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View Diary: A Letter to President Bush from Bumfuck, Indiana (207 comments)

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  •  OK, Renaldo (0+ / 0-)

    I have to remind you and everyone else that has a memory of LBJ's presidency that he was carrying out the wishes of the martyred JFK when he pushed into Vietnam. To have done otherwise would probably have cost him his life. Do you really think a man of LBJ's political savvy would have dared to defy the wishes of America's first king? Put your mind back into that time frame and maybe you will look at the situation a little differently.

    •  I'm not so sure I can agree. (5+ / 0-)

      I've never been in thrall to the much-vaunted Kennedy "mystique" and - although I'm old enough to remember JFK's assassination (I was in the third grade at the time) - I never viewed JFK as a quasi-saint. But there's plenty of evidence to suggest (suggest, not prove) that before his death, JFK may well have been looking at dialing down U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In any case it was LBJ who - after JFK's death - pushed the Gulf of Tonkin deception, dramatically escalated the U.S. military effort, and ultimately lacked the courage to pull forces out of Vietnam when it became clear even to him that the war was, for the U.S., unwinnable.

      Not that I view LBJ as evil - far from it. History will come to see him as a tragic figure. For all his strange compulsions and paranoias, he probably cared more about poverty in America than any other president in my lifetime, and he also knew he was taking a huge political risk when he signed the civil rights legislation for which he'd pushed so hard. If not for his Vietnam blunder, he might be regarded today as one of the greatest presidents - just a notch below FDR.

      But he made the lethal mistake of viewing Vietnam as a proxy battlefield of the U.S.-Soviet cold war, not as the nationalist independence struggle it really was. As such, he approached the problem with the simplistic us-versus-them mentality that he and so many of his generation had inherited from the still-recent Second World War.  

      It's hard to know how much LBJ felt bound by his predecessor's policies - especially since he'd effectively been shut out from so much of the day-to-day business of the Kennedy administration. But it seems that while he often evoked the legacy of his martyred predecessor to gain public support for his own decsision, he nonetheless was a former Senate majority leader (senior to JFK throughout the 1950s) who'd wanted to be president for a long time. His policies and decisions were his own.        

      Just my opinion.      

      •  LBJ and Vietnam (5+ / 0-)

        Reynaldo, you are right that JFK was considering how to exit gracefully the Vietnam debacle.  Unfortunately, we'll never know for sure.  

        What we do know from the telephone tapes released by the Johnson library, and confirmed by his close aides, is this:  Johnson felt pressured to continue fighting in Vietnam from the conservatives in his own party and from hawkish Republicans.  

        One of the more stinging charges flung by Republicans at Harry Truman was that he "lost China" in 1948 when Mao pushed Chiang and the Nationalists off the mainland to Formosa and proclaimed the People's Republic of China.  Rightwingers in both parties were outraged.  Of course, what was Truman supposed to do?  Commit millions of troops to Asia?  Even Republican darling Gen. McArthur warned against getting involved in a major land war in Asia.  No matter: the charge stuck to Truman.  

        This was during the run-up to the McCarthy era.  LBJ was the freshman senator from Texas.  He saw all this happen up close in DC.  .  

        Johnson said in a phone conversation sometime after Tonkin in 1964 that he had to prevail in Vietnam, or else the Republicans would say that he "lost Southeast Asia."  He didn't want to look weak.  Tonkin was his justification.

        Interesting parallel to present times, huh?  History sheds some incriminating light.  

    •  Excuse me? (0+ / 0-)

      pearlegates, I hope your whole post was a typo...

      JFK our first king? LBJ in fear for his life? You do realize that it was Kennedy that was murdered. Please say yes.

      •  At first I thought (0+ / 0-)

        pearlegates was referring to LBJ's fear (in November 1963) that the JFK assassination was part of a larger plot and that he, too, might be killed.  Looking back now, though, I'm not sure that's what pearlegates meant at all.  

        And calling Kennedy "America's first king"...what in heck does that mean?  Sure, JFK was quasi-canonized after his death.  But in the weeks before his assassination, his poll numbers were sagging and his people were worrying over his 1964 re-election chances. That's why he went to Dallas in the first place.      

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