Earlier this week, Bill Moyers penned an essay recalling the long legislative road that faced Medicare in the intervening years between President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. At the time of the bill’s passage, in 1965, Bill worked in Johnson’s White House as a special assistant to the president, and was witness to Johnson as he “coaxed, cajoled, badgered, buttonholed and maneuvered Congress into enacting Medicare for the aging and Medicaid to help low-income people.”
He tells Fresh Air host Terry Gross:
Lyndon Johnson was a genius in knowing everyone’s price… What all of this shows is that it takes a president who is informed, and engaged and active in the legislative process respecting the differences between the branches. But it takes someone who knows what is going on, cares about the details of the bill and is willing to sit one-on-one —
I can see right now Lyndon Johnson having individual and collective members of Congress to have coffee in the morning, lunch at noon, a drink at 6 o’clock, even dinner sometimes. And then I can see him meeting with the head of the Chamber of Commerce, the head of the AFL-CIO, very important for the passage of Medicare, they brought their 14 million members to back it. That’s how he worked it.
Listen to the entire interview, which aired on Fresh Air on Aug. 3, 2017.