I was particularly fascinated by Heilbrun’s description of the neoconservative reaction to the campus unrest of the 1960’s. Allan Bloom who was friends with Irving Kristol and taught Francis Fukuyama, Paul Wolfowitz, and Alan Keyes was a professor at Cornell in 1969 when a group of radical Black students occupied a campus building. Bloom likened the takeover and the administration’s willingness to negotiate to Weimar Germany’s inability to standup to the Nazis in the 1930’s. He feared the onset of totalitarianism.
Heilbrunn points out that Bloom, who went on to write The Closing of the American Mind, may have overreacted:
The bandolier-wearing leader of the Cornell rebellion, Thomas Jones, would end
up as a prosperous Wall Street pension fund manager. The neoconservatives,
by contrast, never left the claustrophobic mental world that they began to
inhabit in the 1960’s.
I always thought that the attempts to link Barack Obama to Bill Ayers and the campus radicals of the 1960’s were just a sign of Republican desperation. I still think that it was mostly opportunism, but perhaps there were more conservatives than I had believed that were as scared as they pretended to be.