Lyndon Johnson Analysis Essay, Research Paper
Overall Rating of the President
The assassination of President Kennedy elevated Lyndon Johnson to the White House, where he quickly proved a masterful, reassuring leader in the realm of domestic affairs. His main achievements shone through on his stand against the injustice directed towards minorities, and through his Great Society policy. However, his decision to become involved in Vietnam, would dominate not only his entire foreign policy, but overshadow his ambitious domestic programs. Vietnam only led to disaster for America and Lyndon Johnson s political career. America began anti-war protests, they had a feeling of mistrust in the government, constitutionality during war efforts was in jeopardy, and worst of all, young American men were dying in significant numbers. Johnson s efforts to get America out of war came too late, making a peaceable retreat unattainable.
One issue above all that would test Johnson’s ability to forge consensus would be the issue of civil rights. Johnson was especially skillful in securing a strong Civil Rights Act in 1964. In the years to come it proved to be a vital source of legal authority against racial and sexual discrimination. He also passed a Voting Rights Act, which gave the blacks in the South more power than ever to enact some changes of their own. However racial tension began to sharpen, culminating in widespread urban race riots between 1965 and 1968. But President Johnson did try to stand firm by making nationwide speeches to denounce the injustice that was occurring. He did more than any other President since Abraham Lincoln for the black community.
Johnson’s triumph in 1964 gave him a mandate for the Great Society, as he called his domestic program. Congress responded by passing the Medicare program, which provided health services to the elderly, approving federal aid to elementary and secondary education, supplementing the War on Poverty, and creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Great Society was able to primarily ameliorate the lives of poverty-stricken Americans.
However, at this point Johnson began the rapid deepening of U.S. involvement in Vietnam; as early as February 1965, U.S. planes began to bomb North Vietnam and American troop strength in Vietnam began to increase dramatically. Many influences led Johnson to such a policy. Among them were personal factors such as staunch anti-communism. Johnson thought that the United States must be firm or incur a loss of credibility, which was a rational thought at the time, but would be spurned after many lives would be lost.
It was the policy of military escalation in Vietnam, however, that proved to be Johnson’s undoing as president. It deflected attention from domestic concerns, resulted in sharp inflation, and prompted rising criticism, especially among young, draft-aged people. The public, through televised hearings of antiwar views by Senator William Fulbright, began to realize that they were beguiled into believing false reasons for American involvement in Vietnam. This resulted in a large gap between the government and the people. The war, with the involvement of the CIA spy missions and the FBI s anti-peace movement, also threatened to splinter the Constitution. This made the FBI look like a tyrannical secret police, not a protector of democracy.
The drawn-out struggle made Johnson even more secretive, dogmatic, and hypersensitive to criticism. His political effectiveness was failing. Johnson finally made the decision not to run for re-election. He mainly tried to concentrate on peacefully ending the war in the Vietnam slaughterpen. Although Johnson in 1966 and 1967 stopped bombing in North Vietnam, he failed to make real concessions at the peace table, and the war dragged on, killing thousands more of young American men.
Johnson’s presidency became a casualty of the Vietnam War. His exceptional law making efforts to benefit minorities and those less fortunate were marred by his stubbornness in believing that the conflict in Vietnam was winnable. Johnson s willfulness in the war and untruthfulness ultimately began to tear at the stitching, which was desperately holding the nation together.