A version of this post originally appeared on the blog for the Bulletin of the Study of Religion.
In the course of preparing a new project on the Vietnam War, I stumbled upon a series of news articles covering Vietnamese President Sang’s visit to the United States last month. After meeting with President Obama at the White House, the two leaders held a press conference to recap their discussion. In one of the countless minor controversies that seem to comprise daily life in Washington, D.C., some of President Obama’s political opponents were critical of his closing remarks in which he said the following:
At the conclusion of the meeting, President Sang shared with me a copy of a letter sent by Ho Chi Minh to Harry Truman. And we discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson. Ho Chi Minh talks about his interest in cooperation with the United States. And President Sang indicated that even if it’s 67 years later, it’s good that we’re still making progress.
The reaction by some on the American right was swift. In an article entitled “Uh Ho,” Fox News reported on the incident: “It may come as some unwelcome news to the families of the nearly 60,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding.” The debate was lively on Twitter, with (prominent?) conservative Allen West chiming in: