Re: [sixties-l] nationlet

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (
Date: Sat Jul 07 2001 - 20:28:01 EDT

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    Both Marty Jezer and Todd Gitlin, in retrospect (the former having so
    written on this list), believe that the anti-war movement made a mistake
    by not supporting Humphrey in 1968, failing to understand at this
    distance of years and changed degree of political activity that (1)
    Humphrey was not an anti-war candidate and (2) what gave the movement
    its vitality as well as it legitimacy was its recognition that when it
    came to foreign policy there was and remains no fundamental difference
    between the Democrat and Republican parties. In other words had the
    "movement" had such limited consciousness as to support Hube, he never
    would have been the candidate because Johnson would have had no fear of
    running for re-election from such a tame mob.

    That Marty can say today that "I . . . have no judgment on what Bob
    Kerrey and his SEAL Squadron did in Thanh Phong." I find, quite frankly,
    mind-boggling, and certainly justifies Alexander Cockburn's sharp
    critique. Gitlin, in a never-ending quest for recognition by the
    establishment, made his mark twice for me, the first time in 1982, when
    he refused to sign an ad criticizing Israel's invasion of Lebanon and
    then in 1991, when he called the press and TV networks to let them film
    him giving blood for "our boys" in Iraq. The only kind of a movement
    he's a part of is the one I flush every day.

