James Jay Carafano attacks President Joe Biden by saying he is "channeling" Lyndon B. Johnson ("Biden channels LBJ, and will fail as he did," Opinion Exchange, May 3). His discussion of LBJ is blatantly ahistoric.
Carafano's most offensive statement is that Johnson's Great Society programs were a "pseudo-socialist experiment" that "failed abysmally, leading to a sharp decline of race relations and the near collapse of American inner cities." Really? Johnson pushed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act through Congress. Before LBJ's presidency, violence and terror were used to enforce an apartheid system. Black people could not use "whites-only" public facilities like restaurants, hotels and swimming pools. They were systematically prevented from voting. They were frequently lynched and tortured with no recourse through the American justice system. Urban ghettos long pre-existed Johnson's presidency, as did employment discrimination, de facto segregation, police brutality and unequal access to education. Race relations in this country are obviously still in a perilous state, but good progress was made further and faster under LBJ than under any president since Abraham Lincoln.
Johnson was a deeply flawed man whose tragic failure was Vietnam. However, to suggest that race relations and "inner cities" (meaning Black and brown neighborhoods) were somehow better before his presidency conveys a whiff of nostalgia for a time when white supremacy more effectively predominated in this country.
James A. O'Neal, Edina
• • •
Carafano's opinion piece on civil rights icon Lyndon Johnson contains the remarkable statement that "Johnson's term in the Oval Office left America angry, divided and dissolute — weaker at home and disrespected abroad. We shouldn't assume it can't happen again."
Either Carafano has the shortest memory this side of a goldfish or he's still blinded by the gilded orange glamour of the last president, who inarguably "left America angry, divided and dissolute, weaker at home and disrespected abroad." America may have been hated from time to time through the centuries, but it took the Orange One to make us a joke to the rest of the world.
Steve Hoffmann, Anoka
• • •
The commentary about Biden goes much too easy on him. LBJ at least was somewhat lucid when he deliberately destroyed society, whereas Biden is barely sentient, eagerly serving only as a sock puppet for the agenda of the lying leftist cabal.
Jim Bendtsen, Ramsey
• • •
As a person who was alive when Johnson was president, I can tell you that the Great Society was quite popular at the time. The problem was that Johnson's domestic path went through Vietnam, which was as unpopular a war as any in U.S. history. It was, in retrospect, political suicide to pursue a massive domestic program alongside U.S. involvement in this ill-considered conflict.
Comparing current events to earlier times has always been fashionable, but the lessons to be learned are often less than clear, especially if you leave out key facts. Johnson might have been one of our most beloved presidents if he wouldn't have sunk the American military into the quagmire of an unwinnable war.
But of course we will never know.
Frederic J. Anderson, Minneapolis
Parallels to Vietnam are all too real
After 20 years of our military being in Afghanistan, the U.S. is pulling out. Trump had a deal to leave by May 1 (with conditions the Taliban agreed to, probably just to finally get us out of there). Biden extended the withdrawal to September.
As a Vietnam War veteran, I share the frustration of the veterans from Afghanistan that our withdrawal means their service and bloodshed was for nothing. I felt the same way when we left Vietnam. The Vietnamese I met in the countryside had been at war with the French there, then the U.S. there, for an entire generation. Most wanted the fighting to end so they could get back to a non-war environment, whoever "won." The South Vietnamese government and its military we supported were corrupt, inept and did not have the support of many of its people. Vietnam, even under communist rule, eventually returned to peace, stability and more prosperity than they have seen for decades. Afghanistan, I fear, will not come out as well.
The Afghans have been at war for a long time, too. Decades ago, the Russians were there, and now the U.S. The Afghans have had 20 years of military assistance from the U.S. and NATO, not to mention billions of dollars in aid from the U.S. and elsewhere. Hasn't 20 years been enough for them to get their house in order and learn to manage and defend their own country and their own fate? I doubt that us staying there another year or another 10 years would make any difference. It looks to me that the U.S. and NATO aren't the bad guys, it's the Afghan government itself that has let its citizens down.
Dave Price, Edina
Not the whole story
Two recent letters to the editor commenting on Charlie Pillsbury's April 29 opinion piece ("Why we must boycott Pillsbury") on why he, a descendant of the founder of Pillsbury Co., is boycotting Pillsbury products were filled with much misinformation. It is important to correct this information so that readers are not left with the deceptions that the letter writers have written ("So much for social responsibility," April 30).
One makes the oft-repeated claim that the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel until it meets demands to comply with international law is anti-Semitic. As a Jew who believes in human rights and equal rights, and who agrees with the many human rights organizations (including B'Tselem and Human Rights Watch) that Israel is an apartheid state that persecutes its Palestinian residents, I have to disagree with this charge of anti-Semitism. I say it is anti-Semitic to treat another human being as less deserving of human rights than oneself or one's clan.
The other writer gives a pseudo-history lesson on the occupied territories and conveniently leaves out the millennia of Palestinian history in the area. This is a repetition of the absurd claim that Israel was a land without a people for a people without a land.
The recent reports by B'Tselem and Human Rights Watch make it clear that there can be no two-state solution and, instead, that we should work toward a rights-based solution where all residents between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are granted equal rights and privileges. All humans and all Americans should favor equal rights.
Sylvia Schwarz, St. Paul
• • •
Two letters from readers oppose the use of the BDS movement to pressure the Israeli government to end its apartheid oppression of Palestinians. Yet boycotts are absolutely nonviolent and have an admirable history of correcting social injustice peacefully. This was proven in South Africa and in the civil rights struggles in the United States.
In a conflict where people on both sides have endured decades of wanton violence, moving to nonviolent struggle should be applauded, not condemned.
Along with other members of Twin Cities Jewish Voice for Peace, I testified before the Minnesota Senate against legislation aimed at making BDS illegal in our state. Our opposition to the illegal occupation of the West Bank and systemic discrimination against Palestinians is not anti-Semitic. On the contrary, it is a reflection of our long and proud Jewish history of struggling for justice, not only for ourselves, but for all humanity.
Andrew Berman, St. Louis Park
We want to hear from you. Send us your thoughts here.