Skip to main content

tv   Liberals and Conservatives in the 1960s  CSPAN  May 29, 2016 9:00am-10:01am EDT

9:00 am
own, so get to work. >> commencement speeches. at noon eastern on c-span. >> history professor kevin schultz discusses how the left wing and right wing in the 1960's were influenced by 2 friends from opposite ends of the political spectrum, conservative william buckley and liberal norman mailer. throughout the 1960's, in public and in their writings, they debated america's political affairs, including vietnam, civil rights, and of the cold war. scholz describes their political differences and close relationships in his book, "buckley and mailer: the difficult friendship that shaped the 1960's." this is part of a day long summit at grand valley state in, grand rapids michigan. >> good morning everyone. i am program manager of the common ground initiative. i am pleased to usher in our first session and introduce our
9:01 am
first speaker. our topic is the fascinating friendship between two towering figures. the conservative torchbearer william f buckler and norman baylor. at the risk of sounding too cheerful, i must say that beginning with friendship kicks off the possibility of common ground between progressives and conservatives. it does seem unlikely that the buckley-mailer relationship has an equivalent today. seeing as we have historians and public intellectuals such as our speaker writing eloquently and persuasively about such friendship, the prospect seems far from lost. our speaker, kevin schultz is the author of " buckley and mailer."
9:02 am
he is an associate professor of history, catholic studies at illinois in chicago, winning several awards for his teaching on the --ethno-racial and intellectual history of america. receiving his phd from berkeley in 2005, he began an academic and public intellectual career. he has published articles in journal of american history and american quarterly as well as essays in the huffington post and "historically speaking." his book from oxford universities press "how postwar catholics and jews held america to its promise and promise" was reviewed in the wall street journal, the new yorker, and elsewhere. he serves as president of the society for he was intellectual history. in his writing, professor schultz achieves something that we endeavor to promote -- the compelling presentation of
9:03 am
nuanced, rigorous historical research to the educated public. especially with buckley and mailer, scholz approaches an important and timely matter and incisive scholarly eye as well as with a prose style that is called funny, sexy, and deliriously good. we are proud to have him kick off the morning. please welcome kevin schultz. [applause] prof. schultz: good morning. thank you for that marvelous introduction. thank you for putting together this center. thank you for showing up at this distinctly un-buckley and absolutely un-mailer time of the morning. [laughter] you learn weird things when you learn about people. norman mailer was incredibly disciplined. he got up early no matter how late he stayed up. he taught each of his 6 wives exactly how he liked his
9:04 am
scrambled eggs every morning. thank you to the center for the work that you do. thank you to ann o'keefe for making this happen so flawlessly. it was marvelous. my name is kevin scholes. i am lucky enough to detect the university of illinois at chicago, a marvelous place that is changing lives. giving first generation college students degrees, changing lives. i feel lucky to come to a place like this where i can talk about common ground and things that i find important in our political life. i was invited to talk about the book. although both of these guys died 8 plus years ago now and had their heyday much earlier than that, i still think starting with them in their prime in the 1960's is fitting for this conference. i was trying to figure out why i
9:05 am
was the 8:00 a.m. speaker i thought maybe this is why. not only do buckley and mailer articulate some of the key divisions between left and right then american political life today, buckley was his hundreds of news articles and books. things i'm sure many of you are familiar with. mailer with his novels and unbelievable repertoire of 1960's events, the anti-vietnam war struggle. not only to these guys define the difference between the left and right, that i think in some ways, exists in america today, they also both recoiled intellectually, viscerally, physically, when those divisions that they helped articulate moved in two ideologically drastic directions. when that happened, the center
9:06 am
was challenged, maybe not able to hold. what mailer called a searing love of country force them to record in the late 1960's. we are sitting in a center trying to find common ground among the left and right in american politics today. but wait, i am moving too fast. i always like to start lectures with a story. plus, it's early, so let's get a story going. it's part of a letter, a letter that started this whole project. realizing that norman mailer and william buckley were friends, and not only that they were friends and had this fascinating romance, but they were actually debating the life of the nation through the 1960's when they were players in it all. "dear bill," wrote norman mailer and 55, "i write this letter --
9:07 am
i think you will displease me in the most hated man in american life." [laughter] of course the position is terrible only if one is number one. to be the second most hated man more like working behind a mule for years." [laughter] their letters were so funny and so mean to each other, they were so great. in a way that you can be with friends. buckley a must certainly laughed at the line "great sense of humor." but this letter had a lot more substance than some of the rest. this letter was sent to buckley just days after he gave one of his most vitriolic speeches. it was a speech to the new york city police officers, to the holy name society of new york city cops. the vast majority of officers
9:08 am
were catholic, so it was the largest group of police officers. buckley was invited to prop them up. this was after the riot strewn summers of the 1960's. it was right after selma. many of us have seen the movie "selma." we know that the actions of the police are unjustifiable. historians have rightly complained about the atrocious way that lbj was divided into movie. those historians are right. no one says they got the actions of the police wrong. billy clubs with barb dwyer, rapid dispersal of people across a narrow bridge. it was a bad scene. bill buckley defended them. he did that by saying, of course this is what the cops are going to do, did you expect anything less? by doing this march, you set this up to happen, and now you are angry at it happened?
