Lyndon Johnson got things done. Yes, he was a visionary—the architect of sweeping social and economic programs that transformed life in the United States and that still shape our nation today. But in the many hours I spent working for LBJ, I saw that he had much more than big ideas: He knew how to make them happen. How to trade, to cajole, to woo, to inspire—and, when necessary, how to intimidate.
With the nation’s capital stuck in partisan quicksand, the favorite chant of lawmakers these days is “Go to the middle.” You’ll hear it sung often by leaders of both parties, by President Barack Obama and even by some of those gearing up to succeed him. But candidates who want to travel in the middle of the road are likely to be sorely disappointed. The “middle ground” might look comfortable from afar. But for a president looking to go down in the history books with a lasting mark on the nation, the middle is more of a mirage than an oasis of historic achievement.
Better to go bold.
Just look at the historical record: Presidents who tried to appeal to both parties managed to pass perhaps one or two major bills over a four or eight years in office.
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