Drugs policy – sending the wrong message

One of the most frequent arguments against a more liberal drugs policy is that liberalisation would ‘send a message’ that drugs – even hard drugs like heroin and cocaine – were not harmful.  This, so the argument goes, would lead to people trying these substances who would never have done so before, thereby leading more people into addiction.  This is apparently the reason for David Cameron’s opposition to even seeking Civil Service opinion on the subject, with today’s Sun reporting him as saying that “I don’t want to send out a message that somehow taking drugs is OK or safe.”  The idea that the criminal law should be used to ‘send a message’ – to set a moral guideline, regardless of the consequences or practicality of its enforcement – is in general a bad one which leads to bad law.  But it is a legitimate question to ask in this case.  Evidence from Portugal suggests a possible increase in the proportion of the population having ever used illegal drugs; similarly, there is plausible evidence of increased uptake of cannabis in some jurisdictions where it has been legalised.

But if the law is there to ‘send a message’, it should be asked exactly what message is being sent at the moment.  It is forgotten now, but many who in the 1960s argued in favour of legalising homosexuality – and, to a lesser extent, abortion – argued from the position that the widespread flouting of the law brought the legal system into disrepute.  When one-third of the population admits to having tried an illegal drug, and one in five young people say that they’ve used drugs in the past year, this is a real concern.  (Social stigma and fear or prosecution probably mean that these numbers are greatly underreported.)

Furthermore, from personal experience* I would suggest that the irrationality of our drug laws, and the exaggerated claims often used to defend them, lead people to underestimate the dangers of hard drugs.  Two examples.  The first is somebody I knew at school – someone very bright but rather wayward – who, after taking at a house party what had been sold to them as ketamine, passed out and had to be revived by paramedics.  (We didn’t call the ambulance until they stopped breathing because we were afraid that they would end up in trouble – another disadvantage of criminalisation.)  I remember them saying beforehand that the dangers of ketamine were small, and while I don’t know for sure that they were influenced by government drugs policy, the fact that cannabis – which for my knowledge has never nearly killed someone – was rated as a Class B drug while ketamine was then Class C might have contributed to their thoughts.  The other is a friend who briefly became an occasional cocaine user.  When I found out, I had to explain to them – and, again, this is a very well educated and intelligent person – that cocaine was highly addictive and damaging.

When you lump together a group of substances which have little to link them except social disapproval, and rank them with very little correlation to social and personal harm, you send out a confused message – as is fitting, given our country’s confused conversation on illegal drugs.  This message underestimates the dangers of alcohol.  It brings the criminal justice system into disrepute.  And it also leads many to underestimate the harm caused by illegal drugs.  Some message.  Perhaps David Cameron ought to consider whether it’s worth perpetuating a failed drugs war if this is the best argument he has.

*As it happens, I have never used any illegal drug, unless you count a little underage drinking from the age of 16.

The living members of Nixon’s enemies list

On Tuesday, a great American hero passed away.  Ben Bradlee was the Executive Editor of the Washington Post from 1968 to 1991, but he is best known for his newspaper’s dogged pursuit of the Watergate scandal and its publication, with the New York Times, of the Pentagon Papers.  With the death of another Watergate protagonist, I asked myself – how many of the names from Richard Nixon’s enemies list are still around?

The enemies list, compiled by several of Nixon’s White Office assistants, listed those who were considered to be the most dangerous opponents of the President.  (In fact there were two lists – a shortlist of twenty names and a longer ‘master list’ of more than 200 people and institutions.)  The list, while not written by Nixon himself, reflects many of his well-known preoccupations and prejudices.  For instance, the black congressional delegation are included en bloc.  It is also rather idiosyncratic – it turns out that Ben Bradlee was not included in it (although the Washington Post’s proprietor, Katherine Graham, appears  twice).  In contrast, two national farming organisations are listed, alongside Beltway reporters and liberal celebrities, for reasons which aren’t immediately obvious: Robbie Simpson on Twitter suggested that it might be because of farmers’ hostility to the price controls which Nixon imposed in the summer of 1971.  The purpose of the enemies list was to provide a basis for official harassment: “[to] use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies”.

My list of living enemies was constructed with the help of Wikipedia and Google.  Those with an obituary or some other evidence of death I have obviously excluded; of the rest, I only included those with online evidence of recent activity.  There are six individuals whose status I have been unable to determine by this method – they have been excluded.  (They are Charles Palmer, James Laird, John Pierson, Holmes Brown, George Hillman, and George Drennen Fischer – information either way about these or any other individuals would be gratefully received.)  For those included in the shortlist, I have included Charles Colson’s comments on them.

Senators

Birch Bayh – A Democratic Senator for Indiana from 1963 to 1981, Bayh is the father of Evan Bayh (Democratic Senator for Indiana from 1999 to 2011).  He currently resides in Maryland and continues to advocate for a number of political causes.