9:09 am
how could you possibly be angry? that did not go over well in the press. they pillared him. newspaper headline says "buckley defense the actions of selma." they align buckley with the ku klux klan. he felt like they were getting him wrong. when buckley got angry, things started to happen. he found out that one of the fathers for the holy name society had recorded the speech he gave. he called together a hastily press conference in a room similar to this and has one of his staffers for "the national review" get the tape that no one had heard yet. this poor staffer, 21-year-old kid comes in and sees 100 journalists with television cameras staring at him, and he is holding the tape. they put it in the tape player, everybody leans int to listen.
9:10 am
what did buckley really say about selma? the tape malfunctions. it breaks. they futz with the tape. nobody can get it fixed. one of the television cameramen messes with it -- i think that got it fixed. about 45 seconds of tape are missing. it was the selma section. buckley was furious, but what did he do? newspapers struck at him again, and it was worse than the first time. it was in this spirit that is right laid low, fat norman mailer wrote this letter, "the most hated man in america." the letter goes beyond condolences. after discussing the errors that buckley had made, mailer concluded thusly. i decided i had to write this book when i read this sentence.
9:11 am
"our public debating days are over. as rustlers, we are now villains. that cites no proper passion. still, it may open something interesting, wishes that the two of us have a long, careful, private discussion when a night. in all modesty, there is much in your thought that is innocent of its own implications. there is much surplus in mine that could profitably be sliced away by the powers of your logic." he's opening himself up -- teach me, and be taught. he was in some ways trying to say, conservatism keeps us from a mindless law and order violence that buckley had spent his life building. he wanted to save his own leftism from the various pushes for freedom. buckley's push from freedom from
9:12 am
an onerous state. what mailer saw as bland american culture left them vulnerable to extremism, positions where there could be no middle ground. mailer, of all people, norman mailer thought to preserve that vital space. he signed the letter, "incorrigibly yours, norman." i thought that was great. buckley writes back almost immediately, "thank you norman for your warm and amusing letter. anyway, i have a lot more to teach you than how to reason." these guys were so funny. can i quote that part that refers to the shameful destination of the press? can recruit a lefty to say that the press got me wrong? mailer said no, he did not want to appear to be defending the cops of selma.
9:13 am
when buckley wrote about this incident, he left out mailer's sympathetic line. they collected that essay that he wrote in a book a year later. buckley send to the book to mailer. in the back of the book -- in the index, next to norman mailer's name, buckley wrote "hi! :)" because he knew mailer would look there first. [laughter] he did not quote mailer on selma. buckley signs letter, "corrigibly, bill."
9:14 am
for me, this is what started off the project. after norman mailer died in 2007, he sold his papers for $2.5 million. a magazine published some of these excerpts from these letters. i was sitting in bed reading and i sat up when i read this particular letter. i said, there is something rich here that i need to investigate. here is my mailer, the enfant terrible of the post world war ii left, writing words with backwards in them, sometimes champion socialism, an iconoclast, a libertine, the husband of six women, the lovers of countless more, he once stabbed his wife with a penknife, missing by millimeters her heart, and she did not divorce him until a year after that. [laughter] he loved to headbutt people at parties.
