The 1964 Election, Lbj And Goldwater Essay, Research Paper
Barry Goldwater, Arizona state senator, decided to run for the office of President of the United States of America in 1964. His opponent was Lyndon Baynes Johnson who had held the office the year previous due to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. One of the biggest issues for both candidates was the situation in Vietnam. Vietnam was the longest war in which the US took part. It lasted between 1957 and 1975, but the US did not become officially involved until 1965. Vietnam, a small country in Asia, was divided into Communist-ruled North Vietnam and non-Communist South Vietnam. North Vietnam and South Vietnamese rebels fought to take over South Vietnam. The US and the South Vietnamese army tried to stop them, but failed in the end. This was a major issue which affected many people in the US. Everyone was related to or knew someone who had been drafted or enlisted to go and fight in the Vietnam war. Inevitably, the two candidates for the presidency had to face this issue and take a definitive stance on it. Normally, the President would just be asked what his opinion was on a war like this to assess what their character was like, but this election it was very important to find out exactly what the would-be president would do about Vietnam. In 1964, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. This act gave the President the power to take all necessary measures and to prevent further aggression in Vietnam. This came after two US destroyer ships, the Maddox and the C. Turner Joy were both sunk in the Gulf of Tonkin near North Vietnam. The President-elect would have the power to wage war against Vietnam if he saw fit.
Barry Goldwater was against the war from the beginning. Knowing that this was a huge issue in the upcoming race he was careful what he said, but apparently not careful enough. In an interview with Howard K. Smith on the TV program Issues and Answers , Goldwater was asked what he would do about secret trails that the Chinese were using to get supplies to the North Vietnamese. In response he said Well, it is not as easy as it sounds, because these are not trails that are out in the open. There have been several suggestions made; I don t think we would use any of them. But defoliation of the forest by low-yield atomic weapons could be well done. When you remove the foliage, you remove the covering (Shadegg 124-125). While he thought his response was innocent enough, the media misinterpreted it and blew it way out of proportion. He was labeled as an extremist who would use atomic weapons in a war and ultimately provoke a nuclear war. On October 3rd, 1964 Goldwater appeared in a TV special called Brunch With Barry in an effort to reach the daytime audience. Throughout the show he talked with numerous guests on various issues, but the highlight of the show came towards the end when Mrs. Shank, widow of Captain Edwin Shank Jr., a victim of the Vietnam war, appeared. Captain Shank s letters to his wife had been published in US News & World Report. These heart-gripping letters provoked a wave of indignation against the presidential administration (Johnson) who allowed not only the war to go on, but poor supplies and equipment for the soldiers who were there. Captain Shank himself had died because of the equipment end of it. He was flying in an extremely old plane because the government had made no effort to replace it. On the show, Shank asked Goldwater: I would like to ask you why the American people are not able to be told the truth about the situation in Vietnam. A number of times on TV I have heard that our country has the greatest arsenal weapons in the history of the world, so I would like to ask you why my husband and others die in airplanes that fall apart? (Shadegg 251). Goldwater complimented Mrs. Shank on her question and went into statistics on Vietnam, and complained that Johnson had not produced any new warplanes for jungle warfare. and then finally told her that if he was president he would see to it that this mistake (letting people fly in faulty or antiquated planes) would not be made again. Goldwater was viewed as a man with values, yet sadly it would not be enough to win him the election.
Lyndon B. Johnson was a warmonger. Although initially it seemed that he wanted to keep us out of the Vietnam war, it appeared that this view was not entirely true. The sinking of the Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin was very well documented, yet people were much more skeptical of the C. Turner Joy. Many skeptics believed that the sinking of the C. Turner Joy was a complete hoax made up by LBJ. his motivation of course was so that he could get the Tonkin Gulf Resolution passed and subsequently have the power to make all decisions for the US in the Vietnam situation. People who were against sending American troops to Vietnam in 1964 were in the majority. In polls taken by Camp Johnson only 28% of Americans in the US wanted to send troops to Asia, but 78% thought that stopping the spread of Communism was a very important thing to do. One would guess that LBJ thought that by going shipping out soldiers he was, in fact, helping to stop the spread of Communism. Under the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, LBJ never had to declare war against Vietnam because under it, he was taking the necessary measures, as he saw fit, to protect the US and its interests. LBJ ended up winning the election of 1964 in an electoral landslide: 486 to 52 over Goldwater. Many felt though that this election was a revolutionary one in that finally people realized that there was more to the president than what they originally thought. There were many other issues in this election, obviously, yethow the president would react towards Vietnam was definitely on the minds of the people as they went to the polls on November 8th, 1964.