Jimmy’s anxiety. I like that: the sound of a woman closing a door. And you placed it in Tet, which closed the door on all our expectations. Of course we didn’t know it then, only the raging anxiety that we could never win the war.

How cleverly you weave into Tet your meditation on violence while you ignore Tet’s most infamous words: It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it. Why? Are you scared to admit that those twelve apocryphal words were more powerful than all your precious streetfighters, New Left radicals, and militants?

You know damn well if that unknown U.S. Army Major had said or Peter Arnett reported, “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it from the enemy”, we might have salvaged something. Americans would have heard those words as the rueful sigh of a professional soldier and moved on. How many times do soldiers say, “we had to destroy that beautiful cathedral in order to save it from being used as a sniper outpost.” Irony of war. Ta ta. But you — the Jimmys and Cathys and Tom Haydens and Abbie Hoffmans, and liberals, liberals too, Walter Cronkite — seized on it as the summum of what we could achieve in Vietnam: destroy everything, save nothing. As if Torquemada had declared, We had to burn his flesh in order to save his flesh. No. We had to burn his body in order to save his soul. That makes sense.

But we, the formerly loyal opposition, had no breath left to defend words that at face value were absurd. Words betrayed us. We were trapped by words: We seek no wider war and light at the end of the tunnel, uttered by men fixeed on their own idées, abandoning us to desperate thoughts: who will rid us of this war? It was of the utmost importance that the Jimmys and Cathys and Tom Haydens and Abbie Hoffmans NOT be the ones to end it.

Errol Flynn was my boyhood hero. In the Fifties he was tried for statutory rape. The crucial moment in the trial came when his lawyer asked the alleged victim why she never mentioned this awful event to her mother, with whom she lived. “The subject never came up,” she answered. Flynn was acquitted.

Subjects don't come up if you don’t want them to. Subjects don’t come up in your manuscript at an alarming rate. So I’ll bring one up:

Why would I, a passionate anti-communist liberal, bring down the presidency of a passionate anti-communist liberal in the middle of that president’s anti-communist war? Why would I help destroy a great Democrat who shared my values, my view of America? Put another way, how did Lyndon Johnson come to be a greater threat to America than Ho Chi Minh?

You’d rather the Cold War never came up. What you strain to ignore in this "political novel" is the Cold War.

I came to Berkeley in the Fall of ‘64, a peripatetic assistant professor of English and, I admit, a 10 o’clock scholar and full-time politico. By then, the university administration had denied a third of the student body any representation in student government, forbidden the student government to express opinions about “off-campus” issues, prohibited organizations to recruit or fundraise on campus, censored posters (for ‘aesthetic reasons’!), barred outside speakers, banned announcing off-campus events on campus, banned Malcolm X from speaking, forbade students to meet in support of city ordinances, forced the resignation of the entire student newspaper staff, instituted censorship of campus publications — all the while barefaced denying it was in any way restricting free speech.

Talk about retrofitting. Stalinism in action.

That’s when I perfected the Alchemist’s Stone of arguments, the communist boomerang. “The campus administration of President Walter Kerr,” I bellowed into the microphone to thousands gathered in protest against the latest outrage — I think it was the banning of all student literature tables — “The administration of Walter Kerr is no different than the government of Soviet Russia! There,” I pointed to Sproul Hall, “lies the Kremlin. Here,” I indicated the 26-foot strip of sidewalk to which the last rights of free speech had been banished and were about to be obliterated, “is Siberia!”

Worked like a charm, for I was drawing on the best of America, our vision of ourselves as innately democaratic. It worked even better in Mississippi when I accused segregationists of  “Soviet-style tyranny wrapped in the American flag.” What more devastating argument than to turn their image of themselves as Cold War patriots against them? What could they say? How crippling to use Americanism against Americans, to make them see themselves in the glare of their own bigotry and be ashamed. Political judo practiced by a champ.

But judo works both ways. As long as we had within our own ranks people who were pro-communist, anti-anti-communist, insufficiently anti-communist, or merely indifferent to the entire issue, we were vulnerable to the charge of hypocrisy, and, in truth, we were a primordial political soup, red headbands, Brooks Brothers suits, football jerseys: the postwar baby bloom on full display. I had to convince these super-absorbant minds of one simple principle: the need to purge from our ranks all those of whom our enemies disapproved.

Few at Berkeley were actual communists — Bettina Aptheker , I’m sure — but if we did not exclude communists, we must then listen to communists, and if one listens to communists one may be influenced by communists and it is what your enemies think you may be influenced to believe, not what you believe, that defines your political reputation. Why is that so hard to understand?

Perhaps because I was older I knew in my bones that to be democratic was to be anti-communist, that one must found the temple of democracy on the rock of anti-communism, and therefore the rock must take priority. Politics is about priorities, not childish dreams, and communism is but the brutal dream of adolescents who want everything at once without priority.

