337AD: Death of Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity. He aggressively set about un-doing the persecutions carried out by his predecessor, Diocletian. In particular, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313, declaring religious tolerance throughout the Empire as the law of the land. He also rebuilt the ancient Turkish city of Byzantium, re-naming it Constantinople and making it the capital of the eastern portion of the Empire, a position it maintained for another thousand years.
1471: Birth of German artist Albrecht Durer. Best known for his woodcuts, he also worked in oils and pencil. He was deeply engaged in the intellectual unrest of the early Reformation period, but remained loyal to the Roman Catholic church to his death
1626: Director-General of the New Netherlands division of the Dutch West Indian Company, Peter Minuit, purchases Manhattan Island from the local indigenous tribe for items valued at 60 Guilders, often mis-represented as $24 of wampum. Records also exist of Minuit negotiating for similar ownership rights on Staten Island in trade for “duffle cloth, iron kettles and axe heads, hoes, drilling awls, Jew’s Harps and other divers items…” Historians Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace in 1999 put this into modern terms: “…the Dutch were engaged in high-end technology transfer, handing over equipment of enormous usefulness in tasks ranging from clearing land to drilling wampum.”
1701: Scottish-American privateer Captain William Kidd is hanged by the neck until dead after his conviction for murder and piracy in a London court. His corpse is put into a gibbet on the Execution Dock, where it remains on display for thirty years as a warning to other potential pirates. Kidd’s story is the basis for many tales of buried treasure and other themes from the “golden age” of piracy. There remains to this day something of a cottage industry engaged in clearing his name by establishing his bone fides as an authorized privateer, betrayed by his sponsors in England.
1738: Christian conversion of John Wesley, who went on to lead the Methodist movement in Great Britain.
1856: Abolitionist John Brown leads a group that murders five pro-slavery settlers in Pottawatomie, Kansas. Before the secessionist movement took root in the South, “Bleeding Kansas” became the violent first battleground between pro and anti-slavery forces.
1859: Birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (d.1930), British physician, mystic, and man of letters, best known for his creation of the great detective Sherlock Holmes.
1878: Birth of Glenn Curtiss, motorcycle builder and racer, aviation pioneer, and competitor of the Wright Brothers. Barred by the threat of patent infringement of the Wright’s wing warping principles and mechanism, Curtiss invented the aileron as a means of roll control in his airplanes. The Navy was an early purchaser of his machines, which were used for the first launches and recoveries from Navy ships.
1879: Birth in Danville, Virginia of Nancy Langhorne, who rose socially and politically to become The Right Honorable Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor. On the accession of her husband Waldorf Astor to the House of Lords, she ran for election for his Commons seat and won, becoming the first woman to be seated in that chamber. She was a vocal MP, particularly during the buildup to the Second World War. After a tumultuous period of scathing critiques of just about everyone in the political spectrum, she retired in 1945, but remained in the public eye as something of a curmudgeon until her death. She is especially remembered for her acerbic wit: “I married beneath me. All women do.” “One reason why I don’t drink is because I wish to know when I am having a good time.” “We women talk too much, but even then we don’t tell half what we know.”
1881: Birth of Mustafa Kemel Ataturk (d.1938), the First President of the Turkish Republic. General-Pasha of the Ottoman army during the Great War, he was in command of the Turkish forces that held the ANZAC invasion of Gallipoli to nothing more than a toehold until they withdrew under fire nine months later. He then commanded Ottoman armies both in the Levant and on the northern reaches of Anatolia against the Russians. After the war, he served as Aide-de-Camp in the Sublime Porte during the Allied occupation of Constantinople and Izmir, as the British and French worked to divide up the outer reaches of the Ottoman Empire. By June of 1919, he had had enough of external meddling, and began a two-pronged Army revolt- both militarily and politically- that eventually led to the establishment in October, 1923 of the explicitly secular Turkish state. Ataturk is constitutionally the only person who will every be permitted to assume that title, which means, “Father of Turkey.”
1883: After 14 years of complex construction, the Brooklyn Bridge opens for traffic.
1897: Birth of Phoenix native Frank Luke . World War I American fighter Ace and Medal of Honor winner, he was second only to the great Eddie Rickenbacker for the number of confirmed kills by an American pilot. Luke’s fearlessness and airmanship led him to focus on destroying German observation balloons, and earned him the moniker of “The Balloon Buster.” One would think that diving a screaming fighter in towards a huge, immobile gasbag would not be much of a challenge, but one would be gravely mistaken in that assumption: the balloons were not only surrounded by dozens of pre-loaded light artillery pieces aiming straight up, each one of their ascents was also covered by a flight of German fighter planes flying high cover overhead. Luke and his wingman perfected the technique of diving out of the sun and making repeated passes at the balloon until its hydrogen finally burst into flames and plunged to earth. His total count was 14 balloons and 4 aeroplanes, all shot down in the course of only 10 sorties over 8 days. Rickenbacker himself called Luke the “…the most daring aviator and the greatest fighter pilot of the entire war.” Luke Air Force Base in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale is named for him.
1906: The Wright Brothers receive U.S. Patent number 821,393 for their “flying machine.” The patent is the result of the Wright’s extensive testing and refinement of aircraft control mechanisms on their basic 1903 design, and was indicative of their decision to leave the bicycle business and make a go of it in the nascent field of commercial aviation. This is the same patent I mentioned the other day that led Glenn Curtis and others to create work-arounds that would avoid patent infringement issues, although the patent fights between them would continue for years.
1915: Eruption of Northern California’s Mount Lassen, the only other U.S. volcano in the lower 48– besides Saint Helens– to blow in the 20th century. This was the first of 107 separate eruptions that occurred during the next twelve months.
1921(a): Opening day in the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, in Boston. The two immigrant Italian anarchists, usually described sympathetically as a shoe-maker and a fish monger, were arrested for robbery and murder, and after a internationally sensational trial were sentenced to death. The trial gained notoriety not only for the lurid twists and turns promulgated by both the prosecution and the defense (“someone changed the barrel of his gun!”), but also by the two’s unrepentant status as international anarchists. Further controversy followed as the presiding judge Webster Thayer refused to grant five motions for new trials, later confronting a colleague with, “Did you see what I did with those anarchistic bastards the other day? I guess that will hold them for a while…” Sacco and Vanzetti’s case became cause célèbre with leftists world-wide, and even non-leftists grew increasingly uncomfortable with the court’s seeming disregard for normal evidentiary rules and appeal procedures. With the wheels of justice inexorably moving forward, Sacco and Vanzetti were electrocuted on August 23rd, 1927. To no one’s surprise, anarchist riots and bombings broke out in response as far away as Buenos Aires.
1921(b): The US Congress passes the Emergency Quota Act, limiting legal immigration to a small percentage of the current nationalities then residing in the country. The act effectively shut off the flow of immigrants who were streaming into the country from southern Europe and the Balkans.
1927: Thirty three and a half hours after his launch from Roosevelt Field, Charles Lindbergh lands in Le Brouget Airport in Paris. Although he expected some level of fame for his accomplishment, the public acclaim that followed him made him one of the 20th century’s first media superstars. As National Geographic put it, “he took off as an unknown boy from rural Minnesota and landed 33 1/2 hours later as the most famous man on earth… and sent the world into an unprecedented frenzy.” When he was sighted in the morning crossing the coast of Ireland the news was immediately broadcast worldwide. Over 150,000 Parisians worked their way to his arrival airport to witness the historic event. He reached Paris in the gathering darkness, and spent several minutes circling the Eiffel Tower to get his bearings, during which time the crowds broke through the police lines protecting the landing area, creating a situation that Lindbergh called the most dangerous part of the entire flight. The crowds that surged around his machine as he rolled out cut swaths of fabric off the fuselage for souvenirs, and despite his fatigue he was forced into event after event with both French and American luminaries.
1932: After a 14 hour flight through turbulence, icing and un-forecast winds, bad weather finally forces Amelia Earhart down into a farmer’s field near Derry, Ireland, and into history as the first woman to solo across the Atlantic. Although only two locals witnessed her touchdown, the media quickly picked up the story and “Lady Lindy” became the next media sensation. Her Lockheed Vega is on display in the National Air and Space Museum.
1934: After a four year spree of robbery and murder, Bonnie Parker (b.1910) and Clyde Barrow (b.1909) are gunned down by a posse in rural Black Lake, Louisiana.
1941(a): On her breakout cruise into the North Atlantic, the German battleship Bismarck engages and sinks HMS Hood, which goes to the bottom with the loss of all hands save three.
1941(b): Birth of Bob Dylan.
1945: Nazi chief of the SS Heinrich Himmler commits suicide in his Allied cell, thus avoiding public responsibility for his war crimes
1947: President Harry S. Truman signs into law an economic assistance act for Greece and Turkey that will become the foundation for the Truman Doctrine on controlling the spread of Communism.
1964: President Lyndon Baines Johnson announces the Great Society legislative program, in which he promises to “eliminate poverty and racial injustice in America”.
1965: Death of Geoffrey de Havilland (b.1882). The British aircraft designer’s Mosquito fighter, made entirely as a “plywood” laminate structure, was one of the most innovative and best-loved fighter planes of the Second World War.
This week you mentioned that Constantinople was built on the “Turkish city of Byzantium.” This is VERY wrong. The Turks were a nomadic tribe in Asia when Byzantium was built by the Greeks.Byzantium was rebuilt and renamed Constantinople and remained the capital ciry of the Eastern Roman Empire until 1453, when it was conquered by the Turks. For another generation it remained ethnic-majority Greek. The current name “Istanbu;” is merely a corruption of the Greek name Constantinople.
