Why did President Lyndon Johnson suffer a credibility gap over Vietnam?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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President Lyndon Johnson suffered a credibility gap over Vietnam because the American people came to disbelieve what his administration said about the way the war was going.  The public came to believe that Johnson was overstating the progress that was being made towards winning the war.  This credibility gap became a real crisis after the Tet Offensive in 1968, becoming big enough that Johnson chose not to run for reelection.

As president, Johnson had to try to convince the people the war was going well so they would support it.  However, this involved giving highly slanted accounts of how things were going.  When events (particularly the Tet Offensive) made clear that things were not going as well as Johnson claimed, the credibility gap came into existence.

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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President Johnson suffered a credibility gap as a result of the Vietnam War. This war was the first televised war. News reporters were able to cover this war and send back pictures and other images from the war. They were also able to interview our soldiers. These interviews, images, and pictures told a story that was very different from the story President Johnson was telling the American people.

At the end of every week, the national news reports would show the figures for the number of soldiers killed, the number of soldiers wounded, and the number of soldiers missing in action. While the President was telling the public the war was nearly over and that we were winning, the numbers told a different story. The President also was sending more troops to Vietnam. This not only increased discontent at home, it sent a message that the war wasn’t close to being over. It also suggested that things weren’t going as well as the President was indicating to the American people. The images also showed that the war in Vietnam wasn't as close to being over as the President was saying. When North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive, the American public was convinced the President wasn't telling the truth.

The Vietnam War and President Johnson’s description of how it was going led to the creation of a credibility gap between the government and the American people.

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