Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Reading: Perlstein on conservatives and conservativism

Here's a new item for the Readings list in the side column. (After a year, I finally figured out that if I cross-reference new readings here in the main column, they'll still be searchable once they've been bumped off the bottom of the side column by new articles. Duh.)

Goldwater biographer Rick Perlstein recently bearded the conservative lions in their den, at a Princeton conference titled "The Conservative Movement: Its Past, Present, and Future." They were not pleased :
What to make of the fact that some of the names who pioneered this anti-Nixonian movement of principle showed up in the dankest recesses of the Nixon administration? People like Douglas Caddy, of course, the co-founder of the effort to draft Goldwater for vice-president in 1960 and YAF's first president, who was the man the White House called on to represent the Watergate burglars in 1972. And people like the guy inaugurated as YAF's chair in the 1965 with those stirring words about truth: Tom Charles Huston--who, as the author of the first extra-legal espionage and sabotage plan in the Nixon White House, can fairly be called an architect of Watergate. [ . . . ]

[I]t has becomes my thesis that the Republicans are less the party of Goldwater, and more the party of Watergate--and this not despite the operational ascendecy of the conservative movement in its councils but in some sense because of it.

Nixon knew that if you had a dirty job to get down, you got people who answered to the description he made of E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy: "good, healthy right-wing exuberants." My question is: can conservatism exist without the Tom Charles Hustons?
Perlstein tracks how principled purists and true-believers from the Goldwater Revolution in 1964 became the embodiment of pragmatic Watergate-style abuse and corruption by 1972, and argues that the latter, not the former, is the seed from which contemporary American conservatism has grown.

You have to go read the whole thing, or the payoff in the epilogue won't be half as darkly funny.

1 comment:

elephty said...

It should not be, but probably is necessary to mention, that the news media circled the wagons around the Nixon administration also, and left me with the thought, that Nixon was going to get away with having broken the law, much in the same way that the current administration and the news media are working in concert to confuse, obfuscate and generally mislead Americans with regard to the matters presently before the courts and grand jury.

What prevented the Nixon White House from getting away with their crimes was not the press, but were insiders who knew what Nixon did was unethical and illegal. In the interests of the nation they revealed what they knew. John Dean and "Deep Throat" were instrumental in exposing the corruption of the Nixon cadre'; without them the facts would not have surfaced.

Unfortunately, there are no whistle-blowers from inside the current administration's den of inequity. They seem to affirm to each other that their crimes were necessary, and "the people" do not need to know how they arrived at their poorly formed conclusions.

There does not appear to be a soul who loves our nation enough to step forward and provide information on the criminally complicit comrades of catastrophe. Although two or three Judases have stepped forward to provide cover for the crimes committed against the nation and its people.