Paul Plante says
1964: President Lyndon Baines Johnson announces the Great Society legislative program, in which he promises to “eliminate poverty and racial injustice in America”.
And what a chapter in contemporary American history that seemingly innocuous announcement was to bring into being – a chapter in American history where the lies of an American president lost him not only the Congress but the nation, and hence, the office of president, itself.
And ah, yes, “promises,” as in a lot of political hot air, because most of the agenda was never really funded nor implemented, despite the grandiose promises of Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1064.
It was LBJ’s obsession with leaving America with his Great Society as a sign of his personal greatness, an American Constantine, perhaps, or Kublai Khan, the eternal guardian of his people, that gave us the Credibility Gap later in his reign which led him to draw out of the race in 1968 a mocked, maligned and haunted man.
The credibility gap came about, quite simply, because LBJ was lying though his teeth to the American people and Congress about VEET NAM, while LBJ had his people doing a fiddle with the actual costs of the war, which if known, would have cost LBJ his Great Society.
Just keep shoving it under the rug, and keep cutting the salami thinner and thinner, and no one in America going into the 1968 presidential elections would be the wiser that the government we were supporting in Saigon was corrupt and inept, the ARVN were worthless, and in fact were a source of re-armament for the VC, and we were militarily stalemated because the bombing was not working to stop infiltration of NVA troops, rated as some of the best infantry in the world.
Anything to save the Great Society!
As to the “Credibility Gap,” Wikipedia tells us that it is a term that came into wide use with journalism, political and public discourse in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.
At the time, it was most frequently used to describe public skepticism about the Lyndon B. Johnson administration’s statements and policies on the Vietnam War.
It was used in journalism as a euphemism for recognized lies told to the public by politicians.
It must be said that I lived though those times, and remember them well, especially the lies. for it was the belief of those lies that had me in the U.AS. Army in 1968, preparing to go to VEET NAM, to fight for LBJ’s lies.
The term “credibility gap” was popularized in 1966 by J. William Fulbright, a Democratic Senator from Arkansas, when he could not get a straight answer from President Johnson’s Administration regarding the war in Vietnam.
“Credibility gap” was first used in association with the Vietnam War in the New York Herald Tribune in March 1965, to describe then-president Lyndon Johnson’s handling of the escalation of American involvement in the war.
A number of events—particularly the surprise Tet Offensive, and later the 1971 release of the Pentagon Papers—helped to confirm public suspicion that there was a significant “gap” between the administration’s declarations of controlled military and political resolution, and the reality.
These were viewed as examples of Johnson’s and later Richard Nixon’s duplicity.
Throughout the war, Johnson worked with his officials to ensure that his public addresses would only disclose bare details of the war to the American public.
During the war the country grew more and more aware of the credibility gap especially after Johnson’s speech at Johns Hopkins University in April 1965.
An example of public opinion appeared in the New York Times concerning the war. “The time has come to call a spade a bloody shovel.”
“This country is in an undeclared and unexplained war in Vietnam.”
“Our masters have a lot of long and fancy names for it, like escalation and retaliation, but it is a war just the same.”
– James Reston.
The advent of the presence of television journalists allowed by the military to report and photograph events of the war within hours or days of their actual occurrence in an uncensored manner drove the discrepancy widely referred to as “the credibility gap.”
All that in a futile effort to save his precious Great Society.
Instead of joining history in the pantheon of great leaders, LBJ lands in the Gallery of Fools.
And today, the Great Society of LBJ is but a dim memory, if even that.
Paul Plante says
In 1964, the year President Lyndon Baines Johnson announced the Great Society legislative program, in which he promised to “eliminate poverty and racial injustice in America,” I was a relatively poor kid living on a hardscrabble farm out in the countryside, getting ready to graduate from high school, while LBJ, like Harry S. Truman before him, was a new and uncertain and very much unexpected American president, looking to make his own mark in history and to separate himself from the John Fitzgerald Kennedy legacy in the process.
Hence his Great Society.
I recall Kennedy being killed, and LBJ being anointed to take his place in 1963, and a year later, I recall him announcing the Great Society.
Three years after that, in 1967, a friend of mine in the 82d Airborne Division was issued live ammunition and shoot to kill orders.
That was for the Detroit riots, not Viet Nam.
So much for the Great Society “eliminating poverty and racial injustice in America,” at least in Detroit in 1967.
For those who missed it, according to Wikipedia, the 1967 Detroit riot, also known as the 12th Street riot, was the bloodiest race riot in the “Long, hot summer of 1967”.
Composed mainly of confrontations between black people and police, it began in the early morning hours of Sunday July 23, 1967 in Detroit, Michigan, with the precipitating event being a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar then known as a blind pig, on the city’s Near West Side.
