Lyndon B. Johnson

President Johnson expanded the United States’ involvement  in Vietnam from middle course, under Kennedy’s rule-to a full blown attack. Privately, Johnson expressed his worry of being blamed  for supporting an unpopular war, despite that his administration inflated the role of the military. Johnson and his administration had difficulty explaining their actions, although their main goal was to prevent a communist victory and to “maintain the credibility of the United States in carrying out its commitments.” (pg 228) Besides being blamed for  allowing communism to triumph, Johnson still worried about being criticized by conservatives if his efforts in the war failed. Although it was well aware that “if the public had a clear understanding of the situation in Indochina, it would reject either the war or domestic reform during it.” (pg. 231) Johnson believed that by progressing involvement in the war, yet disturbing domestic life of Americans as little as possible, he would be able to maintain public support and evade a negative view on his presidency. He did this by giving the public misleading information, and giving false statements about the proposal to increase troops. This fake “official optimism” did more damage than it did good, as skepticism grew within the military, it weakened willpower in combat and set the country up for future disappointment. Freeman discusses this facade being used by Johnson to explain the feeling of an approaching “apocalypse”  within American society. As the war in Vietnam escalated, so did the confusion and chaos, leaving a sense of uncertainty about the future of America. President Johnson initially saw Vietnam as a “limited” war, unalike the unrestrained global battles that the country was used to from the beginning of the twentieth century. Surprisingly it had turned into a dragged out race that was politically and economically draining, leaving the country wounded ideologically and causing differences between interest groups to become more distinct, perpetuating the country in its political and social divisions for time to come.


Barry Goldwater

In chapter 8, Freeman discusses the climax of the Liberal movement in the 1960’s.  He talks about the disputes Liberal leaders and institutions faced by the growing opposition from every side,  from within, challengers such as the growing student population and civil rights activists. It was also being attacked from the right, as conservatives were joining together and rebuilding the right movement under the wing of Arizona state senator Barry Goldwater. Although Goldwater failed at both attempts for the presidency, “emerging as a bright star on the conservative horizon, he helped revive the movement by repackaging old themes in attractive new ways.” (pg. 195) Like the civil rights activists, Goldwater was also rallying for freedom, but in a different sense. In his campaign he promoted freedom from government interfering in the lives of citizens through regulation and the limitation of states’ rights. Freeman mentions this “New Right” in order to show the “intensification” of politics on all sides that were taking place during the late sixties. He explains that Liberalism at this point had been its strongest but had also reached its peak, and the defeat of Vietnam War on the horizon would soon diminish its appeal.