Peter Kurth Interview #1

Peter Kurth, Author of American Cassandra: The Life and Times of Dorothy Thompson


Dorothy Thompson was for a period of about 20 or 30 years the leading woman journalist in the world, I would say, in the 1920s 30s and 40s. She was American of English extraction, but she was born in America, and her career was noted mainly for her opposition to fascism and to authoritarian government wherever she saw it. She was married three times. She was married to Sinclair Lewis, who was the first American to win the Nobel Prize in literature. No, he wasn’t, he wasn’t the first, I’m sorry, but he won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1930. She was a fearless reporter, writer, columnist. She had a column 3 times a week in the New York Herald Tribune that was syndicated worldwide. She was the highest paid lecturer in the United States. It goes on. Time magazine put her on the cover in 1939 and said that apart from Eleanor Roosevelt she was the most influential woman in the United States. Dorothy Thompson was the most influential woman journalist of her time in the 1920s 30s and 40s. She was the voice of public outrage against fascism wherever she saw around the world.


Dorothy became a Zionist very early in her career. It was accidental almost. She was traveling to Europe on a boat in 1920 and there was a collection of American Zionists, including Chaim Weizmann, who were going to London for a conference and she was just starting out as a reporter and she fell in with them and got some very interesting early stories of that persuaded her on first acquaintance of the nobility of the Zionist cause. And then later on during the Hitler years when the plight of the Jews in Europe was much under consideration, by her at least. She continued to think that a homeland for the Jews was the proper and sane thing to agitate for until it happened basically and she began to study the region of the Palestine and the Middle East in-depth and on-site. And she concluded very rapidly that you could not buy the piece of your conscience by uprooting the other people from their own land, which is what she saw happen Israel, and she quickly determined that in her view the Zionist movement in Israel was as violent, it was authoritarian, it was fascist and it was terrorist, actually, in order to achieve its goals. So she opposed it very early before Israel actually came into being, she was already beginning to warn that it was a recipe for perpetual warfare, as she called it.


The Zionist leaders regarded Dorothy Thompson is a great friend and ally through most of the 30s, certainly, when she was openly on their side, and during the war too. They regarded her as a white light, as a strong voice for justice in their cause. That began to change only when she became aware of what the peace in World War II was going to look like. She believed that the Nazis should be dealt with like any other defeated enemy in any war that we’ve had and not punished in particular for going to war, which is what the Allies were doing. They were calling for unconditional surrender and to remove all authority and all rights from whatever emerges as the German government. And she saw that the persecutions of people in Europe was not confined to the Nazi party, that in the wake of World War II there were millions and millions of dead in atrocities and murders of mass slaughters, in the revenge killings. She called for a just and humane piece, and she thought that Israel was not the solution to the bad conscience of the West, she put it. She saw that the West had done very little, the Allies had done very little to assist the Jews at a time when it might mattered, or it might’ve helped, and they could not buy the piece of their conscience by carving out a piece of the Middle East for the Jews, so the Zionist leaders quickly turned against her in the closing days of World War II. And during the two or three years before the founding of the state of Israel she was calling them terrorists openly—Zionists in Jerusalem— and they turned against her viturperously and made it their business as a political organization, a political movement, to undermine their authority and attack her integrity wherever they could.


A lot of people came on board on the Zionist movement during the war and in the 30s as the war progressed Dorothy’s close association with the Zionist leaders had dated to someone earlier than that in the 20s mainly. She was a great friend of Chaim Weizmann. She was, however... she didn’t know, for instance, Menachem Begin who was agitating and in fact leading terrorist attacks in Palestine for the establishment of Israel, and she condemned that right off so that by the time Chaim Weizmann became president of Israel, but he was not the people that Dorothy had known and worked with in the 20s most of them were gone by then many of them had survived actually the war and so she was a knew it was a new breed actually of a politician, if you want, directly concerned with the establishment of Israel against the Palestinians. And she famously said, you know that you’re in trouble when even the Jews have gone crazy. And that was her comment basically on the methods that were used not just in Palestine but the strong arm methods of the United Nations and the Allies to establish Israel as a coequal state among all nations.