    Jeff Blankfort
    > >

    > Date: Tue, 03 Jul 2001 19:01:57 -0400
    > From: robert <>
    > Subject: Re: [sixties-l] nationlet
    > All, my own response to this exchange was not included in the original
    > posting. Now it is:
    > Robert Houriet
    > At 09:05 PM 6/29/01 -0400, robert wrote:
    > >Moderator,
    > >
    > > I'm attaching Marty Jezer's letter to the editor of the Nation -- a
    > >response to an Alexander Cockburn column that starts off with Senator
    > >Jefford's defection, but then gets off on Jezer's treatment of the 1968
    > >Chicago demonstration and (it's hard to follow the logic) Todd Gitlin's
    > >position on Nader-Gore.
    > >
    > > Also attached is my own letter to the Nation.
    > >
    > >
    > >Friends,
    > >
    > >This is a copy of the letter I've sent Victor Navasky, publisher and
    > >editorial director of The Nation and Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor. If
    > >you've read this week's Nation you'll understand the reference. My Bob
    > >Kerrey article, which most of you've seen when it was first published, is
    > >attached. If you think that Cockburn seriously distorts what I wrote,
    > >consider writing a letter to the editor of The Nation (33 Irving Place, NY,
    > >NY 10003 or And please send me a copy. Cheers, Marty
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >Dear Victor,
    > >
    > >I suppose I should be tickled that Alexander Cockburn has again attacked me
    > >in The Nation ("Beat the Devil" 6/18/01), that he includes me in his little
    > >boys game of "I^Ym more radical than you" intramural insult battles.
    > >
    > >For the purpose of personal attack, he quoted what I wrote about Bob Kerrey
    > >(from my column in the Brattleboro Reformer) totally out of context,
    > >thereby misrepresenting my position on Kerrey and the war in Vietnam. I
    > >suppose I can write a letter to the editor on this (and still might do it)
    > >but since it^Ys your policy to give columnists the final word, this would
    > >only present him with another opportunity for a dishonest attack.
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >What I would most prefer is a published statement of apology from The
    > >Nation and a commitment to demand from Cockburn some honesty and truth.
    > >
    > >In this instance, Cockburn dumps on me for denouncing what I considered Dan
    > >Rather^Ys overly harsh and politically misdirected attack on Kerrey. Yes, I
    > >was critical of Rather for pressing Kerrey on whether he committed a war
    > >crime. But the context of my complaint was that by focusing on Kerrey, Dan
    > >Rather was able to avoid discussion of the larger issues of the war, which,
    > >in my column, I covered in some detail.
    > >
    > >In brief (and the full column is enclosed), what I wrote was:
    > >
    > >"As a public advocate of draft resistance and a participant in nonviolent
    > >civil disobedience against the war, I . . . have no judgement on what Bob
    > >Kerrey and his SEAL Squadron did in Thanh Phong.
    > >
    > >"From start to finish, the war in Vietnam was a lie . . . . (I then spent
    > >500 words explaining the lie, concluding that) Kerrey^Ys angst is a personal
    > >matter. What our country did in Vietnam is public; it^Ys a festering wound
    > >that won^Yt ever heal until the crimes we committed are openly acknowledged."
    > >
    > >There^Ys no hint of my opposition to the war in what Cockburn has written.
    > >Indeed, Cockburn further slanders me (as he has done before in his column)
    > >by mischaracterizing my position (spelled out in my biography of Abbie
    > >Hoffman) on the election of 1968 by describing me as a "Humphrey lover."
    > >Cockburn^Ys style is often to attack people for their views without ever
    > >addressing those views in substance.
    > >
    > >In one of his other syndicated columns about my position on Humphrey he
    > >wrote, "Down the years Marty has told his fellow progressives in Vermont
    > >that while Carter/Mondale
    > >
    > >/Dukakis/Clinton may not have everything that a radical might desire, they
    > >were better than their Republican opponents." Where did Cockburn get this?
    > >His assertion, as anyone who knows me would confirm, is absurd. One
    > >documented fact is that from 1980 to its demise I was on the steering
    > >committee of the Vermont Citizens Party and even wrote an article touting
    > >the Citizens Party in The Progressive, October 1982. While this particular
    > >lie about me was not written in The Nation, it does indicate the level of
    > >research that goes into Cockburn^Ys personal attacks.
    > >
    > >Victor, my personal complaint is minor. More important is that there are a
    > >growing number of activists who, committed to justice, despair that the
    > >left, as reflected by Cockburn, no longer provides hope for change.
    > >
    > >Yours truly,
    > >
    > >Marty Jezer
    > >
    > >Cc: Katrina vanden Heuvel and other interested parties.
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >Cockburn
    > The task, not entirely dissimilar from redacting a passage of vitriol
    > from the Book of Revelations, was posed by Alexander Cockburn's column
    > using Vermont Senator James Jeffords defection from the Republican Party
    > ("The Left Taught Him How to Do it, The Nation, June 18, 2001) as a launch
    > pad into stratospheres of diatribe.
    > So let's begin on the ground, back in the political reality of Vermont -
    > with the commonly held facts for which he author exhibits both distaste
    > and secret relish in disregarding. . .
    > More than reportorial laziness is at work here. If he had wanted to,
    > Cockburn could have reported au contraire his spin that the big chunk of
    > motivation for Jefford's giving up his front seat in the national GOP
    > resided not in Washington but in Vermont. If Cockburn had been looking
    > sincerely for motivation he should have gone more deeply into Jefford's own
    > state Republican party background, not some fantasy that he had adopted the
    > notion of leading a third party movement from Burlington's "progressives."
    > It would have taken Cockburn only a few phone to confirm that Jefford's
    > action drew from his long growing perception of, resistance and
    > decision to counter the National Republican Party's ideological coup of the
    > traditionally independent state Republican Party in Vermont.
    > In effect, Jefford's move was not that of a third party defection at all,
    > but step one of a strategic withdrawal back to his independent Republican
