I don’t think I have ever seen Bill Buckley looking more discomforted than when he was sitting on the podium along with one of the proverbial ladies in white tennis shoes, a retired general, and assorted others in Madison Square Garden at the One Million Americans for McCarthy rally back in 1955.  Eisenhower had finally blown his cool when McCarthy had attacked a young staffer in his administration with the red baiting smear charge that the Republicans in Congress had been chorusing with great glee.  The nader was Bessie Smith, ‘notorious communist’ discovered working in the State Department — wrong Bessie Smith.  This one did the cleaning nights.

Back to the rally — the low point was when Lisa Larson, noted Life Magazine photographer, was grabbed by cops and dragged — not out the obvious exit door at the rear, but down past the podium with the crowd screaming “Kill the Communist.”  Lisa, needless to say, was a noted photog, not a pol of any kind.

My wife to be and I were there as student editors, she of her student paper at Sarah Lawrence College, and me of the Yale Daily News.  After the Larson incident when Lyn and I were standing by the side wall bleachers, some idiot struck up the cry again directed at her, “She’s a communist!”  I quickly steered her away to the far side of the podium and the screaming died down.

Later we both went home to our colleges and wrote graphic accounts of what we had seen.  Mine produced a scalding letter to the Yalie Daily  by Buckley — as usual using his notorious big words vocabulary for his insults — pretty good for the son of a Texas oil man educated in part in Franco’s Spain where the family summered — never could figure the British accent, though — maybe his nanny?

Buckley in those days — the late 1950s — haunted Yale trying to pick off bright young students to enlist in his armies of the right.  Yes, I was invited and declined the ceremony of walking down the long hall in the Greenwich family home with its portraits with purple backgrounds of the family patriarchs, so they told me.  But Buckley did hook many a one and so the right wing think tanks got launched — with a little help from inheritors of billions such as Richard Mellon Scaife who funds a number of them.

I hear that there may be as many as 300 of these outfits — you will see Bush and Cheney addressing them and one of them produced the “surge” doctrine (Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute) that displaced the recommendations of all others on how to plan a viable future for Iraq:


I won’t try to run through the entire list of these outfits with their jazzy titles: Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Manhattan Institute, etc., etc.  However, what runs in common with them is lying writ large. And these lies are perpetuated by both the media and the Republican pols who pick up and promote their daily feed ins.  A good example was put forth yesterday by Paul Krugman of Giuliani grabbing a stat out of one of their reports that made it look as though British Medicine (“socialized enemy that keeps Bush vetoing medical insurance coverage for kids) is only half as effective in treating prostate cancer (Giuliani’s) as American practice. This is a damned lie.  The two systems are equally effective — if one is so lucky to get adequate and timely treatment here in the states which many do not because they do not have insurance coverage:


To quote Krugman in part:

“Mr. Giuliani got his numbers from a recent article in City Journal, a publication of the conservative Manhattan Institute. The author gave no source for his numbers on five-year survival rates — the probability that someone diagnosed with prostate cancer would still be alive five years after the diagnosis. And they’re just wrong.”

What we are seeing here is an extension of the Nazi tactic which I remember all too well from my childhood.  It was called the “Big Lie.” The Nazis promulgated all sorts of misinformation to deceive people as to what they were up to and who were the real villains — in fact they and not their millions of victims.

What we are bombarded with here by the right wingers is a multitude of little lies almost daily.  One needs the time to check out virtually everything that the media puts forth.  I happily have some of that in retirement.  I can say how contemptuous I find intentional lying to be — and not just because I was trained as a philosopher to pursue the truth.

I could go on with recollections running down the years of the right wing deception games.  Buckley’s years in Spain under Franco’s regime  obviously tainted him with the fascist outlook of that poor nation in those days.  And he has passed it along to the extremists here dating from his first major attack book, God and Man at Yale, in which his target was our most beloved Yale Chaplain, Sidney Lovett, who had been jailed as a pacifist during WW1:


Those reading here have a choice to make between setting out to kill our imaged up enemies — Iranians, Muslims loosely identified? — or peacemaking while we still have time.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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