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Prof. Ken Bode Reviews New Biography of LBJ in the Boston Globe

January 29, 2004

January 29, 2004, Greencastle, Ind. - "Robert Dallek is a gifted biographer, and he is also an astute observer of politics and foreign policy," writes Ken Bode, Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Professor of Journalism at DePauw University, in a book review published in the January 25 edition of the Boston Globe. Bode says that in Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President, author Dallek "writes of a president trying to sustain a war in a far-off place, a war that is growing progressively unwinnable and unpopular, a war the flimsy legal authority for which rests on a congressional resolution that the public has come to understand was exaggerated at best, trumped up at worst. And as public-opinion polls become the only measure of support for a conflict of such fragile legitimacy, LBJ flails in rage and despondency as his presidency slips away."

Bode points out, "It is, of course, hard not to think of parallels with the present as the rationale for the war in Iraq begins to look a little sketchy with the failure to find weapons of mass destruction or establish any connection between Al Qaeda and 9/11. Now the Democratic candidates for president are being asked if they were 'misled' into voting for the congressional resolution that gave President Bush his authority to wage war, and words like 'stalemate' and 'quagmire' begin to slip back into the national dialogue."

Later, Bode, former senior political analyst at CNN, writes, "We wonder now, as pundits weigh the candidacy of Howard Dean, whether the governor of a small state can possibly have the foreign-policy acumen to lead America in a post-9/11 world. Before becoming president, Johnson was in Washington and public life for more than 30 years. Yet when he found himself in the Oval Office, it quickly became evident that LBJ was totally inexperienced in foreign policy." The professor concludes, "In his treatment of Vietnam, Dallek depicts Johnson as a president who knows he is governing by the fragility of polls, knows he is being drawn deeper into a hopeless venture, but is trapped, in part, by a primordial determination not to fail, not to be the 'first American president to lose a war.' This biography is timely. However you view the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, you can't read this book and not feel they are with us."

You can read the review in its entirety at the Globe's Web site by clicking here.

Read Ken Bode's recent op-ed pieces on the race for the Democratic presidential nomination here, here and here.

Source: Boston Globe

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