Fred R. Harris – A Democratic Senator for Oklahoma from 1964 until 1973, Harris ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972 and 1976.  He went on to teach political science at the University of New Mexico, where he now lives.

Walter Mondale – Mondale, who was Senator for Minnesota from 1964 to 1976, went on to become Jimmy Carter’s Vice President, and was the Democratic nominee for President in 1984.  Mondale acted as Ambassador to Japan between 1993 and 1996 and stood as the stand-in candidate for the Democratic Party in the 2002 U.S. Senate election in Wisconsin after the death of Paul Wellstone.

Members of Congress

John Brademas – Brademas left Congress in 1981 after twenty-two years as the Representative for Indiana’s 3rd District, and went on to become President of New York University from 1981 to 1991.  The Brademas Centre for the Study of Congress at NYU is named in his honour.

Robert Kastenmeier – Kastenmeier’s career in Congress ended unexpectedly in 1990 after thirty-two years as Representative for Wisconsin’s 2nd District.  Appropriately, Kastenmeier was on the House Judiciary Committee which approved the articles of impeachment against Nixon in 1974.  He has an annual lecture named after him at the University of Wisconsin Law School; last year’s speaker was Watergate felon John Dean.

Bill Clay – Clay was one of the ‘Black Congressmen and Congresswomen’ named in the Master List; he represented a district covering St. Louis, MO between 1969 and 2001, when he was succeeded by his son, William Lacy Clay Jr.

John Conyers (‘Coming on fast. Emerging as a leading black anti-Nixon spokesman. Has known weakness for white females.’) – Conyers is still in Congress, representing West Detroit, and will celebrate his fiftieth year as a Representative next January.  As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he also voted on Nixon’s articles of impeachment.  He is considered to be one of the most liberal members of Congress.

Ron Dellums (‘had extensive EMK [Sen. Ted Kennedy]-Tunney [Sen. John Tunney] support in his election bid. Success might help in California next year.’) – Dellums stood down from Congress in 1998 after twenty-seven years service, which included introducing the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1987.  After working as a lobbyist, Dellums returned to politics as Mayor of Oakland, CA from 2007 to 2011.

Charles Rangel – Rangel represents Harlem, NY and its surrounding neighbourhoods in Congress, as he has done continuously since 1971.  He enjoyed an influential position in New York politics and nationally as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and was Chair of the body from 2007 until his resignation in 2010 after accusations of ethics violation.

Louis Stokes – A Representative of a district covering Cleveland, OH from 1969 to 1999, Stokes retired as Senior Counsel at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey in 2012.  A museum of his life and work opened in 2007 in Cleveland.

Organisations

Leslie Gelb, Brookings Institution – Gelb attracted the Nixon White House’s ire as Senior  Fellow at the Brookings Institution from 1969 to 1973 – ironically, he had been one of the original authors of the Pentagon Papers.  Gelb enjoyed an illustrious career as an expert in foreign relations, including a stint in Jimmy Carter’s Department of State and a period at the New York Times.  He continues to write frequently on foreign affairs.

Vincent McGee, Business Executives Move for VN Peace – Since ending his role as Executive Director of BEM, McGee has worked for nonprofits and foundations and is currently on the Board of Directors of PATH, a global health NGO.

Morton Halperin, Common Cause (‘A scandal would be helpful here.’) – Halperin, another foreign policy expert, was temporarily a member of Nixon’s National Security Council until he fell under suspicion of leaking to the press (inevitably for the hyper-paranoid Nixon White House, his phone was tapped).  He worked for the open government organisation Common Cause when the list was written, and served as the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1984 to 1992, and worked in a variety of foreign policy roles in the Clinton White House.  He is currently Senior Adviser at the Open Government Institute.

Marcus Raskin, Institute for Policy Studies – Raskin continues to work for the left-wing IPS as a Distinguished Fellow in addition to teaching as George Washington University.

Sanford Gottlieb, SANE – Gottlieb, who was included because of his campaigning against nuclear weapons, continues his peace activism by occasionally contributing to publications such as the National Catholic Reporter and Huffington Post.

Journalists

James S. Doyle – Doyle earned his place on the Enemies List as a correspondent at the now-defunct Washington Star, and went on to serve as a Special Assistant to Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski.  He retired from journalism in 1998.

Richard Dudman – Dudman’s reporting of the Vietnam War for the St Louis Post-Dispatch gained him a place on the Enemies List.  From 2000 to 2012 he was the Contributing Editor in retirement for the Bangor Daily News.  He also wrote an article for the New York Times in 1990 which denied the existence of the Cambodian genocide.

Pete Hamill – Hamill moved on from the New York Post to eventually become the editor of the New York Daily News, and has written for publications including The New Yorker and Rolling Stone.  He currently lives in New York.

