Since the Vietnam War the Republican Party has developed a reputation for having a superior approach to national security. Americans have long trusted the views of Democrats on the environment, the economy, education, and health care, but national security is the one matter about which Republicans have maintained what political scientists call “issue ownership.”
Partly, this is for particular historical reasons. President Eisenhower initiated US involvement in Vietnam, and President Nixon escalated the war in 1969 and kept US troops on the ground in a manifestly unwinnable mission until 1975. But John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were tagged as the primary culprits. President Carter was widely seen as having bungled the Iran hostage rescue mission and having responded ineffectually to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Although he substantially increased US military spending, he was never forgiven for his claim that Americans had “an inordinate fear of communism.”
more from the NYRB here.