It exploded into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in American history, lasting five days and surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit’s 1943 race riot 24 years earlier.
To help end the disturbance, Governor George W. Romney ordered the Michigan Army National Guard into Detroit, and President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in the United States Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
That is how my friend ended up going there with the 82d.
Getting back to Wikipedia:
The result was 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed.
The scale of the riot was the worst in the United States since the 1863 New York City draft riots during the American Civil War, and was surpassed by the 1992 Los Angeles riots 25 years later.
The riot was prominently featured in the news media, with live television coverage, extensive newspaper reporting, and extensive stories in Time and Life magazines.
As I said, so much for Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society!”
Four years later, in 1968, when the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson was in its final melt-down phase, the “Great Society” gifted us with the Chicago riots.
As Wikipedia tells us, for those who missed the 1968 Chicago riots, the 1968 Chicago riots were sparked in part by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Violence and chaos followed, with people flooding out onto the streets of major cities, and soon riots began, primarily in black urban areas, so that over 100 major U.S. cities experienced disturbances, resulting in roughly $50 million in damage.
Rioters and police in Democrat Mayor Daley’s Chicago were particularly aggressive, and the damage was severe.
In Chicago itself, more than 48 hours of rioting left 11 Chicago citizens dead, 48 wounded by police gunfire, 90 policemen injured, and 2,150 people arrested, while two miles of Austin on West Madison Street were left in a state of rubble.
Later the same year, as those of us alive back then still remember, around the Democratic National Convention, Chicago would once again be a place for political protest and clashes with the authorities.
Getting back to the Chicago riot, on April 5, 1968, in Chicago, violence sparked on the West side of the city, and gradually expanded to consume a 28-block stretch of West Madison Street, with additional damage occurring on Roosevelt Road.
The Austin and Lawndale neighborhoods on the West Side, and the Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side experienced the majority of the destruction and chaos.
The rioters broke windows, looted stores, and set buildings (both abandoned and occupied) on fire.
Firefighters quickly flooded the neighborhood, and Chicago’s off-duty firefighters were told to report for duty.
There were 36 major fires reported between 4:00 pm and 10:00 pm alone.
The next day, Mayor Richard J. Daley imposed a curfew on anyone under the age of 21, closed the streets to automobile traffic, and halted the sale of guns or ammunition.
Approximately 10,500 police were sent in, and by April 6, more than 6,700 Illinois National Guard troops had arrived in Chicago with 5,000 soldiers from the 1st Armored and 5th Infantry Divisions being ordered into the city by President Johnson.
The General in charge declared that no one was allowed to have gatherings in the riot areas, and he authorized the use of tear gas.
Mayor Richard J. Daley gave police the authority “to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand … and … to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city.”
Can you imagine the hue and cry that would emanate from the bleeding heart liberals in America who would be screeching at the top of their lungs if some Democrat mayor today was to tell his police, say in Ferguson, Missouri, or Baltimore, Maryland, or even Chicago “to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand … and … to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores” in their city?
Getting back to LBJ’s “Great Society” as it looked in 1968, during the summer of 1968, Mayor Richard J. Daley appointed the Chicago Riot Study Committee, which was led by judges, business leaders, lawyers, and politicians, and staffed by volunteers from law offices.
The final Riot Study concluded, “Some of the rioters may have discussed specific acts of violence, but for the majority of blacks the riot was a spontaneous overflow of pent-up aggressions.”
The Committee also concluded that the majority of first rioters were high school students who began taking their frustration out on white business owners.
Once the riots started, however, witnesses said that the riots expanded and multiple adults joined the teenage rioters.
We should take a moment to ponder on that fact – that the majority of first rioters were high school students who began taking their frustration out on white business owners.
As a result, the riots resulted in over 125 fires and 210 buildings being damaged, totaling $10 million worth of damages while power lines and telephone lines all around the city were knocked out.
Thanks to those rioting high school students, over 2,000 people were arrested, and a thousand people were left homeless.
Following the riots, again thanks to those high school students, Chicago experienced a food shortage, and the city’s needs were barely met by volunteers bringing food to the area.
Results of the riots included the increase in the pace of the area’s ongoing deindustrialization and public and private disinvestment.
Bulldozers moved in to clean up after the rioters, leaving behind vacant lots, many of which remain today.
That is LBJ’s Great Society as I remember it, anyway.
Paul Plante says
The culminating event of the “Great Society,” in my estimation, anyway, having lived through those tumultuous times, would have to be the Democrat convention in Chicago in 1968, a real WTF moment in American history if there ever was one.
“So that is what LBJ’s Great Society looks like in real life,” was the thought on many peoples’ minds back then as that Democrat fiasco unfolded on national television.