9:15 am
five foot seven inches, like i've already to -- like a bull ready to gorge. somebody that liked to dance the precipice of taste. how good that norman mailer be friends with someone like william f buckley, the off want to replay of the postwar right? the traditionalist that loved to sail. the magazine that taught ronald reagan how to be a conservative. the host of the show that in weekly dismay his generous spirit, is expensive vocabulary, his wicked tongue, the crafter of the right's talking points for a generation, and maybe two. how could it be that these two guys could be friends, and not only that, left and right, trying to conserve some common ground as the late 1960's spiraled beyond what they had
9:16 am
put forward? they referred to each other, often using bad words. some times they called each other debating partners. as i got into the archives, into the television shows they did together, they were debating nothing less than the future of the united states and the kind of life worth living. there is no bigger question than that, at least i don't think that there is. how could post-world war ii america, fat and rich, how could it live a more fulfilling life? a life more fulfilling than that portrayed on "leave it to beaver?" holden caulfield may have had the itch, but there was buckley and mailer trying to scratch it. they wanted to preserve america's virtuous hearts.
9:17 am
that was a great phrase. it was buried under by all the politics and military industrial complex. at the heart, of the united states is virtuous. how do we keep that virtuous heart intact while shedding all that friends to overburden -- all that threatens to overburden it? i had to write this book. i thought i could get the answer to the key question of the 1960's -- how do people in the richest nation in the world end up at each other's throats by the end of the decade? how does that happen? my hunch is that sitting fat and rich, americans began to to demand greater freedom. the key word for me became freedom. they had different. definitions of freedom with buckley and miller being poster children for the left and right vision of freedom.
9:18 am
they sought to preserve the virtuous heart at the center. i dug into the archives. these two men were like forrest gump. a movie i hate. but like forrest gump, they showed up everywhere in the 1960's. here they are coasting a statement, debating james baldwin over the future of the civil rights movement. here they are discussing selma, supporting over testing the vietnam war, the bay of pigs, jermaine greer, everything that goes on in the 1960's, buckley and mailer were there. so much fun to write this book. i wonder if they had any discussions with women's liberation people. there have been reams of debates. they first met in 1962.
9:19 am
from the very first meeting, the scenes that persisted, how americans could live a more compelling life -- the debate about perpetuated their friendship, the debate started from the very first moment. they met in 1962. it was showbiz that brought them together. mailer was already famous for his 1948 book, which some people still think is the best novel that came out of world war ii. he became an outspoken political thinker in the 1950's and reformed his image. with his 1957 book called "advertisements for myself." imagine himself as someone who has all the answers to this struggle with conformism that defines so much of the 1950's. he was a rebel with a cause,
9:20 am
right? buckley was already very famous for his 1951 book "god and man and yale" which sets the tone of conservatism for the rest of the 20th century, pushing back against "nanny state economics and" secular economics and filtering the center that he called "the liberal establishment." thank you very much william buckley for giving us that phrase. their parallels were shocking as i began investigating how they met. they were both born in the 1920's. they were mostly shielded from the great depression. they fought on the periphery of the second world war. both had early precocious fame. even within weeks of one another, within three weeks they both started writing journals that epitomized their positions. buckley's was "national review,"
9:21 am
and mailers starts "the village voice," with its radical critique of everything in the mainstream. in 1962, when they first meet, they are in their 30's. a producer named john golden at them to debate. his real name was robert golden, but he changed it to john, because as he said, nobody named robert got anywhere in life. a reporter said, i think we should have robert kennedy and robert frost debate that prospect. [laughter] but golden was no dummy. he timed this debate 2 days before a heavyweight boxing mesh. -- match. this was back when boxing mattered in america. many of the reporters for the boxing match showed up to the buckley-mailer undercard. there were 4500 people at this
9:22 am
theater, they paid $2.5 to see it. it was billed on the marquee like a title fight. buckley was favored 2.5 to 1. you could get odds. [laughter] they had a booking there. -- if you needed it, mailer stayed at the playboy mansion. the debate didn't disappoint. they were fierce and funny from the get go. buckley's opening line was that he did not think he could maintain mailer's interest in the right-wing egos they do not have enough sexual neuroses. he would try to be interesting enough so that mailer would, for once, look up from the world's genital glands.
