#2. Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson Cause the Nixon Presidency
If the nation ever needed a strong leader, it was after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The two most likely candidates for the role were Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who had been his brother's closest adviser, and of course Lyndon B. Johnson, who had gone from the relatively toothless position of vice president to being the leader of the free world. Unfortunately, the two men didn't see eye-to-eye, mostly because they'd spent much of the past years trying to claw them out of each other's faces.
LBJ technically drew first blood by being a vocal critic of Robert and John's father, Joe, though to be fair, lots of people were critical of Joe Kennedy, a dirty politician who'd been strongly and loudly in the "everyone's secret communists" side of McCarthyism. RFK made the beef real in their first face-to-face meeting -- a chance encounter in the Senate cafeteria. Johnson, the Senate majority leader at the time, was walking around shaking hands with senators. He'd probably said terrible things about plenty of them, but he was the most powerful guy in the room, and that's how politics works. Robert was a newly hired aide. Had Johnson farted in his face, he would have been expected to thank him for letting him smell what real men of power eat for breakfast. Instead, when the most powerful guy in the room extended his hand to the least powerful man in the room, the young man refused to stand and extend his, or even look at him. It's unknown whether LBJ said, "Oh, it is so on!" but it totally was. What could have been a deleted scene from Mean Girls would lead to a feud that would define a decade.
Kennedy, seen here picturing himself in a threesome with Johnson's wife and mother.
Things got openly hostile between Johnson and the Kennedys once again when Johnson and JFK squared off for the Democratic nomination that would eventually land Kennedy in the White House. LBJ ran a vicious campaign focused on Kennedy's Catholicism (controversial at the time). Of course, JFK would eventually ask LBJ to be his vice president because it was the strategically rational thing to do, and because he was a grown-ass man who knew that he was in politics and not an episode of The Real World. Robert, apparently less clear on that point, decided to go with the "No, but seriously, fuck some Lyndon Baines Johnson" approach, going behind his brother's back and begging LBJ to not accept his brother's offer.
According to friends and aides, JFK's assassination transformed Robert into a completely different, more soft spoken and circumspect person, which appears to have been true in every category other than the stiffness of his hate boner for Johnson. When Air Force One arrived in the hours after the assassination, he rushed past Johnson. While RFK had spent his time as attorney general as his brother's closest adviser, his time under Johnson was spent doing what he did best and giving Johnson the cold shoulder. Since politics is more like rap fights than we'd care to admit, both sides used their aides and followers to do most of their dirt. Kennedy people openly blamed Johnson for having urged President Kennedy to take the trip to Dallas. Johnson people let it be known that the president blamed RFK for the disastrous mistakes in Cuba, which he thought had created an atmosphere of conspiratorial violence. Of course, neither leader publicly blamed the other, but with the country reeling and searching for answers that would help them move along, the president and the most powerful surviving member of the previous administration were all too happy to let their people throw insane accusations at the other guy.
"Mom! Robert's being a stupid cunt!"
The next year, Kennedy resigned from the Cabinet to run for a Senate seat. LBJ grew more and more paranoid about Bobby's political aspirations, and spent the next couple of years destroying his bills just to reintroduce his own, nearly identical versions. The passage of time did nothing to give either leader perspective on how crazy it was to blame the other for the assassination, thought it did make it more acceptable for them to mock each other in public.
When the 1968 election rolled around, everyone assumed that Johnson was going to run and win his second term, but following a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary, RFK decided to run against the president. It was considered an unorthodox move to run against a sitting president from your own party, but Kennedy was riding a wave of popularity, and if he was good at one thing, it was ignoring the fact that LBJ was in a position of power. Either because he'd had enough of this shit, or realizing that a knockdown drag-out election with his dead boss' brother was a bad look, Johnson shocked the world by dropping out of the race.
"Fuck you and you and you and you. You all can eat my presidential shit. Enjoy your Nixon."
Kennedy became the frontrunner, and had just won the California primary when he was tragically assassinated, leaving the Democratic Party in tatters (leading to what was probably the shittiest convention in the history of the planet) and America up shit creek with only a Richard Nixon-shaped paddle. But even in death, the feud continued. In the last days of LBJ's presidency, Kennedy supporters in the National Park Service used a loophole to switch the name of the new Washington area football stadium from LBJ Stadium to RFK Stadium on the last day of his presidency. Had Kennedy still been alive, he probably would have been OK with just changing the name to LBJ Has No Penis Stadium.
#1. Japanese Inter-Service Rivalry Causes the U.S. to Enter World War II
You probably know that Pearl Harbor caught America off-guard, but they weren't the only ones. For Japan to come so hard at a nation that was still deciding whether or not to sit out World War II didn't make strategic sense, by pretty much everyone's estimation. Historians had puzzled over the decision for years, and then they took a look at the inter-service rivalry between Japan's army and navy. If you're familiar with the annual Army-Navy football game in America, you know that rivalries between different factions of a nation's armed forces can get pretty heated. The feud between the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Imperial Japanese Army was sort of like that, except instead of being played with a football, it was played with the fate of the world.
In order to justify more troops and funding, the Japanese army and navy spent much of the 20th century picking fights with giant countries like China and Russia, often in the face of specific orders to not attack. For instance, in World War I, the navy went rogue and captured a bunch of islands in German Micronesia after they'd been told to leave them alone. They then demanded further government money to administer the new regions they had captured without orders, and the government reluctantly forked it over.
"Thank you. Now, if you don't mind, we're off to fingerbang rattlesnakes."
By 1921, the navy had nearly twice the budget of the army, and needless to say, the army was getting a little antsy. Going back to their favorite page in the Japanese military's one-page playbook, they decided to start a new war and invaded China. Since giant warships can't really do jack shit in a land war, it was the navy's turn to sit on the sidelines with their dicks firmly in hand.
By 1941, the budget was dismally low for the navy, and nobody was quite sure what to do. Psych! Of course they knew what to do. Start a war, son!
"You fucking did WHAT?!" -All of Japan
And holy shit did they get one. After attacking the United States at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, it looked like it might work out for a while, but eventually the U.S. used their superior resources to outpunch them in the Pacific. But sure as shit, the navy got that budget increase they were angling for. So we can pretty much thank the Japanese army and navy for creating the world as we know it today.
Xavier Jackson has a list of people not to kill when he takes over the world. Join it by liking his Facebook page. If you want to send him resumes for jobs when he completes his world takeover, you can send them to XavierJacksonCracked@gmail.com.
For ways bitter rivalries screwed us all, check out 7 Incredible Scientific Innovations Held Back by Petty Feuds. Or learn about 6 Global Corporations Started by Their Founder's Shitty Luck.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Kill Me Now.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why there's bad blood between Honest Abe and William "Fat Tub" Taft.
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