Johnson treatment

johnson treatment

President Lyndon Baines Johnson was famous for his ability to coerce members of Congress into supporting his legislation. LBJ’s combination of charm, persuasion, and sheer intimidation came to be known as the “Johnson treatment.” 

Johnson was notoriously aggressive, especially when he wanted to achieve one of his political goals. LBJ managed to rise from his simple beginnings in the tiny, rural town of Johnson, Texas and reach the White House. Historians say that he managed this ascent by ruthlessly seeking out power and never losing sight of his goals. Even while he was a college student, Johnson reportedly declared that he was only interested in dating girls with “rich daddies,” who could presumably give him access to power and money.

LBJ held on to this drive for power throughout his career, even once he had reached the White House. He was highly skilled at identifying people’s insecurities and worming his way into their confidence. As a negotiator, he knew exactly how to wheel and deal, offering each member of Congress just the right concessions to get them on his side. Both over the telephone and in face to face meetings, Johnson was a persistent,  tireless dealmaker, who juggled a detailed knowledge of the law with an intuitive understanding of what made people tick. And, when all else failed, Johnson did not hesitate to use his physical presence to frighten his opponents.

Congressman Richard Bolling, who experienced the Johnson treatment himself, described Johnson as a man with no natural boundaries, who didn’t hesitate to be rough and even animalistic when it could help him. Bolling said, “I wouldn’t say Johnson was vulgar — he was barnyard.” Johnson had no sense of personal space and treated conversation as a creepy hands-on affair. Miller learned from Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee that, “You really felt as if a St. Bernard had licked your face for an hour, had pawed you all over.”

New York Times reporter Tom Wicker wrote, years after the fact, about his own experiences with the Johnson treatment, during the years that he spent covering the White House for the Times. Wicker described a time when he was called into LBJ’s office after writing something unfavorable. The president was having his hair cut and stared Wicker down:

I had thought I was on easy terms with the senator, then the vice president. But was this the same garrulous man I had known — this silent, staring president? Whoever it was, I was quickly intimidated, unnerved, reduced to a sort of nothingness by those unblinking eyes, that jowly familiar face turned implacable, that motionless form under the barber sheet, the brooding silence in which I was being regarded, or perhaps measured.

I shuffled and writhed. He still said nothing. Finally I knew I was beaten, and to my shame I mumbled some banality about the nation’s good fortune in having such a man to take over. Only then, as if just noticing my presence, he whipped off the barber sheet, stood up and spoke, as if those interminable moments had never happened.

Forty years later, whenever I remember that first interview with a new president, I still feel diminished by my small experience of the Johnson Treatment.

John Q. Public

John Q Public

John Q. Public is a reference to the ordinary man or woman. His name is used as a shorthand for popular opinion and a personification of the general public.

Katy Waldman described John Q. Public as follows:

He’s an upstanding sort who shovels the ice off his stretch of sidewalk, writes a check to his local ASPCA, and tries to be a loving dad to his 2½ kids. He sits in traffic. He has a particular order in which he reads the newspaper. Pace Hollywood, he looks nothing like Denzel Washington, though occasionally in the morning, freshly shaven, adjusting his tie in front of the mirror, he thinks to himself that he’s not too bad.  

Waldman characterized John Q. Public as a “square who cares,” an upstanding citizen who is reasonably prosperous and is probably a pillar of his community. He can be contrasted with other “everyman” names, like Joe Blow, or Joe Schmo, which usually refer to an ordinary person who’s somewhat down on their luck. 

John Q Public was invented in 1922; he was the creation of the cartoonist Vaughan Shoemaker. Shoemaker’s John Q. Public was a symbol for the “beleaguered American taxpayer,” according to the New York Times; he first appeared in the Chicago Daily News. The cartoon was later syndicated to over 75 newspapers around the country. 

Shoemaker’s cartoons were likely influenced by an earlier cartoon character, “Mr. Common Man,” which first appeared early in the 20th century and was the creation of the political cartoonist Frederick Opper. Opper invented Mr. Common Man while he was working for William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. Opper invented the cartoons during the presidential campaign of 1900, during a time when the Hearst newspapers were going all-out to critique monopolies and “trusts.” Opper, for his part, created an alphabet of characters, each representing a fat trust who blithely kicked and beat a hatless little man who was known as Mr. Common Man.

jungle primary

jungle primary

A jungle primary is an election in which all candidates for elected office run in the same primary regardless of political party.

It’s also known as the “blanket primary,” “open primary” or “top two primary,” since the top two candidates who receive the most votes advance to the next round, similar to a runoff election.

However, in a jungle primary there is no separate nomination process for candidates before the first round, and parties cannot narrow the field. In fact, it is entirely possible that two candidates of the same party could advance to the second round. For this reason, it’s not surprising that the parties haven’t rushed to embrace jungle primaries because they ultimately reduce their power.

This voting system theoretically will elect more moderate candidates, as the victor may appeal to voters of both parties in a two-party system.


A junket is a pleasure trip taken by a politicians with expenses paid for with public funds.

President Obama was accused of wasteful spending on a junket to New York in May, 2009 for dinner and a show with his wife.