Did you know that we are reliving 1968 again? George W. Bush is like Lyndon B. Johnson, unpopular. Iraq is like Vietnam, unpopular. The civil rights movement is represented in Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton's historic candidacy parallels the women's movement. The energized youth voting in this primary is comparable to the college students protesting Vietnam in 1968. Well, that's what a program titled, "Something's Happening Here: Over the Last 40 Years, How Has the Presidential Election Changed?" on CNN told me.
It fascinates me that this news program so brazenly wants to suggest what is happening today is comparable to the turbulent times of 1960s. Also, they eagerly want to associate Iraq with Vietnam. It's almost if they want us to be more anxious about our current times. In fact Campbell Brown, the host, tells us in the beginning that we're an anxious nation just like in 1968. She says, "Now fast-forward 40 years. It is June 2008, another unpopular president, another unpopular war, anxiety and impatience, a new generation energized, all around the sense that we have reached a turning point. It's an election that could change the world." Really, we are anxious and impatient? What proof does she have of that?
Brown also takes a cue from Barack Obama's campaign motto when she describes this election as one that "could change the world. " We are living through the 1960s all over again so we need Barack Obama to come in and change things seems to be the basic theme of the show.
The show goes on to compare to compares Vietnam to Iraq. They interviewed
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R- Neb), a Vietnam veteran, to discuss the parallels
between the wars. He's been vocal about his disapproval of the Iraq war and
back in 2000 he supported Sen. McCain's presidential bid but is not doing so
this year. To his credit, Sen. Hagel, did highlight the enormous differences
between the two wars. Here's the partial transcripts:
BROWN: More than 4,000 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. Vietnam was a much longer, much deadlier war -- 1968 alone saw some 16,000 American deaths.
At the beginning of the year, Robert Kennedy complained that a total military victory was neither in sight, nor around the corner. The war was tearing America apart.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: 1968, that was the big buildup year, 550,000 troops in Vietnam. And our leaders kept telling the American people light is at the end of the tunnel. We have turned the corner. We are about there. And, in fact, that wasn't the case.
SCHNEIDER: In 1968, Americans were being drafted in large numbers. And that really created turmoil and anger and real fury, rage on college campuses.
CROWLEY: Vietnam undid Lyndon Baines Johnson. Clearly, he would have liked to have run. He wanted to run. But the streets were just seething.
HAGEL: Today, we have all-voluntarily army. Very few people have any direct contact with the consequences of that war. That's why you don't see million man marches in Washington, like we did in Vietnam.
Why even devote a whole program associating the two if they themselves conclude they are completely different?
Since they were on the topic of 1968 and presidential campaigns they could have discussed the fact that John McCain was a POW during this time. Instead, it's only mentioned briefly and then leads to a discussion about how other senators who served in Vietnam have turned on the war in Iraq, except John McCain. Here's the transcript of that conversation:
BROWN: But, to that point -- let me ask David this one question, because, you know, in 1968, John McCain was a POW. He was not a part or aware in any sense of the turmoil that was happening in this country at the time.
How does that affect his view in this time in terms of the way he campaigns and also the point that Jeff just made?
GERGEN: Well, let me promote something else.
And Matt Bai, I thought, had a fascinating...
GERGEN: No, it's a fascinating piece in "The New York Times" magazine of the -- I think three weeks ago or so -- in which he argues that the other Vietnam veterans who are in the Congress, like Chuck Hagel, and John Kerry, and Jim Webb, have all turned against the war in Iraq, in part because, during Vietnam, they were -- they were fighting in Vietnam. They turned -- they saw how badly the war went. And they have soured on it.
And now they have soured on this war, whereas John McCain, in the Vietnam War, was actually imprisoned and missed out on all the demonstrations. He missed out on the souring. He came out of that experience thinking, we should have won Vietnam. We just didn't stick in there. We just didn't fight it right. We didn't have the right strategy.
And, therefore, in Iraq, it's a question of hanging in there, that we have got to persevere. And that's why he's broken with these other these other veterans of Vietnam, who actually were in the jungles.
The article Gergen references is called "The McCain Doctrines," written by Matt Bai. In the article Bai theorizes that because McCain was "sealed away" so he wasn't as disillusioned about the war like the other veterans. After reading the piece one is left to conclude that the Arizona senator didn't learn the lessons from Vietnam. Also, Campbell Brown infers in her question that Sen. McCain didn't see all the protest going on back home during Vietnam, therefore, it doesn't give him an accurate assessment of what was going on.
The show then delves into race relations and the women's right movement. Since there has been social progress in those areas in the last forty years the panelists are only left to conclude there must be a another social issue we must address immediately. What is that issue? Gay rights, of course! Here's how that conversation went:
TOOBIN: There's a little parallel here, and I think it's gay rights. Gay rights is ascendant now in a way that women's rights was in the '60s.
The differences about gay rights and gay marriage are tremendously
generational. Young people, they think it's obvious. Old people are still made very uncomfortable by it, and I think that is clearly a matter of time for that cause to be much more popular.
GERGEN: Yes. It isn't the one barrier that seems to be still out there, but do we all agree that Hillary Clinton did not lose this because she was a woman?
TOOBIN: I totally agree with that.
No one in the panel mentions that neither Barack Obama or John McCain support gay marriage. However, they do differ on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy adopted by the military. Sen. McCain supports it. Sen. Obama wants it repealed.
So what is the overall message of the special program? We are living in historic times. We need societal change and quickly.
View the first ten mnutes of the program here.