That’s it? That’s The End? This ongepotchket novel dares to conclude without ... what? Everything. Total evasion. A happy ending in 1968? Inconceivable! You end your narrative the day before the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in order to free your hero from the criminal effects of his strident anti-anti-communism. End it before the Democratic Convention and the massacre — by your esteemed radicals — of the American Liberal dream. End it before the November elections and dodge your responsibility for the reign of Richard Nixon. End it before the arrival of the all-destroying Weather Underground. End it before, what was the opposite of gospel? Baspel. Clever. The bad news arrives.

End it with no mention of Lou Rosen. The ghost in your manuscript. Leave it up to me to tell a tape recorder why I’m back in this hotel in Sacramento where seven years ago I watched Lyndon Johnson brought to ruin. By me.

[the tape is turned off, then back on]

My mouth is dry. This is not oration. This is the abyss. I have never evaded, I will not. You ignore me completely yet every page seems intended to explain the whys and if-onlys of my fate. So it was Smeg’s foolish choice of stationary and his illusion he’d charmed Lavinia that brought us down. So it was the Bantu Wolf that spooked X into handing the Packet over to Krup. So it was Krup’s apartment where Jimmy hid out and left some lingering odor of charm that made Krup suspicious of my enterprise. Now I know. Big deal. Oh yes, that in its own small way the snitch jacket succeeded — on Hank and Edna and whichever faction Wheaties II was among the Weathermen. What else has this tome taught me I can use? Nothing. The passions of my radical enemies. Their view of the world. That can’t save me now.

[Pause. Sound of water running in the background]

The more the Packet failed, the more determined I was. I sent it to Willis, Ed Trice, the Oakland and San Francisco PDs. How was I supposed to know “SOG” was ultrasecret? It was ultrasecret. When it backfired and Angleton went mole-hunting, Bruer warned me. Too late. LIFE fired him. He wandered around, finally settled down at a small-town weekly in upstate New York. He told me Smeg had been busted to security at some Bahamas casino; it was either that or have him killed. Bruer didn’t say so, but he must have given Angleton my name. The FBI investigated me as a communist for opposing the war and dumping Johnson, while the CIA suspected I was a mole for ‘exposing’ SOG. They dropped me. I was covered in snow. No one called. No one returned my calls. Meanwhile, Lavinia was promoted; now she works at killing Castro full-time. LIFE published Joe Kranz’ photos; he won a Pulitzer for photojournalism. The Agency calls this “blowback,” its jargon for the law of unintended consequences.

If only, if only, if only, if only.

[Pause. Footsteps.]

I felt sorry for Jimmy’s father. Walter was a good man, insufficiently anticommunist, but good. Nothing too bad happened to him if you don’t count the loss of his son’s unconditional trust. But Walter knows how it works, I assume he took it philosophically. He was a convenient man.

We never could cram the existence of SOG back in the bag. The more packets I sent out the more the bad wing of the Company thought the good wing was out to destroy it. By the time Nixon was sworn in the good wing was wrecked and all our true counsel about the nature of the war and the student movement ruined. Operation MH CHAOS was exposed. I was mentioned in the Church Committee report, not flatteringly.

And yet (now I’m doing it). That whole episode was nothing. Nothing, nothing. A fraction of my life. I went to the Chicago Convention as a McCarthy delegate. I hadn’t had time to switch to Bobby before he was killed, and Hubert Humphrey, well, he and I hadn’t kissed and made up yet. Daley’s cops beat me up in the Hilton because I didn’t have the sense to take off my McCarthy button. They didn’t care what kind of communist I was. You were right to leave out the Convention. After all, the whole world was watching. I tried to reach the microphone once on the convention floor to bring some reason to the madness, but Daley’s plainclothes cops surrounded me. One grabbed me by the lapels and said in his impeccable Chicago Irish, “Look here, sonny boy, you won’t be talking at this man’s convention. Yer a traitor and we know it.” That was the ruling party in the ruling country in the world, the America I lived for, its Liberal tradition down the tubes. Two generations of grandeur, from FDR to LBJ, from the New Deal to the Great Society, and what did it all come to? Mayor Daley screaming up at Senator Ribicoff who was trying to make himself heard at the podium: SHUT UP YOU FUCKIN KIKE!

1933: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

1937: I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

1961: Ask not what your country can do for you …

1966: My fellow Americans, we shall overcome.


And everyone under 30 was either outside in the streets getting beaten up or inside the Convention being scorned.

Getting dark outside.

Sunday in Sacramento: where it’s three in the morning all day long.

If only.

Maybe I should turn this tape recorder over and see if it says Property of SOG on the bottom. Ha ha.

[Pause. Water turned off. A bottle or glass is set down.]

