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We Had a Secret Handshake Too

Sunday, August 21, 2005  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

In a hilarious bit of historical recreation, the New York Times has been investigating the Harvard of John Roberts’ era. The headline: Roberts’s Harvard Roots: A Movement Was Stirring.

Two amazing graphs:

“Conservatives were like the queers on campus,” said Eric Rofes, a classmate of Judge Roberts who later became an organizer on gay issues. “People made fun of them. They mocked them and saw them as jokers or losers. I don’t think in the moment many people realized this was the start of an ascending movement. People felt it was like the last cry of the 1950’s.”

In fact, a striking number among the small cluster of conservatives at Harvard in Mr. Roberts’s era went on to become important figures in the conservative resurgence, which began gaining momentum around the time of the 1980 election. Some of them now say that being a part of that often ridiculed minority left them with skills that have been essential in their movement’s subsequent success.

Who were the young conservative illuminati on the banks of the Charles that the Times now reveal to have been organizing their coup even that long ago? Spencer Abraham, Stephen H. Galebach, Grover Norquist, and, ahem, me:

Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio talk show host and political blogger, was at Harvard in the same period

Had the paper bothered to call –they have in the past on other stories, but not on this story which names me– I could have given them much better stuff from which to build a conspiracy: Former Reagan appointee James Strock (later California’s EPA Secretary), presidential historian and biographer Richard Norton Smith, and libertarian Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman were also running around Cambridge in these years. All three were presidents of the campus Republican Club. Alan Keyes was one of Harvey Mansfield’s prize grad students.

But the Moby Dick for conspiracy hunters was also there: Bill Kristol!

My guess is that pretty much all of these people took either Gov 10 or Gov 106(a) and (b), taught by Harvey C. Mansfield.

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”

Geez. I can hardly believe this nonsense is in the New York Times. The Rofes quote in particular is just bizarre. The Times managed to get a couple of quotes from conservatives to bolster their thesis that there was a besieged “tiny cadre of active conservatives,” but in fact there was student body of about 6,000, and the folks who were inetrested in politics –left and right– hung around together at the Institute of Politics regardless of political affiliation. The hard core of all stripes made their way to the Crimson, and the rest of us simply preferred arguing politics to studying. Which is why, of my roomates, I went off to work for David Eisenhower and Richard Nixon in San Clemente, one went off to Oxford and Harvard Law en route to National Security Council service under both Presidents Geroge H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and one started with Congresman Robert Drinan and ended up as Bill Clinton’s Communications Director and head of the Peace Corps.

Trying to create an ideological divide and genuine partisan conflict on a campus where no such thing existed is lousy reporting and agenda journalism. Trying to present “conservatives” as a coherent organized group is another absurdity. (Just look at this column by Frank Gaffney hammering Grover Norquist.) What has happened to this newspaper?

UPDATE: Next time the Times can use this and save themselves the trouble of making a half dozen calls. (HT: Opposable Thumb)

UPDATE: Thanks to Ranger from the North for correcting my LOTR quote.

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