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The Left vs. The U.S.
Seeing how I am guest blogging for a Texan, it makes sense to write about a Texas politician who in many ways was larger than life: Lyndon Johnson.
I could write about the Great Society or Medicare or the Civil Rights Act, but not today. While any one of those accomplishments would be worthy book material, I wanted to zero in on the main failure of his Presidency: Vietnam.
The Left has been trying to turn the current war in Iraq into President Bush's Vietnam. So far they have been unsuccessful. Bush has stuck to his guns and the all volunteer military continues to do a splendid job. But still, the Left tries to make Bush into another Johnson.
They want a Vietnam analogy; I will give them one that actually will fit Vietnam, if the Left has their way.
My father fought in Vietnam. His tour was from 1966 to 1967. He saw some furious combat and luckily escaped unscathed. His unit was a very professional, highly trained unit. They fought the enemy hard and believed in the cause in which they were engaged in. I would suspect that a large percentage of our combat troops during that time frame felt the same way. By the winter of 1967 and the spring of 1968 the American public had begun to lose confidence in the war. We still were winning every engagement but the press had turned against the U.S. after Tet and were actively seeking to undermine our mission and our President.
By the spring of 2004, the war in Iraq had entered a new phase. The growing terrorist presence in the country and the deployment of improvised explosive devices (IED's) began taking a large toll on our troops. New tactics were developed to fight the new threat faced by taking on the IED's. As if on cue, the MSM began to hammer the administration for failing to predict this new phase of combat. They began asking asinine questions such as why didn't we have plans to deal with this threat before it surfaced and why weren't our weapons functioning as planned? The famous answer by Rumsfeld that you go to war with the army you have, infuriated the press, but no truer words have ever been spoken.
1968 and 2004. Both were election years. Both sitting Presidents were embroiled in a war that was beginning to wane in popularity. Both faced a hostile, if not borderline treacherous press. How did each man act?
President Johnson, like President Bush sat down to talk to the American people to explain that things may look bad, but that if we are strong, we will prevail. President Johnson:
Even while the search for peace was going on, North Vietnam rushed their preparations for a savage assault on the people, the government, and the allies of South Vietnam.
We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who behead civilian hostages and broadcast their atrocities for the world to see.
But there is one huge difference: President Johnson turned his tail and ran. Bush stood his ground. Johnson may not have pulled the troops out and left the South Vietnamese to fend for themselves, but his pulling out of the Presidential race had about the same effect. Some 40 years after the fact, when I watched the replay of his address to the nation those haunting words sent chills down my spine:
With America's sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office--the Presidency of your country.
Can you imagine the shock on the American people? But more importantly, can you imagine the shock on the men in the field? After all, if the President is getting out because it has gotten tough, then why should they stay, fight and die?
If the Left wants a Vietnam analogy, they will have one if Bush does what they want. The Left (I am specifically directing this at you Cindy Sheehan) wants the U.S. to pull out right now. If we do that, it will be the same as Johnson announcing he is quitting. The effect on our enemy is known. Just look at how North Vietnam played it to their advantage. Look at the loss of prestige America suffered all through the 1970's. In many ways our weakness in Vietnam and after emboldened the terrorists we now fight. So I ask you, look at history and see what happens when you tuck your tuck your tail and run. Our men end up having died for nothing and out enemy is emboldened, which guarantees that future generations will one day have to finish the job that the current generation should have finished. If you want Vietnam, you will get it if Bush pulls a Johnson. Just remember that the consequences will be far reaching. The Left thought they won a great victory when the U.S. failed in Vietnam. If so, then they have the blood of thousand upon thousands of innocent people on their hands. Our failure and weakness afterwards led to where we are today.
Mike is a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy over at WunderKraut.com
Posted by Wunderkraut · 3 October 2005 07:53 PM
The best thing about Lyndon Johnson's term was Lady Bird!... She gave Texas the beautiful wildflowers!...
Posted by: Zsa Zsa at October 3, 2005 09:15 PM
Johnson was a pussy. He didn't fight the war with the complete aresenal at his hands. He refused to bomb the north. He also micromanaged every air strike. He didn't let his field commanders -- hell, his appointed chiefs of staff or SecDef -- make the calls it was their jobs to make.
The north was so strengthened by the fact that we were fighting a retaliatory war, rather than taking the fight to the real enemy (in general). Nixon inhereted a mess.
Posted by: Cullen at October 4, 2005 05:42 AM
My sister had a boyfriend who lost his life in that war. I was very young during the Viet Nam war! That era was what I remember as being a time of anti establishment! The Hillary Clinton,Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reids are that age group! They are the left over Viet Nam Protesters that just can't quit living in the past!... They linger on posing as Leaders of our country. in fact they don't lead our country! They only run it down!
Posted by: Zsa Zsa at October 4, 2005 06:06 AM
Cullen’s point about Nixon is an important one. I wanted to say something about that, but the post had already run long. So, I will address it in the comments.
I am no fan of the way Nixon handled the war. But like Cullen said, he inherited a mess. By the time Nixon actually took office, the long, bitter year of 1968 was over. By then the country was bitterly divided, the troops in the field were becoming more demoralized and the Pentagon was shuffling more and more draftees to Vietnam and sending the regular troops out of harms way.
