Foreign Policy and the Press: An Analysis of the New York Times' Coverage of U.S. Foreign Policy

By Nicholas O. Berry | Go to book overview

2
Johnson and Vietnam:
The Press Goes to War
and Then Goes Against the War

Lyndon Baines Johnson inherited a great deal from Kennedy. He inherited an assertive secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, a Sinophobic, taciturn secretary of state, Dean Rusk, and a can-do military under the direction of General Maxwell Taylor. He inherited a huge military machine with diverse capabilities. Kennedy had developed strong counterinsurgency forces that were eager and available for use. He also inherited the entire foundation of Vietnam policy. The overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963, the introduction of 16,000 advisors, and hundreds of millions in aid presented Johnson with a Vietnamese government already subordinate to and dependent upon the United States. Johnson would build upon that foundation in creating the structure of his policy.

LBJ, like Kennedy, was a cold warrior. And like Kennedy, he came to the conclusion that the greatest danger in the Communist world came from Asia under the aggressive leadership of Communist China. Johnson was as confident about U.S. power as Kennedy, and as global in outlook. Unlike Kennedy, however, Johnson's heart and soul were not directed toward foreign policy. He always, at least in the beginning, first talked about domestic policy and his Great Society programs. When he did talk about foreign policy, his language was imprecise and his concepts were simplistic. He spoke about peace and freedom as if they stood for things concrete and worth pursuing. He defended his Vietnam policy with clichés.

As Johnson proceeded to fully Americanize the war by taking over its direction and combat, the Times' reporters did not challenge Johnson's frame of reference or his situational analysis, such as it was. Nor did they report very much on those who did. They accepted his cold war frame of reference, his per-

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Foreign Policy and the Press: An Analysis of the New York Times' Coverage of U.S. Foreign Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1- Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs 1
  • 2- Johnson and Vietnam 27
  • 3- Nixon and Cambodia: the Press And the President Part Company 53
  • 4- Carter and the Iranian Hostages 81
  • 5- Reagan and the Intervention in Lebanon 109
  • 6- Findings, Implications, And Conclusions 139
  • Appendix A 153
  • Appendix B 155
  • Selected Bibliography 159
  • Index 161
  • About the Author *
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