Decades later, the Vietnam War remains a divisive memory for American society. Partisans on all sides still debate why the war was fought, how it could have been better fought, and whether it could have been won at all.
In this major study, a noted expert on the war brings a needed objectivity to these debates by examining dispassionately how and why President Lyndon Johnson and his administration conducted the war as they did. Drawing on a wealth of newly released documents from the LBJ Library, including the Tom Johnson notes from the influential Tuesday Lunch Group, George Herring discusses the concept of limited war and how it affected President Johnson's decision making, Johnson's relations with his military commanders, the administration's pacification program of 1965-1967, the management of public opinion, and the "fighting while negotiating" strategy pursued after the Tet Offensive in 1968.
The author's in-depth analysis exposes numerous flaws in Johnson's management of the war. In Herring's view, the Johnson administration lacked any overall strategy for conducting the war. No change in approach was ever discussed, despite popular and even administration dissatisfaction with the progress of the war, and no oversight committee coordinated the activities of the military services and various governmental agencies, which were left to follow their own, often conflicting, agendas.
Macroeconomic policy involves government action intended to influence the overall operation of the economy and to deal with such important public problems as economic growth, inflation, unemployment, and recession. In this first comprehensive treatment of presidential management of such policy for any presidency, authors James E. Anderson and Jared E. Hazleton focus on four tasks: developing and maintaining an information and decision-making system; coordination of policies in different macroeconomic areas; building support or consent for presidential policies; and administrative leadership. Drawing extensively upon presidential documents and interviews with Johnson administration officials, the authors pay particular attention to fiscal, monetary, wage-price, and international economic (especially balance of payments) policies during Johnson’s terms. The authors use the concept of the subpresidency, as defined by Redford and Blisset in Organizing the Executive Branch: The Johnson Presidency (University of Chicago Press, 1981), to show how Johnson managed the macro-economic institutions of the council of Economic Advisors, the Bureau of the Budget (now the Office of Management and Budget), the Department of the Treasury, and the Federal Reserve Board in pursuit of his economic goals. What emerges is a vivid portrait of an activist president. In evaluating management of macroeconomic policy in the Johnson administration, the authors focus on how presidential policies are developed and adopted rather than on the substance of the policies themselves. They conclude that the Johnson administration competently managed policy development during its presidential years. This book is a volume in the Administrative History of the Johnson Presidency Series sponsored by the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, the first two volumes of which were published by the University of Chicago Press. Managing Macroeconomic Policy: The Johnson Presidency was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.