Skip to main content

tv   Lectures in History President Johnson the Vietnam War in 1968  CSPAN  November 18, 2018 12:00pm-1:21pm EST

12:00 pm
>> watch part 1 and 2 on sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern on real america. you are watching american history tv, all we can, every weekend on c-span3. next on lectures in history, arizona state university professor kyle longley teaches a class on president lyndon johnson and the vietnam war in 1968. he discusses reaction to the tet offensive and talks about the reasons behind the president's decision in march not to seek reelection. professor longley describes attempts to forge a peace agreement with the north vietnamese and the role the war played in the november election. longley: happy for everyone to be here tonight.
12:01 pm
we will be discussing 1968 and i love the choice, i put up music lyrics by the animals. from 1965, but it became sort of an anthem for the vietnam soldiers. they would sing it time and time again and play it. aboutwe are going to talk , in terms of the johnson administration and vietnam during 19 to. as you remember from the book you've read, johnson is going to characterize 1968 as a year of continuous nightmare. that's important to keep in mind . one thing after another after another. always central to the point will be vietnam, the thing that is sort of overarching issue that's going to cause riots in the streets. of course it's going -- of
12:02 pm
course there will be supreme court debates, riots and other things. vietnam is where comes back to and has helped pull the country apart. --'s 1968 and the presidency this picture represents what we see in the year. i wish we would have done a better job with this because at the bottom is a tape recorder. what president johnson is doing in this picture is listening to his son-in-law tell him about what's going on. his son-in-law is a lieutenant in the marine corps leading a group of men talking about some of the many lost. so you can see from the devastation this was causing the president. i think there's another interesting element to the picture. in the background is john
12:03 pm
kennedy. the bust of john kennedy. i think there's a certain irony. the man always seen as overlooking lbj and also who, as we've done in our studies and learned, was a precursor and left johnson very little room to operate as a result of his involvement in vietnam. let's start with the lead-in. 1968 but to a large degree the lead in was late 1968 -- late 1967. here is a quote from general west moreland, commander in vietnam. he goes to the national press club, brought back the country to try to drum up support for the war. trying to do a major public relations campaign to win support for the war. i love this quote that he gives to the press. i am absolutely certain the
12:04 pm
enemy was -- winning. we are making progress. we know you want an early transition to the fourth and last phase. -- so to yours sons and so do i. the emmys hopes are bankrupt. that should tell you the message the president as well as his generals are trying to present the american public. they're trying to shore up support and build support for the president and carry this to the american people to win support for them to continue to wage the war. johnson has been toying with some ideas like the san antonio formula which had been given in august of 1967 were he discussed if the north vietnamese would go to a certain number of conditions that we would and the bombing and start negotiations.
12:05 pm
the conditions were so poisoned pilled there was no way that was going to happen. in august of 1967 with the san antonio forum and became more prominent.
12:06 pm
i found this last night. i had not really come across this when i was putting this powerpoint together. it was a question at the national press club. the will -- will the speaker please answer this question? none of the phases you outline mentioned surrender by north vietnam. what is the significance of that omission? .hink about that what is the significance of the omission? no surrender by the north vietnamese. carry that forward now, i love this question that was put forth. why not discuss surrender?
12:07 pm
right before 1967 comes to an australiaminister of goes swimming. keep in mind, december is their summer. he's off swimming and suddenly he disappears. holt, his bodyld will never be recovered. behold the funeral for the our trillion prime minister would been a strong supporter of the johnson administration in vietnam. so here is what the president does. personal pilot, says get the plane ready we are going to a funeral. of course the plane is under repair so there is not his favorite plane to take which he complains about. ultimately in december of 1967 he's going to go around the world and in that process the main issue is going to remain
12:08 pm
the and him -- going to remain a vietnam. the first thing that he does is he meets with the president of south korea, south koreans have 40,000, 50,000 troops in south vietnam. then he meets with the australians to make sure they commit and remain committed to the struggle in south vietnam. he meets with the south vietnamese leaders including the president. each time he trying to control, work deals, keep the alliance together because deep down i believe johnson thinks victory is possible. he thinks it is around the corner. there's a light at the end of the tunnel. i love what he tells the officers and enlisted men. he goes to thailand middle of the night, gets up early the next morning and flies into cam run day.
12:09 pm
this is something they would not have announced for obvious reasons. knowing the president and the united states are about the land. typically not something you would want. they do start pulling troops out of the jungles so that they can give the metals and i'm sure the troops were not that upset. a few days. i think this is december of 1967. four month later, march 31, 1968 he says "basci says to the officers and enemy was hoping to outlast the americans and break their will but we are not going to yield and we are not going to shimmy" he told a large group of assembled troops, great opportunity to go meet the president.
12:10 pm
listen to the president, also breaks of the doldrums of the day. he told the troops "america had come from the valleys and the depths of despondency to the heights and cliffs where we know now that the enemy can never win. " what does that say to you? the enemy can never win? >> [indiscernible] prof. longley they can never win but that implies who can blame -- who can win? and victory is what? what is victory?
12:11 pm
independent vietnam. i'm not sure democratic -- holding elections is one thing. what we might characterize as a true democracy might be a different thing. i think implicit in this, we're not going to run. and they can never win. it is implicit in that, we can win and will win. maybe i am misreading that, but that's what it sounds like to me. two -- so far to go to ,e flies to pakistan visits then he flies to the vatican. why would he fly to the vatican?
