"The thing that hath been, it is that
which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall
be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."
It all began in
that bygone year of 2000. The 1990's passed, much like the
1950's, seemingly prosperous and peaceful. But then there
came that fateful election. At the time I heard commentators
say that the election was the closest since 1960, and they
were correct. There were the allegations of vote fraud, then
in close Illinois, now in close Florida. There was the Vice
President, Nixon or Gore, who could've won if he hadn't
seemed so stiff, gracefully bowing out. And since 2000, it
seems that the déjà vu never ends. But 1960 was not merely
the election of John Kennedy; it was also in essence, thanks
to Lee Harvey Oswald, the election of Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Johnson who would be president from 1963 to 1969, very
closely resembles our current leader George W. Bush, and not
merely because they're two folksy Texas politicos who ended
up in the White House.
you say? Look at the record. Johnson, like Bush, began his
presidency by signing into law a huge tax cut in 1964. Did
judicious budget cutting come after this? Not hardly. To
show his resolve and his compassion, Johnson set upon an
ill-fated "guns and butter" policy of "welfarism" at home
and "warfarism" abroad. The Great Society, the Vietnam War,
Medicare, and beyond, Johnson with his party in power in
Congress went on a spending binge, courtesy of the taxpayer,
not seen since FDR. Bush, with his GOP Congress, has gone on
a spending binge not seen since LBJ, also to show both his
resolve and his "compassionate conservatism." Now America
faces a national debt of around 7-8 trillion dollars, with
annual budgets of around 2.5 trillion dollars and annual
deficits of half a trillion dollars.
horrifying still, Johnson believed he could wage war on an
abstraction, communism. Bush also believes in fighting an
abstraction (need I tell you which one?). The same results
have ensued. Dear reader, you may fill in the blanks for our
own time: America and the civilized world face the dire
threat of communist world domination. The
communists endanger our existence and way of life. The
president is waging a war against the communists in remote
Vietnam, so that we don't have to face them at home. In so
doing we will benefit the Vietnamese by giving them
democracy (hopefully yielding a pro-US government).
What was not recognized then was that in Vietnam, American
troops were in the middle of a civil war that was the result
of Western imperialist rule. The US government had meddled
in Vietnam before putting troops into the country, but
Johnson eschewed the wisdom of his predecessors by actually
going for a full-scale invasion. In the end, expensive
military hardware proved nothing against skillful guerilla
warfare. But the good old "domino theory" lives on, with "Islamofascists"
replacing communists. And that's nothing like Iraq? Well,
maybe that's unfair. After all, next to Iraq, Vietnam may
seem like a bargain when compared to the $2 trillion price
tag Nobel-Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has placed
on the Iraq War.
Johnson's term end? With low poll numbers that are starting
to resemble Bush's. Public enthusiasm for the Vietnam War
dissipated. But notice that the current White House is
reacting to these events with plays right out of the Vietnam
playbook. One is "Vietnamization," or turning over
military operations to the locals, who then easily
collapsed. Another is taking the war to more nations like
Laos and Cambodia or Syria and Iran. And of course there is
stepping up the bombing campaign, as detailed in the Dec. 5,
2005 edition, of The New Yorker magazine. As in Vietnam,
this tends to kill a lot of civilians and so does not win
"hearts and minds." Finally, in the end comes the pullout,
with or without people hanging from helicopters. Americans
may also get reacquainted with the economy of the 1970's,
complete with high oil prices and stagflation (that's
recession coupled with inflation). It seems that the loose
credit policies of the Fed are going to come a cropper after
all these years, with a bubble about to burst in the housing
market (don't forget all those home equity loans and
touted low interest rates) and the price of gold on the
This begs the
question: will Hillary Clinton then revive the ghost of
Nixon? I can hardly wait.
Kraegel III is a contributor to The Rational Argumentator.
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