Ted Knap – Knap was placed on Nixon’s enemies list while working for Scripps Howard News Service, despite believing that ‘Nixon, except for Watergate (a huge caveat), was a good president’.  Knap retired in 1985 and lives in McLean, VA; his Wikipedia page informs us that he has won the Virginia Seniors’ Championship twice.

Morton Kondracke – Kondracke, who had been on the Washington bureau of the Chicago Sun-Times when he was put on the Enemies List, went on to a successful journalistic career which included sixteen years on the television show The McLaughlin Group and twenty years as the Executive Editor of Roll Call.  He is, as far as is known, the only one of Nixon’s enemies to have a walk-on part in the film Independence Day.

Stuart Loory – White House correspondent for the Los Angeles Times from 1967-71, Loory went on to senior roles in academia and journalism, including being one of the founding staff of CNN.  He is currently Distinguished Fulbright Professor at the Centers for East Europe and American Studies at the University of Warsaw.

Martin Nolan – Nolan stayed with the Boston Globe until his retirement in 2001.  Now living in San Francisco, he continues to write for publications such as the Huffington Post and SFGate.

William Prochnau – Prochnau’s work on the Vietnam War at the Seattle Times earned him the enmity of the Nixon White House.  He became the Contributing Editor for Vanity Fair in 1996.

Warren Unna – Sometime bureau chief of the Washington Post in New Delhi, Unna worked in retirement for the Calcutta-based newspaper The Statesman.  He currently lives in Mitchellville, MD.

Milton Viorst – Viorst was a freelance journalist for numerous publications, but it may have been his signing of the Writers and Editors War Tax Protest which attracted the attention of Nixon’s assistants.  Viorst later developed an interest in the Middle East and has written extensively on this subject.  He is married to children’s author, Judith Viorst.

Garry Wills – Wills’s critical biography of Nixon, Nixon Agonistes, was almost certainly the reason he made the enemies list.  Wills continues to write, particularly on the Catholic Church, and regularly contributes reviews for the New York Review of Books.

Marvin Kalb – A CBS reporter when the Enemies List was written, Kalb later moved to NBC, where he presented Meet The Press.  Kalb is currently a James Clark Welling Fellow at George Washington University, and previously held a number of positions at Harvard University.

Sander Vanocur – Vanocur moved from NBC in 1971, the same year that the list was written; he went on to hold a number of roles at CBS before retiring in 1991.

Celebrities

Carol Channing – Channing, who came to prominence in 1964 as the eponymous character in Hello Dolly!, probably made the Enemies List for no better reason than that she sang a reworked version of ‘Hello, Dolly!’ for Lyndon Johnson’s campaign in 1964.  She has played a variety of small parts on stage, screen and TV in the past forty years and is the recipient of three Tony awards and a Golden Globe.

Bill Cosby – Cosby was just starting out in his career in 1971, and the reasons for his inclusion are uncertain.  Cosby would go on to produce and star in The Cosby Show, one of the most popular American sitcoms of all time.  Ironically, in recent years he has become something of a conservative hero for his criticism of what he perceives as the failings of American-American men and the need for the black community to take greater responsibility for itself.

Jane Fonda – Fonda’s apparent support of the Vietcong during the Vietnam War in reality made her an effective recruiting sergeant for Nixonian conservatism, but apparently she was considered dangerous enough to merit a place on the list.  Fonda has since won two Oscars for her acting and continues to be a vocal supporter of liberal causes.

Joe Namath – As Rick Perlstein asserts in his recently published work on the fall of Nixon and the rise of Reagan, The Invisible Bridge, the inclusion of NFL star Joe Namath was indeed ‘exceedingly curious’ given his avoidance of politics, ‘except for his ostentatious patriotism’.  Namath, one of the most famous stars of the 1970s, was probably included by accident, a demonstration of the poor attention to detail with which the list was compiled.

Barbra Streisand – Streisand is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, having sold 245 million records worldwide.  She continues to support a range of liberal causes, including opposition to the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 in 2008.

Dick Gregory – As a black stand-up comedian whose routine championed civil rights and who stood for President in 1968 for the far-left Freedom and Peace Party, Gregory’s inclusion on the list was almost inevitable.  He continues his activism on behalf of African-Americans, as well as promoting a range of health foods.

Business people

Ernest R. Chanes – Listed as ‘President, Consolidated Water Conditioning Co’, Chanes is little-remembered today.  He was active in some capacity in the Fund for New Priorities in the early 1970s, as this letter on the subject of US-Cuba relations demonstrates (could his sympathy for detente with Cuba earned him his place on the Enemies List?)  There is an Ernest R. Chanes living in Gramercy Park, NY of around the right age who is likely the same individual.