12:12 pm
>> [indiscernible] so prof. longley this is the issue, how do you deal with the south vietnamese and get them more involved in the process? you go to the pope to try to push the catholics. i love this quote and i think it really sticks out. lbj talked about how people in texas like to have their sticker on their forwards made in texans i texans. the president adds i would like a slogan that says peace in south the anon made by the vietnamese. here's is a funny story that i just found out a few days ago about this visit. this tells you a lot about johnson. when he gets to the vatican they have an exchange of gifts. the pope brings out this
12:13 pm
beautiful 14th-century painting. invaluable. probably worth millions of dollars. johnson pulls out a bust of himself and exchanges it. think about that. what that says about president johnson. of himself, not of george washington, not of jefferson, not of john kennedy which would make more sense, the catholicism tie. but himself. 1968, he makes it around the world. tens of thousands of miles in a short time covered a lot of distance and the fundamental issue remains vietnam. the same will happen when the state of the union address comes along in the third week of january of 1968.
12:14 pm
this, it's thel very first issue johnson raised. many will say that is the worst thing he could have done. vietnam. a divisive issue. on one side you have the hawks saying he's not doing enough. on the other side are the piece candidates who sang he's doing too much. it's time to get out. and he is trying to walk that line. we've been talking about this is the first book we read on the issue, dereliction of duty. the middle-of-the-road response. when you're writing down the middle-of-the-road usually what's going to happen to you? you're going to get run over. in this case is trying to reach out and say we are in this for the long haul, he needs to send
12:15 pm
that to allies as well as the south vietnamese government. he wants to send a message to the north vietnamese. opponentays, the continues to hope that america's will to preserve can be broken. he is wrong. .merica will persevere our patience and perseverance will match our power. aggression will never prevail. you could have heard that in 1965. the johns hopkins speech we talk about. folks thatumber of outline strategies in relation to vietnam. how we continue there, how we got there. you tie into what happened and you have very much the same thing. is there anything in this that says we are ready to back down and try to get out? nothing.
12:16 pm
he has some thoughts which we know always was the case when discussing getting in the war. always has doubts. is he saying this to the american people? i go back to that fundamental idea, he had a chance to set a different tone and chose not to. he had a chance to not put vietnam upfront. the it mom is vietnam is the of session. just a few days after he gives the state of the union address, 40,000 north vietnamese troops surround u.s. forces at the base not too far away from the dmz. on january 24, 1968 they launched a major offensive. what is the first thing you think went into the head of johnson and his generals? dien bien phu. this is going to be the north
12:17 pm
vietnamese efforts to break the united states just like they broke the french. here he is in the basement, and i talk about this in the way he'd wander the halls at night with his flashlight, going down to the basement where he'd go check on his boys. the marines. at 6000 marines or so caisson. again fearful this is going to be our dien bien phu. they went so far as to draw a diorama of the fortifications and you'd look in the back are maps, and they'd give reports to the president. a lot of times he's in his pajamas which may be a jacket over or something like that. but he's wandering the halls. basically, what does that tell you about him? what would you characterize the president as being?
12:18 pm
>> obsessed? prof. longley: i think that's the best word. you nailed it, jose. obsessed. he is obsessed. but here's the problem. that was just part of the plan. the major plan is tet. which had been planned for years in advance by the north vietnamese, believing that by launching a major offensive in the south during the tet holiday that the south vietnamese themselves would rise up to overthrow the american-supported government. and nothing symbolizes this. because here is the problem. westmoreland just told us victory is near. at least we're doing a heck of a lot that are than we had done before. we have the president. is he backing off anything except aggression will not prevail absolutely not. therefore, the american people are going, all right, it must be
12:19 pm
going fairly well. the enemy must be on the run. then suddenly, they are hitting every major target in south the anon, including the u.s. embassy. people are like, that's the most fortified american emplacement in all of vietnam. and suddenly you have sappers penetrating the outer perimeter. and the question becomes, and i made this point in the book, walter cronkite's response is what? eric? >> that he thought we were winning this war and he is just incredulous. prof. longley: do you remember the quote? "what the hell is going on? i thought we were winning." that's pretty powerful, is it not? and that's by a guy who, to this point, had been very hawkish on the war, had been very supportive of the war to a large degree. and again, here's the attacks in saigon, to your right.
