LBJ Official Gives Gun Control Advice To Obama: Exploit The Tragedy


Joseph A. Califano Jr. was President Lyndon B. Johnson’s top assistant for domestic policy, and LBJ was a staunch proponent of gun control. Califano’s advice for President Obama? Exploit the Newtown, Connecticut shooting for gun control in the same way LBJ exploited the Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations:

If ever there were a moment for President Obama to learn from history, it is now, in the wake of Friday’s shootings at the elementary school at Newtown, Conn. The timely lesson for Obama, drawn from the experience of Lyndon B. Johnson — the last president to aggressively fight for comprehensive gun control — is this: Demand action on comprehensive gun control immediately from this Congress or lose the opportunity during your presidency.

In the aftermath of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (just weeks after the fatal shooting of Martin Luther King Jr. and only a few years after President John F. Kennedy was shot), President Johnson pressed Congress to enact gun control legislation he had sent to Capitol Hill years earlier. LBJ ordered all of us on his staff — and urged allies in Congress — to act swiftly. “We have only two weeks, maybe only 10 days,” he said, “before the gun lobby gets organized.” He told Larry O’Brien and me, “We’ve got to beat the NRA [National Rifle Association] into the offices of members of Congress.”

I’m not sure this is advice President Obama needs. Given his speech yesterday in Connecticut, it’s clear he plans on waving the bloody shirts of the Sandy Hook Elementary victims in pursuit of his policy agenda.

To say that it’s ghoulish is an understatement, but political opportunists like Obama have no shame.

And that’s what this is. Political opportunism. Whether you lean for or against gun control, shouldn’t this be a debate we want to be cool and rational? Not colored by hot tempers and an emotional response to the murder of innocents? When is sound policy ever created in such conditions?

Look, for instance, at the bad policy we got stuck with in the wake of 9/11. Divisive, legally dubious policies of questionable effectiveness such as the PATRIOT Act and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security were rushed through Congress by political leaders anxious to do something after the nation was attacked. Don’t we all wish we’d taken a little more time to debate the issues now that we can look back, with cooler heads, with a decade or so of hindsight?

Leveraging trauma, fear and emotion into political capital may be good politics used skillfully by talented politicians like Barack Obama, but it makes for some truly awful policy.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • igx

    LBJ is similar to Obama in that he’s got some major political skills while being majorly ignorant of economics and policy.

    • Bat One

      On the other hand, to his limited credit, LBJ actually DID something and had some accomplishments to point to during his time in the Senate. Obama, of course, had none!

      • igx

        Among many other bad things he pushed Fannie Mae “off the books” NOT and he created Freddie Mac. Enron accounting. Now we all pay for it.

        • Bat One

          I didn’t mean to suggest that anything LBJ accomplished in the Senate. or in the White House, was good. Only that he actually accomplished things, which is far more than Obama can honestly claim.

    • $8194357

      Both are/were ideological fool tools for an agenda of
      facist statist intent on a global scale, no..

  • igx

    LBJ created Medicare and the junk silver market. What an idiot.

    Obama: The Obmamacare disaster and QE4.

  • borborygmi

    There is nothing to exploit or can be exploited. THe proverbial horse has left the livestock enclosure. We live in a gun culture. All that we can do is defend against the misuse of guns. Private security payed by and provided by the tax payer doesn’t seem unreasonable. Something has changed culturally, the fact that no one can put a definite finger on what, or if they can, cannot realistically change the culture, leaves us looking for solutions for the here and now. The society is what it is and there is no quick fix or even if it can be fixed or we want it fixed. We have the result (mass shootings) but we don’t have the root cause, the reasoning for it.

    • Rob

      Something has changed culturally

      Yeah, something has changed. We’re getting less violent, and we have fewer mass shootings.

      The media is creating this false impression that things are getting worse, and they aren’t. They’re getting better.

    • $8194357

      Over 100 million gun owners killed no one today, gurgle.
      Several 100 million didn’t commit vehicular manslaughter
      being drunk behind the wheel either..
      A tool is a tool….FOOL….
      How it is used is called personal responsability, no…

  • Radniecki

    Califano can shut the heck up. The Johnson administration planted the seed for the 15 trillion dollars we have spent on our failed welfare state, the trillions of dollars in unfunded medicare liabilities and so forth.

  • sbark

    so…….Obama cut 200 million in funds marked specifically for School Security systems the last few years……………

    ……lets exploit that……is Obama directly responsible for these deaths?….as of course GW would’ve been?

    …….why do I think those funds simply got diverted to Public Education Unions……follow the money to its crony roots.

    • peeler326

      I think your point, Sbark, was to point out how it’s hypocritical of Mr Obama to cut money for School Security. It certainly is but, Republicans are no angels in this department either! Lets start with Daryl Issa, Republican in Charge of Witch Hunts (RCWH) in the House. Mr Issa, “as part of the Republican majority that has controlled the House the
      last two years, Mr. Issa joined in cutting nearly a half-billion dollars
      from the State Department’s two main security accounts. One covers
      things like security staffing, including local guards, armored vehicles
      and security technology; the other, embassy construction and upgrades.”. Who’s hypocritical now, Sbark?

      • sbark

        Say hey……….show me the State Dept budget as part of the Obama Regime total buget for any of the past 3 plus years………has he or Dingy Harry Reid passed one?…….

        and besides…….. State/USAID

        Includes $43.4 billion for the core operations, which funds the long-term
        national security mission of the Department and USAID.

        ===so 1/2 billion is what percent of the Natl Security Mission of state dept? Apparently they just have to prioritize its use for actual Security vrs. just giving money to Al Queda thru Egypts Muslim Brthood

        and besides…….Obama Left them people to die, that SEAL was “lighting” up the bad guys with lazers, a General got fired because he wanted to help and shoot the crap out of Obama’s relatives outside the compound.

        The Left is synomonous with Hypocricy, the problem is they are more than willing to use violence to cover it up