9:23 am
"it's clear from reading the works of mr. mailer that human swinishness is pleasing to him." mailer interrupted him saying, do you want me to lay here a little longer so that the train of your logic can hit a target? [laughter] they put forward substantive arguments as well. buckley said conservatives were worried about the country being unmoored from its foundations, laissez-faire economics, christianity, and locally controlled democracy. as he put it, the true meaning of the american right ring is commitment. a commitment on the basis of which it becomes possible to take measurement.
9:24 am
mailer had willingly sacrificed an operative set of values, values that had created the possibilities for the kinds of freedoms that americans were then enjoying. laissez-faire was its commitments to making contracts under their own volition. christianity in the sense that each individual has worth, etc. for lefties like mailer, there was no ground wire. which could lead to fascism or serfdom. buckley envisioned a state of limited powers, where he thought 1960's liberalism was a great hoax. something that he was seeking to take his wealth and give it to the unworthy.
9:25 am
he wanted to to send individual freedoms from the encroaching state. he wanted the image of the american individual. the state, as the 1940's and its totalitarianisms h taught him, was nothing that should or could be trusted. freedom started with the individual mired in relationship with society. this could be called neo-republicanism. buckley's definition of freedom was robust. the individual over society, but prioritizing an individual's responsibility to society and the common good. a haphazard follower of edmund burke, his conservatism is traditional in some ways at the expense of new ideas. it was also broadly rotarian, attempting -- broadly libertarian. it was also anti-communist.
9:26 am
as he wrote in a 1959 book, he says "what all conservatives in this country fear is the loss of freedom by attrition. it is there for the most realistic reasons that we must resist every accretion of power by the state, even while guarding our rhetoric against such-- i take the gloomy view that we are marching towards totalitarianism, i should not go so far to say that america is not now, free. he added, the more freedom, the better, which means that some freedom is better than not at all. and more is better than less.
9:27 am
he was defending freedom as he understood it. as soon as buckley finished his over remarks in his debate, before the applause even died down, norman mailer puts his fists up, takes hold of the podium, and starts speaking. which i think indicates some sort of psychological problem. [laughter] but he got up, literally jabbing his hands in the air. he was animated by what buckley had said. this was their first meeting. "yes, the country is sick. yes, we have become untethered from some of our anchors. this is because those anchors are unfulfilling. the cold war is plodding along in the 1960's, sucking away our freedoms, sucking away the gold in our treasury." where was freedom there? how could a guy like buckley's hero at the time, a family.
9:28 am
goldwater advocate both gold -- both small government and the rapid expansion of the cold war? how was that not hypocritical? buckey's lionization of individual freedom makes no sense in the modern world. corporate interests have convinced others to act in of freedom just because they are buying a trigger. he condition one where people could be as creative as they wished, where greatness is not towing the the party line. and he saw society was engaged in a battle between god and the devil. and man, he said, must serve as god's agent, seeking to shift the wealth of our universe, the art, all the beauty, in such a way that the talent, and
9:29 am
creativity, and strength of the future can take its first breath. like buckley's vision, mailer was individualistic. the difference was that mailer's look into the nation's soul to not divine a lack of responsibility, but a creativity that was being checked by large corporations and a military industrial complex. he calls himself a libertarian socialist. what he meant was that he was a socialist when it comes to providing the basic building blocks of society, a relatively high floor of achievement.
9:30 am
once that floor was constructed, he wanted libertarianism that denies the government the ability to define the good life, what roads we should take, how can they could civilize the natives, or how we should live our lives. thomas payne -- mailer's version of freedom was deeply individualistic. both the state and corporate capitalism, as he saw it, which worked hand in hand in the 1950's, when the ceo of gm is asked in his confirmation hearings to become secretary of defense, isn't there a concert of interest -- he said, i don't see any way what is good for general motors could be bad for the u.s.. corporate capitalism was working hand-in-hand with the states. this had grown to oppressive for norman mailer. now was trying to undercut the building blocks of society that he thought were crucial.
9:31 am
his whole career, i discovered was premised on this battle. sometimes he came office totally crazy and how he was trying to articulate how americans could get out of this box. for instance, when he spent years building a model city of the future out of legos, 100,000 legos, his wife hated it because it was built in their apartment. [laughter] he was -- a friend of theirs from an museum in new york city offered to bring it to the museum to put it on the. way she grilli said, yes, get it out of my living room. he had glued the pieces altogether. they could not take it apart. it would not fit out of any doors or windows. for the next 40 years, this gigantic 8x8 legos city of the future set in their brooklyn apartment. she said it was a horrible thing to have to dust.