12:20 pm
and then look at all the attacks. almost every major provincial capital was hit. but here's the question. a fundamental one. johnson comes out and so does westmoreland. we knew this was coming, even though a lot of people underneath him are like, no. even if we had their plans, we wouldn't have believed them. yes, there were some that anticipated some kind of offensive, but nobody anticipated it on this scale. but what's going to happen is this offensive is going to be a major tactical defeat for the north vietnamese and the viet cong in particular. but a strategic defeat for the united states. tactical victory, strategic defeat. things happen. and nothing stands out probably in this way any more than what
12:21 pm
happened when the police commissioner of saigon takes a viet cong, suspected vietcong, but he wasn't the account, and -- and executes him in front of the cameras. this execution leads a lot of americans to question. and this is one that's important because i like to talk in the book about the people closest to johnson, the ones that are having the most influence. and harry mcfearson, a person described as the president's conscience emphasized the execution. "not only demonstrated the inhumanity of an ally but confirmation of an impression that we'd been building for years. we were sunk in a war between alien peoples, with whom we share a few human values." he goes on to add, "loan raising his revolver on every channel, turning public doubt into hearts -- turned public doubt into heart-sick rage and carrying us
12:22 pm
along with him." pretty powerful. this is the guy that is one of president johnson's closest advisers. say until tet, usually accepted westmoreland's reports, but after tet he stressed i put aside the confidential cables. i was more persuaded by the tube and by the newspapers. i was fed up with the optimism that seemed to flow without stopping from saigon. johnson had always had skepticism, but this is mcfearson who is 27 or 28 at the time. again he would tear into the president. he was one of the few people that could get away with it. he'd just rip into the president. and again as some described him, he was the president's conscience. but the president, this is the
12:23 pm
question, what do we do now? yeah, we're kicking the crud out of especially the vietcong. everywhere the fighting is much better than what was anticipated. the south vietnamese people are not rising up in revolt like the north vietnamese had hoped that they would. so this is a problem. so here becomes the debate. the military, as you saw this play out, in the behind the scenes, try to utilize tet to justify asking for another 206,000 troops. and from february to march of 1968, this is going to be a bureaucratic battle of epic proportions. where inside the pentagon and inside the white house, the debates are going to rage. what do we do? will 206,000 make a difference? if so, what kind of difference? and the president is sitting there going, every time you come
12:24 pm
to me and ask for more troops, i've given them to you. now explain to me why 206,000 are going to make more of a difference. here he is facing off with general wheeler. the chairman of the joint chiefs to the left. but i think this picture to the right sort of sums it up probably better than anything. what do you see there? derek? >> the president and robert mcnamara look very anguished, and they look like they're just in devastation. kyle: this is from february 8, 1968. think about that. that picture, i think, speaks very loudly. mcnamara is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. he's about to be replaced by clark clifford. problems have -- transition has
12:25 pm
already started. i mean, didn't you find it surprising at one point in one of the meetings, mcnamara just starts crying when they start discussing this? he just starts crying when they discuss -- why don't we do more bombing? he just breaks down. he's on the verge and he's moving -- of a nervous breakdown. he's moving out of the white house to be president of the world bank. but i think this sort of sums it up quite well. johnson's tired. exhausted. because here's the problem. you have got to answer. and they ask him, he asks the joint chiefs, and he asks wheeler in particular, "if i give you 206,000 more, can you guarantee me a much better situation?" their answer was what? do you remember? did they guarantee victory? what did they guarantee?
12:26 pm
do you remember? they guaranteed that we'd be able to hold on to a few more provinces for a little longer, and if we didn't send these troops over, those provinces, and we just as well walk away from them. these were northern provinces. is that what the president wants to hear with 206,000? where is he going to get these people? you'll have to call up your reserves and you'll have to call up the national guard. you're also going to have to increase your draft. why does the president not want to do that? >> it would include a lot of the people who had been prominent, like the sons who were prominent backers of the war who -- prof. longley: exactly. we've talked about this time and time again, especially last week or the last time we talked about the book "fortunate son." yeah, he went forward, but the majority of people avoided service, especially those who
12:27 pm
were of affluent backgrounds. so they used the reserves and the guard as places to hide. but when you start calling them up, johnson's great fear is, boy, all those hawks that have been supporting me, once their kids are actively involved, are they going to continue to support me? so he hesitated. 206,000 more. that would have given us about over 700,000 troops in vietnam. had 300,000 worked? had 500,000 worked? what was the guarantee 700,000 would work? that's the fundamental question the president keeps asking time and time and time again. and the chairman and westmoreland cannot give him an answer that makes him feel comfortable. you can't guarantee me anything other than we can hold on to a few more provinces? you can't guarantee me any form of victory and that this is going to dramatically change things?
12:28 pm
and their answer is, no. we can't guarantee you victory for sure. the arben got chewed up, they argue, during the tet offensive. we're going to have to take time to rebuild them. and here's a problem, too. there are a number of times during tet when u.s. casualties far surpassed those of the arben. the vc got mauled. most of them had to retreat into cambodia to recover. now they are going to come back out again not very long after this, but the question is can you guarantee me a different outcome? what difference outcome can you guarantee me with 206,000? that's a lot of people. and it was the first time, and we're going to see this, johnson says no and doesn't give the military what they request. but i think there's another factor to this.
12:29 pm
and i'm going to use this because someone will say the press lost the war. did the press make a difference? yes. their coverage of tet was not particularly efficient at times because they were working on a daily basis and seeing things. and cronkite, after hearing about the tet offensive, says i'm going to go to vietnam and study it myself. he goes over and the first thing he does is almost gets in a fight with westmoreland who appears overly optimistic, and everywhere cronkite goes, no one seems to be that optimistic. only at headquarters. so he comes back, and he makes this famous broadcast. and i want you, after class tonight, to go watch that. there's two things i like from cronkite i want you to look at after class today. one is this. his speech to the american people. the second is his interview with president johnson just a few weeks before johnson dies in 1973.
12:30 pm
here's what he finds after coming back from vietnam. he'd been there in 1965 and found it a very different place. when he gets there in 1968, it's changed, and he further questions things. he said, quote, "who won and who lost in the great tet offense -- offensive? i'm not sure." he added, "we've been too often disappointed in the optimism of american leaders. to have faith in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds." it is pretty powerful, is it not? and this is the most trusted american journalist of his time. he doesn't look like a radical, you know, lefty. this is a gray-haired guy that had been in world war ii and had covered the u.s. troops in korea. never accused really of being a peacenick. but he says to himself, quote, "for it seems now more than ever, vietnam is to end in a standoff," end quote. he grows more somber and he stressed, stressed, "for every
12:31 pm
means we have to escalate, the enemy can match us. to say that we are mired in a stalemate seems the only realistic yet unsatisfactory conclusion." and he concludes, "but it is ever-increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate." listen to this. "not as victors but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and they did the best they could," end quote. again, this is not a radical anti-war statement. he's actually saying, we are honorable. we lived up to their pledge of defending democracy. and what is johnson's response once he hears cronkite has made this statement? yes, yes.
