I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Johnson and Bush

I have never really liked comparing George W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson. Although I can never forgive LBJ for Vietnam he did accomplish something, the Civil Rights Act and an attempt to make life a little better for those Americans with less. As near as I can tell GWB has accomplished nothing of any merit. Via Joe Gandelman we have this piece by Jeff Greenfield, The President, the War, and the Military Base. He points out that while Johnson and Bush did have one thing in common, they were virtual prisoners as a result of their wars, they really had little else. He points out that while Bush speaks primarily to military audiences to talk about the war in Iraq that was not the case with LBJ.
"When he went to bases," Woods says, "it was to talk to troops informally … he didn't stage media events there." The exception, he notes, was a visit to Cam Rahn Bay in South Vietnam in October 1966. The major speeches Johnson made in defense of his Vietnam policy were all at nonmilitary venues: the TV statement on the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August of 1964, a speech at John Hopkins University in April of 1965, his "escalation" press conference in July of that year, and a September 1967 speech at the Texas National Legislative Conference in San Antonio. He also defended his policies in detail in his State of the Union messages.

In fact, it would have been politically dicey for Johnson to give speeches in front of the troops.

"He didn't regard military bases as congenial venues," professor Woods says. "Remember, he was getting a lot of criticism from the right for not going all out." Throughout the war, Johnson would personally approve or veto bombing targets and rejected ideas such as invading North Vietnam. Moreover, the press and public tolerance for public relations was less developed back then: The political press did not yet engage in drama criticism, judging a politician's public appeal by the stagecraft or the setting rather than the message. The idea of a president standing in front of troops backdropped by slogans and banners was not yet even a gleam in young Karl Rove's eye.
I think this sounds about right. We know that Johnson truly did grieve for lost American soldiers and had too much respect for them to use them as a prop. The only thing George W. Bush might grieve for would be his sagging poll numbers. The Bush/Rove White House has no respect for anyone outside their cabal and everything is about PR so it's only logical that they would use the troops as a stage set. As bad as LBJ may have been it's unfair to his memory to compare him with George W. Bush.

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