I’m a political junkie, what can I say? a political nymphomaniac, I threw myself into work. I gave 57 speeches between August and the election getting the youth vote out for Hubert Humphrey. No! You don’t get to say “Hewbert Humphrey? the Happy Warrior? The guy who ran on the slogan ‘The Politics of Joy’ during the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War? The guy who never came out against his President’s war? You do not get to say that because you turned and ran from politics and I did not.

Your concept of politics at its best was grassroots organizing and that is not politics. The “grassroots democracy” you think you invented during the civil rights movement (among fifteen sharecroppers in Indianola) is not an option in the real world. We possess the most devastating military complex in history. Are your sharecroppers going to run it? Voting for a black sheriff in Lowndes County is not administrating a national security state. Running a grape boycott for the California farmworkers is not negotiating with the Soviets, or the French for that matter. Who’s going to assess high-tech market strategies for a competitive world: the Memphis garbage workers? “People making decisions about the conditions that affect their own lives” is fundamentally incompatible with our role in the world, and the tragedy is you will never never never understand that. American democracy is and must continue to be guided by the wealthy and powerful; the role of voters is to elect those individuals who are motivated by informed policies and will use their power with restraint and thoughtfulness. That is the only role for ordinary people. The role of liberals is to strive ever to replace unjust inequities with just inequities.

You see America as some commie cartoon, a pyramid with fat cats in high hats at the top and the toiling masses at the bottom. To me, America is what I hold in my hand as I say these words, a champagne flute, narrow and crowded at the bottom, broad and exciting at the top and what gives the wine its effervescence is the rise of the bubbles from the base. Ask any immigrant. The moment he arrives he is free to rise, to leap. This is the reality you refuse to perceive.

You ran away. If you couldn’t have “underbrush democracy” you wouldn’t have any and that’s what you got. Sure I feel for Jimmy. Ironically, he received the Wisdom of the Ages from the Viet Cong — one must unite blacks, whites, men, women, workers, students — at the very moment unity was impossible for the left-wing movement and the only man in the country who could bridge all those crossover lines you talk about was Herbert Horatio Humphrey and you turned your back on him.

America is a leap of faith, a stream of great saltations. One takes those leaps or one does not. You could have dropped your wild-in-the-streets pretensions and voted for the Happy Warrior and saved us. You copped out. I didn’t.

I couldn’t. You see, I had been to Paradise Island; I had seen the future face-to-face in all its squalid horror. Not your Paradise Island off Da Nang. The one in the Bahamas. The future. The ruthless, cheesy future.

There I was, on New Years Eve afternoon, 1968, sipping a mai tai at the Bird Cage Lounge on Paradise Island, a quarter-mile off-coast from Nassau, and the man next to me started pointing out celebrities (“Didja see Art Linkletter, that’s him, the broad in the corner’s Suzy, you know, the gossip columnist”) and because this was real life, when he got around to introducing himself, who did he turn out to be? Of course. Hubertus Smeg, security officer, “Pretty big around here, and who are you?” I told him but he never heard of me. Bruer may have given my name to Angleton but not to Smeg, for which I was grateful. I was neutered in his mind (“Check her out, Janet Leigh, you know, the broad who gets it in Psycho”) and since I’d introduced myself as the man who ousted President Johnson (“You gotta lot of friends round here”) he flowed with the story of Paradise island, illustrated with people he pointed to as we patrolled (“C’mon. Gotta do the rounds”) the beach, the hotel, the casino.

The beach was not quite a bright tan prayer rug but when Huntington Hartford (“What a dope”) bought the island in `59 it was nice and underdeveloped and called Hog Island. He built a pretty hotel and a fishpond and a golf course and a championship tennis court his friend Pancho Gonzales could play on. Hartford was not in touch with the times. That was the year Castro came to power and kicked the Mob out of Cuba, so they set up in the Bahamas (“That’s Eddie Cellini by the divingboard with whatsername, he managed the Nacional in Havana”). The Mob felt right at home. Same palm trees, same sex-laden air. They shared Castle Bank & Trust with the CIA, but you know that. Nassau sprouted multimillion dollar one-room banks with two chairs and a telephone. (“The guy getting out of the limo? William Mellon Hitchcock, bankrolled Leary and Owsley, the whole LSD thing.”) Hitchock poured acid money into an operation called, this is true, the Mary Carter Paint Company (which made paint among other things) which bought Paradise Island from the hapless Hartford for a pittance. (“Howard Hughes lives here, no shit.”) There was no bridge to Nassau then. Mary Carter Paint changed its name to Resorts International, built a bridge with a $2 toll (“to keep the niggers out”). Part of the proceeds from the bridge was skimmed off, flown to Key Biscayne on seaplanes of Chalk’s International Airlines (“Don’t give me that look. The pilot’s here, we just passed him”) where it went into Bebe Rebozo’s bank for the use of Richard Nixon. Shit!