12:32 pm
i'm sorry, i said derek when i wanted luke. have those moments. >> he said if we have lost cronkite, we've lost the country. kyle: yes. "if we've lost cronkite, we've lost the country." to a degree, things are going to cascade after that to reinforce that. and none more than the picture to your left of the peace candidate who declared in december of 1967, eugene mccarthy, senator from minnesota, who declares against johnson and runs in the new hampshire primary. and on the day of the new hampshire primary, johnson was not even on the ballot. the primary systems in the 1968 election really didn't matter. there were only a few really tested. most of the delegates were selected as basically superdelegates. they were just chosen by the party of that local state.
12:33 pm
contesting for these delegates was fairly limited. so johnson didn't even put his name on the ballot in new hampshire, but he did predict this. everybody was saying he was going to win by 25, 30 points. but he says, no, anybody that's mad at their husband, mad at the postmaster, mad at the dog is going to vote against me just because they're angry. and he was right. mccarthy came within seven points of knocking johnson off in new hampshire. now later they did studies saying the people that voted against johnson, and voted sometimes for mccarthy, were mad that johnson wasn't doing enough to win the war. which contradicted the narrative that was being portrayed. i'm going to digress just a little bit. my wife one day -- i was doing a biography of senator albert gore who was an anti-war senator and he was in the senate foreign relations committee in 1968. and i was working on his -- my biography of him. and i wanted to do some oral
12:34 pm
histories. so i had contacted senator mccarthy. and at the time he was 89 or 90. so i reached out, and i said i'd love to talk to you. so one day my wife gets a phone call. and it's -- the person on the other end, she goes, "hello?" and they are very slow to respond. and she starts talking to him like they're a telemarketer. and the person at the other end finally got her to stop for a little bit, and she goes -- he goes, "well, your husband called me. my name is eugene mccarthy, and i was just calling him back." my wife, fortunately, knew her history and knew who eugene mccarthy was, and turned into a very nice, accommodating person and worked with me to make sure i got to talk to him. but at that point, she was not sure he wasn't a telemarketer and was ready to give him an earful. so sometimes you get to see some living history in your life. sometimes it gives you a good
12:35 pm
story. in this case, it gave me a great story. but the one that johnson fears more, and we've already talked about this in great detail, is robert kennedy. now robert kennedy had come to johnson and said to johnson, "if you will appoint a blue-ribbon committee to study the causes of the vietnam war, i'll probably wait until 1972 to run." but johnson sees right through it because what do you think kennedy does? who is he going to put on the blue -- this commission? are they going to be hawks? no. he tries to load it with doves. and johnson, and he says we need to have complete independence. and johnson sees right through it. you read about that. and johnson goes, "no, that's just not the way it's going to work." and kennedy enters the race the next day. now the kennedy people were ecstatic about tet.
12:36 pm
remember there was the quote in there about one of his aides going, "oh, the fig leaf has been torn off. tet justin mistreated that this -- just demonstrated that this is a bankrupt policy." remember that? so they are happy this is weakening johnson because it's putting them in a better position, although people around kennedy are going, wait until 1972. johnson is still going to be a powerful force. and in fact, the polls in march of 1968 still have him defeating kennedy and mccarthy. they were going to split the peace vote. and johnson also controlled the party. and that was what mattered in 1968. not your popularity to a large degree. it's who had control of the party apparatus. and johnson had it. but now kennedy is in. so all these things are cascading. and the final thing that sort of is the nail in the coffin that will bring johnson around to questioning what to do next and
12:37 pm
completely moving away from the military solution occurs in late march of 1968. and that's when his wise men, these are distinguished diplomats, government officials, retired government officials, come to him, and while in mid-1967 they said, we can see progress. when they hear the reports after tet, they go, "mr. president, basically, it's over. we do not see a way out other than through negotiation." and i love that story i tell about dean avpinson who is the head of sort of the wise guys, and achison this classic figure with the little bar, the little mustache, true northeastern liberal elite that johnson always tried to sort of, you know, kowtow to in some ways. but they have a private meeting before the wise men meeting.
