Earlier today I posted a column in which I excoriated the GOP for appealing to the left side of the IQ bell curve by promoting a narrative which is just dumb as shit. But I can’t drop the issue without first acknowledging a simple fact: when it comes to the government doing dumb things, the dumbest thing ever done by the federal government in my entire lifetime (I am 79 y/o) was done by two Democrat(ic) Presidents – JFK and LBJ.
I’m referencing of course the decision first by Kennedy and then ratified by Johnson to go to war in Viet Nam, a decision which wasn’t just dumb but terribly destructive in every sense of the word.
What did we get because two Democrat(ic) Presidents, supported by every Democrat in the Senate with the exception of Ernest Gruening and Wayne Morse, didn’t want to be the first American President to lose a war? I’ll tell you what we got.
We got 60,000 names on a fucking memorial wall in D.C. which included two of my classmates from public school. We got the landscape and people living in that landscape in two countries immolated and burned to hell. We got Nixon and his phony ‘Vietnamization’ policy while he bombed the shit out of Cambodia and North Vietnam. And most of all in the rest of the world the idea that the U.S. represented justice and decency in political affairs, an idea which emerged at the end of World War II, completely disappeared from then until now.
And worst of all, what was the worst element in the post-Viet Nam legacy was the collapse of an idea which came out of the New Deal, the idea that when the country faced a real crisis, that government could be expected to confront the problem, figure out a solution and get the job done.
In that regard, I ask you to please read David Halberstam’s remarkable book. It’s called The Best and the Brightest, and it’s about the group of advisers which JFK assembled to help him figure out the Viet Nam War. One of this group had been the Dean at Harvard, another was President of the Ford Foundation, another was considered to be the smartest Fortune-500 CEO, another taught economics at MIT, so on and so forth, you know what I mean.
The picture above is the whole bunch in a meeting with LBJ who kept this group of intellectual luminaries around to advise him on Viet Nam after he took office in 1963.
In March or April of 1964, a bunch of us college kids went down to Times Square, stood around the military recruiting center at 42nd Street and handed out a pamphlet which said U.S. Get Out of Vietnam!
None of us had yet to graduate from college, none of us had any experience in foreign affairs, none of us had ever visited Viet Nam, and for that matter I don’t think any of us had been further away from our Manhattan college campus than a trip up to The Bronx.
But we knew the war was wrong because to paraphrase what Muhammed Ali would later say after he refused to be drafted in 1967, we didn’t have nuthin’ against them Viet Congs.
Most of my liberal friends who today support the idea that government is always right, and the private sector is always wrong weren’t even born when we were handing out our pamphlet in Times Square. But when I listen liberals, particularly the so-called ‘progressive’ liberals who think that Joe has sold them out, I can’t help but remember how two very liberal Presidents and a liberal Democrat(ic) Party are responsible for the single, worst political decision ever made in the entire history of the United States.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to back down on my idea that to be a Republic(an) and particularly to be a Republic(an) who is hoping to vote again for Trump in 2024, you have to be situated somewhere on the left side of the bell curve.
But I’m not sure that the left side of the bell curve doesn’t contain as many people who consider themselves to be liberals and would have voted for JFK and LBJ if they had been of voting age back then.
To quote a Supreme Court Associate Justice named Felix Frankfurter: “History also has its claims.”