Lawrence S. Philips – Philips was President of the family clothing business, the Philips-Van Heusen Corporation.  The founder of American Jewish World Service, Philips lives in Palm Beach where he remains involved with many charitable causes.

Business

Clifford Alexander Jr. – Alexander had been LBJ’s special assistant and Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.  Later, Alexander would become the first African-American Secretary of the Army under Jimmy Carter, before starting his own consultancy firm.  He has spoken in recent years against the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.

Ramsey Clark – Clark was LBJ’s Attorney General from 1967-9; at the time of the writing of the enemies list, he was a partner at the law firm Weiss, Goldberg, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.  Clark has been a persistent and controversial critic of American foreign policy from Vietnam to the present day, and has offered a legal defence for Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and Charles Taylor among others.

Victor Palmieri – A lawyer and real estate magnate, Palmieri was also Jimmy Carter’s Ambassador At Large and Co-Ordinator for Refugee Affairs and has also taught on crisis management at Stanford Law School and Harvard.  His inclusion on the list is probably attributable to a colloqium which he arranged between anti-war Harvard students and business leaders.

Robert S. Pirie – A lawyer by profession, Pirie’s work for the election campaign of Governor Harold Hughes of Iowa found him on the enemies list.  Pirie’s career would later lead him to become CEO of Rothschild, North America and Senior Managing Director of Bear Sterns.  The most recent mention I could find of him online is in connection with a secretive elite New York dining club, exactly the kind of institution which Nixon despised.

Henry Rowen – Then President of the Rand Corporation, Rowen has worked in and around the Georgetown foreign policy establishment for most of his career.  His recent affiliations with the Hoover Institution and the neoconservative Project for an American Century do not, to say the least, suggest any kind of far-left attitude.

Milton Semer – Semer is listed as ‘Chairman, Muskie Election Committee; lawyer, Semer and Jacobsen’ (Sen. Ed Muskie was thought of as a credible challenger to Nixon in 1972 and was a victim of Nixonian dirty tricks in the form of the infamous ‘Canuck letter‘).  Interestingly, it is also alleged that Semer was involved, as an agent of the milk industry, in chanelling money towards Nixon and Republican politicians in return for preferential treatment (were the authors of the list aware of this?) There is a Milton Semer of exactly the right age listed as living in Washington D.C.

Arthur Taylor – Listed as ‘Vice President, International Paper Company’, Taylor was President of CBS between 1972 and 1976.  Taylor would later found his own private investment company, and was President of Muhlenberg College from 1992 to 2002.

Sidney Davidoff (‘[New York Mayor John V.] Lindsay’s personal aide.  A first class S.O.B., wheeler-dealer and suspected bagman. Positive results would really shake the Lindsay camp and Lindsay’s plans to capture youth vote. Davidoff in charge.’) – The description of Davidoff here describes succinctly exactly why he was put on the list.  Davidoff went on to found his own professional lobbying firm, and also lobbied on behalf of New York lobbyists, which suggests he was rather good at it.  For reasons which are not altogether clear, he also had a cameo part in an episode of The Sopranos.

Academics

Derek Curtis Bok – Then Dean of Harvard Law School, it is again uncertain why Bok merited inclusion on the list.  He would go on to become President of Harvard for twenty years between 1971 and 1991.  Bok has recently written a book arguing that government should seek to maximise happiness, something which Nixon, who thrived on division, might have indeed have taken exception to.

Noam Chomsky – Chomsky’s inclusion, as a persistent and effective critic of American foreign policy, is more explicable.  Chomsky, who has retired from active teaching at MIT, continues to promote his own brand of anarcho-syndicalism while (rumour has it) spending most of his day replying to every single e-mail sent to him.

Carl Djerassi – His opposition to the Vietnam War probably attracted the attention of the Nixon White House, but it is his part in the invention of the contraceptive pill which is Djerassi’s real claim to fame.  He has also written fiction exploring scientific topics and is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University.

Daniel Ellsberg – Ellsberg was responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971 while working at the Rand Corporation, and the Nixon administration pursued him with characteristic vigour, from a failed prosecution under the Espionage Act to a break-in at the offices of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, and possibly even a plot to lace his soup with LSD.  Ellsberg continues to campaign for open government and against what he regards as unjust wars.

Matthew Stanley Meselson – A prominent geneticist, Meselson was likely included on the list for his work against chemical and biological weapons (though the Nixon administration in fact implemented many of his recommendations regarding the use of chemical weapons in Vietnam).  Meselson is currently Co-director of the Harvard Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological Weapons.

Jeremy Stone – Stone was, between 1970 and 2000, the president of the Federation of American Scientists, a lobbying group critical of the nuclear arms race.  Stone now lives with his wife in Carlsbad, CA.  He is the son of radical journalist I.F. Stone.