial issues like civil rights. As a Southerner himself, Johnson had an intimate...

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