THE CONTINUING SAGA OF ARTHUR SCHLESINGER’S MIND I’ve written some pretty mean stuff about Arthur Schlesinger Jr. This was mostly because he was out to lunch during the impeachment hearings. I’d take some of it back, but I don’t feel like it. Nevertheless, yesterday in the New York Times he earned himself half a gold star by penning a piece called “Hollywood Hypocrisy.” Writing about the growing distemper in Hollywood over granting director and informer Elia Kazan a lifetime achievement award, Schlesinger asks:
“Is informing unforgivable in all circumstances? Had Mr. Kazan been a member of the German-American Bund naming underground Nazis, would they have condemned him just as much? Or a former Klansman who informed on his hooded brethren? Or a former Mafia thug who informed on the mob? Or a member of the Nixon White House who informed during Watergate? Or a whistleblower who disclosed government malfeasance? No, informing per se is not Mr. Kazan’s offense. His true offense in the minds of the Hollywood protesters is that he informed on the Communist Party.” (emphasis in the original).
Now, so far, Professor Schlesinger pretty much has me on his side here. Some people think asking whether Stalin was as bad as Hitler is deliberately tendentious. I do not. But let’s just keep everyone on board by stipulating that saying someone isn’t as evil as Hitler still leaves a pretty open field for evilness. If I said, “Hey, this soup is hot but it’s not as hot as the surface of the sun,” you wouldn’t say, “Well then, that soup’s not very hot at all.” Let me be clear: Stalin’s evil was hotter than hot soup. But even if you are on the Left, surely you would agree that the Stalinists were worse than a malfeasant government bureaucrat or a member of Nixon’s White House plumbers. Indeed, Stalin was as racist as any Klansman and killed 10,000 times more people because of their race than the White Knights ever did. To be sure, if there were a Nazi or Klan ring in the film industry, dedicated to slowly and surreptitiously convincing the American people that a race war was necessary and inevitable, an honest informer would be hailed as a hero. I mean, if Serpico is still a hero for ratting out a few brother cops, why not the guy who rats out a well-financed pro-Goebbels cell in Burbank?
So at this point in Schlesinger’s op-ed I’m thinking, hmmm, maybe I owe him an apology. Even though, he was not so understanding about Linda Tripp, who was an informer about government malfeasance, but let’s even leave that alone. Good for him, nevertheless.
But then four paragraphs later Mr. Schlesinger begins equivocating like the president he defends so passionately. He writes: “Little has disgraced Congress more than the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Its inquiry into Communism in Hollywood was among the most indefensible, scandalous, and cruel episodes in the entire history of legislative investigations. The idea that the presence of a few Stalinists and fellow-travelers in the film industry was a grave threat to the republic rates high in the annals of Congressional asininity.”
Wait. Didn’t he just say no more than a 150 words earlier that American Stalinists were on a moral par with Nazis, Klansmen, Mobsters, and G. Gordon Liddy? Does Mr. Schlesinger mean to say that if a well-organized and foreign-financed cabal of Nazis were working in Hollywood, that a House inquiry would rank high in the annals of “Congressional asininity”? We have House Committee’s looking into whether or not children are too prone to choke themselves on window-shade blinds, but hearings into pro-Stalinist propagandists are beyond the moral pale? Were the House Watergate investigations asinine because they had righteous informers? Seriously, I don’t understand.
Sure, the House Committee on Un-American Activities made some mistakes. When was the last time you put more than zero Congressmen in front of a camera and didn’t see mistakes materialize? But why does Schlesinger have to have it both ways? Either informing on Stalinists is morally supportable because Stalinists supported the mass killings of millions (not to mention his less than existent stance on Civil Rights) and the eventual overthrow of the American way of life or it isn’t. If the Committee was indefensible, scandalous, and cruel, why would anybody be morally right to cooperate with it, let alone inform to it? Indefensible means to me that it had no reason to exist in the first place.
But I do like the word asininity and I thank him for providing an example.
IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY “I’m not a princess in the royal sense, but I was also wronged by a man who said he loved me . . . And remember, I was in love with him. I was trapped, too. I had a lot of pressure on me, and like Diana, I had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.”
– Monica Lewinsky as reported yesterday in London’s Sunday Mirror by Andrew Golden, who sat in on a New York meeting with Lewinsky, Andrew Morton, author of Monica’s Story, and his publisher.
“I’d just like to say, like, I’m not Ernest Hemingway in the literal sense, but I also have gotten drunk on bad whiskey while at the keyboard . . . And, remember, I was in love with writing and the hooch. I was unshaven and fat too. I had a lot of pressure on me, and like Papa, I was too hung over and unqualified to do anything else.”
– Jonah Goldberg, as reported this morning in National Review by his couch, which was sat upon during today’s re-run of Matlock.
MISCELLANEOUS I want to thank everyone for their aid last week in voting for me in Hotline’s poll for who should replace Pat Buchanan on Crossfire. Please stop voting. The polls closed last week and cc-ing me on your votes is very nice, but unproductive. Some of you have asked what else you could do to help in my effort to find a reason to expend the effort to get out of bed in the morning. It’s appreciated and I’ll keep you informed. Apparently some of you are interested in subscribing to the Hotline. You can call their subscription department at 202-739-8400. There is one correction that I missed last Friday which apparently really needs clearing up. In a column last week I joked that I might be going to jail for ripping out Congressman Wexler’s spleen when appearing with him on Rivera Live. I said if that happened then I might not be able to file because my new husband might not let me. This was not a veiled suggestion that I’ve been doing too much research on Tinky Winky. Instead this was, I thought, a not-too-veiled joke about the special relationships which sometimes form with in the incarcerated community. Some of you seemed very, VERY, concerned about this. Fear not.