12:38 pm
achison walks into the meeting and johnson just goes off on a tangent. starts lamenting how everybody hates him and all because of vietnam. and do you remember what achinson did? he got out and walked out. ross dell follows him out. you remember? "you tell that s.o.b., you know, i'm not going to be talked to like this." and ross had to basically kiss achinson's posterior to get him to meet again with the president. when the wise men flip, it's almost like the death knell of the policy. and on march 31, 1968, it's a day that changed everything. it's one of the most momentous days in american history that will change the dynamic of the country, many would argue in a
12:39 pm
negative way, but definitely changed the dynamic of the country. do you remember how it opened? what does he do first thing in the morning? eric? >> church service. prof. longley: what did you do before that the? who did he need? >> [indiscernible] prof. longley: yes, which one. >> starts with an "l." kyle: that's good. >> [laughter] kyle: linda. and what did linda -- where had she just come from? yes, the airport. derek, do you remember what she had been doing right before that? >> well, she was with her husband who was about to be sent out over to vietnam. kyle: right. and she's pregnant. >> and she's pregnant. kyle: so her husband had just been left at camp pendleton, was heading to vietnam. so his son-in-law is on the way to vietnam. you remember the question she asked and why it was so
12:40 pm
poignant? dad, why are we fighting for people that don't really seem interested in fighting for themselves? that's not the exact quote, but that's the essence of it. do you remember that? how did ladybird say that affected the president? what was it like? >> [indiscernible] kyle: mother. that's good, though. you got down to the part. the day that his mother died, that's the saddest she had seen him since that day. so the decision is throughout the day -- and didn't you love that going back and forth, where people are being hidden in parts of the white house, and others are trying to persuade him to continue and run? wasn't that fascinating, that whole day? but at 9:01, he finally makes his decision. i love that part of the -- "when
12:41 pm
did you make your decision, mr. president?" speech started at 9:00, and he says "at 9:01 i made my final decision." and the final decision is this. with america's -- the speech is only about vietnam and stopping the bombing to try to jump-start the negotiation. but he says in the end, "with america's sons in the fields far away, i do not believe that i should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office. accordingly, i shall not seek, and i will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president," end quote. i talked to many people on this. and they know exactly where they were when they heard this. they looked at each other to say, did i hear that right? nobody believed lyndon johnson was going to give up a chance to secure another term in office, did they? only a few people so close to
12:42 pm
him. and they weren't sure. and yet, here is one of the most powerful presidents in american history that has transformed the country for better and for worse, giving up power to search for peace. it's pretty big. major step. and it all relates to what? what's the issue? vietnam. he didn't say because of civil rights, did he? he didn't say because he was worried about the balanced budget. he said he was there -- it was vietnam. again, this period from january to march of 19 -- end of march of 1968 is one of the most intense and most important in u.s. history. because it's going to set the country now down a different path. and that path is going to be about negotiation. negotiating our way out and really going right full circle
12:43 pm
to what cronkite said. negotiating as an honorable people. and here are just some of the pictures. in the book, don't you love that picture of lucy sitting right behind him and just -- i don't have this one. but she's right over here, and you can tell she's in not good shape, right? she's on the couch. but they're watching on the three channels. that's all they had at the time. and the president is going to say about this, this was the most momentous decision, and it was the one where i do feel like i sacrificed for the country and its betterment. what do you think? do you think it's as monumental as i tried to make it out to be? why? eric, i see you have some thoughts. >> [indiscernible]
12:44 pm
make the point over and over he is a lame-duck president and his power is greatly diminished because he didn't seek re-election. that really stymies his ability to actually implement his agenda in a lot of ways. kyle: right. but he's putting all his energy now towards vietnam. that's what you have to keep in mind. now four days later, all hell breaks loose when martin luther king is assassinated and the whole country just blows up. i mean, you have, and this is why vietnam, it is central, but it is always being affected by things around it. and you got u.s. troops being sent in to all the major cities or many of the major cities to quell the revolt of people in those towns in relation to the assassination of king. so all the momentum he gains on march 31, and we know his public opinion polls flip from like 37% forward to 67%, almost overnight. that's pretty monumental.
12:45 pm
but king's assassination just pulls the rug right out from under it. so the key is going to be the north vietnamese. now they got mauled in the tet offensive. mainly the vietcong got mauled. that is who really got -- bore the brunt. and some make an argument that the north vietnamese did that on purpose to try to remove some of their political competitors in the south. i think there's some validity to that. because they don't get mauled nearly as bad as what the vietcong groups do. but by may, the north vietnamese do agree to at least meet to discuss the peace process. and here are just a few of the pictures. now in the book, you read quite a bit about cyrus vance who was sort of president johnson's best troubleshooter. he's going to be our main representative.
12:46 pm
but there will be a whole series. what's an irony where they choose to meet? where did they choose to meet? >> [indiscernible] kyle: paris. why is that ironic? >> the north vietnamese had already led the effort in the first indo-china war against the french and defeated them. so they're sort of returning to the site of their victory in a sense. kyle: right. right. the french prime minister is the one that encourages them to come to paris sort of place. the optics of that, i don't think the johnson administration is thinking as much about the optics of it. but you think about that. go to paris. you remember those frenchmen in 1954 that we defeated? let's go visit them again. also, we still have significant ties to the french. the colonial power for almost a
12:47 pm
century. .hat is ironic they don't go to geneva. that would've been better. of 1954.on but we go to paris. now it doesn't go very well. because what are going to be some of the major sticking points, would you believe? i think there's a major one, right? who gets to come? what are the north vietnamese -- who do the north vietnamese want that the south vietnamese don't want? who would be the obvious? vietcong. they don't want to recognize them, do they? some of you probably have studied for your final paper project reading the tang memoir of vietcong memoir. so they don't want them represented, and the north vietnamese are like, we really
12:48 pm
don't want that puppet government in saigon represented. can you see some of the problems that could result? who gets to come to the table? and then they start arguing what is the table going to look like? do we do a circular? do we do a square? do we put -- who is going to make that determination? how big is it going to be? basically here's what the north vietnamese are doing. this is lee duong who really -- ho chi minh's picture there but ho had been outmaneuvered by duon who was a southerner time and time again for the last two or three years. he pushed the tet offensive even though ho and another were saying, not a good idea. continue to try to wear them down. putting our forces out in the open just makes it easy for him. -- easy for them. but he thought and believed generally that the south vietnamese people were ready for the revolution. he's a hard-liner.
