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Interview with Dr. Lee Edwards

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Edwards, Lee, 1932- ; McKiernan, Stephen


Lee Edwards is an author, educator and a leading historian of American Conservatism. He is a professor at the Catholic University and Chairman of a Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington foundation. He has appeared on many television broadcast and his books have been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe and many more. Dr. Edwards has a bachelor's degree in English from Duke University and a doctorate in Political Science from Catholic University. He also holds a doctor of humane letters degree from Grove City College and attended the Sorbonne in Paris for graduate work.




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McKiernan Interviews
Interview with: Lee Edwards
Interviewed by: Stephen McKiernan
Transcriber: Benjamin Mehdi So
Date of interview: 7 August 2003

(Start of Interview)

SM: This is working properly, and I know it is. When you think of the (19)60s and the (19)70s? And what-what is the first thing that comes to your mind? When you think of that era?

LE: Well, for me, it would be the rise of the right. And I have to warn you that I am going to be giving a class I am teaching a class at Catholic University starting in three weeks, on the politics of the (19)60s, really happy to say that it is oversubscribed, and I had to put a cap on it. And what I am going to be doing with these with these students, their politics majors is the Department of Politics. They are Catholic, and I am an adjunct professor, and have been for 16 years now. They are Catholic, is to present both sides of the picture. I mean, normally, they hear about John Kennedy, they hear about SDS, they hear about the Port Huron state, but they hear about Dr. King, they hear about the civil rights, movement, revolution, and so forth, all of which is certainly very much important in history. But what I am going to give them is the other side, not only rise to the left, but the rise of the right, and that is Barry Goldwater, Young Americans for freedom to share instinct, Ronald Reagan being elected governor, and so forth. So to me, that is the great untold story. But most historians political story, as is the rise of the right during the 1960s.

SM: So, when you think of the (19)60s, what do you think of? Yeah, that was thinking, you know, and since you raise a very good point, because there is a book that has come out in the last two or three years, to actually paperback, it is the Young Americans for freedom and your involvement in the antiwar movement, and they were real big antiwar. So that is great that you are doing that, when in the boomer generation is really defined as a group born between 1946 and 1964. Oftentimes, you find that a lot of the people that were the leaders of some of the protests were actually two, three and four years older, born in the early (19)40s, or (19)42. Around that time, when you look at the boomer generation, just your thoughts on some of the criticisms, the middle level they have over the years, by the likes of George Will, Newt Gingrich, that basically a lot of the things that are wrong in America today are because of what the boomers did during the (19)60s and early (19)70s. Particularly the drugs, the issues of sex, a counterculture? You know, I just liked your thoughts on-

LE: Well, I think it is, I think it is a little bit I think it is true, up to-to a point we would talk about, for example, the design of the counterculture and a turning away from the-the philosophical and moral moorings, which-which existed before that there was a narcissism, there was a radical emphasis on-on I, on me, the so called me generation, and so called, feels good, do it. So, I think that is, it is valid, that that that many in the boomer generation were, were guilty of an excessive self-centeredness, and narcissism and willingness to-to experiment in all kinds of ways, without perhaps, giving too much thought to-to the consequences. At the same time, I do remember one thing incident this, participate in 1968. I was at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. And we were there my wife and I, because we just read the book called you can make the difference and we were promoting the book and as a conservative how to do it political action. And everybody was-was-was in a good humor. I mean, the cops the Chicago cops were in a good humor or and the people that we met in the streets were in good humor, and even the young people when we met and we were there and talking with them on the streets and so forth. They could humor what was what happened was that a certain group of leaders, radical leaders, radicalized the, the young people there, deliberately provoked the cops into using excessive force, and brought about the chaos of the Democratic Convention and we will just never forget was his extraordinary difference between the mood before the convention And then what happened during the convention by what I think were professional revolutionaries, whether you are talking about what was his name, David Dellinger, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman Tom Hayden. And Tom Hayden certainly was very much a, a professional, political revolutionary for any Davis landed and really knew what he was doing. And that was to try to radicalize these young people. And they succeeded. So, I do not want to I do not want to put all of the blame. Simply on-on-on the baby boomers themselves, I think they were used and manipulated by-by certain people, at times, at times. And certainly, I can attest to that in my own personal experience in (19)68.

SM: When you look at the boomer generation, at the time of (19)68, when boomers are obviously in their youth, late teens, early 20s, and how you reflect on today, in the year 2003, what were your thoughts in that (19)68, about that generation? And what are your thoughts today has changed or is pretty consistent?

LE: I think, probably (19)68, we were my wife, and I were probably a little bit in despair when they know what was going to happen to America with these young people. Whether it was Woodstock, or was the counterculture whether it was what we thought was being so unpatriotic by their opposition to the war. And so many other ways, and but I am always something of an optimist. And so I was hopeful, prayerful that maybe they would mature in time. And I think that was what has happened. I mean, we know the examples of Jerry Rubin becoming a stockbroker and other leaders of the so called the Chicago seven, who became less radical, with the exception of Tom Hayden. as they got older, as they got married, as they began raising children, they were saying to their kids are having second thoughts who want to do drugs, forgetting very convincingly that they have been doing drugs and doing sex in the (19)60s, so-so time and maturity, and experience has as changed, I think they have changed the boomer, large parts of the boomer generation.

SM: The boomers, some again, I was young at that time, I can remember conversations and all they were all over the country and read them in newspapers. And that is that boomer generation thought they were going to be the change agents for the betterment of society that they were going to be, they were going to end racism, sexism, homophobia, that there is the most unique generation in American history. Just wait, because you will see what the good things, we are going to do your thoughts on that kind of an attitude that they had at that time? And whether they have done it?

LE: Well, you know, young people, left or right, are always idealistic. They always think they can change the world. And I think it is good that they have that, that those feelings, but otherwise the world would not get changed. I think certainly we on the right. And I was a little bit older than some of the people you are talking about on the right. But certainly, we did change the world through the-the-the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964, which led to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1966, as governor of California, which led to his election as president in 1980. So I think that you can it can be argued that Young Americans for freedom did set out to change the country, and it did. Now, the baby boomers did do some good things. I think that their part in the civil rights revolution, and the Civil Rights Movement was an epic victory. For-for-for America, not just for blacks, but for all-all Americans black or white, or brown or a red or what have you. And I think they deserve full and adequate, a full-full credit for that. And some of the other areas. Not so, so happy about their-their impact on our politics. You know, the so called Vietnam syndrome, which affected our foreign policy for a number of years. The counterculture which we are still struggling with, what is the right balance? I think also that the baby boomers deserve credit for the initial women's movement because women were not being treated fairly and even handedly. My wife, who was a conservative was also a feminist. He was a conservative feminist in the (19)60s because she said that she was not getting equal pay for, for the same for the job that she was doing, that men were getting more or getting more for. Then, of course it got became radicalized in succeeding years. But I think in those two areas, the feminist movement and the civil rights movement, that the movers did make salutary contributions to American society.

SM: Do you feel that the term I was talking about full Miranda, and an activist, as I as I define an activist, a person who believes that he or she can make a difference in this world, he did not even throw the politics out here. You can just say, activists or just liberals or conservatives or whatever. Now the concept of activism was I was see something was very strong within the boomer generation. As a person was raised children, what are your thoughts on the activism of the boomers have they passed it on to their kids? Number one. And number two, is the whole concept of empowerment. The lot of the boomers are involved in activist protests or whatever that were head of, that we were not up to create violence, but we are really sincere and moral in their efforts, believe they can change things. And just your thoughts on that.

LE: Well, obviously, I for political activism, I was a political activist myself in the 1960s. So, I think that the boomers? Well, as I said, I think it is important, I will keep saying it over and over again, we are not only all liberal, there were many-many conservative boomers. Right. And I think that is a very important point we have to keep making here that the boomers were not all at one particular philosophical hue. There were conservative boomers, as well as liberal voters. And they were active in American freedom as well as SDS that is making in my class, they became activists, because their fathers and mothers were-were not they-they-they came out of having won World War II. But we had some experience, even in the Great Depression, they were concerned about, you know, making a living, starting a family, having a building a house, buying a house. But you know, the good life, the American life American dream. The Boomers came along and had the luxury of political activism because it meant to worry where the bread was coming from and have to worry about a job. So they took advantage of that. And as I say, we were able to do good as well as not such good things for our, for our country, have they passed that along to their children. In any generation, any one generation are only going to have five or 10 percent of the of that generation, they are going to be active as politically activist, it was a higher percentage in the (19)60s, with the boomers because of the Vietnam War, primarily. And then also, a second one, second contributing factor was the civil rights. So those two things combined to increase the level of participation, from probably 10 percent to I have seen some figures in low 20s 20 to 25 percent. On the campus.