For those who were out of town that day, or who missed the action by virtue of not yet having been born, the University of Chicago website has this relevant capsule summary in “An excerpt from Battleground Chicago – The Police and the 1968 Democratic National Convention” by Frank Kusch, as follows:
A week before the convention, the city of Chicago mobilized for combat.
The special Chicago Police Department Task Force prepared for battle with 300 members patrolling in cars, armed with service revolvers, helmets, batons, mace, tear gas, gas masks, and one shotgun per car.
Five hundred of these masks were delivered to the CPD one week prior to the convention.
“No one is going to take over the streets,” blasted Daley.
His cops were to be stationed on every street corner and the middle of every block in the downtown area.
At the Conrad Hilton Hotel, which served as campaign headquarters and hosted Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Senator Eugene McCarthy, federal agents were to patrol the rooftops and the corridors, as well as the kitchen and service areas.
Agents were to guard the candidates’ suites around the clock, checking everyone entering and exiting elevators.
Police afforded similar protection to the Sheraton Blackstone across the street, where Senator George McGovern was to stay.
The police warned the media not to take pictures through open windows in the area for fear of being mistaken for snipers.
Now, you do have to admit that when the Democrats want to impose a police state on America in the name of a “Great Society,” for them, anyway, they go all out with their effort, which is one reason we should be thankful we don’t have Hillary Clinton in the White House right now – she would make Mayor Daley look tame and peaceful by comparison.
Getting back to the narrative:
It was no different at the amphitheater.
The police sealed all the entrances on Halsted Street, while the owners of nearby buildings were ordered to close their windows during the convention.
The department placed 1,500 uniformed officers outside the amphitheater, including snipers atop with binoculars and walkie-talkies.
Telephones would connect officers to their counterparts inside, who were installed on catwalks overlooking the convention floor with binoculars.
Security also included a cyclone fence topped with barbed wire (at the request of the Democratic National Committee) and sealed manhole covers.
Security also included a cyclone fence topped with barbed wire at the request of the Democratic National Committee?
Now, who is this Democrat National Committee that it has that kind of power over people’s lives to make that kind of demand, as if this were a totalitarian state with the Democrat National Committee in charge?
And back again to the narrative so we can really get a full appreciation of what LBJ’s Great Society looked like to those of us alive at the time:
The streets surrounding the amphitheater were barred except for VIP vehicles.
The readiness of Chicago’s fire department was also stepped up as Daley ordered the city’s 4,865 firefighters to work extra shifts beginning on the Sunday before the convention.
The men would only have twenty-four hours off between shifts instead of the usual forty-eight, increasing the on-duty force by 600.
One hundred and seventy-five men from the Fire Prevention Bureau were to be on duty inside the amphitheater, with twelve others at the hotels that were housing delegates.
Anyone foolish enough, or naïve enough, to think the Democrats would never impose a police state on America should ponder all of that above, and then ask themselves – has anything changed?
And back to the story:
For the president’s safety, the Secret Service planned to take Johnson to the amphitheater by helicopter.
The surrounding airspace was turned into a no-fly zone for an altitude of 2,500 feet, except official convention business and police helicopters equipped with high-intensity lights to scan the tops of buildings near the amphitheater.
This wall of security was not confined to the outside, as inside, delegates were to be joined by several hundred security personnel, some mingling among the delegates, while others watched from catwalks; female security personnel were stationed in the ladies’ washrooms.
The security measures extended to protect the delegates traveling to and from the convention site.
Delegates would travel in busses escorted by police motorcycles, followed by unmarked squad cars, with a police helicopter scanning the route from overhead.
That sounds like the same **** you would expect in some third-world country with a tin-pot dictator, or Saigon in VEET NAM, but it wasn’t – that was right here in our own America, once Land of the Brave and Home of the Free, but not no more.
And speaking of third-world dictatorships:
Even though the city spent $500,000 to beautify the area around the convention site, it could not hide the reality that the city encased the amphitheater in barbed wire.
Making the site even less hospitable was its unfortunate location right next to the city’s stockyards.
Two blocks away stood a pile of manure, seventy-feet wide and ten-feet high.
The smell in the area was often overpowering.
It was never determined whether it was the cows who created that pile of manure, or the politicians, but either way, it seemed such a fitting symbol of LBJ’s Great Society, which by then had pretty much gone down in flames, along with LBJ, who never did attend that convention, because by then, he was done as IU.S. president.
Too many lies had caught up with him, and his political career was over.
And getting back to the ability of the Democrats to impose a police state on America:
Also overpowering was the amount of firepower assembled for the weeklong convention.
The usual police contingent of 6,000 officers on the streets grew to 11,900 on twelve-hour shifts, up from the usual eight.
The city requested the mobilization of 5,649 Illinois National Guardsmen, with an additional 5,000 on alert, bolstered by up to 1,000 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officers and military intelligence officers.