[Sound of something dropped]

In short, a guided tour of sharks in menskin suits, gunsels, drug yachts, money launderers, boilerroom girls, Republican National Committee members, hookers, paunchy Alpha-66 anti-Castro warriors, casino execs, Mob accountants, currency manipulators, real estate developers, stock swindlers, Security and Exchange Commissioners, a full complement of the people who think Hugh Hefner is exciting, plus the trippers, dealers, packers, shippers, couriers, and chemists of the controlled substance trade. Knowledge kept Hubertus Smeg alive; no one could be certain there weren’t tapes and packets around labled to be opened in the event of my death.

I’m forgetting the point. The point was this was a victory party for the President-elect of the United States, Richard Milhous Nixon.

You may ask why I was there. On vacation.

The beach crowd had thinned. Cocktail hour, time to go in for pre-drink drinks. Smeg and I were at the head of steps leading down from the veranda when a couple of Secret Service agents took the stairs two at a time up toward us. If you spend time in Washington, you know them a mile away. They knew Smeg and I was with Smeg, they were lax and sweaty, so we waited, and sure enough struggling up the sand, which was smooth but they made it look as if they were crossing a plowed field, four men: Robert Vesco, Bebe Rebozo, Henry Kissinger,  and Richard M. Nixon, president-elect. As if they’d risen from the sea in a B-movie, Nixon in a dark suit and tie, the others more casual, Rebozo in a guayabera, all of them out of place as polar bears. As they approached the wood stairs, Kissinger said something to Nixon about “the Cabinet.” Rebozo said, “Don’t give the jungle bunnies nothing, Dick.” Nixon turned toward him. “Who’s there to give it to, Bebe? We shot fuckin Martin Luther Coon.” We, I swear it, he said we. He stumbled on the bottom step, Kissinger came forward, offered him his arm, “Let me help you, Mr. President.” Nixon winced as he passed us, which was, I think, some recognition we were there, the rest paid no attention.

There it was. You who wished to give Power to the People gave power to the unspeakable.

I went home to California, threw myself into politics, a form of cosmetic surgery when it works. If you have power, all your mistakes, your sins, your history can be remolded. The Nixon the American people voted in was the “New Nixon,” remember?

I sought the Democratic nomination for Congressman from the 9th CD . I figured my reputation as a civil rights pioneer and anti-Johnson leader made me a shoo-in. The radicals were unforgiving; I couldn’t make a speech without getting booed as a CIA agent. And that was the year Ron Dellums feinted right, caught the mainstream Democratic vote, won the nomination, and once in office reverted to his left-wing ways. I lose.

I can pull that off, I thought. Jesse Unruh sponsors me in ‘72 for a State Senate seat. I move my residence to this hotel, distance myself from McGovern’s doomed campaign, tour the smaller colleges. The war bears on, but the draft is ended, the students drop away. I position myself on a middle-class tax break program. And J. Edgar Hoover hands my FBI files to my opponent who redbaits me for belonging to the ACLU, calls me a “Manson follower,” rallies the labor union hawks, the right-wing Catholics. I lose.

Move to Marin County in ‘74 for the open State Assembly seat, catch the downdraft from the fascist coup in Chile. How could I anticipate being beaten by someone from the left who rallied sympathy for having a distant relative tortured in South America. My short hair, flag lapel button, two-piece suit make me look like a Nixon apparachik. Unruh deserts me. I lose.

Back here, ‘75, candidate for City Council. In a single day, the war is over and I’m a relic from the Sixties. Who cares who ousted LBJ? The radicals are dancing in the streets. A rightwing Vet group puts out a leaflet quoting me from 1967: “the war is evil and must end” under the headline Lou Rosen’s Wish Comes True and a photo of the helicopter lifting panicked refugees off the Embassy roof in Saigon. I’m asked to pull out of the race by centrist Democrats. I don’t. I lose.

[Pause. The tape recorder is set down.]

I look in the mirror. What did I do wrong? I was anti-war and anti-communist, anti-left and anti-Nixon. I was a patriot of the old school, I loved what this country stood for. I thought I stood where Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy and Bobby would have stood, holding the middle ground between the radical left and the hoodlum right and instead it’s the abyss I’m standing at and the abyss is my vanishing reflection in a steamed-up hotel bathroom mirror. My tub runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy. My clothes are off. My Dad’s old straight razor, the one he bought with his first American dollar, has lost its chill. I'm putting the tape recorder on the toilet seat in case something comes to mind. I step in.

The only thing that comes to mind is they say this is the girly way to go but I don’t care.