SM: I know that term that is often used numbers is 15 percent of the students are involved in some sort of activity now students, young people, college students, were involved in some sort of an activism. And some of the critics say only 15 percent of 70 million people were really involved in in any corner of activism. That is a lot of people still, you know, consider most time. Quick question here. And this is just a general question of concern. I have not gone to reach them that folder is are you concerned as an educator about the-the inability of our young people to vote? And the fact is, do you feel this is in any direct way, a feeling of a sense of lack of empowerment that their voice does not count? So why do it. and it is and-and having the parents who were the people who were supposedly activists and talked about the importance of their voice being heard, not passing this on again to their children?

LE: Well, again, I we have never had high as high percentage of political involvement as the as the utopians want. And, and if, if the figures, you know, we have all seen these figures were 50, or 60 percent, or something like that, and turnout for elections and so forth. That was at a time when we did not have as many people as we have today, when we did not have the kind of situation where we have a lot of Hispanics who do not vote, or we have a lot of African Americans who do not vote and a variety of reasons for that. So, I do not I do not think I mean, if you were to look at the number, probably of the children of the boomers as separate, apart from the various people who come in through immigration, I think you will find that the percentages are about the same. I may, I maybe I am being too wrong about this. But I that is, that is my impression, and there are a lot of political activists, but to to-to-to engender political activism, you must have causes, you must have issues, which will activate people. And we just simply do not have those same kind of overriding issues that we did. Back in the (19)60s, for example, those people who had the most people, the mobilization people against the war in Vietnam, following the not so much 911. But that poll period, they are leading up through Afghanistan, and then Iraq, you did have a number of people demonstrating against those of conflicts and, and are getting involved in, but the numbers are much smaller. And why was that? Well, one obvious reason was the no one was going to be drafted from Harvard, or Yale or Wisconsin to go fight in Afghanistan or Iraq, because we do not have the draft anymore. We have a volunteer army. And that was one of the major factors in motivating young people to get active in the 1960s. They did not want to go to fight and perhaps die in Vietnam, which was a very real possibility, through the draft.

SM: One of the important issues of that particular period, obviously, with the anniversary of Watergate, which are going through right now, is supposedly lack of trust that a lot of the boomers had in anyone in position of leadership, I can remember, again, on a college campus, they would even listen to a minister, if anyone was in a position of authority to not be the university president of the United States or United States senator or congressman, it could be the head of a corporation, anybody who was quote, labeled a leader, including ministers. And in the trust factor, I, I worry about this as a person, I am going to start with that folder, because I have worked with college students that I think need to trust people. I can remember psychologists telling me in a class once that people who cannot trust me not be successful in life, you have got to have some people in trust. Do you feel that boomers, you know, you cannot define an entire 70 million people but that in some respects, the things that happened in the in their youth, the negative effect that it had on them, whether it be Watergate, or the Vietnam War, or a lot of other things? They just did not trust anyone in leadership has been passed on to their kids. And so that was we have an ongoing problem on the issue of trust in America.

LE: I think it is a very valid question. And the way I the way I put this I have written a little bit on this is that I think that Americans, generally and baby boomers specifically were traumatized by the period from about 1963 through about 1978, (19)79, starting with John Kennedy's assassination, then the Vietnam War, then the murders of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy in 1968. Then Watergate and Richard Nixon aligned to the American people and using illegally unconstitutional the powers of his office to cover up his unlawful actions. And then finally, Jimmy Carter's inept handling of the presidency in the late in the late (19)70s. Culminating in his trying to blame the American people for what was going wrong going on rather than themselves. It was the public the public's melees that was to blame not his own being taking the-the letting the economy spiral into his Your unemployment rates and interest rates and all the rest of it. So, I think that was what I call a, a psychological depression through which Americans and particularly baby boomers suffered and endured during those 15 years or so. And that it was only with the election of Ronald Reagan that we began to come out of that, through his optimism, his vitality his repeating to the best of people of using some of the same techniques of his favorite President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to lift up the spirits and, and to rephrase the only thing to fear but fear itself and-and Reagan's idea that the best days are yet to come, I think resonates with the old FDR rhetoric. So that that has been a problem which we have had to deal with. Yes, I think that has been inevitable that the baby boomers have passed that on to their children.

SM: When you look at the Vietnam War, and the ending of that war, what do you think were the one or two most important reasons why the war ended? Was it because of the antiwar movement, like many people believe on college campuses that by constantly protesting and maybe Americans aware? Or was it when bodies start coming home in middle America start protesting against the war?

LE: Well, I think initially, it was the-the protests, which-which forced the issue onto the, into the front pages, and maybe people pay attention to it. But we have to remember that. Up until January of 1968, most of the polls showed a solid majority of American people handling and supporting rather the-the Vietnam War was with the Tet Offensive, which was the real shocker, and which just stunned not only American people, but also members of Congress, and also the median voter pride cake, made his famous trip to Vietnam, came back and said, look, we really ought to get out of Vietnam. And LBJ is alleged to have said, well, you know, if we have lost bought a private kite, and we have lost the war, or words to that effect, we have lost the man in the street. So that on top of that, you have the ever increasing numbers of Americans being drafted you then you had the number increasing numbers of deaths, we had the realization that he had been lied to as to who was winning the war. And so all of these things came together. And people said, in effect that is enough.

SM: When you get into the war itself, the whole concept of healing to as a nation. Your thoughts on the impact of the Vietnam Memorial was- had, obviously it has had impact on Vietnam veterans and their families, and the warriors who fought and died in that war. But what effect has it had on the nation as a whole? And secondly, do you think that a lot of members of the boomer generation are having second thoughts about that serving? Or having second thoughts about? It is like, all I can say is, it is like a child or young children with their parents at the wall and the parent and the child looks up to the dad and says, “Dad, what did you do during the war dad?” It is, just it is a thought that is that do you think there is some, do you think there is a problem with healing within the nation with respect to this particular war and what it did to our nation at tour nation apart? So within the psyche of the boomer generation, and also in the body politic of the country?

LE: Well, I think first of all, that the Vietnam Memorial has-has-has helped the healing, no question about it. That is one of the most popular memorials here in Washington, DC. It is very touching to see, particularly veterans and their families and the survivors that come there, and the names, touch the wall and so forth. So, I think it has been tremendously important in the healing process. But I do think, though, that the-the scars of that war are still there with the baby with the baby boomers who oppose it at the time. Some of them probably have just said, oh, well, let us let us move on. I think some still think it was an unjust war. They still think it was the wrong war. They still think that we should not have been involved and I think that will always be there. So, I think, at least certain leaders that I have that I have heard or the interviews that they have given, they certainly have not regretted their opposition-based database for me to post to it.

SM: One of the one of the interesting scenarios during that period is the fact that Dr. King spoke up against the war as a civil rights leader took a lot of courage. Even that phone wreck, he mentioned it was a great interview, talked about the moral leadership of Dr. King, he was a moral man, he is problems like a lot of people have personally been more a leader. But I would like your thoughts as obviously personnel who is going to be teaching a course on what curries it takes for an African American leader of that magnitude to be against the war when he was criticized by his peers. And it was at that very same period of lack power mill was taking place and they were looking at people like King Ruston, Farmer young in the red Wilkins, is your time has passed. Just your thoughts on Dr. King's antiwar stand?

