Please note I have a new phone number...

512-517-2708

Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...

http://peaceandsocialjustice.blogspot.com/2013/03/a-progressive-program-for-real-change.html


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.


"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Monday, December 18, 2017

George McGovern and Lyndon Johnson

Opinion

Discovering Greatness in Lyndon Johnson

Like many Americans, I was deeply opposed to Lyndon Johnson's pursuit of the Vietnam War. My views on the war have not changed, but my opinion of Johnson has. I believe now that with the exceptions of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt -- and perhaps Theodore Roosevelt -- Lyndon Johnson was the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.

John Kenneth Galbraith called recently for a reassessment of Johnson, arguing that history was unfair in identifying his presidency primarily with the war. Professor Galbraith is on the mark.

The Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations were all wrong in Vietnam. This issue was central to my 1972 presidential run against Richard Nixon. But despite his involvement with the war, Johnson used his remarkable political skills to build the most far-reaching progressive domestic program since the New Deal. Johnson's opponents like to ridicule the Great Society, but what is wrong with an American president who envisions his nation as a great society? Johnson did more than any other president to advance civil rights, education and housing, to name just three of his concerns, through enactment of laws.

I now regret not devoting more time to praising the Johnson record at home. And I wish I had known earlier what the Johnson White House tapes, published two years ago, show: Johnson was agonizing over Vietnam policy from his first day as president until his last.

Johnson shared his doubts and fears about Vietnam primarily with Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. I knew that both Johnson and Russell opposed American involvement in Vietnam when it was proposed to them as senators by the Eisenhower administration. The tapes show that they continued to have terrible doubts and regrets, even while publicly supporting the war.

On May 27, 1964, six months into his presidency, Johnson asks Russell on one tape, ''What do you think of this Vietnam thing?'' Russell answers: ''It's the damn worst mess I ever saw, and I don't like to brag. I never have been right many times in my life. But I knew that we were going to get into this sort of mess when we went in there.'' To which Johnson replies: ''That's the way that I've been feeling for six months.''

Russell answers: ''If I was going to get out, I'd get the same crowd that got rid of old Diem to get rid of these people and get some fellow in there that said he wished to hell we would get out. That would give us a good excuse for getting out . . . .''

''How important is it to us?'' Johnson asks.

''It isn't important a damn bit, with all these new missile systems,'' Russell replies.

Later, Johnson tells Russell: ''I've got a little old sergeant that works for me over at the house, and he's got six children, and I just put him up there as the United States Army, Air Force and Navy every time I think about making this decision, and think about sending that father of those six kids in there. And what the hell are we going to get out of his doing it? And it just makes the chills run up my back.'' To which Russell replies: ''It does me. I just can't see it.''

Later that day Johnson tells his national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy: ''I don't think it's worth fighting for, and I don't think that we can get out. It just the biggest damn mess I ever saw.'' To which Bundy replies: ''It is. It's an awful mess.'' Johnson makes a final observation to Bundy: ''It's damned easy to get in a war, but it's gonna be awfully hard to extricate yourself if you get in.''

I assumed in those years that Johnson was fully convinced of the soundness of his policy and not eager to consider other alternatives. I assumed the same was true of Senator Russell and his powerful allies in the Senate. If I had been privy to the mind of either Johnson or Russell, I would have assembled a group of a dozen senators and asked for a no-holds-barred meeting on Vietnam policy.
Such a group could have included J. William Fulbright, Mike Mansfield, Frank Church, Eugene McCarthy, Joseph Clark, George Aiken, John Sherman Cooper, Mark Hatfield, Robert and Edward Kennedy, Gaylord Nelson and Albert Gore Sr. Whether we could have made a difference, knowing that we were talking to a president tortured by his policy and looking for a way out, I do not know. I do know that I wish we had tried.

If it had been up to Lyndon Johnson, we would not have gone into Vietnam in the first place. It would be a historic tragedy if his outstanding domestic record remained forever obscured by his involvement in a war he did not begin and did not know how to stop.