You have to hand it to LBJ, it takes a special type of incompetence to lose two wars simultaneously: the Vietnam War and his war on Poverty embodied under his hubristic Great Society programs. Historian Amity Shlaes in her recent Great Society details the devastating impact of this domestic attempt at hearts and minds. It makes a nice companion piece to her look at the New Deal, The Forgotten Man.
Go here to read a good interview that she gave about her book. A taste of the interview:
Amity Shlaes: Yes. So there’s The Best and the Brightest was the book by David Halberstam that shows what fools the planners of the Vietnam war were. And Max Boot has written about this very persuasively, too. McNamara had an idea about bombing and how it might work that didn’t correlate to reality. It just correlated to his spreadsheets, and that was part of the insanity of Vietnam. Here he was fighting against guerrillas as if they were the German army with tanks, and I always thought The Best and Brightest, that was about foreign policy. But what you discover when you look is we had the same high appreciation of intelligence, technocracy, and planning; long live consultants, long live business school graduates in domestic policy. And some of the characters carry over.
McGeorge Bundy; McNamara, who after being Defense Secretary, failing as the Defense Secretary, went over and was equally foolish and also tragic in his result at the World Bank. And one thing McNamara did gives you a good idea, I noticed this because it just blew my mind, no respect for some other space, whether it’s the local space, the regional space, the state space, the space of face; no respect for any of that. So McNamara, because he was a numbers person, figured out that if there were fewer people, maybe more resources would be available. That was his answer to scarcity.
And so he was for zero population. Okay, whatever. And there were others like that, but where did he choose to deliver an address on this? At Notre Dame.
Amity Shlaes: So that kind of insult that you have to work hard … I mean, it takes a lot of talent to be that insulting, and he was.
Richard Reinsch: So he was that arrogant?
Amity Shlaes: Yeah. That arrogant and that insulting to not see what damage he might do, what offense he might bring, by arguing for birth control and zero population in front of the Catholic Church.
It is a truism that pride goeth before a fall, and the gang surrounding Johnson was as proud as Lucifer, and like Lucifer they fell and dragged the country down with them.