Dorothy Thompson was the first journalist of note to be expelled formally by Hitler from Germany in 1934. She had been a relentless critic of the Nazis from the day she first heard of them. As she said they were...fascism was an evolving concept for everyone at that time, certainly for her readers in America and England no one really knew what fascism was if they thought of it at all they thought of Mussolini in those days. Hitler she regarded as...she recognized right away as more than a fascist but in fact as a psychopath and she could not believe that the German people, of whom she was very fond through her experiences in Germany, would in fact surrender all of their rights to the Nazi party under Hitler. She could not believe this would happen. In fact most people didn’t believe it would happen. She saw it coming though, and she started warning about it very early on. She started writing about it too as though to expose wasn’t just a fascist ideology but racist ideology. She believed Hitler when he said that the Jews should be removed from the scene. She was one of very few journalists who said, “You know, he means this. He’s not just talking about this to get votes. This really is what he intends to do,” and she was not heeded. She was made fun of for her German obsession in the early 30s but she wrote so resolutely against the Nazis and she did publish a perfectly brilliant satiric interview with Hitler right after she had finally met him. And she came to Germany again in 1934 right after the so-called Night of Long Knives, the first of the Nazi massive purges after Hitler came to power, and she was there to cover the scene as she saw it and she was presented with expulsion papers by the Gestapo and told that she had 24 hours to leave the country. This was a very big news item at the time. She was not just famous in her own right by then as a journalist but she was married to Sinclair Lewis and so she was Mrs. Sinclair Lewis being expelled from Germany by the Nazis. She was always, from the moment they came to power, she was their most voracious critic, to the point of the Nazis actually established something called the Dorothy Thompson emergency squad in Berlin whose job it was to monitor whatever she wrote and said about them worldwide. Hitler got crazy when you talked about Dorothy Thompson. Goebbels got crazy. They couldn’t stand that a woman, of all things, was such a strong opponent to their regime and their philosophy, such as it was. She regarded their philosophy as a hodgepodge of racist nonsense and pagan wishful thinking but the apparatus of Nazi state was such that it knew how to control the government in a bureaucratic sense and a military sense. So to her horror the pagan philosophy, the pagan racist exalted homoerotic philosophy, as she saw it, won the day and she was their chief enemy. She was considered by most people to be the chief and leading voice against the Nazis in the West.


Dorothy’s heyday was probably from 1936 to about 1945. I mean, she was working as a successful journalist for 40 years, but when she was at her absolute zenith it was in the years just before and during World War II. She was on the cover of every magazine you can imagine in American. She was..., apart from writing a political column three times a week, she also broadcast on radio on the NBC blue network frequently. She had a kind of homey, woman’s-corner minded column in the Ladies Home Journal every month where she got to talk about something besides politics. She was the most sought-after commencement speaker in the United States. There was… she received something like 150 requests to speak in one week in New York in 1936. She was in great demand. She made a lot of money as well. Nothing compared to what journalists might make now in that position, but it was a lot of money for the time. She was a literary hostess, a solemn hostess. She had a country estate in Vermont where the crème de la crème of literary New York would come for parties and overnights and weekends and weeklong sojourns. And she also established it as a refugee center for German intellectuals so at the top of her game, she was everywhere. She was omnipresent. I don’t think we have anyone like this now who’s combined in one person the way it was with Dorothy. She was both a political writer, social commentator, a woman’s advice columnist, a gardner, a poet, a playwright. She wrote an anti-Nazi play on Broadway in 1940. She was everywhere at once. And on the cover of Time in 1939, when she was there, had a picture her with the NBC radio mic and then it just said, the caption was simply, “She rides in the smoking car.” And this is a great way of saying that she was fully accepted by the establishment of journalists in her time. That changed as her political views became unpopular, and that happened as World War II came to a close, and after that she was out of sympathy with the dominant philosophy which was to insist on what was called a Carthaginian peace, which are she regarded as an act of folly and she was early in perceiving that whatever she said whatever happens in Russia after World War II is what we really need to be concerned about. She said if they want the Germans could go on goose-stepping step in Berlin. It’s not going to make any difference once they’re defeated but it was Russia that got her attention and then after that, well, the Cold War and the Middle East conflict, which she regarded as probably the most dangerous of all.


