Stop the Presses! Liberal Admits Nixon Began Withdrawing From Vietnam in First Year of Presidency

Since the Iraq-Vietnam analogy they were so fond of citing no longer holds water, liberals have switched to applying the threadbare comparison to the war in Afghanistan.

In the process, an observer will occasionally hear things from left of center he's rarely heard before.

For example, on Ed Schultz's radio show Oct. 9, John Nichols of The Nation magazine had this to say about the dilemma facing Obama in Afghanistan (click here for audio) -- 

NICHOLS: So the real reason he should be drawing down in Afghanistan is because it's - a - bad - place - to - be. 

SCHULTZ: Have we ever escalated the 96th month into a conflict?

NICHOLS: No, Ed, I'm not as old as you, you know, but I do remember Vietnam. And I remember, amazingly enough, in 1972 when George McGovern was challenging Richard Nixon as an anti-war candidate, Nixon countered McGovern by massive troop withdrawals.

SCHULTZ: Yeah.

NICHOLS: Right? By the time we got into that last year of Vietnam, we had Americans moving out of there, they'd been moving out for three years.

SCHULTZ: Yeah.

NICHOLS: This is the exact opposite situation.

I'll give credit where it's due -- Nichols gets closer to the truth with each passing sentence. Initially he implies Nixon withdrew US troops from Vietnam in response to pressure from McGovern during the campaign year of 1972. Nichols then refutes this by stating, accurately, that Nixon's policy of withdrawal had been in place for three years. In other words, it began in 1969, the first year of Nixon's presidency.

At least Nichols is willing to acknowledge this. A more common perspective from liberals on Nixon and Vietnam can be heard in these remarks by Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., in the winter of 2007 when he expressed opposition to the surge in Iraq, comparing the war there to the conflict in Vietnam (Kennedy's remarks start just less than 30 seconds into the clip) --

KENNEDY:  My uncle said a generation ago, 'if we examine the history of the conflict, we find the dismal story repeated time after time. Every time at every crisis, we have denied anything was wrong, sent more troops and issued more confident communiques. Every time we have been assured that this one last step would bring victory, and every time the predictions and promises have failed and been forgotten, and the demand has been made once again for one more step up the ladder. And once again the president tells us that we're going to win -- victory is coming.'

My uncle, Robert Kennedy, made this statement in March of 1968. It took another five years, and 37,544 American lives, before a United States president was withdrawing Americans out of Vietnam and stopping that war. 

You've heard this same assertion from liberals over the years, right? But as I pointed out in a February 2007 op-ed in the Providence Journal, some of us older than Kennedy (born in July 1967) remember Nixon's actions a bit differently --

Far from waiting five years "before" withdrawing American troops from Vietnam, a war he inherited from two Democratic presidents, including another of Kennedy's uncles, Nixon waited all of five months.

In June 1969 Nixon declared the first withdrawal of 25,000 troops to be completed by the end of summer -- followed by an announcement in March 1970 to pull out another 150,000 troops in 12 months -- followed by Nixon vowing in April 1971 to send home another 100,000 troops by year's end.

By the spring of 1972, "Vietnamization," the policy of transferring responsibility for fighting the war to the South Vietnamese government, reduced American troop presence to 70,000, of which 6,000 were combat troops, from the more than half-million troops inherited by Nixon in 1969.

Not surprisingly, the communists exploited the shrinking American presence by launching a major offensive in March 1972. Undeterred, Nixon continued shifting responsibility for the war to South Vietnam. Voters showed their appreciation by overwhelming re-electing Nixon that fall. He won 49 states while his opponent, Sen. George McGovern, could claim -- go figure -- only Massachusetts. 

Count this among the few welcome changes of the Obama presidency -- liberals getting honest about Nixon.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts