Carl Oglesby, wise and lyrical and very American voice of the healthy wing of the New Left, turns 75 this week. Though he has not been in good health in recent years, I wish him the very happiest of birthdays.  In our cowardly and conformist age, Carl had guts and he followed the beat of his own drummer. Herewith, from the May 19, 2008, issue of the indispensable American Conservative (www.amconmag.com), my ramblings on Carl and the New Left. See, also, my interview with Carl in Reason (www.reason.com/archives/2008/03/26/writer-on-the-storm). And may I request a favor of the computer literate in the audience? Carl recorded two fine folky albums; any chance someone might provide a link thereto in the comments? (For my money, his best tunes were “Starin’ at the Sunshine” and “Lemon Light.”)—Bill K

The ghosts of 1968 are haunting Barack Obama, which is tremendously unfair, I say as his coeval, given that our cohort spent the Chicago Democratic Convention sticking baseball cards in our bicycle spokes rather than pelting Mayor Daley’s finest with porcine epithets. But guilt by association is ironclad in these days when American political discourse is controlled by hall monitors and tattletales. Obama’s friendship—acquaintance?—with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn is about to get extended play as the Republicans contrast Obama’s Weatherfriends with their nominee’s stint in the Hanoi Hilton.

By his own account, John McCain lived in North Vietnamese captivity longer than anywhere else in his itinerant life. This deracination and the resultant military-brat pathologies on display in McCain will go unexploited by the Democrats, whose nominee-in-waiting and maid-of-dishonor are just as placeless as Carpetbag John. And besides, the entire political class of Washington has all the indigenous flavor of the Crystal City Metro station. It would never occur to an attack-ad maker that there was anything wrong with rootlessness.

If Obama bears the standard, the revolutionary posturing of Bill (“kill your parents”) Ayers and Bernardine (“bring the war home”) Dohrn will serve as the synecdoche of ’68 in Republican minds. Prepare for another aphasiac episode in what Gore Vidal calls the United States of Amnesia. But I say to hell with Ayers and Dohrn. Let us remember the other New Left—a humane, decentralist, thoroughly American New Left that regarded socialism as “a way to bury social problems under a federal bureaucracy,” in the words of Carl Oglesby, president of Students for a Democratic Society in 1965-66 and a key figure in its Middle American wing, which extended from independent anti-imperialist liberals to trans-Mississippi “Prairie Power” radicals. (“Texas anarchists,” sneered the elite East Coast-schooled red-diaper babies at the hell-raising directional state college Prairie Power kids.)

As Old Right historian Leonard Liggio wrote in 1970, “Since there was little official SDS ideology, and what there was was populist and libertarian, it was attractive to the large numbers of American students who were growing conscious of their opposition to the educational factory system, the bureaucracy, the draft and the war.” This libertarian Middle American tendency faded as humorless Marxists and violent fanatics à la Ayers and Dohrn blew SDS apart. But even as it decomposed, the New Left was an olio of old-fashioned American rebellion, a naïve idealization of Third World revolutionaries and the bomb-happy Marxism of groups such as Weatherman. The sager figures in the New Left, however, rejected television, IBM, nomadic corporate culture, and the Cold War—all profoundly anti-conservative forces—and I wonder just what is so “Left” about that?

The Port Huron Statement, the 1962 manifesto of SDS, was drawn up in large part by the Michigan Catholic baseball fan Tom Hayden. The statement is a mixed bag: denunciations of racial bigotry, bureaucracy, and the militarization of American life bump into simultaneous calls for national healthcare and an expanded welfare state. Yet the Port Huron Statement, and SDS, emphasized the core principle of decentralization, of breaking overly large institutions and even cities down to a more human scale, “based on the vision of man as master of his machines and his society.”

“We oppose the depersonalization that reduces human beings to the status of things,” declared the authors. The line might have been written by another Michigan lad, Russell Kirk of Mecosta. Kirk was no New Leftist, though he did later befriend—and in 1976 voted for—Eugene McCarthy, the peace candidate of the 1968 Democratic primaries, the distributist-inclined Catholic intellectual who befuddled his conventional liberal supporters with talk of a salutary “depersonalizing” of the presidency, of reducing that office to its constitutional dimensions, shorn of the accreted cult of personality.

Left and Right mostly hurled anathemas at each other in 1968, but not always, and the rare friendly exchanges over the phantom barriers were rich with promise—a promise fulfilled, in a way, one year later, in the 1969 New York City mayoralty campaign of Norman Mailer, who campaigned as a “left conservative” on a platform of power to the neighborhoods.

But SDS president Carl Oglesby was the New Left figure who first saw the potential of a Left-Right linkage.

Oglesby was the son of rural working-class Southerners who had joined the diaspora North, where his father worked in an Akron rubber factory. Said dad to his radical son: “Damn it, you ought to get yourself a real job where you can settle down and take care of your family and quit all this unpatriotic horses–t.” Carl did not follow his father’s advice, but just hearing it mattered.

Oglesby was a playwright—he had written a well-received work on the Hatfield-McCoy feud—toiling within the military-industrial complex at Bendix Aerospace Systems when, fresh off the composition of an anti-Vietnam War position paper, he was elected president of SDS in June 1965. He was, at once, both more radical and more conservative than Hayden and the organization’s leftist activists. As he writes in his recent memoir, Ravens in the Storm, “I believed that America’s ‘small-r’ republicans would also have to get engaged if the antiwar cause were to have the least chance of succeeding.”

Taking up his predecessor Paul Potter’s challenge to “name the system,” Oglesby made his own name with a November 1965 speech in Washington in which he fingered “corporate liberalism” as the “system that creates and sustains the war in Vietnam.” He named names: not Goldwater or Kirk but Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Bundy, McNamara, Rusk, Lodge, and Goldberg.

Through Professor Richard Schaull of Princeton Theological Seminary, Oglesby was introduced to the writings of Murray Rothbard, the antimilitarist libertarian economist whose long and winding yet somehow consistent road had taken him from anti-New Deal isolationist Robert Taft supporter into friendship with the quasi-pacifist Nebraska Republican Congressman Howard Buffett (father of a much less interesting man) then over to the League of (Adlai) Stevensonian Democrats and, by 1968, into tentative comradeship with the anarchist factions of the New Left. While other young radicals read Marcuse or Fanon, Carl Oglesby dug Murray Rothbard.

In his essay “Vietnamese Crucible,” published in the 1967 volume Containment and Change, Oglesby rejected the “socialist radical, the corporatist conservative, and the welfare-state liberal” and challenged the New Left to embrace “American democratic populism” and “the American libertarian right.”

Invoking Senator Taft, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Congressman Buffett, and Saturday Evening Post writer Garet Garrett, among other stalwarts of the Old Right, he asked, “Why have the traditional opponents of big, militarized, central authoritarian government now joined forces with such a government’s boldest advocates?” What in the name of Thomas Jefferson were conservatives doing holding the bag for Robert Strange McNamara?

After explicating the Old Right to a readership that must have been, at the least, nonplussed, Oglesby connected the dots:

“This style of political thought, rootedly American, is carried forward today by the Negro freedom movement and the student movement against Great Society-Free World imperialism. That these movements are called leftist means nothing. They are of the grain of American humanist individualism and voluntaristic associational action; and it is only through them that the libertarian tradition is activated and kept alive. In a strong sense, the Old Right and the New Left are morally and politically coordinate.”

Oglesby did not predict an alliance; he merely pointed out the kinship of dissenters. Whether the twain would ever meet was another matter. (They might have met, come to think of it, via Mark Twain, in the character of an anti-imperialist Tom Sawyer.)

“The New Left,” warned Oglesby, “can lose itself in the imported left-wing debates of the thirties, wondering what it ought to say about technocracy and Stalin.” (It did lose itself, though Uncle Joe was not the cause—more like Leninism and an unmooring from those American roots.) “The libertarian right,” Oglesby continued, “can remain hypnotically charmed by the authoritarian imperialists whose only ultimate love is Power, the subhuman brownshirted power of the jingo state militant, the state rampant, the iron state possessed of its own clanking glory.” Well, yes, that and the need to kiss the rings of foundation presidents who doled out the money on which the organized Right became just as dependent as any puling mendicant from the National Welfare Rights Organization. (Among those captivated by this essay was a former Goldwater Girl named Hillary Rodham, who became friendly, for a while, with Oglesby. Alas, she entered her own crucible and came out mistress of the iron-maiden state.)

The Marxists and conventional leftists within SDS had no idea what to make of this stirring call for a prison break from the Left-Right Bastille. Consider Bernardine Dohrn, the bloodlusting ex-cheerleader and pinup girl of Weatherman. Dohrn, a self-declared “revolutionary communist,” was perplexed by Oglesby’s fondness for right-wing isolationists.

“I’m not sure I know where you’re coming from,” Dorhn said to Oglesby, as he recounts in Ravens in the Storm.

Oglesby’s reply was simple, brilliant, and no doubt baffling to Dohrn: “Ann Arbor, Kent, Akron, Kalamazoo.”

For Oglesby understood, as that landmark druggy paean to youth culture and the pioneer virtues “Easy Rider” had it, that for all their surface differences and rote hostility, the hippies and rednecks, the small farmers and shaggy communards, were on the same side: that of liberty, of locally based community, of independence from the war machine. Billy Joe Smythe, LeRoy Washington, and Luis Chavez were as one to McGeorge Bundy: interchangeable body-bag fillers. Hello, Big Muddy; Hello, Fodder…

Oglesby was in ’68, and remains today, an admirer of Bobby Kennedy as the only pol who might have gathered the dispossessed in a hopeful democratic movement. Scoff if you will—he’s used to it. After all, Oglesby once tried to convince Dohrn that an SDS-organized volunteer band of sugarcane cutters defying the travel ban to Cuba should include such “good, old-fashioned regular Americans” as PTA members and “Rotarians and Elks.”

“Carl, you’re getting a bit wild-eyed,” replied the woman who responded to news of the Manson family’s murder of the LaBiancas by ejaculating, “Dig it. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room as them. Then they even shoved a fork into a victim’s stomach. Wild!” The only good Elk, it seems, is a dead Elk.

Oglesby was drummed out of SDS in a 1969 star-chamber trial. A harridan named Arlene Eisen Bergman arraigned him for being “trapped in our early, bourgeois stage” and for not progressing into “a Marxist-Leninist perspective.” Oglesby’s sins, as enumerated by Bergman, included “that bizarre last chapter in your book … where you actually propose an alliance with what you call, let’s see, ‘principled conservatives.’”

“SDS is not trying to reach the readers of Life magazine,” Dohrn shouted at Oglesby. Carl was expelled; he went on to record two fine albums of folk-Beat Americana, and one supposes that his vision came closest to being realized in the music of Bob Dylan, the Minnesota-bred Goldwater-admiring scourge of the masters of war who wrote in the liner notes to his 1993 album “World Gone Wrong,” “give me a thousand acres of tractable land & all the gang members that exist & you’ll see the Authentic alternative lifestyle, the Agrarian one.”

What Oglesby called the “freewheeling participatory democracy” of SDS was dynamited by the likes of Ayers and Dohrn, representatives of the very worst of the anti-American Left, who have settled into their sixties in comfortable prosperity while Carl Oglesby, lacking inherited wealth, battles illness as best he can. Life ain’t fair. The cheerleaders and the rich boys always win, don’t they?

Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver asked Oglesby to run as his vice-presidential candidate on the 1968 Peace and Freedom Party ticket. Carl, in a hiccup of realpolitik, said no. But there had been common concerns. Cleaver had sharply assayed the demise of federalism:

“There aren’t any more state governments. We have these honorary pigs like Mayor Alioto … presiding over the distribution of a lot of federal funds. He’s plugged into one gigantic system, one octopus spanning the continent from one end to the other, reaching its tentacles all around the world, in everybody’s pocket and around everybody’s neck. We have just one octopus. A beast with his head wherever LBJ might be tonight.”

Yes, the Panthers were thugs, the least imaginative of them had been infected with the Marxist-Leninist virus, and Cleaver committed some horrendous crimes. But the Panthers, unlike John McCain, came from neighborhoods, and the best of them were groping toward a Marcus Garvey-Malcolm X philosophy of community self-reliance. You’ve also got to admit that they were solid on Second Amendment issues. (Lynn Scarlett and I interviewed Cleaver for Reason in 1985. His place was easy to find: it was the only front porch in his Berkeley neighborhood flying an American flag.)

Okay, so maybe Eldridge isn’t your cup of hallucinatory nutmeg tea. What about the only other 1968 general election presidential candidate worth a look: Gov. George Wallace of the right-wing American Independent Party?

If you can get beyond Wallace’s reprehensible race-baiting, which soon gave way to active courtship of black voters, certain of his policies overlapped with the humane Left. He proposed decentralizing industries because “I don’t think God meant people to be all jammed up in cities. No courtesy, no time, no room—that’s all you get in cities.” He called for removing the tax exemption from foundations and emitted a class-war cry—“the rednecks are coming”—that frightened the hell out of New York Times readers and William F. Buckley Jr., who called him a “country and western Marxist.” Read Wallace and tell me if this isn’t also the spirit of the New Left:

“The biggest domestic issue for 1968? I’ll tell you. It’s people—our fine American people, living their own lives, buying their own homes, educating their children, running their own farms, working the way they like to work, and not having the bureaucrats and intellectual morons trying to manage everything for them. It’s a matter of trusting the people to make their own decisions.”

One of the few journalists who heard Wallace in ’68 was Pete Hamill, who wrote in the New Left monthly Ramparts that “Wallace and the black and radical militants … share some common ground: local control of schools and institutions, a desire to radically change America, a violent distrust of the power structure and the establishment. In this year’s election, the only one of the three major candidates who is a true radical is Wallace.”

George Wallace and the New Left despised each other: “fascist” and “dirty beatniks” were about as sophisticated as the badinage got. Only a hopeless romantic—and what other kind is there?—would ponder the cross-pollinating possibilities: Creedence Clearwater Revival playing “Fortunate Son” at Wallace rallies or the Guvnah’s supporters—Chill Wills, Walter Brennan, George “Goober” Lindsay—joining Phil Ochs in the chorus of “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” at a rally outside the Opelika draft board.

Sigh. Maybe the closest we got to this sort of hybrid was the flat-out racist Asa Carter, who penned Wallace’s disgraceful 1962 “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” inaugural address and later wrote, under the name Forrest Carter, the novel Gone To Texas, which became the Clint Eastwood masterpiece “The Outlaw Josey Wales.”

Compared to Humphrey and Nixon, George Wallace was the peacenik in the ’68 race. (Apologies to the aborted Cleaver-Oglesby ticket.) If the Vietnam War was not winnable within 90 days of his taking office, Wallace pledged an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. As his aides told Pete Hamill about Vietnam, “The hell with it.”

Wallace also called foreign-aid money “poured down a rat hole” and demanded that European and Asian allies pay more for their defense. The relative prudence of the Alabama governor’s foreign policy was obscured by his disastrous selection of Gen. Curtis “bomb them back into the Stone Age” LeMay as his running mate. LeMay thought himself a “moderate Republican,” which may have been true: the most hawkish figure in American politics in 1968, after all, was that moderate Republican and Picasso-collecting warmongering New York governor, Nelson Rockefeller. (Oh, what might have been: before LeMay, Wallace reportedly had asked Colonel Sanders, Mr. Kentucky Fried Chicken, to join the ticket. Extra crispy chicken or extra crispy Vietnamese children: therein lies the Sanders-LeMay difference.)

Maybe “the Devil’s got a Wallace sticker on the back of his car,” as the Drive-By Truckers sing, but ol’ George sure had trust-fund Weatherboy Billy Ayers’s number: “It’s the damn rich who turn Communist. You ever see a poor Communist?”

Wallace traditionally ran strong primary campaigns in Wisconsin, stronghold of Upper Midwest populism, but as he was running in ’68, the state was losing one of its great patriots, William Appleman Williams, the favorite historian of the Middle American New Left. Williams was from Atlantic, Iowa—legend has it, says Paul Buhle, coauthor of an excellent biography of Williams, that the highway sign welcoming visitors to Atlantic bore “the Jeffersonian motto ‘The Government Which Governs Least, Governs Best.’” Bill Williams, who left Atlantic for the U.S. Naval Academy (and remained proud of the fact) and later rehabilitated those defenderless conservative presidents John Quincy Adams and Herbert Hoover, fit perfectly within the American populist tradition of the University of Wisconsin. But in 1968, Williams left Madison for Oregon State to, in Buhle’s words, “teach undergraduates, live by the ocean, and live in a diversified community of ‘ordinary’ Americans.”

As he moved off-center, taking his stand in the hinterlands, Williams called for a return to the Articles of Confederation and a radical decentralization of political and economic power—a decentralist socialism that probably looked better in co-operative theory than it would have in barbed-regulation practice. He decried the American Empire as unworthy of us; he, too, was of the Left yet speaking to the Right, trying to find that little egalitarian village where the shopkeeper and the jazz musician and the carpenter might live in liberty and fraternity.

I recently asked Williams’s biographer Buhle, a Madison SDSer, publisher of the New Left journal Radical America, and editor of the recent Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History, about the prospects for cashing in on the missed chances of 1968. “The spirit at large in the U.S. now reminds me more of the later 1960s New Left/Old Right dialogue or encounter than anything since then,” he says. “Consequently, I find myself more in dialogue with old-fashioned conservatives than I have been, and I suspect that this is widely true.”

The Bush wars have brought together anti-imperialists of Left and Right, but their coalescence is being forged not so much overseas as in our backyards. A “wonderful example,” says Buhle, “is conservation, small-town life, and the bird population. All kinds of conservatives and small-town Republicans find themselves fending off new demands for exploitation of public resources (threats to water supplies and such).” Farmers markets are another meeting ground, he notes, as the organic and Eat Local and community-supported agriculture movements introduce folks who look homeward rather than into Baghdad suns. Left? Right? What difference does it make? The model organic farm in my neck of the woods, a truly inspiring extended-family venture, was begun by a former college hockey player and active member of the New York State Conservative Party. I know greens, right-to-lifers, NRA members, and just plain apolitical farmers who are relocalizing life, brightening their little corner of the world in their daily acts.

The imperialists, the depersonalizers, the warmakers—a Biblical 40 years have passed since 1968, and they are with us still. But look around and you’ll see that the seeds planted by the New Left have not all fallen on hard ground. I think maybe they’re ready to flower.

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Previous articleHow inclusive is it?
Next articleHopeful Ads?
Bill Kauffman
Bill Kauffman was born on November 15 (also the birthday of Bobby Dandridge) in the otherwise forgettable year of 1959. He was an all-star Little League shortstop for the Lions Club Cubs but soon thereafter his talents eroded. After an idyllic childhood in his ancestral home of Batavia, New York, birthplace of Anti-Masonry, he was graduated from Batavia High School in 1977. He earned, more or less, a B.A. from the University of Rochester in 1981 and went therefrom to the staff of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the only dairy farmer in the U.S. Senate. Two and a half years later he left Moynihan’s staff a bohemian Main Street anarchist who loved the Beats, the New England transcendentalists, early 20th century local colorists (Sarah Orne Jewett his Maine gal), cowpunk music, and the crazy old America. Neil Diamond and Karen Carpenter, too, but don’t tell anyone. He bummed around out west for a while, sleeping in bus stations and writing derivative poetry in Salt Lake City flophouses (nah, he’s not a Mormon, just a BYU fan) before an ill-starred year in graduate school at the UR. He took a seminar with Christopher Lasch and thought on it. In the spring of 1985 he flew west to become an assistant editor with Reason magazine. He had great fun in Santa Barbara with that crew of congenial editors drinking far into the night at Eddie Van Cleeve’s Sportsman’s Lounge, but in ’86 he flew east to become the magazine’s Washington editor. Always homesick, Kauffman persuaded his lovely and talented wife Lucine, a Los Angelena, to move back to Batavia in 1988 in what he called a “one-year experiment”—the year to be measured, apparently, in Old Testament terms. They’re still there—or, more accurately, five miles north in Elba (apt name for an exile!), where Lucine is Town Supervisor. She may well be the highest-ranking Armenian-American elected official in the country, at least until the voters of California send Cher to the U.S. Senate. Take that, Turks! Lucine and Bill have a daughter, Gretel, 17, who writes and acts and plays piano and French horn. Their lab mutt, Victoria, whose tail graces the accompanying photo, is now departed, to their sorrow, but a cat, Duffy, darts in and out of the house when the mood strikes. Bill is the author of nine books: Every Man a King (Soho Press/1989), a novel, which was recently rescued from the remainder bin by a New York Sun article proclaiming it the best political satire of the last century (the Sun thereupon set); Country Towns of New York (McGraw-Hill/1994), a travel book about God’s country; America First! Its History, Culture and Politics (Prometheus/1995), a cultural history of isolationism which Benjamin Schwarz in the Atlantic called the best introduction to the American anti-imperialist tradition; With Good Intentions? Reflections on the Myth of Progress in America (Praeger/1998), his worst-seller, a sympathetic account of critics of highways, school consolidation, a standing army, and the Siren Progress; Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small Town’s Fight to Survive (Henry Holt/2003; Picador ppb. 2004), a memoirish book about his hometown which won the 2003 national “Sense of Place” award from Writers & Books; Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists (ISI/2006), which the American Library Association named one of the best books of 2006 and which won the Andrew Eiseman Writers Award; Ain’t My America: The Long Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle American Anti-Imperialism (Henry Holt/ Metropolitan/2008), which Barnes & Noble named one of the best books of 2008; Forgotten Founder: Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin (ISI/2008), a biography of a brilliant dipsomaniacal Anti-Federalist who warned us this was gonna happen; and Bye Bye, Miss American Empire (Chelsea Green/2010), a cheerful account of dissolution. Bill is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and a columnist for The American Conservative. He has written for numerous publications, including The American Scholar, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Nation, Chronicles, the Independent and The Spectator of London, Counterpunch, Orion, University Bookman, and Utne Reader. He is vice president of the Genesee County Baseball Club, which owns the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn Baseball League. Come summertime, he can be found in the 3rd base bleachers at Dwyer Stadium. He is also active in the officerless (of course) John Gardner Society. Bill is more handsome than the photo on this site would suggest. See books written by Bill Kauffman.

10 COMMENTS

  1. A beautiful, hallucinatory essay, Bill, spinning out all sorts of possibilities and might-have-beens, almost none of which could have ever been woven together to support anything…which is, perhaps, just another sign of our fallen condition, of the reality that this life is all about picking up the pieces and trying, always trying, to put them together again.

    The New Left got so much right, until they began to get so much of it wrong. Economic sovereignty and popular democracy were replaced by obsessions with sexual sovereignty and popular culture; Oglesby may have been right that socialism was just “a way to bury social problems under a federal bureaucracy,” but if the hippies and yippies hadn’t become so infatuated with themselves–if, in other words, they’d retained some of seriousness and discipline of the Old Left, which had it’s own good points and bad points as well–then maybe they could stayed focused on maintaining the “democratic” element of their socialism, rather than paying no mind as Johnson and Nixon and Rawls and other spenders with deep pockets but small minds appropriated their egalitarian sensibilities and turned it, alternately, into tools of dependency and weapons to divide the American people. Ah well. The democratic moments happen, fugitive-like (that’s how Sheldon Wolin, another now old New Leftist, put it); we put our hope and faith in their happening again.

  2. I just read in a novel a scene when a numismatist decries the value of a roman coin because it was from a good, efficient and benevolent emperor and not one of the “sexy” ones like Caligula or Nero.

    There’s an innate veering towards stupidity because of the entertaining adornments of some narratives over others. That’s pretty much why The Weather Underground (Bernadette Dohrn, ferrcrissakes!)gets the nostalgic press despite their contemptible and stupid history. I think this has always been true, but recent generations are, I believe, more susceptible to this, being more addicted to entertainment.

  3. Thanks for the link, Mr. Nelson. Some good tunes, eh?
    Thanks for the remarks, Russell; in Carl’s best writing the lightning flashes and we see the political landscape in stark outline and wonder if just maybe a truer rearrangement is possible.
    Mr. McCullough, you made an exceedingly kind comment on another thread for which I’m grateful.
    JP, the Truckers may well be right, but I’d wager that LBJ & Nixon were in Hell first.

  4. Excellent piece Mr. Kauffman…Your articles and books are ever so enlightening to my public school propagandized brain. For those who have ears let them hear, the point of your piece strikes at the heart of the right/left paradigm.

  5. While there may be some congruence of opinion between left and right, one can look to the Iranian Revolution and the Russian Revolution for indications of how these marriages of odd-bedfellows generally work out. In the case of the Soviets, the Gulag was the reward for its less powerful co-conspirators in Revolution. For the Iranians, the Mullahs acted quickly to bring the Socialists to heel. Governance, particularly governance in the age of the Nation State War-As-A Way-Of – Life Age has a way of reducing debate and agreement to a sordid display of power alone.

    One would like to think that in a conceptually discursive form of government such as ours, political opponents and partisans could , through the mechanism of honorable debate find common ground on a whole host of issues. But this romantic notion has been replaced, in this era of Sunshine Laws by a kind of partisan code-speak of power-politics gone dopey. “You Lie and I’ll Swear By It” is the mantra now.

    The fact that the left remains largely incapable of defying their president on the war issue after they elected him to stop the wars and the old-right simply yawned and nodded with sleepy eyes when The Washington Post published its three part essay on the Byzantine Security State indicates to me that nobody is particularly interested in the truths that generally emanate from bipartisan agreement. No, bipartisan agreement in this government is glued to falsehood because in this age, falsehood is the new truth.

    The Defense Department admits to losing $8.7 billion dollars in Iraqi reconstruction funds , nearly $3 billion of which has absolutely no documentation at all apparently and still, the House, in a 308 Yea to 114 Nay vote endorses the commitment of another $59 billion dollars to the quixotic Afghan War effort. The American economy and infrastructure is in moribund dysfunction and still, we waste billions on the Security farrago and billions more on a war effort whose sick plot has been retold since before the time of Alexander. The Right and Left are agreeing on one thing, the gutting of the lapsed-Republic and we puny civilians are watching it as though it can be reduced to a few characters on a twitter feed. War marches on, accountability is on holiday and debt continues in its role as fine clothes on our gouty emperor.

  6. DW,
    Several hundred of our road-clearing, million-dollar trucks are MISSING in Iraq, and that before FOB Victory was shut down every officer of the rank of Lt. Col. and above lived there in mansions. Our stupid media pursue and persecute Erik Prince (once a student of mine) while the many permutations of Brown, Root (the company that put LBJ into the Senate as “Landslide Lyndon” in 1948) sucks off billions in every war and every base in our imperial world. I know lots of soldiers–several in my own family–and love every one of them. I just wish they were deployed in productive places.

  7. Two comments if I may.

    Mr. Kauffman,

    I had my dad read this essay and asked him for this thoughts. Dad (who is an ordained Baptist pastor and who still calls himself a “Marxist Libertarian”) was an editor at the Burning River News in Cleveland during the late 60s early 70s and often acted as a liaison between SDS and Old Leftist groups. My dad’s thoughts:

    “Oglesby was born in Akron, OH, but was part of the Ann Arbor/Madison faction of SDS. I didn’t much care for him because I thought he was trying too hard to suck up the the rich snobs who controlled SDS at the time. Even though Carl was president of SDS for a time, I felt like he was more a puppet of the Bernedette Dorn crowd. Carl’s dad was a factory worker in Akron, rubber I think. Anyway, Carl seemed very attracted to the rich kids. The SDS faction I hung out with was mostly middle class offspring of factory workers.

    To his credit, Carl did not follow the Dorn/Ayers crowd into the Weathermen when SDS bit the dust in the summer of 69.”

    For what its worth.

    Dad also tells the story of when the union local (UAW) he was with endorsed Wallace after Bobby K assassination, because Wallace was against deferments, and those union men were tired of their sons fighting a rich man’s war. They (and other union locals who followed suit) took heat from the union leadership, but stuck with their decision. Of course these men disagreed with Wallace on a number of fronts, but the deferment issue was that important to them.

    One last note – I am inclined to think that Wallace’s rich communists line was a bit off. It is my understanding that the rich kids gravitated much more to the New Left than to the Old Left (long before this set reached age 40 they would incarnate the “love me I’m a liberal” types that Phil Ochs sang about). In the early 60s WVA had the highest percentage of paid-their-dues CP members of any state, and they were coal miners and the occasional dirt farmer. The rank and file Old Left, along with a decent amount of its leadership through the 60s, seems to have still been predominantly working class folks.

    Secondly, a question to John Willson.

    Dr. Willson,

    Is your contention that the media unduly attacks Erik Prince and Blackwater because of the seemingly never ending neo-con and social conservative links to Prince and his family?

    In reading what biographical info I can find on Prince, aside from a stint in support of Pat Buchanan (whose foreign policy views seem not to have rubbed off on Prince), it seems the man is about as close to neo-con aristocracy as one can get, with impeccable Dobsonista credentials to boot.

    Journalists are filth, of course, but I just wondered precisely what you meant above.

  8. I learned today that Carl is near death. He has been a dear friend since 1973. Cancer, that is very advanced and aggressive. We just spoke a few weeks back and he had no idea he was ill, let alone how ill. Just celebrated his 76th birthday.
    He will be missed by those who love him.
    Dawn Meredith
    Austin. Tx.

Comments are closed.