A few people have responded to my post about Frank Foer’s essay in the NYT yesterday by saying that Charles Beard was a conservative and John Dewey was an “interventionist.” I suspect some lefty blog inspired these folks because the ones that make any effort to offer contradictory facts cite Ron Radosh’s book, Prophets on the Right and the info they gleened from its page at Amazon.com . The problem, to put it bluntly, is these people don’t know what they’re talking about.
Ron Radosh, who I admire a great deal and am glad to call a friend, wrote that book in the mid 1970s when he was a major writer for the New Left. He considered almost all New Deal liberals to be “conservative” because they weren’t radical socialists or Marxists. One reader — who says I’m “100% wrong” — cites as evidence this review on Amazon:
“However, as Ronald Radosh (no man of the Right) points out, many on the Right were opposed to U.S. imperialism, globalism, and war going back to the Spanish American War. In fact, the traditional approach of the Right is a non-interventionist foreign policy (often misleadingly called “isolationism.”) On the other hand, it was those on the Left – such thinkers as John Dewey …who supported U.S. involvement in foreign wars and smeared non-interventionists.
In this outstanding book, Dr. Radosh profiles five opponents of interventionism of the Right: Charles Beard, Oswald Villard, John Flynn, Robert Taft & Lawrence Dennis. These people didn’t agree on everything, and one or two might not be accurately called members of the “Right.””
Um, you could say that again. Oswald Villard was the former owner of The Nation. Charles Beard remains the most influential liberal historian of the 20th century, even though he’s not studied as much as he used to be (because his assumptions have been absorbed by academia). John Flynn’s a very interesting character, and the Right has come to claim him, but he was a former New Republic columnist and something of a socialist in his day. And Dewey was a very strong interventionist before WWI — as were the vast majority of American liberals and leftists — but he was an isolationist before WWII.