When Dorothy started out in journalism in 1920 there was no cult of journalists. There was no journalistic establishment, really, in the United States. Almost everyone was a local reporter and pundit if they were, and then the big dailies relied on stringers mostly or special correspondents who were very much at liberty to report what they wanted. Obviously if the editorial board asked them to go for something they would go cover it. Dorothy was told, and told other people as her advice for being a reporter, that the first job was to get the news accurately, if possible get it first— although she played down the importance of scoops because they’re just silly, really, most of them, it doesn’t matter who gets it first—and then don’t let your likes and dislikes get in the way of your reporting. And she meant by that, just, you know, news reporting: something happened here at this time; this is what the response was. If you’re doing that kind of reportage, she thought that the journalist’s voice didn’t need to be strong. I mean it didn’t have to have a personality with it, but in any other kind of journalism she did—feature writing, column writing— she always was as they all were... she came to it as a full fully informed person who had opinions, who had writing style, a distinct style of her own that identified her. She was actually an opponent of the idea that is now so fashionable that the news has to be objective because all that really means in practice is that the papers and the journalist take no responsibility for what they’re reporting. They don’t ever give you the weight. They don’t..., you know, they present everything as though it equally on each side ballot when in fact in most cases it isn’t and never has been and she did not believe in a neutral press. She believed in an absolutely strong voiced ideological press, not a government press, but a she... a newspaper should have a political stand and any magazine should come from the point of view. And she would be horrified now to see what passes for reporting because there is no weight given to anything that’s reported. It’s just put there, and the weight is given by choosing what to report and what not to report rather than by being an open a newspaper or a network or magazine being open in its sympathies or his feelings and ideas about the subject they’re covering. That is now the advantage to what we call the opinion page. And there was no such distinction in Dorothy’s time. You didn’t have to put the opinion over on the opinion page so people would sort of take it differently. They would look at it and say, “Do I agree with this or not?” And it used to be right out in front, and if you needed to in Dorothy’s day, you would say it, a reporter would say “this reporter” and I was at Monte Casino; and this is what I saw.” It was a very different thing; there were no… nothing like the restrictions on reporters and journalists now. I know she would be devastated to see what’s happened… she wouldn’t regard what we get as journalism at all in most cases.


When Dorothy went to Palestine for the first time in 1945 it was... if I’m not mistaken it was after the defeat of the… before the defeat of Japan... so it was in squeezed in there. And she went because she wanted to see for herself what the reality of the Zionist regime would be in Palestine. She didn’t know and… and she was frank about saying she didn’t know—that she had to go and see in order to have an opinion. She she again she thought that justice and decency requires that the world respond in some way for the Jews of Europe; that something had to be done to address this unprecedented atrocity that had taken place in Europe. So she went to Israel… to Palestine to see how it would work there. And she admired all the things that the that we all admire: she admired the industry, she admired the making the desert bloom, she admired to the basically socialist nature of a the kibbutzim, of the Zionists. But she was confronted immediately with the reality of Palestinians—the Palestinian people: the Palestinian nation. And even though she was inclined to regard Zionists, who were basically Westerners, as more advanced socially, economically than anyone in the Middle East at that time… she did not agree that it would be a good idea to to construct the Arab world for the Arabs it wasn’t just what was happening in Palestine and the whole of the British occupation and the colonial occupation of parts of the Middle East was falling apart. So that whole question of what what what would be the Arab world, what would become of the Arab world was on everyone… is an open question now. But Dorothy recognized Zionism as a particular thorn in its side as a a wound that would keep festering because it was... was foreign to the region therefore it would be looked at best as another colonial movement. It would not be accepted as as a native movement and it certainly wouldn’t be regarded as just thing by people… by millions and millions of Arabs who had been under the boot themselves for such a long time. They did not want to go under another boot just because Hitler had had done. It to make no sense. And Dorothy got there and said: it makes no sense. She said you can’t… pay for Hitler’s crimes in a part of the world that had nothing to do with Hitler or his crimes. You can’t make that that part of the world pay for our own mistakes, and by our achievement of Western civilization she did not make the distinction about Germany and the rest of us. She said: we’re all in this; we all come from the same culture. We’re Christian for centuries; we’re basically elementary Democrats all of us—we’re all part of the same culture with music and art and painting and drama and everything, and to suddenly say the Germans are evil made no sense at all to her because she quite... she believed quite firmly that in the right circumstances any one of us would be a Nazi in your own territory, or rather most of us would be Nazis in our own countries if it came that way. She… this is why she was so concerned about means and ends. She always said that the end never justifies the means in a democratic government. It cannot be allowed to to prevail—that view. Everything must be formal, everything has to be according to the democratic principle because at any given moment something will be going on that is dangerous and frightening. Most people will say cut to the end—skip the means. Most people will do that in any country, in any time and this is how democracies fall. That is exactly how they fall. So she saw all this and she saw Israel as a particular bad example of the West trying to fob off a problem that itself had created.


