The Tragedy Of Lyndon Johnson

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Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. – George Santayana


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Lyndon Johnson could well have gone down in history as one of our greatest presidents. With a major assist from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and tens of thousands of brave civil rights advocates who put their lives on the line, Johnson pushed through landmark civil rights legislation which not only broke the back of the Jim Crow laws in the South, but helped mitigate the effects of racism in the rest of the nation as well.

Johnson was also largely responsible for the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, as well as for bolstering the Food Stamp program and other programs that constituted the War on Poverty.

Lyndon Johnson And The Vietnam War

But on the other side of the ledger, months after winning a landslide election as the “peace candidate” against Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, Johnson sent hundreds of thousands of troops to Vietnam in an effort to stop the communists from completely taking over that country.

How could a man so smart, and so politically astute, do something so amazingly stupid? In a campaign speech in Akron, Ohio, just two weeks before the election, Johnson pledged not to send combat troops to Vietnam to fight a war that “Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

There is a simple explanation. He certainly did not want to be remembered as the president who lost Vietnam to the communists. So, he kept doubling down, sending more and more combat troops to that country.

Now he had gotten himself into a pissing contest with the communist leaders of North Vietnam, an economic and military pissant country, that was humiliating the greatest economic and military superpower the world had ever known. And so, it became a war to the death of every boy our nation could sacrifice.

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Sadistic Attributes

People who knew Johnson often described him with a single word: sadistic. He enjoyed dominating the people around him to see them squirm. He was so macho, that in comparison, Donald Trump would be considered a well-mannered gentleman.

The Vietnam War not only split the country, but it forced Johnson to call off his reelection campaign. If only he had not gotten us mired in that war, he might have gone on to do even greater things – like actually wiping out poverty, and perhaps even completely breaking the back of white supremacy.

Today, not many Americans remember Lyndon Johnson, nor are we aware of his tragic escalation in Vietnam. It has been said that Covid has been President Donald Trump’s Vietnam, which is kind of ironic. After all, although of draft age in the late sixties and early seventies, Trump managed to dodge that war too.

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