12:49 pm
and their negotiating tactic is this. fighting while talking, talking while fighting. what's that implying? fighting while talking, talking while fighting. yes? oh, i thought you were ready. ok, go. >> the guerrilla tactics and the fighting don't stop while the negotiations are going on. kyle: right. because what your trying to do? >> you're trying to work out peace while the war is still happening. prof. longley: and you are trying to work it out where you have a better option and you'll have more territory. you'll have a better position. right? yeah. so don't stop fighting. keep it -- the pressure on. and in may of 1968, they launch the mini tet where once again they're in saigon. they hit many of the provincial capitals. and there are some that argued after tet that the north vietnamese and the vietcong were
12:50 pm
finished. well, this certainly contradicts many elements of that argument because they launch another one within three months. now this is not nearly as violent, nearly as wide-reaching as the original tet offensive, but they definitely demonstrate to the united states what? and to the south vietnamese? are we still capable? we're going to talk while we fight and fight while we talk. you see this playing out in these pictures of, you know, people running down the streets. and here's something that tet has demonstrated to people like walter cronkite. millions of people are now displaced. how do you run a government in the middle of a war? how do you create credibility? how do you create stability? millions of refugees. many driven out of the countryside into the cities which means overpopulation. how are you building the economy? again, in the midst of a war? easy process?
12:51 pm
absolutely not. so this is a challenge. so what johnson has talked about for a while now is we've got to get those vietnamese boys to fight their own fight. and that's the way he would characterize it. you know, we need them to do their own fighting. too many american boys are dying. i'm putting on my good west texas -- or texas accent for you. i was just at the lbj ranch last thursday and at the library on wednesday. so i can do it with the best of them. but yeah, we need to get those boys over there fighting because all i really want to see is more dead vc. those dead mva. but here's the problem. and eric, you made a very good point on this. he's a lame duck. what pressure does he have to bear? especially on the south vietnamese, who are looking and going, "well, he's not going to
12:52 pm
be president in four months." his successor hubert humphrey might be because by july of 1968 the other major competitive for the democratic nomination was assassinated. robert kennedy was killed in early june. so they meet in honolulu, and here he is, johnson trying to give him the johnson treatment. cajoling, telling stories, trying to get him to take a trying to get him to go to paris -- him to take a bigger role, trying to get him to go to paris and really work out, hammer out peace that we can all be satisfied with. and ultimately tu emerges and says, "he had no apprehensions at all" concerning the u.s. commitment. he further asserted that his government was determined to, "to continue to assume all the responsibility that the scale of
12:53 pm
forces of south vietnam and their equipment will permit," end quote. think about that quote. "to continue to assume all the responsibility that the scale of forces of south vietnam and their equipment will permit." what does that say? he still wants our supplies. he wants our support. is he making an open-ended commitment to getting americans out? absolutely not. the two presidents agreed that south vietnam should the "a full participant playing a leading role in the discussions concerning the substance of the final settlement." full participant. how do the northerners see that? didn't i just make the point? do they see them as a legitimate government? do they see them as a puppet? yeah.
12:54 pm
that's how they see it. that's maybe not the reality, but that's how they see it. the north vietnamese respond this way. "the position of the united states remains infinitely obstinate in support of its puppet regime in saigon." does there appear to be a lot of common ground there to build negotiations around? so what do you think would be the president's biggest bargaining chip? the bombing. making a good-faith stat or a good-faith effort to reduce the bombing. the bombing had had heavy effects on the north. it hadn't been proven as nearly as effective as what many americans had hoped, but it was a negotiating tool. what else do we have? we're not occupying north vietnamese territory.
12:55 pm
the only other one is complete withdraw, and they know that's not going to happen. so what are your options? and there's also the lame-duck president and the question of vietnam. and it is hanging over the head of vice president hubert humphrey. humphrey to the right here. he's trying to escape the orbit of the president. but at the same time is being pulled far to the other side by the peace faction. what do you think his odds of being able to pull that off are? good, bad, not possible? i would say relatively not possible. i love this quote. i pulled this one out purposefully. one observer noted for vice
12:56 pm
president humphrey, quote, "nothing would bring the really peacenicks back to our side unless hubert urinated on the portrait of lyndon johnson in times square before television." then they'd say, "why didn't you do it before?" can you win in that situation? now here's what johnson really pulls the rug out from under humphrey. do you remember in the lead-up to the democratic national convention, the committee -- the plank committee starts meeting, and the major issue is vietnam. can't escape it. and humphrey works out and fashions a fairly moderate compromise, does he not? he gets the approval of dean rusk. he gets the approval of rust out, and what happens? eric? >> [indiscernible]
12:57 pm
prof. longley: and what happens then? all hell breaks loose. i mean, and we see this. there has never been, in our lifetime -- well, you're so young -- in some of our lifetimes, a more contested convention that left the democrats hobbling coming out of the chicago convention. outside the convention, every hippy, every anti-war group, every anarchist, every person willing to try to stir things up comes out of the woodwork. i mean, there's a group that even goes so far as to nominate a pig, pegasus, for the nomination so that they can get secret service protection. you remember what the chicago police did to pigasus? kidnapped him. so they just got another pig.
