The Obama Watch

The Show Horse President

After him, will there be any “work horses” left in our politics?


In a brilliant 1982 memoir of his career with LBJ, George Reedy, a key member of Johnson’s senatorial and presidential staffs, explained Johnson’s philosophy when he dominated the Senate: He thought of the Senate as a workshop for resolving political, social, and economic problems rather than as an arena of conflict for contrasting ideologies. Therefore, he did not label senators as Democratic and Republican or liberal and conservative but as “work horses” and “show horses” (both pet phrases). He was equally at home with the conservative Republican Everett M. Dirksen and the liberal Democrat John O. Pastore — because both were ‘work horses.’ He was similarly uncomfortable with liberal Republican Jake Javits and conservative Democrat Frank Lausche, because both were “show horses.”  If LBJ were alive today, I think he’d agree that Obama was a show horse in the Senate, and that he remains a show horse in the White House.

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