In the azure days of Berkeley, 1964, I found the adolescentia terrifyingly resistant to this simple wisdom.

“But we’re not communists,” they would say.

“It’s not enough not to be communists,” I would answer, “you must be anticommunists. This is politics you’re dealing with.”

“We’re about liberation, not politics,” they would say looking at me with those blue Milwaukee eyes.

“Everything is politics, life is politics.”

And they would say, “Lou, free speech is for everyone.”

So I would place a motion on the floor that anyone could join the organization in question as long as they believed in free speech.

“That’s what we’re saying.”

And I would ask, “Are you claiming that Communists believe in free speech?”

“No, but we’re against excluding people.” They were so new, so welcoming, so naive. “This is about all of us, Lou, inclusion.”

“Every organization excludes people.”

“That sounds like segregation.”

“The difference, children,” I would say, “is that communists are evil and negroes are not.”

And then some clever anti-anti-communist would say, “Lou, you’re too hung up in a Cold War bag. We’re for free speech. If a communist or a fellow-traveler or a fellow-traveler of a fellow-traveler wants to demonstrate for free speech, that’s fine with us.”

“Communists,” I would say, and I admit my voice grew shrill, “demonstrate for free speech in order to destroy free speech. They want to use free speech to force politicians to attack the university for letting them speak. That is their plan to destroy the university and eliminate free speech.”

I sound as if I won. I lost. The blue-eyed idealists voted me down. And they of course were the ones with fervor, passion, followers.

That Fall the war began. We didn’t see it, a cloud like a man’s hand far out in the western sea. I even imagined a good war against communist expansionism might direct their fervor back into proper channels.

Ha ha. Rueful laugh. You know what happened; you’re writing a book about it. A “political” novel that leaves out politics. POLITICS IS THE MANIPULATION OF EXISTING POWER. Fuck any other concept.

Oh, but I was going to talk about LBJ.

Lyndon Johnson was an anti-communist president who could not win an anti-communist war.

By pursuing a war that couldn’t be won, he created an antiwar movement of noncommunists and non anti-communists, not to mention anti-communists who didn’t want to fight a war that couldn’t be won, and people who didn’t give a damn about communism and were sick of losing. He was bringing the war home. Worse, he was converting anti-communists into insufficiently anti-communists, insufficiently anti-communists into noncommunists, noncommunists into anti-anti-communists, and anti-anti-communists, god help us, into communists. If that kept up it would have been worse for America than if we had lost the war to the communists in Vietnam.

What was a true anti-communist to do? Remove Lyndon Johnson from the White House.

There’s an old joke. Communists are holding a demonstration. Cops are beating up everyone in sight. A man being beaten by police yells, “Why are you beating me? I’m an anti-communist!”

“I don’t care what kind of communist you are,” says the cop, and hits him again.

It’s a communist joke and not funny but very very relevant to what I’m saying.

Long before Tet, we knew Johnson had to go. At a Washington dinner party months earlier, Richard Goodwin, the White House speech writer, declared to Bobby Kennedy, Art Schlesinger, me, the whole gang, that Johnson was certifiably insane. He was so obsessed by the war he was losing control of our country to anti-anti-communists, and what about us, the militant liberals of his own great tradition? He didn’t care what kind of communists we were.

The difference after Tet was that the New Left that opposed him had to be stopped too. You haven’t mentioned it, but by this time the CIA’s Domestic Contact Service was operating against you in San Francisco at a priority level as high as their operations against the Soviets and Chinese. We, the good guys, were forced to fight on two fronts at once.

You don’t fool me. I know where this pinball narrative of yours is going, bouncing and pinging everywhichway, always just passing me by as if by accident. The moment Cosmo bailed out Jimmy, claiming to use as collateral his “parents’ house” in Calistoga, I saw what’s up. You’re going to make me the villain. You’re going to blame me for “using” Jimmy’s father. So let us not speak falsely now, the hour is getting late (Bob Dylan’s words. You forgot to credit him earlier, or did you just plagiarize?).

During World War II Jimmy’s father worked with the Office of Strategic Services. The OSS was a nest of spies and heroes. Walter O’Shea was a spy, along with Arthur Goldberg, Herbert Marcuse, J. Walter Thompson, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Sterling Hayden, and yes, Julia Child, as well as people named Mellon, Morgan, and Vanderbilt. The OSS was made up of communists, anticommunists, anti-anti-communists, Marxists, Wobblies, Bolsheviks, Wall Street lawyers, and other people who would rather die than live under fascism. After the war, the OSS became the CIA.

It was inevitable therefore, steeped in irony as it might be, that if we were to rid ourselves of President Johnson AND the antiwar Left our efforts would at some point include Walter O’Shea, Jimmy’s dad.