LE: Well, I think I have to divide that Dr. King's legacy. And the two parts number one, I think as the as the leader of the civil rights movement, and standing up to people like O'Connor and other bigots and racists like that. I think he showed extraordinary leadership. He was certainly somebody I looked up to, as a matter of fact, other line by conservative I was there at the March on Washington, in 1963. Here in Washington, DC, I wanted to be there and want to see what it was like feeling. And I was deeply touched to move by, particularly by his, by his speech by his dress. So, I think without his leadership, without his example, that we would not have had the-the advances that we did, we would have had the Civil Rights Act of 64 W. H Rights Act of 1965, and so forth. I am not so sure about his opposition to the Vietnam War. I do not know. I am not quite sure why he did it. Was it out of moral conviction? Or was it an attempt on his part, to sort of show more radical young blacks that he could take a-a strong position on a more current issue? I did not, I do not, my recollection is he did not seem to be as comfortable and as convincing in that role, as he was in his earlier role as a civil rights leader, well, maybe that is unfair to him. And-and I do not want to in any way, denigrate him, or diminish his try to diminish his-his extraordinary contributions in the first part of that decade.

SM: When I read some of the reasons, I believe there is, I think, two speeches that he gave two major speeches on Vietnam, one of the Riverside Church in New York City, I have copies of them. And some of the people sent me that he actually gave a third speech, Vietnam, Rabbi Heschel, I believe was a very important person persuading him to-to go against the war. And I am trying I do not know if anybody has written biographies on Rabbi Heschel, but I am looking for the-the impact and I might have to go to the Jewish center to find that out because he had a tremendous influence on Dr. King. I do not know that story on Vietnam. I am going to go into some names of the period here and just your comments and reactions to them and I am going to come back and have two or three final questions. Your thoughts on Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda.

LE: Oh, golly, golly coffee Well, I you know, I just think Jane Fonda cause such extraordinary pain and anguish and, and real harm to our, to our fighting men. And also, to the POWs if you read some of what John McCain said about devout Jane Fonda it was- she refused to, to be honest about what she saw in the POW camps in the north, and I never have been able to forgive Jane Fonda for what was as close to an act of treason as I think you can get. Tom Hayden, I think it was a professional, agitator, radical and always with-with a definite cause in mind, whether whatever he said or whatever he did and that I am I am very pleased that he failed because I think he would have taken America in the wrong direction.

SM: The yippies, the two people, you all think of are Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.

LE: Yeah. Right. Well, I think they were entertainers. I think that they were engaged in shock tactics. I do not know that they ever took the revolution that seriously, but Hayden did. Lanny Davis do they were serious revolutions.

SM: I am going to interject a story here. I am going to change the tape. Just a couple of names here, Lyndon Johnson.

LE: Well, Lyndon Johnson was, was a man of obsessions is obsessed with the idea 1964 of winning by the largest margin ever in presidential politics and besting his mentor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's margin over Outland, in 1936. And that was why he said and did the really reprehensible things that he did say about Barry Goldwater, accusing him of somebody caring about nuclear Armageddon, and then destroy Social Security and all the other things that he said that he allowed his people to say about very cool water. He was also obsessed with the idea that he had to he had to win, quote, the Vietnam War, but he had to do it his way. And therefore, he kept trying to manage it. Not a military man. And all he did was to bring about the deaths of 10s of 1000s of Americans. He was also obsessed with the idea that he could, he could not be, he would not be corrupted by political power. But in point of fact, he-he was and was someone who used everybody around him, whether it was men or women or aide or mistresses, or all the rest of it, for his own personal satisfaction. aggrandizement has been one of the one of the most personally reprehensible men we have ever had in public office, certainly in the White House. He Did one. One good thing. And that was the-the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or whatever x-x 1965. Great Society again, it was an obsession and this idea that he could make over and make a great society, just through spending money and his idea of management from the top. It was just this obsession is this grandiose utopian dream, it is.

SM: Bobby Kennedy.

LE: I think a man caught-caught by his name, caught by his family caught by his reputation, forced to probably to run for president and probably did not want to force to pursue that. That goal in the name of his brother in his family. I do not, I do not know what would have happened to him if he had gotten the-the nomination in in 1968. Just how, what kind of a campaign he would have run because he was beginning to show some appreciation for the private sector and some of his speeches. So, he was not as liberal as some people made him out to be or hoped that he would be a very dramatic person. I think.

SM: Eugene McCarthy.

LE: A brilliant iconoclastic again fiercely independent. A poet as well as a politician somebody who I think is not very easily put into a particular catalogue, or category rather, party or philosophy certainly made a difference in, in American politics through almost defeating Lyndon Johnson in New Hampshire. Without that Richard Nixon were not elected president in 1968.

SM: The bitterness between McCarthy and candidate Bobby Kennedy is very strong.

LE: Yeah. Well, Eugene was-was told by Bobby I am told that, you know, if you go, I will not. And then, after McCarthy almost spun to Hampshire, Kennedy, realizing just how vulnerable Johnson was got into it, and never forgave him for that to Catholics, by the way.

SM: George McGovern.

LE: Well, George McGovern, a, an ideologue who saw the error of his ways he certainly in his later years was not the same kind of pacifist and an anti-capitalist that he was running in 1972.

SM: Hubert Humphrey.

LE: The happy warrior, love to love politics, love to talk about politics, love to practice politics. Came out of the nonpartisan tradition of Minnesota, and got chewed up by the much superior, well-oiled political machine of the Kennedys and West Virginia, and then was humiliated by a by Lyndon Baines Johnson, as vice president, deserved better than he got.

SM: You think that if he if curiosity, if he had spoken up against Johnson against the policy that he might have won the election in (19)68 because he was coming on toward the very end in history books say that it said go on another week, he would have been an excellent, he was really-

LE: He might have the AFL CIO did a brilliant, magnificent job of almost winning the election in 1968. And it really turned out really turned to that neighbor coming on strong. And so it was Humphrey. Yes, that is, that is possible. Humphrey, who I think probably was-was worried about, you know, backlash among-among some Democrats. And maybe he could see that he was coming on strong, I thought he could pull it out without risking that possible division in the party.

SM: John Kennedy.

LE: Well, you know, it is so hard to think rationally about him. But we have learned so much about him. Since I, I know this in the (19)60s, and I had a chance to see him up close because I was a press secretary to the United States senator in the late (19)50s. And early (19)60s, and I saw Kennedy in action on the Senate floor. Close was closed some this is where you are and where I am. And he was he was charismatic. He was charming. He was, I thought, extremely intelligent. Dynamic. Just captivating loved us used to love watching him in the press conferences and enjoying him with those presidential press conferences. But a very flawed man, I am not talking about the sexual peccadilloes. But it was a certain, I think, weakness or a certain uncertainty there at the core, which showed in his non reaction to going up with a sense of direction of the Berlin Wall in his withdrawing CIA support of the Bay of Pigs operation and his ambivalence about the war in Vietnam. At the same time, he did show some true grit with the Cuban Missile Crisis. So I think hard to sum him up. Do not know what he would have turned out to be if he had run for the election? Whether you would have won one way you know that in October of 16 Free. Time Magazine did a poll of Goldwater versus Kennedy. And it was a near tie. Really? Yes.

SM: What do you think of John Kennedy? The critics that drew I just had to review debt to Jim Hilde. He is a professor at Temple University. He is a liberal professor. And he was mentioning that in the revisionists are all really hurt the Kennedy image. And then except-

LE: For people, right, except that the people I mean, whenever there is a public popular poll name, your favorite president, John Kennedy always winds up in the top three or four, someone just came out a month or so ago.

SM: But when you ask him, one of the terms that I always remember hearing about President Kennedy when he was a pragmatic politician, yes. So that, for example, when Harris Wofford or whoever Bobby Kennedy made the call, or Mrs. King made the call to get Dr. King out of jail. John Kennedy did it Bobby told was the right thing to do. And Harris was involved in it. But the question is, there was always the thought of the impact that would have on the southern politicians, but any even the how he responded to the March on Washington 63, when he worried about or maybe riot or something in the streets. And the effect that supporting the March on Washington would have been the effect on the south, the Democrats This is the question I am asked basically trying to get to is, did John Kennedy truly care about the black man. truly care? Or was this a pragmatic, just a pragmatic power?

LE: Yeah, I think I think it was strictly pragmatic politics. I do not think he truly cared about it. I think in that sense that Bobby Kennedy, later in that decade, showed more true caring and empathy with the with the plight of the African American. I think you are right; I think Kennedy was ruled by the by his brain, not by his heart. But I think Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy is coming more, or as rules very often by his heart is.