12:58 pm
jerry ruben, a whole group stirring things up out in the streets. but they didn't have to go far to see it being stirred up. and no place did it come more full force than on the floor of the democratic. you remember the one time abraham ruben was up there giving a very vehement, passionate antiwar statement. who is down there screaming at him? mayor daley. what's mayor daley calling him? i won't say this since this is going to be on tv, but he was cursing him with anti-semitic remarks about that s.o.b. up there. and this is playing out on national television. the next day they have more of a fight. this picture stands out. on one side you have we love mayor daley on the other side
12:59 pm
brutality does not pay in vietnam nor in chicago. the press are being beat up, accosted. chicago police are beating the nonsense out of antiwar, throwing tear gas. it looks like to a lot of people the world is coming apart. especially for the democrats. humphrey is up in the hilton inhaling teart gas. the tear gas rising up from the street. president johnson is on his ranch trying to make sure they don't compromise too much on the vietnam plank. thanks, what's going to >> hoping they will give up on the other confidence and be like, well, -- candidates, say well, johnson said he wasn't going to run, but we're going to draft him anyway because he's our only hope and he got thrown out in five minutes.
1:00 pm
kyle: yeah. don't you remember at one point some of the kennedy people want to nominate johnson so they can put him out on the floor and beat him down? but wasn't that one of the saddest scenes you have ever seen? a sitting president waiting for them to call him. now his people around him, and i think they're probably justified, argue he wouldn't accept it, the offer. but he wanted to be offered, didn't he? it was his birthday. i mean the day of, right before when all this fighting ends, it's his birthday. he's sitting down at the ranch, hopi they are going to call him. they even planned of fireworks show on lake michigan for his birthday. does the plane never leave? humphrey comes out when did -- wounded. the major reason is vietnam. arsenic swallowed by the johnson administration, many argue.
1:01 pm
this carries into the fall presidential campaign of 1968. i want you to look at this graph. very closely. tell me what you see. can you see it? the blue is humphrey. george wallace stays pretty steady. he's running his own american independent party. curtis lemay, george wallace is crazy the curtis lemay embarrasses wallace. you can watch lectors and history every weekend. basically wallace is the inheritor of strom thurmond. they are splitting off of southern democrats. he holds pretty steady but what you see the race in august, what does it look like? graph? read that
1:02 pm
basically wallace is the inheritor of strom thurmond. what did the democratic convention due to humphrey's numbers? help the? no great in august, is down 16 point straight what you see happening. -- but what do you see happening? he's closing. by the time of the election, it's a within one percentage point. nixon was out campaigning i love this picture. it is cents about talk about. the favor one of my signs as this one. characters or qualification. some of you laugh. if you know what's coming. characters or qualification. us to this part
1:03 pm
right up for the election, whether it's a matter of treason or not, the chennault affair. many americans don't know what the chennault affair was with a rational died this week. she passed away last. this woman was 94 years old and she was right in the middle and the wife oflt claire chennault's cover the flying tigers are in world war ii, had come to the united prominent become a public and fundraiser. closing, theon is nixon people are started to panic. the greatest fear is this straight is going to be an october surprise. that surprises going to help humphrey over the top.
1:04 pm
six days before the election, it appears like it might occur. the johnson a administration, the people in paris report back the north vietnamese are willing to take further steps in the peace process. in return for a bombing halt. late october, 1968. these things have been playing out, humphrey is closing. and nixon in them are starting to sweat bullets. 1968, igo'sjuly of recommended to fix seven, nixon had met anna chennault and discussed alongside the south vietnamese ambassador issues relating to south vietnam in the war. nixon'sment one of aides -- nixon department nursing.
1:05 pm
their people inside the white house, including the guy to the right here was advising both the johnson administration and the starts reporting back there closing in on a deal. what will happen a week before the election is the major feasts advance -- peace advance is made? who is that going to benefit? humphrey. no doubt. they are starting to worry. the question is what do we do now? less than a week out, with a start to do, and then already been doing this to a certain degree, they start telling the south vietnamese government will give you better deal. anna chennault starts communicating this to the president and you say how we know that -- how do we know that? for wiretapshe nsa
1:06 pm
of for of house in saigon clearwire tapping our own allies and when johnson heard of this, he placed wiretaps on motion alt as well as the south vietnamese embassy in the united states. in d.c.. they have, there's this wonderful to the johnson library called the x file. i'm not making that up. this this whole file with all the fbi transcriptions of the conversations going on to madame ambassador, and going back and forth to south vietnam. information, he passes it off to humphrey. says use it as you see fit. but johnson hesitates to make it public. why?
1:07 pm
why? reasons, one, he wanted to appear above the politics of election and second, he wanted to preserve the integrity of the presidential office. >> there's something ironic about that. there's a third one. wanted to appear nonpartisan like eisenhower appeared in the 1960 election. and he gets partly because he wasn't a strong and support of hungry sm which he would and they were using this to make some distance. some disagree with that assertion. but your point is well made. the third point, he didn't want have to tell people who resources were. the president of the united states is using the nsa to spy isour allies in saigon and
1:08 pm
using the fbi to spy on u.s. citizens in the united states as well as our allies at the embassy. figure point is very well made about the idea that he wanted to protect the legacy of the presidency. because he thought what if i tell people this and he still wins, ones that create immediately for nixon? constitutional crisis. the potential for constitutional crisis. boy does this sound eerily familiar? asking yourself this question, why did he pull the trigger? one of the greatest takes currently this from the johnson library when the miller center is nixon calling it johnson to deny that he -- that he knew anything about it in 1968. i chose this picture, the
1:09 pm
picture below was in the book, the one where in the elevator they are facebook. story aboutthe johnson smiling because he was lying. but he wouldn't pull the trigger. they had him dead to rights, probably. andrydo i know for sure that nt nixon was party to this? we don't have as one gun. while he say if i do a criminal case, probably couldn't win because i would have to do it beyond nixon was party to this? doubt, i would have to win all the triggers. if i do make a civil case where i did a simple majority i could use the circumstantial evidence, highly probable. there using their own sources throughout south vietnam.