    > roots in Vermont with the aim of reclaiming leadership from the national
    > ideologues. To rally other moderates behind him is one reason he has not
    > dispelled recurrent reports of his intent to run for governor.. Had
    > Cockburn checked any number of veteran political reporters here --from
    > Jack Hoffman to John Dillon - they could have backgrounded and clued him
    > in on the pre-defection polling that Jeffords office did. It confirmed
    > what the Senator already knew in his political marrow - that the majority
    > of his own party would stick by him - against those who had funded and
    > prompted the a divisive (and nativist) "take back Vermont movement." And
    > post defection his own party base held steady as several polls clearly
    > demonstrated.
    > On second thought, Cockburn didn't even have to pick up his phone in
    > Petrolia, California for this reality check. He could have simply read - to
    > get some balanced interpretation not gris for spite - Marty Jezer's column
    > on the Jefford's move. . It may have disabused Cockburn's inflation of
    > Vermont Progressives's influence (which is miniscule) on Jefford's
    > decision. If anything, the example of Vermont Progressives (more accurately
    > a city-state party of Burlington on the lake) was cautionary and opposite
    > from the one Cockburn pulls out of his hat -- "nourishing the propriety of
    > independent thinking."
    > Not projected in the vote count was how the Progressive's blissfull
    > campaign style ticked off native farmers reeling from a collapsing price
    > and credit infra-structure, with surrealistic, top-down prescriptive
    > solutions, and a condescending harping "we know better than you do that
    > bio-engineered crops are not environmentally correct. If anything, they
    > added votes to the GOP ledger through back-lash.
    > One of the starting tenets of deconstruction is to start from what's
    > missing or omitted from the "text." In this case, what's conspicuously
    > absent is the foundational base of political reality that good political
    > columnists bounce off of. -- the same "proximate" reality that pollsters
    > and voters ascribe to and act on.
    > That Alexander Cockburn has no genetic deficit in intelligence political or
    > otherwise, begs the question of the prime motive underlying this column.
    > Patently, he didn't really want to report on Jeffords to begin with. But
    > how to ignore such a news peg, with e national media spotlight on Jeffords
    > in the Ramada and Andrea Mitchell in attendance? She did get it right -
    > that Jeffords' was an act of a conscience, that of a party moderate and
    > independent in a long tradition here, going back through people Cockburn
    > may never have heard of - like Tom Hayes, Frank Mahady, and Ralph
    > Flanders, the first to break from the ranks of the GOP and stand up in
    > gutsy opposition to Joe McCarthy.
    > So what was he to do, given a peg that couldn't be ignored, a deadline
    > ticking down, and no stomach for political reporting? Eureka! Triangulate
    > Jeffords with two other points of personal pique -- Todd Gitlin and Marty
    > Jezer.
    > But the sides of logic that form this dubious triangle are wobbly.
    > Examined, they reveal more the trajectory of Cockburn's hobby horse into
    > misdirected liberal bashing than Jefford's political character. .
    > Point B is Todd Gitlin, a personal nemesis for some 33 years to Cockburn,
    > now retrieved to fit a necessary point in his argument. . Thus portrayed
    > is Gitlin "whose prime political function for years has been to fortify
    > respectable opinion about the impropriety of independent thinking. " (This
    > follows from the Vermont Progressive's example as nudging Jefford towards
    > independence?) :The surmised logic, reality aside is this: Gitlin
    > forewarned that voting for Nader and avoiding lesser evils in the last
    > presidential election could nmake for greater evils(the Shrub) possible.
    > Ergo this makes Gitlin anti-progressive, argues for Jeffords taking a third
    > party course since Cockburn assures us from his base in California "In
    > Vermont the Republican Party is pretty much dead."
    > Point C: Marty Jezer, former WIN reporter, anti-war activist, puts out
    > weekly a column out of Brattleboro. Jezer follows from Gitlin in
    > logical sequence as did the sins of Ephesus from those of Smyrna. in the
    > apocalyptic rage of John of Patmos. Nonetheless, it's this: Gitlin's
    > misconstrued support for Gore in 2,000 elides to Jezer's alleged "love"
    > for Humphrey in 1968 - a position Cockburn fantastically deduces from
    > Jezer's prescient narrative of the Chicago Democratic Convention, a
    > well-founded inference that the "world is watching" strategy back-fired
    > with the election of Richard Milhouse Nixon.
    > But then Cockburn tips his hand. He cites a Jezer column - not the one
    > about about Jeffords - but one citing bias in CBS treatment overage of Bob
    > Kerrey that equates Jezer's demand for "fair" coverage with what he has
    > in common with Gitlin - "the lust to be respectably fair."
    > One doesn't have to be cryptographer to decode the message: Vermont
    > readers of the Nation be dammed, you nave no need to know the gradations
    > of political reality and how decisions are really framed by actual
    > political traditions, or even elections results. You don't need to know
    > that Jeffords is taking back control of his own party - that's ho hum
    > liberal maneuvering. Matter of fact - since 95 per cent of Vermont confirm
    > it - so is political reality.
    > That these neither interest nor incense Cockburn sufficiently is evident by
    > the angle his invective hones. It' s reporting the present in the rearview
    > mirror of the past - through a warped take of what came down in 1968, but
    > maybe even further - who can tell -- to 1937 and the betrayal of the
    > Spanish Republicans?
    > >From John's apocalypse, we can at least glimpse a present going to hell
    > through a prophetic window of the future. But to show that Cockburn's
    > point of view is back-assed from John's would entail a deconstruction
    > worthy of both's ill logic.
    > . At least with John of Patmos, there's some visual sport -- in peeling
    > the images of horses with scorpion tails and red dragons back from what's
    > fundamentally and most literally -- bullshit.
    > - -30-
    > ------------------------------
    > End of sixties-l-digest V1 #611
    > *******************************

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