SM: Very-very good. I want you to talk about Barry Goldwater. He is the next version.

LE: Well, a very unlikely revolutionary. But he was, I mean, he was a college dropout, wrote a book. So 3.5 million copies, it was a son of a millionaire who liked to hang around and jeans and go unshaven and go down the Columbia River up in the Grand Canyon. A salesman but also global elite and fiercely in the idea of individual freedom and unlimited government. A guy with from knees and eyes who yet first his life flying airplanes during World War II. And somebody who just was determined that he was going to offer a choice not an echo in 1964 which is why he went to-to Tennessee and seven we have got to do something about this TVA sellable sell part of it often went out to South Dakota, great big plowing the contest and said we are doing the farm subsidies and went down to Florida and said we got to privatize at least part of social security. I mean, these are not, you know, pragmatic.

SM: Right.

LE: This was a man who said this is going to be a campaign of principles, not a personalities and just stuck to it. And as a result of that, although he lost badly, the-the election to Lyndon Johnson still provided a-an inspiration for all sorts of people to get into politics, including it folder, and add crane both who got into politics as a result of Barry Goldwater and who provided Ronald Reagan with the opportunity to make a TV address, which made him for the first time in this life, a national political star and-

SM: I was I saw my home on TV.

LE: California, if it had not been for Barry Goldwater being the nominee, Ronald Reagan would not have made that speech and would never have become the, I think the governor of-

SM: Richard Nixon.

LE: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde brilliant man, filled with insecurities filled with seething with animosities towards his enemies, resentful at the same time understanding you can trust a communist and only to be a communist. Somebody who loved his children and was fiercely loyal to his friends, but-but hated his enemies, test all kinds of combinations I think Jacqueline.

SM: Spiro Agnew.

LE: Oh man who was caught up in and sort of carried along by events. He was always sort of the, fortunately for him the right time to first become governor and then to become vice president. Again, personally and morally flawed individual who did not see anything wrong. And sitting there in his office in the White House, which is where the Vice President has office in those days and receiving a payoff in a brown paper bag from a Maryland lobbyist. I mean, it is just makes you want to shrink him in repugnance.

SM: Gerald Ford.

LE: Good man, honest man decent man did the right thing by pardoning Nixon a minor figure in American politics but did that one major thing which was the right thing to do.

SM: Some of the African American leaders, you already made reference to Dr. King with any other thoughts on Dr. King.

LE: I think truly one of the most inspiring Americans of the 20th century.

SM: How about Malcolm X.

LE: A reflection of the of the anger and resentment well justified of African Americans, somebody who seemed to be changing toward the very end of his life. And maybe might have made some very interesting contributions to better relations between-between whites and blacks in America tragically cut down.

SM: The Black Panther Party was a Huey Newton’s and the Bobby Seales of the world.

LE: Well, I am I am I am influenced by-by Horwitz Collier on that destructive generation so forth. I think these cynical power-seeking hedonistic opportunists who were using people did not really give a damn about-about African Americans. Just their own power, sexual and personal recommendations.

SM: How about the women's movement, the leaders Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem leader.

LE: I think any of them I think, the beginning of the movement, I think, as I said earlier, I think some of them have the right idea that women had were not being treated fairly and accurately in the marketplace. But I think it slipped away from I think a certain maybe a certain arrogance set in and then then all of a sudden they allowed the real radicals to take it over. I think alienated a lot of a lot of conservative if you vote conservative feminists and that is not an oxymoron, like my wife.

SM: How about Muhammad Ali?

LE: Cassius Clay, but yeah, yeah. Oh, I a sweet-sweet fighter. Somebody that you just need all of his with his grace and, and power and endurance to for that matter.

SM: Throughout the antiwar stand things. Yeah, a conscientious objector, seemed to be sincere in that.

LE: I think you are right to take that position.

SM: So, I am in Columbus side bid. He came and he was dethroned. And I was working at Ohio University at the time, came down to see him at a theater they paid him $3,500 to come and speak. And at the very beginning of the trailers for protesters outside against on a rally and he gave the $3,500 back to the local community that needed it for four in the city. He did not need the money. He gave three the cash back.

LE: I am not surprised. I have always thought he was very sincere. Somebody, man of conviction. I really, I was always my impression.

SM: Timothy Leary.

LE: Well, I think he probably deserved the hand that he got. I think that he misled so many people think the arrogance was pretty, pretty evident from the very beginning. And I think it is, it is, it is appropriate. He is really a minor figure in this whole story. We are talking.

SM: Daniel Ellsberg.

LE: Well, there-there is somebody who after signing a document, by violated it by stealing the documents, and then turning them over to the to the New York Times and The Washington Post and others in direct violation of his word. So, it is hard for me to feel much sympathy for a perjurer. He is an imposter.

SM: How about George Wallace?

LE: George Wallace was a at best, a cynical opportunity to opportunist and at worst, a bigot and a segregationist. He was-was a was a demagogue the way that he would appeal to the-the baser emotions into people. And I think he has been given more attention than he deserves as a major political figure of the time.

SM: Robert McNamara.

LE: Well, what can you say about somebody who said publicly that we are winning the war in Vietnam, and then at Georgetown party said that we were losing it? And then it has never been able to satisfactorily explain the dichotomy between these two positions should have a decent thing by this resigning the Secretary of Defense.

SM: John Dean.

LE: I vote pass on Dean.

SM: The music of the year, because the music of that period was so influential in the antiwar movement, whether it be the Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin as well I think if I Dylan's.

LE: Yeah, I think you have got to differentiate between the different kinds of whatever you are talking about, you know, hard rock and electronic rock or rock and you know, Joplin and Hendrix.

SM: Richie Havens.

LE: Those guys right now, I watched I went to so Woodstock at the movie. I did not go to Woodstock in person. And one sense it was fascinating. But to me it was also so it was it was not only chaotic, but it was an archaic and in a sense that he would say it was sort of the-the combination of the of the counterculture ethic and so three days of drinking and drugging and unprotected sex with people behaving more like animals than that human beings as opposed to that, I think that music would have to include you know, the-the Beatles would have to the Beach Boys would have to vote even-even-even Elvis. And then that kind of music is far different.

SM: Then I am pretty much done here. It is a couple questions at the very end, just your gut level reaction to these terms from the period SDS.

LE: Faux revolutionaries, F A U X.

SM: Counterculture.

LE: Hedonistic destructive self-destructive, destructive and self-destructive.

SM: Pentagon Papers.

LE: A chapter in American journalism. Which is not as-as salutary as many journalists think.

SM: Woodstock, I think we are covering may come off of the Beatles, John Lennon.

LE: I mean, I sort of liked the Beatles. I mean, I did not listen to him a lot by sort of like the Beatles. And then again, I did not know that those see in the Sky with Diamonds was, was a plug for LSD, which shows you how naive I am.

SM: But you know, when John Lennon died in 1980, and voila, Beatles he was the one that was the big anti-war. That is the one that Nixon did not like, and all the other kinds of things. You just some general individuals that were over in Vietnam, we in Westmoreland president to general Kochi, and Maxwell Taylor, certainly great names of people that ran the war in Vietnam. Well, I am going to change the tape here before we. Go, if you look at the Vietnam War, I think that is the question we were talking about we looking at the Vietnam War. What is the main reason that that war ended?

LE: I think the young played a very important role as they always do. If you want political and social change, you know you young are the place where it happens. And there is very little current anyone else can do to speed things up as the young want to be passive or just alienated. You know, there is no other source of truth unless you have a tense labor situation. And that would be the other example. Right now we have a situation in which people are afraid even to go out on strike, is there going to be replaced? We have people who are afraid to complain about their work conditions, because they will be downsized. The real thing about students is they not only have time on their side aside, but there are very few threats you can make against them. They are not, they are not in the system yet, in that sort of way. Now why did it take them that long? I do not know how many it was it was I mean, guys sign of the veritable obstinacy of the system, which is demonstrating itself again. These days, I-

SM: I want to go over again, talking about how important you say the students, the ministers are in a movement, because you were talking about that on the tape. And-

LE: I think ministers are very important, and they are paid to be moral. There. They make it possible for other people to do things. In other words, if you are in a congregation, and you may feel a certain way, but you do not feel like you have sort of a moral authority to do it. I mean, a lot of people do not. Whereas if the minister helps to bring some people out of their out of their shell in that regard. I have seen situations in which kind of nations on the other hand, I have been very restrictive on the ministers.

SM: Okay, one of the issues, again, is the issue of healing. I have had an opportunity to go to the Vietnam Memorial for the last couple of years that Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies. And I like your thoughts on the importance that the wall has done for America, not only for Vietnam veterans, but for America itself. And on top of that, do you feel that there has been healing between not only within the Vietnam veteran generation but amongst those who were for and against the war?

LE: Ah, I suspect that the-the memorial has been the has had the strongest effect on those who were directly involved in the war or who had people friends, relatives who were, I have a friend whose name is about the 39th up there on the wall. However, I think what is sometimes called Healing is really amnesia and a simple time you know, there will be come a time when there will be nobody with any direct contact with Vietnam, at which point people will have a harder time relating to that wall. Versus they do-do a civil war monument in Gettysburg. And that is in the nature. However, as monuments go, it has, it has been an extraordinary one. I take people around town visitors around town, it is one of the places I always want to take them especially I want to take them at night because I think, as a special quality at nighttime. You enter it in the dark.

SM: Has there been healing between those who were for and against the war? The divisions were so-

LE: I do not think they even talk about it do they? I mean, it is not it is like, again, it is almost it is more a matter of it is no longer important. That is what is so absurd about war, in the first place is that you can kill 50,000 People of your own people and what was it 2 million of others? And then you-you know, a few years later, it no longer makes a difference. I am not sure I use the word healing. I mean, it is not a word that comes to mind. It certainly has lost its place in the semiosis fear no longer has the symbolic power at once did. And I cannot explain to my own sons what it was like what the fuss was about. And I suppose I lose have the same problem. I recall trying to understand how to how hard it was to relate in any meaningful way to my fact that my parents both lost brothers in the First World War. But that was a war that I had no connection with. On the other hand, I had a lot of connection with the Second World War in the sense that as a child in Georgetown, we did have blackouts and we had I stood on the roof and look for German planes and, and relatives would bring German insignias back from the war and my father was working for the government. So all those things added to it. And then after the war I went to went to France in the still in then in the (19)50s You know, maybe 10 years after the war. And there was still plenty of places which were shell marked. They were all over Europe and 10 years later, there were cranes I think the French word is grew these great big because literally they looked like cranes and Europe was rebuilding itself but at the same time you could see buildings that were still had all the marks of having bombarded and when you were in Paris, I remember this the number that what struck me was the number of men in wheelchairs so then I went back maybe 10 or 15 Later years later and there was nobody in wheelchairs in Paris and that is what happens if you do not have those experiences and it just cannot mean the same thing.

SM: Let Me- start again. Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.

LE: Yeah I always like Abbie Hoffman better than Jerry Rubin for two reasons. I guess first of all that Abbie Hoffman had a real sense of humor, which I related to and Jerry Rubin eventually sold out. Hartman was a bizarre and he was a, he was a- it was a truly eccentric character, and I guess maybe a little bit sad character in many ways. But he was he was sort of the sort of the spirit of the (19)60s. And I found out the other day that when I was at Harvard, I had been director, news director of the radio station at the time that that Fidel Castro came to America. And it was a, I was responsible for getting the-the broadcasts of Fidel Castro out from Memorial Stadium and went all the way down to Cuba and to Latin America. It was very exciting. And Fidel Castro went to the faculty club for dinner, and came out with his lieutenants and all the students were there clapping room that and then I interviewed one of his lieutenants at Hays big for telling you about all of these out in the mountains. Well, it turns out that Abby Huffman was at that Memorial Stadium speech that same night, which I think sort of-

SM: how do you feel about the suicide note that, that Abbie Hoffman left when he died in Bucks County several years back and supposedly said the note, no one is listening anymore. And I guess he only had about $2,000 in the bank, but you have given a lot of his money away and kind of civils involved and causes. But when I heard that, I thought, is that symbolic of a boomer, especially those that still care about the issues of that time that no one is listening anymore? He is just a symbol that.

LE: Yeah, well, you see, that goes back to what we were talking about earlier. If you are an existentialist, you do not expect anybody to be listening. I mean, it is you are engaging in and like Sisyphus, you are rolling a rock up the hill is going to roll back, but you still have no choice. You know, what is it the plague in which [inaudible] as the doctor who was taking care of people, even though that, you know, the plague, so far, as anybody knows, is incurable. That is a that would be the, I think the different from way I sort of approach it in a way that that someone like Abbie Hoffman might have approached it. And I do not know what that comes, what sort of experiences that comes out of, you know, where you help people end up having a different approach like that. And some people might say, hearing me speak, you know, wow, terribly depressing. What you have just said is, but in fact, I think it is tremendously optimistic because of sustaining I mean, if you, if you realize that it is not your is not within your power to determine the outcome of what you do, is only within your power to make the choice to do it. And, and so that you do not control history. You, you, you it is not, it is not within your privilege, to be born at the right moment. And I was talking to somebody the other day about how if, you know, was it better to have been in our 20s in the (19)60s, and have to live through all this shit afterwards? Or the other way around? You know, would we be happier if we had, you know, come into the (19)60s When we were 16? Now, the answer is probably no, because we would probably be like our parents and would not have liked it very much. We probably did the right thing, and we are now paying the right price for it. But in any case, it is it is nothing we can do anything about. So, Camus said somewhere that the-the-the only sin we are we are not permitted is despair. And I think that there were an awful lot of people who set up too large a fantasy. And I do not think it is wrong to have myths and hopes and dreams, but I think that they have to be within the context of knowing that it may not work out. And that way you-you continue to have the strength to keep trying let success come as a surprise rather than as a necessary standard by which you judge what you are going to do.

SM: Let me let you get that. Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda.

LE: Oh, I never paid that much attention to. I was never very much involved in all that. You know, I mean, that was not my (19)60s. I mean, I was, certainly was aware of it, but it was not it was not central to anything I did.

SM: How about Muhammad Ali?

LE: I was sort of I was sort of interested in because in the early (19)60s I had been in the when I was in the Coast Guard had been in Louisville and I was visiting Hugh Haney was a cartoonist there. And it was in the lobby of the Louisville courier journal. And here comes his young black guy doing all this crazy stuff. I said, Who else? And he said, well, that is a new fighter name, Cassius Clay. And so I met him. I did not meet him, but I saw him before he was famous. So, I do not remember what my reaction is whatever I would say would not be honest. Because I do not remember. But he was against the Vietnam. Yeah, I do not I cannot tell you what, what I thought of that. But I approved, but I did not leave a strong impression.

SM: How about some of the older individuals Dr. Benjamin Spock, the Berrigan brothers?

LE: I Like them. I-I-I in my local work, you see, the truth of the matter is because being in Washington, you got to see how things were organized, you know, the big demonstrations and, and the truth of the matter is, a lot of these things would not have gotten off the ground a lot without a lot of old leftists both locally and nationally. It was the old leftists some of them, I presume, were communists, who really put things together. They knew how to do it. And it is part of the story of the (19)60s that has not been told, because it was assumed that there were all these brilliant young people who staged these marches. Well, there were a lot of people who were, and you know, who went back all the way back to the (19)30s. You know, and had a lot of experience in this sort of stuff. There were lawyers say in town, like, like David Ryan, who was an old (19)30s National Lawyers Guild lawyer, people like a balloon folks like that. Now I like for a for a Seventh Day agnostic I have a I have a certain fondness for ministers. I do not like I do not like t-shirt very much, but I like ministers when they are good. And, and I think that the Bergen brothers, you know, sort of lent a good moral cast to the to the show, as the Duck Fuck.

SM: Some of the politicians of the era starting with John Kennedy and then his brother Robert Kennedy.

LE: Yeah. I covered the covered the hearings of the investigation into the teamsters union as a young radio reporter. And her is something I wrote recently about that. My radio days. Among those seated at the long panel table was young John F. Kennedy, Democrat from Massachusetts. His brother Robert served as a counsel for the committee. At one point a prostitute witness made some off color comment that bought brought guffaws from the audience and Bobby's own giggles were amplified by his mic. The humorless Chair John McClellan wrapped his gavel and told Kennedy. This is not a joking matter. It would be the only time I ever saw Kennedy look chastened. I was not particularly impressed by the Kennedys. They struck me as lightweights hardly in the same class with Humphrey and Dirksen. I wrote in a September 5, 1959, letter, quote, the Kennedy brothers like to remark about the Quakers came to Washington to do good and did very well. Jimmy Hoffa, who was a student of corrupt told me once in the midst of the racket’s hearings, Bobby Kennedy is trying to make headlines for his brothers so he can get into the White House, but he cannot find his way out of this room and quote, now that the labor reform bill is passed, one big source of Kennedy headlines has disappeared. Let us hope the Kennedys do likewise. That was what I wrote.

SM: Oh, wow. Well, that was (19)59. What are your What are your thoughts on Kennedy from 15? John Kennedy from (19)59, to (19)63. And Bobby certainly through 1968.

LE: Well, the best thing that Jack Kennedy did was to bring my wife from Wisconsin to Washington where I could meet her merrier. I mean, she was part of that generation that was, and by today's standard, it was an extraordinary group of people. She came to work for Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. And it was, it was a very-very exciting time, it was a time in which passion and commitment was not only favored, but you could get bills passed based on it. And so, Kennedy himself, I think, was not the myth that he was made out to be. Started, I think the tradition of what I call mob politics. And I think he paid a heavy price for it. You know, he won the election from all appearances by the assistance of the mob, and in Illinois, far too close to the really deeply corrupt side of politics, and I think started a precedent, which, like I say, may have resulted in his own death and certainly set a pattern for, for future politics. In my book, I have a chart of what I call mob politics or history of mob politics. And it starts with Jack Kennedy, in Illinois. And it my thesis is that for 30 years, our politics had been repeatedly interrupted by a variety of crooks. Freelancers out of controls, crooks and-and others that have distorted our-our political system, then so I do I do. You know, I blame him for that. Bobby Kennedy, I believe was-was a quite a repugnant character in his early days when he was working for McCarthy. But I think he was it would be in a category of very, very small category of politicians who actually improve with age. I have seen that very, very rarely. And I would have to say, even though I was a supporter of Jean McCarthy, by the time that that Kennedy was running for office, I you know, and I was I could live with that. I would find something here.

SM: Okay, we are into the area of civil rights, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

LE: Okay, Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the truly important people in my life and for a little bit eccentric reason is that I read stride towards freedom. While I was in college, and I was very-very moved by it, it was, it was perhaps the most important book I read while I was in college, even though it was not on any reading list. And what particularly moved me was that I was a product of a Quaker school, German ham friends in Philadelphia, and I had never really gotten to all the pacifism. stuff, it always seemed to me a lot of what the Quakers did seem very mushy, and I, and what Martin Luther King did for me, which was sort of unique was that, well, where I sort of connected with him was not just on the Civil Rights thing, but even more so on his description of his own struggles with pacifism and, and how he resolved them. And so that I came to know, King not as a civil rights leader, so much as but as a person who helped me think through some of my own problems, you know, which is an interesting experience in itself. Now, I would later learn things about the reality of King which, you know, as with everybody is not always what it appears, I mean, for example, everyone is very reluctant to get involved in Montgomery Bus Boycott initially. And in fact, it was a guy named Ed Nixon who was a member of the Sleeping Car Porters union called him up finally and said, you know, and I said, we want to use your-your church for meeting place, so Monday and King said, well, let me think about it. And a few couple days later, he called back and said, I made up your mind he was in King says, well, yeah, I think that will be okay says good because we have got 200 People coming. So, I mean, just that, you know, that sort of contrasts with the, with the popular image of and yet it also was a story. Yeah, I mean, I think it is a very common story of, of greatness inside. It does not-not just come, you know, burst out for I want to hear king with a girlfriend of mine at Howard University and I think 1960, who was speaking at Chapel. It was the first time I had ever done anything of a political protest, or I was a radio reporter here, I had covered the site covered sit ins, I had covered the sit ins and protests of that medical park. I had, you know, my girlfriend said, you know, I want to go here. And so we went and we, we got there a little bit late, and we had to sit outside, maybe there was a chapel was overflowing, and we sat outside and this beautiful day, listen to follow them quite closely, and I admired greatly. Malcolm X, I did not have that much consciousness. So frankly, I think Malcolm X has grown much larger and his depth and he was in his life. You are not meant to say that. But I think that is really true. I do not I do not recall, for example, being particularly conscious of Malcolm X as a factor in local civil rights. Things here in DC and this person, so biggest, most black city in the country Now may have been quite different in Chicago and New York, but-

SM: Would you, would you rate him I am sure, okay. Would you rate him like Bobby Kennedy in terms of one of those few individuals who kind of redeemed himself as he, as he got older because the last two years of his life, he no longer was going out and espousing the white man is a devil. He had been to Mecca and came back and Salva?

LE: I think there is that there is that element about it. And the other thing about Malcolm X was awkward relate to him is that he lived in Massachusetts, not far from Boston. And he was a musician. So I mean, I felt a feel sort of a companionship within there because I had that same period, I was at Harvard and a musician also. By but in terms of my own life, Malcolm X did not have hardly any influence.

SM: Could you comment on the Black Power advocates of that period? I always remember the scene of Dr. King was arms folded and Stokely Mark- Stokely Carmichael is speaking, saying that a new generation of black leaders is coming forth Black Power, Black Power, not the concept of Dr. King was all about, if you talk about the Stokely Carmichael's the H wraparounds. The Eldridge, cleavers, the Bobby seals, the Huey Newton's Angela Davis. The list goes on and on about the Black Power advocate like-

LE: It is like, it is like any politics. No. People spend a lot of time talking about a lot of interesting characters there are in politics that that are sort of interesting, but they are not necessarily over the long run, that they may just be sort of big players. Stokely Carmichael was clearly more than that. And as was Angela Davis. And the Panthers certainly had a big influence. On my feeling was that it was very often more anger than direction that the anger was-was-was well phrased, but the next steps were not, were not clear. And as I think I said in that article that you have got that I was, I was quite supportive of the Black Power movement made sense to me. I mean, I was an anthropology major, I understood what-what it was about. It did not it did not strike me as threatening or strange. And it did not, particularly it bothered me. What bothered me was not that that. STOKELY CARMICHAEL said the whites could no longer be in the civil rights movement. But that out of that post, riot period in this town, there was such a divide that came down between blacks and whites, which in many ways we have not recovered from. And, you know, there were I lost black friends just overnight. seemed like it was just because there was a whole different whole different paradigm moved into town. And there was nothing that one could-could do about that. And I do not know, you can say that it was wrong because it was not. I mean, the Black Power movement was right in its in its essence, but it like everything like that it has all sorts of spin off effects. The best civil rights leaders I ever knew, was a local one and never got a national attention guy named Julius Hopson Jr. Right there. And he was the head of the DC statehood party. He was he was a Marxist. Louise Hobson was a march within the status station. So he took a little bit different view of that he could always see the class element. And it was not just race. He did something extraordinary here in town, he went and he sued the DC school system for not spending equally in the various schools. And he pointed out as part of his argument, and while is maybe most dramatically illustrated in the comparison between black schools and white schools, you could also demonstrate it by comparing the middle-class black schools with the more black schools and was one his case. And we became, I believe, the only place in the country which dealt with all question of public schools and integration by saying that it was a, it was a money problem. And we did not live with not a busing was not done by busing. The only busing that occurred in in Washington DC occurred as a voluntary program at the suggestion of the of the school board. And in Montgomery County, and after a short experiment, the school board the black school board decided it was demeaning and stopped. Julia said had quite a different take on this thing. And he was strong enough though, to deal with Stokely Carmichael. He was a powerful, powerful guy, and-and-and was respected even though his particular form of civil rights activity was quite different. He, he said that this solution, for example, to the fact that nothing was being done about the rats in Northeast Washington was that he was going to collect the rats and trap them in and let them loose in Georgetown. And in fact, he only he only had a Volkswagen with one rack in a cage on top of it, but he sure got on the front page of papers for that.

SM: [Inaudible] Because there is any books been written on him?