How could anyone fight a war when all those things were going against you? He could have done a much better job. The whole Peace With Honor thing was just wrong. It was and is still obvious that the North Vietnamese were not going to stop their quest for the South. By 1972 and 1973, Nixon was tied up with scandal. By the time poor Gerald Ford became President, he had not hope. We had already pulled out from Vietnam with the promise of continued support for the South Vietnamese. But then a Democratic and very Left wing Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act in 1974 which left South Vietnam all alone. It was not long before the North over ran the South and thousands upon thousands of people were rounded up and executed. Many thousands more fled from the Communist "utopia", heading for the U.S.
I really feel that Johnson's retreat started the snow ball rolling. A stronger leader would have unleashed the military to do what is should have been doing. A stronger leader would have united the country instead of letting the war fester. A stronger leader would have run for the second term, even though it was not the easy thing to do.
Posted by: WunderKraut at October 4, 2005 07:02 AM
Johnson’s handling of the war in total started the ball rolling. He wasn’t fighting a winning war. He was applying band aids to a wound that required a tourniquet.
Nixon, I think would have done a better job, but he was also concerned about popular opinion of the war. I honestly think he was worried about being branded a war criminal if he fought the war the way it needed to be done.
Another oddity — in an unsuccessful campaign, you never hear about any strong military leadership. That is, in VN, you had no Pershings, Pattons or MacArthurs. I have always wondered if stronger military leadership (as opposed to some of the politic-ing that was going on) would have made any significant difference.
Posted by: Cullen at October 4, 2005 07:29 AM
It would have, but Johnson and McNamarra (sp?) tossed any dissenter in those meetings out on their ear. After a few meetings of that everyone knew their jab was to be a "yes" man.
Posted by: Rob B. at October 4, 2005 10:44 AM
I don't consider Johnson's Great Society to be an accomplishment in any way, shape or form. I think it was the first step towards socialism and the creation of a quasi-welfare state. I admire his civil rights work but not much else the man did, and his civil rights work would have never passed had he relied on his own party to help him. Johnson was the jumping off point for the downfall of the democrat party.
Posted by: bullwinkle at October 4, 2005 12:57 PM
Good point bullwinkle. Very good point.
Posted by: Cullen at October 4, 2005 01:25 PM
I am not disputing how sucky of a President Johnson was. I was going to mention how much the "war on poverty" in many ways has perpetuated a cycle of dependence on the government, but I elected to shorten the post a bit.
I also do not dispute that he should have let the military run the war, instead of picking individual targets and setting rules and boundaries and all the other dumb ass things he and McNamara did.
My main point was that when he did turn and run away from his problem, it was the end of the Democrats and it was the end of the war. The psychological impact on our enemy and on our troops cannot be overestimated. Bush had the chance and he still does have a chance to do something similar. Pulling out and leaving, which the Left wants the U.S. to do, would have the same empowering/demoralizing affect on our enemy and our troops. That is a Vietnam analogy that does work.
Posted by: WunderKraut at October 4, 2005 07:32 PM
Exactly!...LBJ was not a General or even a half way decent Commander and Chief... But that Lady Bird. She is responsible for all the beautiful blue bonnets and wild flowers along the Texas Highways! Wunderkraut, I am very thankful that today we have a President who doesn't try to act like he knows everything! I like the fact that he gives others who know how to do the job the responsibility! I feel very bad for the Viet Nam Vets who came home to such a unwarm welcome! I am thankful that your father made it back safe! This was an awesome anology of what most people don't really think to begin to understand!
Posted by: Zsa Zsa at October 4, 2005 09:20 PM
I don't have to imagine how people felt on hearing Johnson, because I remember it well. It was a profound shock, but most of us naive college students were happy. In fact, though, oddly enough, Johnson's withdrawal from the election enabled Nixon (whom I detested at the time) to win the Presidency, and to institute a far more effective Vietnam War, a war that might have actually succeeded had the American public not already been demoralized and misinformed. History has its ironies, and that is one of them. The idea that Vietnamization was an abject failure is at least partly a media myth--it was doing moderately well until the Democratic Congress pulled the plug on funding, and that was the end of that. Take a look at this article, if you are interested.
Another difference between Vietnam/Johnson and Iraq/Bush is that Johnson was most definitely not the author of the Vietnam War; he was its inheritor. It was Kennedy's war originally, and Johnson always hated it, but felt he had to continue it because he couldn't be the one to withdraw. His domestic policies were what he wanted his legacy to be, and they were at least partly derailed by the war, which was his undoing. Johnson had no real stomach for being a war President. Bush is the architect of the Iraq War, a very different situation.
Posted by: neo-neocon at October 4, 2005 10:13 PM
Good points. One of my earliest posts on my blog was about the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. A sad day in American history. Check it out here.
Posted by: WunderKraut at October 5, 2005 06:31 AM
I was born in '67, so I don't remember the emotions of the time.
Now in my thirties, I view all the anti-Nixon boiler-plate as a tactical distraction from Johnson's "surrender." - just as Delay's recent indictment is a distraction from the Democrat's New Orleans mess.
Posted by: Steve at October 5, 2005 08:49 AM