Waiting for signs of trouble in the suburbs would be 6,000 army troops, including members of the elite 101st Airborne Division.
The men were to be equipped with bazookas and flamethrowers.
I wonder if any liberals reading this can accept that this is who the Democrats they love so much really are.
Having lived through those times, I certainly can.
Paul Plante says
In 1968, when the use of those Army troops during the Chicago Riots and the Democrat Convention was happening, I myself was a member of the United States Army, and there was some discussion as to whether or not we would be facing our first combat in Viet Nam, or America.
Never in my life had I seen such a thing!
If you scan old photos from those time, you can see the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne with fixed bayonets, which is the real infantry assault weapon, and that was here in America.
By 1968, Lyndon Johnson was just plain buggy.
VEET NAM unhinged his mind for him, and he was caught by the web of his own lies, bound for eternity by all his deceits!
“Hey, hey, LBJ! How many kids have you killed today?” was a popular refrain from that time.
As to LBJ going buggy, at p.622 of “The Best and The Brightest,” author David Halberstam captures the start of his massive melt-down as follows:
In the late fall of 1965 Johnson learned the hard way that the slide rules and the computers did not work, that the projections were all wrong, that Vietnam was in fact a tar baby and that he was in for a long difficult haul – his commander (Westmoreland) and Secretary of Defense (Robert McNamara) were projecting 400,000 men by the end of 1966, and 600,000 by the end of 1967, and even so, as 1968 (presidential election year) rolled around, no guarantees.
At that time Lyndon J0hnson began to change.
He began to sulk, he was not so open, not so accessible, and it was not so easy to talk to him about the problems and difficulties involved in Vietnam.
He was, sadly, open-minded when things went well, and increasingly close-minded when things went poorly, as they were now about to do.
In the past, during all those long agonizing hours in 1964 and 1965 when they discussed the problems of Vietnam, they had all been reasonable men discussing reasonable solutions, and in their assumptions was the idea that Ho Chi Minh was reasonable too.
But now it would turn out that Ho was not reasonable, not by American terms, anyway, and the war was not reasonable, and suddenly, Lyndon Johnson was not very reasonable either.
He was a good enough politician to know what had gone wrong and what he was in for and what it meant to his dreams (Great Society), but he could not turn back, he could not admit that he had made a mistake.
He could not lose and thus he had to plunge forward.
It was a terrible thing, he was caught and he knew it, and he knew he could juggle the figures only so long before the things he knew became obvious to the public at large.
The more he realized this, the more he had to keep it in, keep it hidden, knowing that if he ever evinced doubts himself, if he admitted the truth to himself, it would somehow become reality and those around him would also know, and then he would have to follow through on his convictions.
So he fought the truth, there were very rarely moments when he would admit that it had been a miscalculation, that he had forgotten, when they had brought him the slide rules and the computers which said that two plus two equals four, that the most basic rule of politics is that human beings never react the way you expect them to.
Then he would talk with some fatalism about the trap that he had built for himself, with an almost plaintive cry for some sort of help.
But these moments were rare indeed, very private, and more often than not they would soon be replaced by wild rages against any critic who might voice the most gentle doubt of the policy and the direction it was taking the country.
So instead of leading, he was immobilized, surrounded, seeing critics everywhere.
Critics became enemies; enemies became traitors; and the press, which a year earlier had been so friendly, was now filled with enemies baying at his heels.
The deeper we were in, the more the outcry in the country, in the Senate and in the press, the more Johnson hunkered down, isolated himself from reality.
What had begun as a credibility gap became something far more perilous, a reality gap.
He had a sense that everything he had wanted for his domestic program (Great Society), his offering to history, was slipping away, and the knowledge of this made him angrier and touchier than ever; if you could not control events, you could at least try to control the version of them.
Thus the press as an enemy.
Critics of the war became his critics; since he was patriotic, clearly they were not.
He had FBI dossiers on war critics, congressmen and journalists, and he would launch into long, irrational tirades against them; he knew what was behind their doubts, the Communists were behind them – yes, the Communists, the Russians; he kept an eye on who was going to social receptions at the Soviet embassy and he knew that a flurry of social activity at the Communist embassies always resulted in a flurry of dovish speeches in the Senate.
Why, some of the children of those dove senators were dating children of Russian embassy officials.
And he knew which ones.
I think that captures some of the surreality of the Great Society.
And yes, those times were real.
Paul Plante says
And staying with the melt-down of American president Lyndon Baines Johnson, who in 1964 announced the Great Society legislative program, in which he promised to “eliminate poverty and racial injustice in America,” we move ahead one year in time to 1965, and p.604 of David Halberstam’s “The Best and The Brightest,” and continue the narrative as follows:
In his attempt to keep the planning for the war (VEET NAM) as closely held as possible (to deceive Congress and the American people), Lyndon Johnson would not give accurate economic projections, would not ask for a necessary tax raise, and would in fact have his own military planners be less than candid with his own economic planners, a lack of candor so convincing that his economic advisors later felt McNamara had seriously misled them about projections and estimates.