LE: Well, no books, I wrote a book about Washington called captive capital back in 1974. And I have a few interesting pages on that. Tell that story. I tell the story about local department store which he was trying to integrate. And they, they said they, they, they could not really find any qualified negros. But as Julius Hopson could bring some qualified people with you, they would be glad to consider them. And he said he was not running any goddamn personnel program. But if they did not have some blacks hired in the next two weeks, he was going to boycott the store. And he was very well, I mean, he-he talked up but he was actually extremely well educated. And that was why he was able to pull something out like this school suit because he could do this. He could out data, his opponents and then one of my favorite stories, maybe I do not know what I still got the book here. Here this is Julius Hobson on the nature of the struggle and the struggle is and whether you like a Nigger-Nigger likes a cracker or white he is a pig or any of that stuff I have called people Why do you and pig in the FBI never said a word. All I have to do is put on a dashiki get a wig go out there on 14th Street and yell Whitey is a pig and I am going to take care of them, and the FBI will stand there and laugh at me. But the moment I start to discuss the way goods and services are distributed I start talking about the nature of the political system and I show that. It is a core area of the of the economic system. That is when the FBI comes in for a cat- for harassment. Can Black people ever win the fight for freedom, so long as they accept America's exploitive capitalism as the economic system within, so they must wage the battle? Black people have not confronted this question whether from a lack of understanding or of our economic and political systems or from an unwillingness to challenge them, their silence is a betrayal of the trust of the black people they purport to lead. This will tell you I mean, I mean, this was this was now in the 1960s and (19)70s. This was a black man who was standing up and saying these things and needs on a local black minister. I was asked to speak at his church one Sunday, I went over there. And when I went there, I looked over the congregation, I would say, the average person in their head, I own a pair of Tom McCann shoes that their suits cost an average of $35, a piece that their shirts were from hex basements. And they were very poor and very illiterate, almost illiterate, people who were emotionally shocked, just came to the church to let out this screen. The Minister took up a love offering, he took up a minister's travel offering. And then he took up a regular he took up five or six offerings. So when he got to me to speak, I got up and said, God dammit, this is Christianity. I want no part of it. And I said, this son of a bitch is stealing from you. And the thing is, he is not just stealing your money. He is stealing your minds. And I refuse to be part of this. And I walked off.

SM: What a character. Well, thank you very much.

LE: Some of the chapters are the chapter on race and on, you got a technique and the history on neighborhoods, we will give you a little feeling.

SM: We are going to have you sign this to definitely before you leave. Thank you very much. A couple of politicians. I know you would probably like to talk about Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

LE: Okay, Lyndon Johnson was a crook who became a good guy who ended up as a tragedy. And he was, you know, if you read the early life of Lyndon Johnson, that you see very little that is admirable about it. But for a brief moment, in the 19(19)60s, he was an extraordinary president. Whatever happened afterwards, whatever happened before, you cannot deny that. Joseph Conrad says somewhere that the difference between a hero and a coward is paper, thin heroes and cowards are people who, for one brief moment, do something out of the ordinary. And what Lyndon Johnson did in the 1960s, along with Adam Clayton Powell, who was an equally false flawed man was extraordinary. Richard Nixon, I grew up hating. I mean, it was, it was early, it was his race against felon [Helen] Gahagan Douglas, my parents were talking about what a terrible man Richard Nixon was. And so that long before there was the 1960s, I knew that Richard Nixon was somebody to watch out for. In the last few years, I have learned that it could be worth grin, I will have to say, again, notwithstanding Vietnam, notwithstanding, Watergate, that Richard Nixon was our last liberal president, the last president to believe in the social welfare system around I mean, it took me a long, long time to understand that and the only way sometimes you learn these things is to see what happens later. But the fact of the matter is that Bill Clinton is incredibly to the right of Richard Nixon. And this flies in the face of what I always believed in what I was raised to believe, but all you have to do is think that Richard Nixon favored a negative income tax. And that was shut down by liberals like George Wiley who complained that it was not big enough. But if Nixon had succeeded, we might never be having the welfare dispute we were having today. Because we would have had structured it on an entirely different basis. We have there was a long list of things which slipped my mind at the present but there-there was a long list of issues. I do not want to say them because I will get some of them wrong. Have issues that people just do not even connect with, with the Nixon administration, which essentially-

SM: how do you feel the ca- so called enemies lists affected the psyche of the boomer generation? Because he had those lists, anybody who was protesting around college campuses, they were taking pictures on ovals. Anybody who was involved?

LE: I do not know. I mean, I, I guess I have had the honor of standing a chance to be on to enemies list because I might have been on Nixon, I guess it was not, I have never asked for my FBI file, I, you know, I, I feel I either would be disappointed if it was too thin, or angry if it was too thick. So, I would rather sort of leave that as a as an unknown. But I also am reasonably confident that I may be on Bill Clinton's enemies list. And I would say, this is no defense of Nixon. But but-but, you know, it is very hard to get people to look at these things realistically, you know, to step outside of your own ideology and look at the facts, the facts of the matter, that Chuck Colson went to jail, in part for looking at I think it was three FBI files, on people. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, they have had access to 900, at the least, at the least. And there is right now, you know, at least a reasonable journalistic supposition that I have seen that, that this whole White House Office database, when far beyond that, that it may have been directly tied into the FBI. Not that that, you know, you could just put your push a button and pull up somebody's FBI file, but you could automatically make a request to the FBI and a low level figure would make a decision and could send the file over. And it seems to be working. So now we have moved from-from-from paranoia, distrust and Machiavellian politics, to automated distrust paranoia, and Machiavellian politics. Now, that does not make Nixon a saint, it makes him, but it is something that you have to deal with. You have to deal with the fact that Bill Clinton is more conservative and Richard Nixon on domestic issues. There is just absolutely no doubt about it. And that on civil liberties is probably worse. I mean, it is a race, but he is probably worse. Bill-Bill Clinton has not he has yet to find a civil liberties worth standing up for. And he has played a key role in in the evisceration of the Fourth Amendment. He has a content he has an underlying he basically has a soul of a southern share when it comes to civil liberties issues.

SM: How about Senator Eugene McCarthy and Senator George McGovern?

LE: Okay, well, I was a McCarthy. supporter, I was a, I ran on a, we had an interesting thing. We had a combined Bobby Kennedy, Gene McCarthy, slate for democratic Central Committee and for convention delegates here, because the problem was, we decided that if we did not get together, Humphries would beat his boat. So I think this was a rare case of a fusion slate in American politics. And I was on as McCarthy, candidate for the Democratic Central Committee. And we won, and we had a wonderful Central Committee, and it was a wonderful, very, very progressive group, including the National committeeman was, there was the, there was the perspective, Phillip Pinkett support Hannity. But Channing Phillips, who was the first black person ever been nominated for president was the runner of our slate, the National Committee. So I was very pro McCarthy. Years later, I would come to know him and become quite good friends with years later. And I think that we just happen to share a lot of, of interest and love of politics, of humor, of irony of the importance of viral and in the world. And it has been a very pleasant experience. Governor McGovern, I certainly supported I was never one of his really great supporters. I was actually sort of pissed off at him very early because he had sent very strong signals that he was ready to endorse DC statehood. So, but what apart Ryan, John Hechinger to local members of the McGovern committee, were opposed to statehood and they got government back off. And it is funny, you know, when you are in politics, and you are around somebody and you see something like that happen, it really soured you because you, you draw a conclusion if you see it once, it is going to happen again. And so I never after that could be quite. I mean, there certainly was no data. There is support McGovern over Nixon. But in terms of my personal respect for the man, I just never could get it up to 55 again.