9:32 am
faced with the same stimuli as holden caulfield's inch, one man look back at the anchors and try to preserve and resurrects, the other had looked forward to a bright and unknown future. a possibility for a human individual freedom -- for human individual freedom. after this, they kept having this fight throughout the 1960's. on television shows, in public debating halls, an essay after essay, -- in essay after essay, and dozens and dozens of remarkable letters back and forth. it was in a debate with buckley that mailer called -- he said, what we are trying to do is preserved the virtues in the american heart. we are going about it in different directions. over the course of the 1960's, 67, 68, 69, both men looked at
9:33 am
the evolution of their ideas, and looked at the players, the young americans who are taking these ideas, and pushing them to their extremes. you're taking these definitions of freedom and pushing them in various directions that were not conscientious of the common, virtuous heart at the center of american life. both men recoiled at the youth. they both left the youth who follow them, nurtured them, but also were nervous about what kind of future they were proposing to bring in. to give one example -- in 1968, what a great year to provide an example -- in 1968 at the famous democratic national convention in chicago where as you know there were 10,000 to 15,000 vietnam protesters marching on the streets of michigan avenue and mayor daley promised to keep order in his city by which we all discovered he met a bunch of light blue helmeted police
9:34 am
officers beating up protesters. dual screens of famous, i teach every year, you have this mostly dignified convention on one side of the television screen, on the other side of the blocks -- just blocks away are the beatings by police of protesters. norman mailer was so frazzled by the events he did not know who to support after spending time with both sides. this is my favorite symbolic gesture -- he goes to give a speech to the protesters in chicago, he looks at the police officers who are angry. he also sees them as 22 years old and scared, not sure what direction the country is going. he recovered his time in a service when he was asked to do things that way -- might have been unjustifiable.
9:35 am
had the speakers turned to face the police officer. the first half of his speech was to the cops and national guard, sympathizing with the contradictions they must feel. then he had the speakers turned her -- turned to the audience, 18, 19, 21-year-old protesters who were angry and frustrated. he spoke to them, trying to talk him down from engaging in violence. trying to preserve that virtuous heart. he himself was mostly torn until he said that he had to go because he had to write about this because he had a magazine deadline. one of the and protesters said, right good baby. -- write good baby, write good. he knew then he was on his side. whatever he wanted to enact was slipping away. besought in front of his eyes. the violent birthing pains of a new order, when he had fought to create was living in two 907 -- into nihilism and despair. he hated the key phrase of the 1960's, do your own thing.
9:36 am
he hated it because there is no attempt to preserve virtuous heart of the center of america. that vision of freedom was too far away. buckley for his part, also did not enjoy the 1968 democratic national convention. he was there to debate gore vidal in a series of 10 debates on television. most of you have probably seen documentaries -- the documentary, "best of enemies." it was being shown here this year as part of the series. basically after the tear gas had seeped into the hotel's air-conditioning and no one slept the night before, he went on television against his arch enemy, someone he did not like as a human being. forget about political differences, he and norman mailer liked each other, but gore by dell and he hated each other -- gore vidal hated him.
9:37 am
buckley lost his temper and said listen you queer, if you call me a crypto fascist again i will suck you in your not the nice word for nose and you will stay plastered. he lost his cool on live television. abc was very excited. buckley was demoralized. what has happened to my vision? what has happened to my attempt to create a new america? and my now the policeman beating those protesters out there with my stick covered in barb wire? after the debate, gore vidal said, we sure gave them a show tonight. buckley took his ear height -- your peace out and walked off, more mad at himself. the left and right moved in different directions in the late 1960's, as you probably know him and into the 1970's.
9:38 am
both buckley and mailer struggled as they were as prone to do to pull extremes back, sometimes, not always, but sometimes. the left began embracing cultural freedoms. the cultural freedoms that were rightly one -- won. there were other cultural freedoms that the left was basking in. like buckley said, we are moving the grounding of any sort of traditional values which we call multiculturalism. the right work to destroy friendly corporate capitalism where it was good for gm was good for the country and vice versa, the right or to destroy that and move into a laissez-faire economy. both buckley and mailer were sent adrift. in 1969 buckley was shouted down at the young americans for freedom conference, the organization he helped start for not being economically libertarian enough. for being overly traditional.