The reasons for Johnson’s unwillingness to be straight forward about the financing were familiar.
He was hoping that the worst would not come true, that it would remain a short war, and he feared that if the true economic cost of the war became visible to the naked eye, he would lose his Great Society programs.
The result was that his economic planning was a living lie, and his administration took us into economic chaos: the Great Society programs were passed but never funded on any large scale; the war itself ran into severe budgetary problems (the decision in 1968 to put a ceiling on the American troops was as much economic as political); and the most important, the failure to finance the war honestly, would inspire a virulent inflationary spiral which helped defeat Johnson himself.
Seven years after the commitment of combat troops, that inflation was still very much alive and was forcing a successor Administration into radical, desperate economic measures in order to restore some financial balance.
And they tell us deficits don’t matter!
Paul Plante says
How Lyndon Baines Johnson and his crowd of “Whiz-Bang” advisors like Robert McNamara thought they could actually bamboozle the American people about Vietnam goes to show just how out of touch with reality the man who sits in the White House actually is, how insulated they become, and how contemptuous of the intelligence of the average American citizen they become, if they already aren’t by the time they get there.
By 1965, Viet Nam was no mystery to the American people.
1965 was only 9 years after the French debacle at Dien Bien Phu, afterall, and who, besides Lyndon Baines Johnson and his pack of ignorant but very arrogant advisors, many of them from HAH-VUD university could have forgotten Dien Bien Phu?
Back in 1954, General Matthew Ridgeway, then Army Chief of Staff, formerly Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division, leading it in action in Sicily, Italy and Normandy, was asked by President Eisenhower for his assessment of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam in conjunction with the French.
Ridgway prepared a comprehensive outline of the massive commitment that would be necessary for success, which dissuaded the President from intervening.
But Lyndon Johnson was no Dwight Eisenhower, so he was the fool who rushed in where wise men knew better than to tread.
And besides LBJ was obsessed with his Great Society, so his thinking on VEET NAM was not exactly clear, not could it have been, given the man’s nature, as author David Halberstam tells us at p.654 of “The Coldest Winter,” to wit:
In 1964, as Johnson edged closer to the final decision on the war, there were three factors that tended to make him hawkish.
The first was the nature of the man himself, his own image of himself, the need to stand tall, not to back off when he was challenged, and to personalize all confrontations and to see them as a test of manhood.
We have to stop and consider that in 1964, the only reason LBJ was president was because of the assassination of JFK.
So all that “macho manhood” crap from LBJ was his way of setting himself apart from JFK in the eyes of the nation, as Halberstam tells us in the following:
Pierre Salinger’s job, Johnson told the principal Kennedy press officer when he first became president, was to sell Johnson as a big Texan who was both tall and tough in the saddle.
As a combat veteran of the Viet Nam war, personally, I think LBJ was nothing more than an ignorant horse’s ***, and he would have been a lot taller and tougher in the saddle if he had been up there in front on his big white horse, like a real fighting general like “Stonewall” Jackson would have been, but LBJ was a smooth talker, not a fighter, so he stayed behind in the White House and told lies to the people of America, instead.
Getting back to Halberstam’s analysis of the character of LBJ, which makes a mockery of LBJ’s Great Society, in which he promised to “eliminate poverty and racial injustice in America,” we have:
The second factor was an innate, almost unconscious American racism, the kind that had bedeviled so many officers in the field at the beginning of the Korean War, the notion that because Asians were smaller and from a lesser part of the world with lesser industrial and technological accomplishments, they were a lesser people and could not stand up to American technology and American troops.
Vietnam, when Johnson spoke about it at NSC meetings, was often “a raggedy ass little forth rate country.”
On occasion, like Ned Almond (in Korea referring to the Chinese), he used the word “laundrymen” to describe the combatants.
Sometimes too, as he came close to the final decision on whether to send combat troops to Vietnam, Johnson’s racism showed in the way he spoke of the Vietnamese as being like Mexicans, the kind of lesser people you had to show some strength to before they got the message and gave you the respect you deserved.
The Vietnamese, he would say, were not going to push Lyndon Johnson around, because he knew something about people like this, because back home he had dealt with people just like them, the Mexicans.
Now, Mexicans were alright if you let them know who was boss, but “if you didn’t watch they’ll come right into your yard and take it over if you let them.”
“And the next day they’ll be right there on your porch, barefoot and weighing one hundred and thirty pounds, and they’ll take that too.”
“But if you say to ’em right at the start, ‘Hold on, just wait a minute,’ they’ll know they were dealing with someone who’ll stand up.”
“And after that you can get along fine.”