SM: How about some of the women leaders of the time Betty-Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, women that stood out in-

LE: Shirley Chisholm I liked in a big way. Better Friedan, I did not. She was not that strong on my scope. The glorious time was the other person. Bella Abzug. Yeah, she was she I enjoyed her, I thought she was saying that. But I also got later on got to know a few people who worked for her and she apparently was an absolute tyrant to work for. It was interesting, because of course, one of the things that-that is the real talent for those of us who are in our- grew up in the (19)50s is that we spend our entire lives adapting to one thing or another. Maybe one reason why we have never produced the president, although I think that in a way that we might produce a very good president, because we are a generation that has-has serially seen what this country is made up geographically. In other words, we grew up in Republican America. And we were sort of serially introduced to other parts of America and make our peace in our way. And then. And so my own generational bias, is that, that we would be actually quite good leaders. If-if-if it were not for the hubris of those who came before us and after us was not so strong, that we got squeezed because, see, the thing is that we cannot have any hubris because we have been beaten about the head too much. So, we, you know, we had the insert traditional arrogance of our parents, and then the-the, you know, the-the self-assurance of the, of the boomers on either side of this and we get squeezed out. And the woman's movement was part of that. I- my perspective on that was, again, a little bit strange, because I had grown up with four sisters. And one of whom went to Red Cliff. My father was not in any way supportive of them going even going to college. And I think he was quite negative and that so that I was aware of those-those tensions quite early. And having one of the things about the Quakers I think I can say this without exaggeration, certainly a German have French school is that I never heard, while I was there any feeling on the part of the of my women classmates that they were treated in a second class fashion, I think that has, that has been pretty generally true of the Quakers it just, it just was not part of their-their-their-their view. And I mean, in writing my own memoirs, you know, in writing about trying to remember 11th grade English class, I refer to an English teacher, who was seen far more interested in the, in the girls in the class, who were more sophisticated, you know, as women of that age often are, and are then someone like myself, you know, I always I found myself sort of, you know, not quite as clever as they were. And so that and then when I got to Harvard, I had a couple interesting experiences in this regard. The thing is you get to a place like Harvard, you suddenly you run into people going to boy’s prep schools. And it is, a, it is a tremendously different paradigm. Enormous and you can see why you have trouble when these folks get to be CEOs. It is But I was not aggressive about it was not a big deal for me, it just seemed like it serves stupid or natural. So I occasionally got myself involved in things like I was on the Harvard sailing team. And one time I did not have a crew, I could not find a crew. So, I called up a friend of mine at Radcliffe. And I said, you know, your name is Alice. And you know, nobody's going to notice that it is not a be either male or female have it proven for me. Well, when we reached in this race, Medford Lake, I will never forget it. The problem was that I won the race gave me undue attention, and it was discovered that I had a, a woman crew, and I was literally hauled to a disciplinary meeting of the of the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association. Was I look back on that, you know, I mean, look at that and go that was dumb. I am sure. You know, I mean, my reaction was not, it was not anger, it was not a cause. It just sort of seemed to me sort of stupid and sort of funny, you know, I mean, it was. And then later on, I also was involved in trying to get women at the radio stage, and unsuccessfully, but they did come a few years later, so. But I am not trying to suggest that I was any great. You know, it just was I had a different perspective on it. And then that worked against me, I think of a way a bit in a woman's movement, because when the women's movement did not come along, because it was assumed that my attitude was different sometimes. And because I was not prepared to sort of make all the advances, you know, that I might I, so that, that sometimes I did not know how to handle the issue very well, because it was not something that that had ever been a particular issue. And my growing up, and, and I believe I believe I handled it the way that I think is the smartest way to do which is you give people power. People do not have power, and they deserve it, and you give them and so that there are a number of from my, when I had a staff, they were putting out the DC Gazette. There were a number of women who wrote for that, who did very well in what is now president of the of the pen Faulkner Foundation. And I had a whole bunch of critics and eventually kicked them all out, because they were taking up too much space. And I did not know how to edit critics. But they- that was in (19)76. And we and it became a-a art paper called The Washington review. But there, which still exist today. But the point is that there were all those shifts going on there were all these little things little instance, you know, that you remember, like, when-when I first started putting out the paper, Kathy, my wife, Kathy, who was-was listed on the masthead as the editors wife, which I thought sort of adequately described her-her real role, you know, sort of ambiguous and-and as I said, in that piece I gave you know, so I had a Turneresque quality she is, you know, sort of threatening quality. And she actually had a column called editor's wife. Well, we are long when-when all these you know, new women movement.

SM: I cannot you imagine. Why aren't you the husband?

LE: Yeah, right. So I found my ass in the sling over that. And the curse the irony of it was that then they got Kathy me talking about the whole deal, we decided that maybe it was better to stay married than to have her working. So-so it was it was an interesting-interesting time that you-you had the sort of waves of change washing up you.

SM: Few final names here and then we have a final question. That is a few sentences for like Hubert Humphrey.

LE: Hubert Humphrey was my childhood hero. Hubert Humphrey came to my parents’ house in Philadelphia and gave a speech. My father was one of the organizers of ADA and Hubert Humphrey gave a speech and the thing I remember about the evening was a Joe Rao was there. I wish I met Joe Rao, Joe rouse doted on one of my mother's antique chairs and gave us money raising pitch, and I was very much you know, Huberdeau Humphrey was God. But I, Joe rousing even on a higher plane, because, you know, the idea of someone just standing up on one of my mother's chairs in their living room. And I looked at my mother, and she seemed absolutely super hungry, would say pleases, punch, right. And I sit down, there was a guy with real power. I told that story to Joe Ross shortly before he died and he laughed. He said, he no, he said, I remember that evening. Well, he said, went in there and I saw all these older people, it was an older crowd and said, I wonder what Hubert is going to say. And Hubert started right out talking about Woodrow Wilson. And but the thing I remember about that evening was then driving from my house to the airport with my father and Hubert Humphrey and he and Hubert Humphrey engaging in a 45-minute monologue in hallway. Wow.

SM: The musicians of the year, the (19)60s, boomers have always identified with the music. The Bob-Bob Dylan's and, and I just your overall thoughts. Even though you are not a boomer of the music of that era of the Bob Dylan's Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix, the list goes on and on Janis Joplin.

LE: Well, again, I have to, you know, from where I have come from, and I was a, I was a jazz musician. I had my own DJ show jam with Sam on the college radio station. I am still today a piano player. I was drums then. But now I do the piano and vocals. But my world was the world of Miles Davis. And you know, Count Basie and the closest I got ever got to rock was I used to play I once played Earl Bostic on my show, who was a rhythm and blues saxophone player. And I was bawled out by the jazz director at the radio station because he was not jazz. Actually, just so basically, Dylan I never understood I to this day, I do not understand why anybody gets excited about Bob Dylan. Joan Baez has a beautiful voice. And it was not, it was, it was but for the most part, it was not part of my experience in a big way. I mean, it was not that I was negative towards it just was part of the background noise of the period. And but for my own tastes, I was into jazz and, and, and symbolically just as just as important for people who were boomers. You know, they have all these-these feelings, they relate to the music. To me, I relate to the alienation of modern jazz and to the sort of democratic spirit of mainstream jazz. Um, that is, it is just part of me in a way that rock is part of people who are into that.

SM: Do here is [audio cuts]

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Stephen McKiernan


Lee Edwards, 1932-

Biographical Text

Dr. Lee Edwards is an author, educator and a leading historian of American Conservatism. He is a professor at the Catholic University and Chairman of a Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington foundation. He has appeared on many television broadcasts and his books have been reviewed in the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and many more. Dr. Edwards has a bachelor's degree in English from Duke University and a doctorate in Political Science from Catholic University. He also holds a doctor of humane letters degree from Grove City College and attended the Sorbonne in Paris for graduate work.





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Binghamton University Libraries

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2 Microcassettes

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Authors; College teachers; Historians; Edwards, Lee, 1932--Interviews

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Counterculture; Tom Hayden; Woodstock; Jerry Rubin; Young Americans for Freedom; Civil Rights Movement; Baby Boomers; Feminism; Activism; Richard Nixon; Jimmy Carter; Lyndon B. Johnson; Eugene McCarthy; Hubert Humphrey; John F. Kennedy; Gerald Ford; Black Panther; Muhammed Ali; Daniel Ellsberg; George Wallace; Robert McNamara; The Beatles; Janis Joplin; SDS


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Stephen McKiernan's collection of interviews includes more than two hundred interviews with prominent figures of the 1960s, which were collected between the mid-1990s and 2010s. The collection provides narratives of people who were actively involved in or witnessed events in the 1960s, an era which spurred profound cultural and… More

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“Interview with Dr. Lee Edwards,” Digital Collections, accessed April 23, 2024,