9:39 am
for claiming something should be preserved of that virtuous heart. the young people of america, who had been nearest by him, shouted him down while he was on stage. these guys became less central to the times. my favorite example of this, in 1971, a toy company, ideal toy company, still here today, decided they wanted to do a deck of playing cards of all of the key political figures of the 1970's. here is richard nixon is the king of spades in a ruby red robe. he is wearing nothing else besides the red robe. there is a giant crown with a sort of great smile on his face. pat nixon as the queen. here is ronald reagan smiling, looking magnificent, movie star from the waist up, and then down below he is stomping on a hippie. ralph nader is fixing a car. in the deck there were two jokers.
9:40 am
buckley and mailer. they became the cover of my book. that art. the two jokers of the time. leading personalities come engaging to talk about, but not quite so central to the life and times of america. ok. they went on to write books. they went on to write more articles. buckley, for instance, went on to bask in ronald reagan's victory. they were no longer seen as quite so pivotal figures in the movement. the peace office together, what i discovered was more than just a strange -- a strange and entertaining bromance. two friends writing really great letters to one another. it is also, they symbolize, the best way to say what happened in the 1960's and how the polarization of our politics came into being in some ways. they were attacking each other.
9:41 am
the center was being attacked from the left and from the right. both sides were attacking it in the name of freedom. in american life, freedom is a very difficult word to fight against. if you struggle against someone's freedom, what are you asking them? you're asking them to be unfree. no one in the u.s. wants to be unfree. buckley and mailer, along with lots of other political actors were very instrumental in using this word to push their positions forward. unfortunately, when you start using language like this, your adversaries become your enemies. to use michael ignacio's language. an enemy is someone who wants to make you unfree. who wants to destroy you. when that happens, the common ground suffers greatly. there is a cost to demanding too much freedom.
9:42 am
it is paid in social order. when those justifications of the common ground slipped away, the set of assumptions that americans lived by any 1940's and 19 80's and 1960's changed. the water that they swam and changed. instead of postwar corporate capitalism, with high tax rates, all for the sake of the common good, whether it is defeating hitler or building and the eisenhower expressway, interstate roads, it is still for the common good. that got usurped in the 1970's by a laissez-faire regime of capitalism. instead of honoring a single tradition that got us to where we are, we know honor many traditions. one that honors our own particular version of pluralism and multiculturalism. we're still debating on how one earth this could ties together. instead of obeying a certain set of rules about how we interact with one another, how we look, the rules are silly, what kind
9:43 am
of haircuts men are excited to have and what sort of shoes women are supposed to wear, some of those rules we can laugh about. but there were other rules about obedience and respecting authority. these were all tossed out the window and everyone demanded to do their own thing. these things are not good or bad per se. they do have meanings and consequences. in a society created in the aftermath of the 1960's, the society that we live in today for the most part with the right and left germanic lee polarized, everyone hating much of a middle or trying to reclaim the middle or claiming to try to reclaim
9:44 am
the middle has suffered in the name of freedom. what mailer once beautifully called the steering love of country that buckley and mailer both shared. the searing love of country. right? it grew increasingly complicated. after the 1960's and 1970's. now we largely live in an era of irony and angry -- anger. absence largely the concern for the common good. we are at a place with a common ground is being searched for and articulated it is not completely gone. through it all, they stayed friends, buckley and mailer. in the early 1970's, playboy asked buckley in a interview who he felt inferior to, and after waffling around, buckley eventually said mailer. after all, he is a genius, and i am not. of course he is it really more people's lives than i have. [laughter] all right. -- he has ruined more people's lives and i have. [laughter] all right. a charitable group auctioned off in evening with william f buckley -- off an evening with william f buckley. as i was giving a book talk, mailer's daughter came up to me
9:45 am
and said, i know all about that speech. let me tell you about it. it was auctioned off in the evening with buckley. here to auction off the hour with an intellectual in sling -- inch ling the pride of conservatism -- he goes increasingly buckley with words, i am happy to see the successful bidder will receive a full hour of conservation -- conversation with buckley in his new york home. we must breathe deep, and prepared to bid up our wallet for the right to be received by that exponent. that natural practitioner. that sears seeker of the cia.
