In 1964, American bombers striking deep into North Vietnam demonstrated that Johnson was a committed anti-Communist.
Sen. Goldwater: I'll say, so that all American people can hear, that the only enemy of peace in their world is Communism and I don't care whether it's Red Chinese Communism or Russian Communism or whose Communism it is, it's Communism.
David McCullough: Johnson watched Goldwater on television, then flicked off the set with a smile. Goldwater had accused the Democrats of being soft on Communism. If Johnson could prove he was a staunch as his Republican rival, he would have more than a victory. The 1964 presidential election would be a landslide.
Less than three weeks later, close to midnight, Johnson made a dramatic television appearance.
Pres. Johnson: As President, I'm Commander-in-Chief. It is my duty to the American people to report that renewed hostile actions against United States ships on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin have today required me to order the military forces of the United States to take action in reply. Our response, for the present, will be limited and fitting.
David McCullough: [voice-over] American bombers striking deep into North Vietnam demonstrated that Johnson was a committed anti-Communist. Johnson would use this incident to acquire the power to make war in Vietnam whenever and however he would choose.
Johnson accused the North Vietnamese of an unprovoked attack, but in fact, for six months, the President had been running covert raids against North Vietnam. Finally, on August 2nd, North Vietnamese torpedo boats retaliated. They fired on the U.S. destroyer Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin. The Maddox returned the fire, sinking one Vietnamese and crippling two others.
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