1:10 pm
the run of raglan humphrey loses and we made sure the next and -- the election went to nixon. there is no doubt they were on on and people were negotiating with the government. but it didn't matter. johnson dimpled trigger and worthy of his x file is the day that johnson left the white house he told wall rust out take this file with all the information and put it away. he obeyed that enter into the johnson library and put it in a safe and told the director of the library cannot release this until 2025.
1:11 pm
in 1991 they release the x file it are still adjusting to see those fbi. my optional starting at 20 in the campaign mexico at one point. kelly preston new mexico the time was vice president's bureau lagging. so there's a lot of circumstantial evidence. the president worried about this bring down the presidency. five years later, he did it to itself and one of the reasons is he created an organization called the plumbers and one of their first actions was reading in the brookings institution to try to get documentation related to the chennault affair. i would argue johnson, had he lived long enough to see watergate unfold, with a this is
1:12 pm
one of his greatest regret is not letting information out. but he gave it to humphrey. humphrey chose not to use it. but what a difference could've been made for at least every four days, the one of the campaigns is actively involved undermining of peace process in vietnam. collusion. all the different things that could be. eightny of this rent is -- is any of this resonating? rights? all these things should resonate very closely or very loudly with you. 1968, johnson until his last days is hoping for a breakthrough. he also negotiating with the russians, which ended a point in
1:13 pm
the book, hoping for a breakthrough on arms control and then czechoslovakia council in august and killed that. but even of the last moment is open for a summit. in some ways, it's pretty sad. when he's at the ranch, you are the convention to me just stands out. i don't even know. it was heartbreaking. even though some will say he got exactly what he deserved. of 1969,n january johnson is standing there as richard nixon takes the oath of office. i want to look at this next graph and tell me what you see. what does this tell us about 1968? and the peace process and all the things related to vietnam? the obvious one, right?
1:14 pm
just a bad year for johnson, it was the deadliest war in the u.s.. >> not counting the number of the moneys civilians -- of the minis -- citizens of vietnam. plus 6000,2,000 18,000 plus another 2500, 20,500 plus another 1000. almost as many people died in that time, in the determination for the search of peace, because it is nixon countermand what johnson sought to do? is he continued as a we going to win a victory? what's the call for? peace with honor. he had a secret plan, how that
1:15 pm
secret plan workout for more than 20,000 americans and vietnam,of people in and cambodia. had johnson lived past january of 1973, ironically, he dies only a couple of days after richard nixon takes a second oath of office. let's conclude here. look at the picture to the right. to your left. you -- what do you see? is at the same johnson of 68? i can take it back to that picture from july 1968 where he's listening to check rob. what do you think destroyed him? vietnam. only a few days after, or before
1:16 pm
this, he had gone to a conference at his library in austin. as he gets up, the civil rights conference as he gets up to give the address, the first thing he does is campbell's over, moving very slowly, his health is deteriorated. see would like he's aged immensely in just a short time? the first thing he does when he gets into the platform is he takes out a thing of metrowest run and put under his tongue. six weeks later, he is dead. i like this cartoon, 1966 or maybe 1965, i think this cartoon sort of sums it up in many ways. he had gallbladder surgery in a 65 or 1956 and he showed everybody is scar, the wound, don't do that. it's gross. obviously made a
1:17 pm
point out of that, the scar is what? vietnam. thought asou a final we stop. here's the question -- why keep pushing forward, why let vietnam be that deathknell? i think this is something that leaders have to address. millerthis quote george stressed about lbj, quote, had never in his entire life learned to confess error. in this quality really amusing or exasperating in a private person resulted in a cosmic tragedy for the president. he thought lbj believed quote he had no alternative. more and more draftees into the vietnam meatgrinder. that's your final thought to ponder, what does this say about
1:18 pm
presidential leadership, what does it tell us about the turmoil of america and the role of vietnam? thank you. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] >> were watching american history tv only on c-span3. tonight on "q&a," california democratic congresswoman jackie fear talks about her memoir, undaunted. in thes on airstrip remote jungles of guyana, having just concluded a congressional delegation trip within congressman leo ryan and we were ambushed on that airstrip. and shot. 45 times and shot died on that airstrip, they were members of the president died in
1:19 pm
a defector of the people's temple who died and i was shot five times, the bone jutting out of my right arm, a wound in my leg the sizable foot. and it was oh my god, i'm 28 years old, this is it. and i dated for eastern on "q&a," on c-span. >> ♪ sitton in the morning sun i'll be sitting on the evening comes watching the ships role in and then i watch them roll away again bayon on the dock of the watching the tide rolled away bayon on the dock of the
1:20 pm
time ♪ but -- sitting on the dock of the bay was released in 1968. we take a driving tour of memphis with boo mitchell to learn how music is shaped the city. place of awas the lot of racial tension, but was also the place of a lot of racial harmony. the musicians in town like nobody, that we cared about your race of the musicians how they always work together, even from the earliest times, so there was brotherhoodse of amongst musicians, no matter what color you were. >> while in memphis, we took a driving tour the city with musician, record producer and owner of royal studios the mitchell.

49 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on