9:46 am
phenomenally -- if you have a taste for tongue tallying with america's own columnist some of the upper yahoo! from yale, mr. william f buckley and his doing. -- gang. after the auction, mailer sent buckley a clean copy of the speech. dear bill, yours to frame or flip away. buckley responded immediately, dear norman, thanks a million for the text of the introduction, which i shall attempt to decipher as soon as i find myself next to a substantial dictionary. i have not yet met the highest bidder, but i shall attempt to sound as you would have me sound. let's meet soon, as ever, bill. thank you ray much. -- thank you very much. [applause] we have a few minutes. we have about 10 minutes i guess for questions. i am happy, happy, happy to answer anything.
9:47 am
>> good morning. would you share your thoughts on how these two individuals exchanged their understanding on integration of public education? prof schultz: how did the exchange their information on integration of public education? you want to throw buckley under the bus, i see. they both actually had very troubling views on black people. they did. in really horrifying ways to our eyes today. for his part, mailer fetishized, i'm using that word in all of its meaning, fetishized african-americans. one of his most favorite essays is the white negro. he was looking at what today we would call hipsters living on the essential edge of leave it
9:48 am
to beaver society, trying to find a more rich, more for filling, more dangerous kind of way to live that was closer to the edge of death. this is mailer's own vision. he understood them. these people found models in the life -- lives of african americans. what did they have? mailer forgot all about the 10 million. he looked at the harlem african-americans who are the crimson prostitutes, they were dealing drugs. mailer really saw as living life on the edge. therefore, living life, for filling life. he wanted to live a life like you never knew if you are going to be dead, killed by a cop or a drug dealer the next day. he saw that energy, and he wanted to embody it. which, is, james baldwin read
9:49 am
this and thought, oh my goodness, here is a man on the left who supports the civil rights movement. this is what he thinks black people are? a beautiful response that appeared in harper's magazine, baldwin wrote a piece called, a black boy looks at a white boy. he calls a love letter to norman mailer saying how ridiculously wrong norman mailer was in the vision. at least mailer supported civil rights. he was such an egomaniac he wrote a letter to robert kennedy saying, send me down to mississippi and i will solve the problem for us. right? mailer had this troubling view, but at least he supports civil rights. at least he supports the integration of education. buckley, for his part, does not support civil rights. it is one of the things that i saw in the early 2000, he recanted of in his life for time magazine. not only did he not support civil rights, he went so far as to craft two arguments you still
9:50 am
here today on why conservatives should oppose any advancement for minorities. the first argument i called a civilizing argument, he writes this in the pages of national review, black people in america, especially in the south are not civilized enough to be democratic citizens. let them gain education, let them get middle-class jobs, let them buy into this republic, and then we can give them the vote. to be fair to buckley, he also thought uneducated white people should not be allowed to vote. no one took that part seriously. importantly, there was no mass movement to deny or white people the right to vote -- poor white people the right to vote. there was a full structure, top to bottom, preventing african-americans to have the democratic say. that was when argument. the other argument the buckley crafted in the early 1960's is what i call -- we call, the bootstraps argument.
9:51 am
these irish came over before, these jews came before, these other immigrants, and they pull themselves up by the bootstraps by getting education and hard work, why have black people not done this? black people need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. this is not a white problem. of course there is no huge infrastructure trying to keep irish people or jews from gaining public education and going to some of the best schools in the country. there are structures preventing african-americans from doing it. buckley, not only opposes the civil rights movement, in a visceral, he did not come his words diplomatically at all. it is clear. the south must prevail is the name of the key article. he does not mean the blacks out, he means the white south. this was exactly one of the
9:52 am
things where mailer wrote that letter saying, i think there is much in your conservatism that you are going to screw up because you are taking bad, stupid positions that are not conservative. buckley could have taken the traditional conservative argument that says we need to respect the rule of law, brown v board of education became a rule. let the law change slowly, not radically. this is what a traditionalist conservative believes, and respected. buckley did not take that view at all. really troubling stuff on both sides. particularly for buckley. in the early 2000's, he came back and said, there is one position in my life that i took that i regret. i have rethought. yes, the federal government was needed for integration to happen. that is 2004 i think.