How stupid a man was Lyndon Baines Johnson, not to mention a hypocrite.
Getting back to LBJ’s bamboozle attempt, in 1965, we, the people, thanks to the modern miravle called television watched as the 3,500 Marines of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade under Brig. Gen. Frederick J. Karch landed at Da Nang, Viet Nam, disembarking from the USS Henrico, Union, and Vancouver on March 8, to be the first U.S. combat troops in South Vietnam.
Among the arrivals in Viet Nam on that day was the first U.S. armor in Vietnam—a tank of the 3rd Marine Tank Battalion, with more tanks, including those with flame-throwing capability, following in a few days.
Now, to a nation full of adults (whatever did happen to the adults in this country?) who had lived through WWII and then Korea, the televised sight of Marines making an amphibious landing in Viet Nam was not at all reassuring, BUT, when you have a president who could lie with the facility of an LBJ, and had no compunctions about lying though his teeth to the American people, many of whom sucked up his lies like a dry sponge sucking up spilled water, that combat role was covered over by LBJ telling us they were really just there to defend the airbase in Danang, where the bombing missions that were going to crush the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, were taking off from.
And they wouldn’t be there long, because good and holy American bombs were going to teach those raggedy-*** Vietnamese a thing or two about messing with mighty America and LBJ, who believed that “if you just touch them up a little, then they will come around and see your point of view.”
Lies upon lies upon lies – such is the stuff of Washington, D.C. politics.
And such is the fabric of our American history!
Paul Plante says
Having lived through those times, including a combat tour in Viet Nam, I think one of the most accurate insights into the character of “tall in the saddle” Lyndon Baines Johnson, who in 1964 announced the Great Society legislative program, in which he promised to “eliminate poverty and racial injustice in America,” comes to us from p.654 of “The Coldest Winter” by author David Halberstam, as follows:
Of a rebel leader in the Dominican Republic Johnson had told McGeorge Bundy, “Tell that son of a ***** that unlike the young man who came before me I am not afraid to use what is on my hip.”
There is a dude who was raised up on too many Hollywood cowboy movies, talking like that in 1965 – tall about a lynch-mob mentality, LBJ had it in spades.
Get the rope!
String him up!
Justice done, now let’s go get a drink!
And liberal Democrats wonder why we have gun violence in America today – go figure!
As to the Dominican Republic, the History website tells us that in an effort to forestall what he claimed would be a “communist dictatorship” in the Dominican Republic, on 28 April 1965, the same President Lyndon B. Johnson who in 1964 announced the Great Society, sent more than 22,000 U.S. troops to restore order on the island nation, provoking loud protests in Latin America and skepticism among many in the United States.
By way of some background there, troubles in the Dominican Republic began in 1961, when long-time dictator and good friend of America Rafael Trujillo was assassinated.
Trujillo had been a brutal leader, but his strong anticommunist stance helped him retain the support of the United States, which is always ready and willing to overlook brutal oppression and human rights abuses if the dictator committing them is an anti-communist, just as was the case in VEET NAM with Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Nhu.
The death of American friend Trujillo led to the rise of a reformist government headed by Juan Bosch, who was elected president in 1962.
The Dominican military, however, despised Bosch and his liberal policies, so he was overthrown in 1963, the year Kennedy was killed, and LBJ ascended to the throne in America.
Political chaos gripped the Dominican Republic as various groups, including the increasingly splintered military, struggled for power.
By 1965, forces demanding the reinstatement of Bosch began attacks against the military-controlled government.
In the United States government, fear spread that “another Cuba” was in the making in the Dominican Republic; in fact, many officials strongly suspected that Cuban leader Fidel Castro was behind the violence.
On April 28, more than 22,000 U.S. troops, supported by forces provided by some of the member states of the Organization of American States, a United Nations-like institution for the Western Hemisphere, dominated by the United States, landed in the Dominican Republic.
Over the next few weeks they brought an end to the fighting and helped install a conservative, non-military government.
President Johnson declared that he had taken action to forestall the establishment of a “communist dictatorship” in the Dominican Republic.
As evidence, he provided American reporters with lists of suspected communists in that nation.
Even cursory reviews of the list revealed that the evidence was extremely flimsy–some of the people on the list were dead and others could not be considered communists by any stretch of the imagination.
Many Latin American governments and private individuals and organizations condemned the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic as a return to the “gunboat diplomacy” of the early-20th century, when U.S. Marines invaded and occupied a number of Latin American nations on the slightest pretexts.
In the United States, politicians and citizens who were already skeptical of Johnson’s policy in Vietnam heaped scorn on Johnson’s statements about the “communist danger” in the Dominican Republic.
Such criticism would become more and more familiar to the Johnson administration as the U.S. became more deeply involved in the war in Vietnam.
And thus went his Great Society, down in flames – spin, crash, burn, good-bye!