Failures of the Presidents
The five greatest presidential mistakes of all-time.
Written by HistoryFiled under
With “Bush’s Last Day” fast approaching and media commentators spending considerable air time debating Bush’s legacy, it’s the perfect opportunity to re-visit a handful of the worst presidential decisions in our nation’s history. So without further ado, following is my list of the five greatest presidential failures.
1. Escalating the war in Vietnam, Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964
In the 1950s and ’60s, the dominant idea in foreign policy circles was the Domino Theory, which postulated that if one nation fell to the Communists, the surrounding countries would fall, too. This is precisely what happened in Eastern and Central Europe after World War II, and with Communist governments already in place in North Korea and North Vietnam, the West feared that the collapse of South Vietnam would lead to the collapse of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Once the dominoes started to fall, there was no telling where they would stop.
President John F. Kennedy embraced the Domino Theory, which explains why he sent military advisors and troops to South Vietnam. President Johnson accepted it too, and after North Vietnamese and U.S. ships exchanged gunfire in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964, LBJ urged Congress to approve a resolution that would permit the nation “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty.…” The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, as it was known, passed 416-0 in the House of Representatives, and 88 to 2 in the Senate.
As we all know, the ensuing war did not go well. No matter how many troops LBJ sent to Vietnam, the North Vietnamese would not give up the fight. As U.S. casualties mounted and Americans began to sense that the war was unwinnable, anti-war protests—many of them violent—erupted across the country.
Johnson’s decision to increase U.S. involvement in Vietnam hamstrung his presidency and ruined his reputation. By the time the United States withdrew in 1973, more than 1.5 million Vietnamese had perished, and more than 58,000 U.S. troops had been killed.