9:53 am
i can't remember exactly. it is a little late. any other questions? please? go ahead. >> thank you for the talk. very stimulating, but also entertaining. was there a place where they found that common ground. i don't think of them as terribly philosophical. if you didn't, what would it have been come in your view of having studied them. where was the thing to be learned from each that would bring us something clarifying? prof schultz: the particular meeting that mailer invited buckley to, that day, it didn't happen so far as i could tell. they might have met and had a marvelous conversation over three or four bottles of wine. it is not in historical records. they may have even picked up the phone and had a phone call, also not in the historical record. they did continue to debate one
9:54 am
another. until the late -- 1966 or 1967 where they said the vietnam would mean we would end up fighting one another instead of hashing out our philosophical differences. they took a brief hiatus. it lasted about six months. buckley said, just come on the firing line and talk about your recent book. the common ground they would have found was that virtuous heart. the sense that, michael ignacio was a for perfect person -- the perfect person to kick this off, the show must go on. we need to back down from our ideological position. we need to strip the things that are plaguing this heart. making us have heart failure. i could go on with the metaphor. mailer actually built this giant clay figure would be virtuous american heart. military as the legs marching it forward.
9:55 am
the toes with the mafia, keeping it balanced. republicans on this side. the mouth was the press. they went on. they both thought to preserve the virtuous heart. mailer said, buckley, what you are doing is trying to pull out one of the arteries. that will kill america. we need to figure out another way to do it. the spirit of openness, of keeping the show on the road, that would have overcome the political and philosophical differences that grounded each. i have a rule that i do not take questions from three men in a row. i would -- is that ok? >> one question. >> i wonder if, what you think about the idea of buckley's going from being an
9:56 am
individualist to a conservative. when he wrote earlier on he was really a liver area and -- a libertarian and individualist. he was the first president of a group called the intercollegiate society of individualist. my husband happen to make a lot of fun of him in their letters going back and forth about how you could not have a society of individualist. it seemed as though after that, and after the conservative mind was written, that he adopted more of the word conservative. do you think he adopted the word without the essentially the essence of the meaning? prof schultz: great question. thank you. the letters between russell kirk and buckley are marvelous. teacher to student. kirk to buckley is how those letters come across. in a beautiful way.
9:57 am
buckley was, when he first met your husband, 25 years old and young and full of fit, energy, and figure. he knew -- and vigor. he had that chutzpah. thank god he did because he was able to do all of the things that he did because he had that energy. i think watching the 19 -- i think two things, there are two answers. they weigh into each other. the first is buckley knew that american conservative tradition had many strands. the two big ones were the traditionalist strand, where we are society, society changes, we need to change slowly. we need to be conservative and how we move. we will move.
9:58 am
the other strand is libertarian. going back to the american revolution. it is government is bad. we need to preserve our individual freedoms from the yoke of these burdens. buckley knew that for a large-scale conservative movement to happen, he needed to bring these movements together. professor nash is the one who helps describe this, we will hear from him later. i am not claiming credit. buckley used anti-communism as the braid to tie these things together. he knew he had to be both libertarian and traditionalist, and he had to somehow marry them. buckley was very aware of this distinction early on. i think as the 1960's with on, and he saw the libertarians moving farther and farther off. as he saw the economic construct that had built the american state. be undermined, i think he became increasingly sympathetic with the traditionalist side and
9:59 am
concerned about extreme libertarianism. in 1969, and his own meeting -- in his own meeting, he is shouted down for not being libertarian enough. i think that was a result of him watching what was going on in the night -- late 1960's, worried about these two ideological goals -- polls. i think he knew the distinctions early on. as he saw one becoming preeminent he wanted to pull it back. does that make sense? yeah. thank you very much. i appreciate it. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] >> you are watching america history tv, 48 hours of --
10:00 am
>> each week until the 20 16th election, wrote to the white house rewind brings you archival coverage of presidential races. dwight eisenhower kicks off his 1952 presidential campaign with a speech in his boyhood beline, kansas.ev he was serving in europe as nato's supreme commander. taft was considered the republican front-runner. supporters in a move to "draft eisenhower" put his name on the ballot in several primaries. seasonend of the primary the race between eisenhower and taft was considered dead even. eisenhower returned to the u.s. in june to start campaigning to win the gop nomination


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on