“Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

Love those words. Once again I see that worn-out cowpoke, LBJ, on the black and white TV in that cheap hotel room in 1968, not at all like the swell one I’m in now. Greatest moment of my life, those words, pure transcendent ecstasy, that’s what I felt.

March 31, 1968, a Sacramento Sunday the color of slag. I was here organizing the Kennedy delegation to the Democratic Convention. I called Jesse Unruh, head of the California Democrats, the only top politician to support Bobby while LBJ was still in the running. “Big Daddy” wasn’t home. I rang up Allard Lowenstein in Milwaukee. We weren’t really on speaking terms then, Allard and I; he still backed Gene McCarthy, but that was his moment too. We had toppled a president. Not since the 19th Century.

In other streets in other cities they were dancing. They poured out in college towns: Cambridge, Ithaca, Madison, New York, San Francisco. Jimmy and Cathy no doubt raised their clenched fists in vindictive celebration. During all the Sixties it may have been the only time our entire generation openly celebrated in common. On TV, the newsmen were dumbfounded, thunderstruck, astonished, bewildered. Someone interviewed then-Professor Daniel Moynihan in New York who pronounced it a vindication of liberalism and a repudiation of the New Left. We won, he said, reason and non-violent opposition to the course of American foreign policy have prevailed. This from the sly bastard who a month earlier declared himself in full support of the war and Johnson. He knew blood in the water when he tasted it.

And for that one moment in your fable with all its magical tricks, your tale about Jimmy O’Shea, a man I knew and like to think I understand better than you, I joined your book in celebration.


[pause in the tape]


The El thundering past our school. I was twelve. We were studying geography in Miss Brickett’s class, staring at a map of the world. To me, the shape of the United States of America stood out from the map like a flag; it was the flag and the country at the same time. And I was seized with a feeling of horror, of loathing, at the thought of the millions of people on the globe who were doomed NOT to be Americans. I never thought of my family as “immigrants” before then (my grandfather came over in 1905) but suddenly I realized that my being American was an accident, a contingent fact of history. Don’t think I was some prejudiced smug kid happy not to be a starving Chinaman or African. I was swept with pity for the French and Greeks and British and Italians, all those forced by birth to live in sad, small nations cramped by their own histories. It was my first true insight into geopolitics, that I’d been rescued from a flaming crash, and it gave form to my political activism in the way Pericles speaks of the polis of Athens, those fully participating in the management of public affairs, never, never to rebel from outside the common weal. Had I lived in Petrograd in 1917, I used to joke, when I used to joke, I’d have been the only one to storm the Winter Palace from inside.

Jimmy, on the other hand, was horrified by what was most immediate — segregation, racism, poverty, violence — which in his innocence he believed were native to America, flowered from its soil. Perhaps there weren't enough refugees from foreign despotism in Webster Groves to teach him the gratitude they taught me in New York City. Whatever the cause, I turned out caring and concerned, he, warped and bitter.

I spoke in Jimmy’s home town once, in ‘66, at Webster College, against the war. I quoted William Fulbright, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I have it here.


[pause in the tape]


“There was a time not so long ago when Americans believed that whatever else they might have to do in the world, whatever wars they might have to fight, their principal contribution to the world would be their own example as a decent and democratic society. Now, with our people divided by the most unpopular war in our history, the light of the American example burns dim around the world. More alarming still is the dimming of the light of optimism among the American people, especially among our youths who having believed too well what they were brought up to believe in, have arisen in a kind of spiritual rebellion against what they regard as the betrayal of a traditional American value.”

These are great words.

“The signs of the rebellion are all around us, not just in the hippie movement and in the angry New Left, but in the sharp decline of applications for the Peace Corps, in the turning away of promising students from careers in government, in letters of protest against the war and troubled consciences about the draft.”

That’s what I told the students at Webster College — NOT “We have to shut the mother down.”

Of course I’m bitter now at what our generation might have been. Whenever I retrace the steps of that disaster, I go back to 1964, when I returned to campus after confronting state terror in Mississippi, for that was the year of Freedom Summer. Mario Savio was there, as were many who would lead the student rebellion, and a few like me who tried to guide them away from the romance of rebellion and back to the business of social change.

