Sunday, November 22, 2009

Learning from LBJ

While the nation and the world await President Obama's decision on Afghanistan, it helps to look back on another president confronted with the prospect of escalating a war in a far-off land: Lyndon Johnson weighing his options in Vietnam. Comparisons between Afghanistan and Vietnam are a dime a dozen, but Bill Moyers has done an excellent job of bringing to life Johnson's agonized thinking.

So if you haven't yet seen it, check out the latest broadcast of Bill Moyers' Journal and LBJ's Path to War, Parts I and II.

LBJ's Path to War is composed almost entirely of still photographs accompanied by tape recordings of Johnson's telephone conversations with politicians, friends and government officials. Johnson's strong sense of Vietnam as a bad war, and his fear of the political consequences of withdrawal, make for agonized musings. I've seen references to these tapes before, but still find them riveting--and proof that you don't need "high production values" to make great television.

Moyers' broadcast is a great service. Let's hope our president and the country learn something from it.

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