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It’s time to get back to politics. That’s because a couple days ago I was reading the AJC – taking a morning break for an iced coffee – when something in a Pat Buchanan column caught my eye. The column-title asked, Is Trump assembling a war cabinet?
Which is of course a valid question these days.
For once I agreed with what Pat was saying. Mostly. (Which is pretty rare for me, when it comes to Mr. Buchanan.) He first noted that Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis now seems to be the “last man standing between the U.S. and war with Iran.” Buchanan also indicated that a war with Iran was a “dreadful idea,” then said Donald Trump was nominated precisely “because he promised to keep us out of stupid wars.” Then – after asking “what is Trump thinking” in apparently assembling such a cabinet – Buchanan wrote this:
Truman and LBJ got us into wars they could not end, and both lost their presidencies. Eisenhower and Nixon ended those wars and were rewarded with landslides.
That’s where the point of order comes in. That is, a point of order is a rule of parliamentary procedure, by which an objection “may be raised if the rules appear to have been broken. This may interrupt a speaker during debate, or anything else if the breach of the rules warrants it.”
The irony is that the term “point of order” was made famous – or Infamous – by Senator Joseph McCarthy during his “reign of terror” in the 1950s. That time in our history spawned the term McCarthyism – illustrated at left – which today refers to the use of “demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents.” (But apparently the term is not used enough today to refresh our collective memory.)
One point of order involved Buchanan’s saying that Richard Nixon ended the Vietnam War that Lyndon Johnson “got us into.” Now, just when the Vietnam War started is a matter of heated debate, but one thing is clear: Lyndon Johnson wasn’t the one who “got us into” Vietnam. Another point? We now know that it could have ended in 1968. And it could have been ended by Lyndon Johnson, but for Nixon’s intervention. So it’s hard to say that Nixon “ended” the war that – but for his intervention – could have ended before he became president. Had he been an honorable man, the war would have ended and Nixon probably wouldn’t have been elected.
The cost? 18,000 Americans died in Vietnam between 1968 and 1975. (When the war ended in American humiliation.) I covered the issue in Another “deja vu all over again?” That post – from November 2016 – noted that the charge of Nixon’s “treason” is backed by sources including the 2012 book The Presidents Club, and by conservative columnist George Will. (See George Will Confirms Nixon’s Vietnam Treason.)
So here are the points of order, Mr. Buchanan:
First, Lyndon Johnson inherited the war in Vietnam from past presidents including – but not limited to – Dwight D. Eisenhower. And he could have ended it in 1968, but for Nixon’s treason.
And about Harry Truman “getting us into the Korean War:” The facts – Mr. Buchanan – are that the (North) Korean People’s Army invaded South Korea at dawn on June 25, 1950. The Truman Administration hesitated to respond at first. They weren’t sure whether the invasion “was a ploy by the Soviet Union or just a test of U.S. resolve.”
Only after he’d gotten a secret communique “indicating the Soviet Union would not move against U.S. forces in Korea” did Truman next move to the United Nations.
The United Nations Security Council then unanimously condemned the North Korean invasion “with UN Security Council Resolution 82.” At the time, the Soviet Union could have vetoed both the resolution and the use of UN forces to fight back against the invasion. (The only reason they didn’t veto the resolution was because they had boycotted the proceedings.)
In turn, whether Truman would have sent U.S. troops to Korea unilaterally is problematic. But few reasonable people would say that Truman “got us into” the Korean War. The North Koreans, the Russians, the Chinese and the U.N. all had a little something to do with it too.
There is one thing we can say, with a reasonable degree of certainty. Dwight Eisenhower never committed treason to keep a war going just to he could get elected president.
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The upper image is courtesy of Joseph McCarthy – Wikipedia.
Re “1975,” and the Vietnam war ending in American humiliation: The caption of the photo to the right of the paragraph reads: “A VNAF UH-1H Huey loaded with Vietnamese evacuees on the deck of the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Midway during Operation Frequent Wind, 29 April 1975.”
Re: “President’s Club.” The full title: The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. The quotes from the book are from the “October Surprise” section, from page 236 to 249, about Nixon committing treason to get elected.
Another point? LBJ couldn’t have won the election anyway. On March 31, 1968 – seven months before the election – he had already withdrawn from the race: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.” And re: Harry Truman, as compared to Lyndon Johnson’s – “I shall not seek” – bowing out of the 1968 presidential election. The search-engine phrase “why didn’t truman run in 1952” indicates that technically he could have run, but had already served nearly two eight-year terms. That is, he took office on April 12, 1945, with the death of President Roosevelt. (In other words, 82 days into what would have been Roosevelt’s fourth four-year term.) The Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution – limiting presidents to two terms – made an exception for Truman, but at the time his approval rating stood at 22%. See e.g. Why didn’t Truman run for re-election in 1952 – Answers.com, and/or Truman Does Not Run for Re-Election, Eisenhower Elected. Thus as to the wording of the phrase “both lost their presidencies,” I must say, “Well played, Mr. Buchanan!”
The lower image is courtesy of Dwight D. Eisenhower – Wikipedia. The full caption: “Eisenhower speaks with men of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division, on June 5, 1944, the day before the D-Day invasion.”