Segments descriptions
      American Presidents Series
Hot War, Cold War, Part 2  

                     Description: JFK

Hot War, Cold War, Part 2   
                              sampler  426    (86 lecture).

In Vietnam, what did President Kennedy do that President
Eisenhower would not do, and what was the turning point
early in the war that led to escalation?
                                 play sampler




35.  John F. Kennedy.

Elected in 1960 in a close race where the role of TV image is a factor.  He is charismatic.  He clears the air of the issue of him being a Catholic by reaffirming the separation of church and state.  He creates the New Frontier image but reality is pragmatic with civil rights.  An anti-discrimination in public housing bill is signed but applies only to housing to be built.  His administration tries to block civil rights marches and demonstrations.  JFKs view at the time is that communism is a Russian monolith, and that Vietnam is a threat to the U.S..  He sends troops in 1961, beginning a self-commitment.  When popular demonstrations erupt at home, he misses the chance to withdraw and save face.  JFK is assassinated in 1963.  If he had lived, Vietnam would have continued.  His legacy is his charisma inspires the younger generation in public service. . 




36.  Lyndon B. Johnson

LBJ completes JFKs term.  He is from Texas, a segregated state.  He has a strong personality with unsavory aspects.  He identifies with FDRs New Deal traditions.  The civil rights movement is in full swing and he pushes important civil rights legislation affecting African-Americans, women, and other minorities.  This includes the War on Poverty and education.  His important legacy is the Great Society laws.  He is reelected in 1964 during the Vietnam War.  The Tonkin Bay hoax gives him great authority for a major escalation of the war eventually reaching 500,000 troops.  Domestic programs are cut.  When increased hope is thwarted domestic uprisings result.  The 1968 Tet offensive dooms the war effort as lost, and leads to low public confidence in the president.  LBJ drops out of the reelection race.     




37.  Richard M. Nixon

He is elected 1968.  He is the epitome of the Cold War politician.  He manipulates Cold War hysteria as vice president for 8 years under Eisenhower.  He lacks charisma.  He loses to JFK in 1960.  He returns from political defeat to win the 1968 election.  His domestic policy includes starting EPA, advocates minimum guaranteed income, and universal health plan in Keynesian tradition.     Attempts Vietnamization of the Vietnam War to reduce troops, but also steps up bombing which extends to Cambodia.  He wins reelection in 1972.  The Cold Warier breaks open relations with Communist China in 1973, boosting American business interests.  The war winds down 2 years and the guerillas win in 1975.  His personality is secretive and vindictive, distrusting others.  The Watergate scandal exposes the presidents illegalities.  He resigns in the face of impending impeachment.  His legacy is mixed.  In foreign policy he opens the door to China for economic reasons.  The Vietnam War is intensified and then ended.  In Latin America he supports the overthrowing of governments not to our liking, installing brutal leaders.  Domestically he initiates reforms. He is a paranoid president believing he is above the law and provokes a constitutional crisis.




38.  Gerald Ford.

As vice president he becomes president after Nixon resigns.  He is diminished by his blanket pardon of Nixon.  His wife, Betty, breaks First Lady stereotype with her refreshing candor, and adds a human dimension.  He is genial but has an image of bumbler.  He loses the 1976 election.




39.  Jimmy Carter.

Carter, an anti-segregationist Governor of Georgia, is elected in 1976 and serves only 1 term.  He is chosen as a Southern candidate by the Democrats.  His informal style, outsider role hinders achieving his agenda.  He advocates human rights as a factor in foreign policy.  The Iranian Islamic revolution undercuts his reelection bid when he is unable to free American hostages.  During the campaign debates it is image not substance that wins the day.  There is the controversy of the Iranians not releasing the hostages until Ronald Reagan is inaugurated.