An attempted rehabilitation of Lyndon Johnson's foreign-policy failures, in which the smitten biographer attempts to turn...

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SHADOWS OF VIETNAM: Lyndon Johnson's Wars

An attempted rehabilitation of Lyndon Johnson's foreign-policy failures, in which the smitten biographer attempts to turn LBJ into a cross between Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman. Forget the picture you have of President Johnson as a scheming politico who would stop at nothing to get his way. According to Vandiver (International Policy Studies/Texas A&M Univ.), LBJ was a brilliant, big-hearted, misunderstood man who was a loving husband and father, and ""vigorously devoted"" to his country ""and to making things better"" wherever he went. And don't point fingers at Johnson's mishandling of Vietnam. According to Vandiver, the war's dismal outcome was not the fault of this man, who ""had a frightening prescience at times, caught nuances,"" and ""understood things in Lincoln's way of country drollery."" The war went terribly wrong, Vandiver says, because of an unremitting stream of bad advice that numerous generals, national security advisers, White House staffers, and Pentagon and State Department officials gave Johnson. This advice, Vandiver says, ""wobbled between wishful thinking and fright."" Johnson's efforts in Vietnam also were torpedoed, the author claims, by the news media, which turned against American interests, and by anti-war demonstrators, the ""doves whose poison turned American determination flabby and remorseful."" Vandiver undermines his weak defense of Johnson with his gushing prose and breathless exclamatory sentences. Ironically, this zealous defense comes at a time when objective historians are looking more kindly at LBJ. But those historians, unlike Vandiver, have wisely refrained from exonerating Johnson totally; and none have come close to Vandiver's modus operandi of putting the most positive of spins on every move Johnson made in Vietnam.

Pub Date: May 12, 1997

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Texas A&M Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997