Turn Out The Lights

George W. Bush must think no one in America remembers the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Or, what is more likely, our current Commander-in-Chief, given his predilections of that era, doesn’t remember much about LBJ’s time in office himself.

How, otherwise, is one to explain Mr. Bush’s performance in front of the U.S. Army’s War College last night? In a speech born of hubris, rooted in cynicism, and delivered in desperation, he strove mightily to channel the macho spirit of Dutch Reagan, but in fact mustered only echoes of President Johnson’s early entreaties to the American public for support of his administration’s “plans” for winning the Vietnam War.

Somebody find Dandy Don Meredith, because Mr. Bush’s party is over.

If the Republicans are as smart as they are avaricious, they will go to New York this summer and nominate someone else to run against John Kerry and the Democrats, who, in the most sporting tradition, are doing everything humanly possible to make a horse race out of the 2004 Campaign for President.

Much has been written and said about comparisons between the Vietnam War and our Adventure in Iraq, and given the brevity of our experience in the sands of Arabia, there is support for the position that the two are by no means the same, or even similar exercises of American hegemony. Which is the beautiful thing about the current predicament.

Because George Bush has already shown himself to be a lying, incompetent war planner, and assured us last night of his willingness to allow history to repeat itself, he will not be taking the oath of office next January.

In 1965, the President came before the American people to announce, “We live in a troubled and perilous world.”

In 1966, LBJ made Vietnam a centerpiece in his State of the Union address. He said “let me be absolutely clear: The days may become months, and the months may become years, but we will stay as long as aggression commands us to battle.”

By his State of the Union address in 1967, he was forced to recount the litany of economic consequences spawned by our commitment to war in Vietnam: “consumer prices rose over the 18 months since we decided to send troops to Vietnam. This was more than we had expected … Our greatest disappointment in the economy during 1966 was the excessive rise in interest rates and the tightening of credit.”

The next year saw Mr. Johnson recounting the successes bought with a steadily increasing number of young American lives:

“Three elections have been held in Vietnam -in the midst of war and under the constant threat of violence. A President, a Vice President, a House and Senate, and village officials have been chosen by popular, contested ballot. The enemy has been defeated in battle after battle. These are all marks of progress. Yet: The enemy continues to pour men and material across frontiers and into battle, despite his continuous heavy losses. He continues to hope that America’s will to persevere can be broken. Well -he is wrong. America will persevere. Our patience and our perseverance will match our power. Aggression will never prevail.”

You say ta-may-toe, I say tah-mah-toe.

After that speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, and Mr. Johnson declined to seek another term as the Leader of the Free World.

Ever notice how things happen quite a bit faster now than they did in the Sixties?

Yes, Iraq is not Vietnam. Mr. Bush has been extolling the victories and progress achieved by his administration’s “plans” in Iraq before having to note the corresponding inflation and tightening of credit sure to flow from them. And it may well be too late to avoid the devastation bound for the U.S. economy in the wake of this administration’s messianic ambitions, especially given Mr. Kerry’s tacit approval for staying the course in Iraq.

But it seems clear that even stolid, conservative voices are beginning to speak truth to power. When folks like Bill Kristol, George Will, and a bunch of big-time G.O.P. Senators ¬≠not to mention a host of active and retired Generals- start bad mouthing their own guy, it’s all over but the shouting.

Say “good night” George.

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