All those heroic young men and women who risked their lives (and in the case of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, lost them) in that magnolia-scented hangover of American feudalism. Did they return to celebrate what they had WON — drawn the world’s attention to the plight of the Southern Negro, drawn the Federal Government into the desegregationist cause, redrawn the political map of America, and forced Congress to draw up a Civil Rights Act? No. They returned bitter that they had LOST a petty fight to turn over control of the (admittedly racist) Mississippi Democratic Party to untutored Negro sharecroppers, whom they called “the grassroots.” (I called them “the underbrush,” which I thought was witty.)

Grassroots democracy is not democracy, it is radical demagogics and always has been. I remember a SNCC pamphlet from ‘65 or ‘66, written for Alabama sharecroppers. “Politics,” it said, “is the coming together of people to make decisions about their lives.” That sounds Oh so democratic. Bullshit! A MOB is the coming together of people to make decisions about their lives. Real organizations — Young Republicans, Rotarians, church groups, fraternal orders, glee clubs, chess groups, trade unions, biker gangs, the Chamber of Commerce — come together to decide what their organizations will do to manipulate existing power. The only person who makes a decision about his own life is the individual human being, who does it by electing other people to make decisions about his life. The rest is participatory bunk.

So it was of the utmost importance that these radicals, however heroic, NOT be the ones to end racism.

Then came the war. And because we lost the fight to exclude the radical left from the antiwar movement, one day in 1967 we woke up to discover they were leading the anti-war movement, millions of Americans were beginning to follow them, and the political process was about to lose an entire generation who were becoming more and more alienated.

You wanna hear a definition of “alienation”? Forget Sartre and Camus. This is from one of Jimmy’s pals, Wilhelm, the Berkeley student leader: “Alienation? That’s when your country is at war and you want the other side to win.”

He was a more-than-clever university wit.

The spectre haunting us was this: What if our generation has become so radicalized it will turn against our greatest living hero, Robert Kennedy? What if, in the crisis of leadership that looms, the center does not hold? What if the streets dictate policy to the corridors? What if Tom Hayden is the last man standing?

Now as I read your book, that seems ridiculous. But it didn’t then. My generation was on the verge of inheriting America at the height of its power, only to look about and find our brothers and sisters, our siblings, filled with passionate intensity against those in power, damning us as racist, imperialist, worse, calling us gigolos, sell-out bourgeois opportunists.

But for four days in April 1968, after Johnson made that speech, we were in paradise.

We even had two candidates to replace him, if you could call stick-man Eugene McCarthy a real candidate. And once Bobby’s hat was in the ring, we were on our way to the White House, an end to the war, and a return to the America we loved.

Four days.

Then Martin Luther King was killed and it all went to pieces.

It went so all to pieces the radicals began to look correct. And that couldn’t be allowed.

So to pre-empt what I assume is coming in Part 4, let me reveal the secret paths of causality, so far as they concern me — the unmentionable true protagonist of your novel.

Late on the night of Johnson’s announcement I received a congratulatory call from an older friend, a veteran of the OSS. He mentioned in passing that he had learned from an associate in the bad wing of the CIA (my friend was in the good wing) that Timothy Leary’s former mentor, who bankrolled major LSD production north of San Francisco, had suddenly withdrawn $67 million from the Castle Bank & Trust in the Bahamas, the bank founded by the bad-wing CIA to launder mob money intended for the overthrow and assassination of Fidel Castro. This drew the attention of federal investigators, he told me, in the course of which, the Agency uncovered a secret account belonging to a young man who was the sole U.S.-based supplier of ergotamine tartrate, a key ingredient of LSD-25 crucial to the success of various good-wing-CIA networks and activities.

My friend wanted to warn Walter O’Shea, an old OSS buddy of his, that this young man, Casimir Volodich, who put up the money for Walter’s son’s bail, might be in some trouble, placing that bail at risk. I asked him not to call Walter for a few days while I investigated .

Four days later our country was in flames. Walter’s son, dear to both of us, made inflammatory public statements which forced me to act against him. I had no choice. It would have been irresponsible not to use that information to get Jimmy, and others like him, off the streets.

But that will never appear in your romance.