So her first trip convinced her that this was an unworkable and unadvisable plan. And she never changed her mind about that. Dorothy had been writing throughout the war for the New York Herald Tribune which was a will was known as a liberal Republican paper at that time. It was... her column was syndicated but it originated at the Herald Tribune and she she lost that position when she came out for Roosevelt’s reelection in 1940. She had... for the third term... she had been a supporter of Wendell Wilkie originally, but then with the situation in Europe and the war and her commitment to getting the United States to do something to fight against Hitler, she decided that Roosevelt was, under the circumstances, the better bet for stability and for effectiveness. So she… in a rather dramatic gesture switched from Wilkie to Roosevelt, which outraged a certain faction of her editors and the board members of the Herald Tribune who were very… it was a Republican—it bears no resemblance to what Republicans are today— but it was in fact... it was that East Coast WASP guard—New York. And they despised Roosevelt because of… well, for monetary reasons. And so she she she left the Herald Tribune was taken up by the New York Post, which also in those days was nothing like it is now. The New York Post was was a serious paper in those days, not a tabloid. And it was owned by Dorothy Schiff who was a great supporter of Zionism, and they began… she and Dorothy Thompson began to have conflicts with each other during the winding down or World War II when Dorothy was calling for a sane—and even humane—peace for the Germans at a time when most people, including the editors of The New York Post, wanted to see the Germans ground in the dust, basically. So the campaigning... and then when Dorothy added the Palestinian looming Palestinian Zionist issue, she made real enemies in a New York City, especially, and she was let go from the Post. But before that there was what she identifies as an organized letter-writing campaign to remove for her… someone certainly was organizing her hate mail because it all came in the same words that someone obviously had someone dictate it and have everyone sign it. She was being dropped by papers around the country who had syndicated her because she was at first they didn’t say anti-Zionist or anti-Israel, they said “soft on Germany,” as soft on the Nazis, Hitler loving, which was perfected ridiculous, and she had been only a few years previous previously the voice against Hitler but suddenly she was Hitler loving and they were all kinds of of organizations that took part in basically denouncing her. The ones who were open about it were the more honorable ones but their were...however those things are worked out in those days, there was, that there were drums going on behind the scenes that were that were getting her… people were canceling her lectures, her engagements. She was being dropped from radio programs. This is already in 1945-46 before she really took a strong stand on Israel. They saw what was coming; she saw what was coming, and they recognized it. And she said they have every right; she said this is a democracy. Anyone wants to object to what I’m saying they have a right to do that in a democracy. She said I wish they would do it openly, only open, but... so it changed and she never again had a flagship, she never again had a New York paper as her of base. She was syndicated and she just wrote for the syndicate. She didn’t have a home paper at all after that.


Dorothy helped found the American organization called the American Friends of the Middle East. The acronym was AFME, and there was a lot of … it’s very hard to tell now what’s true and what isn’t about this because once it started…. and it had some good funding and some pretty impressive names attached to it at least in the beginning but it was it was said that the CIA had found, had funded the whole thing. I don’t know why. That is part of the problem with this Zionist attack on her. There was never any full explanations of anything. It wasn’t necessary, it wasn’t required that anything be proved. It was simply… the important thing was to get to what was going to a sort of noxious thing going around Dorothy Thompson: she’s anti-Semitic, she’s pro-Hitler, she’s, you know, all these things… all they have to do is be said, or even whispered, and it sticks, it sticks as it still does with anybody today. She she wanted the Middle East be better understood, she wanted to help with the development, the cultural and economic development in the Middle East to the extent she could. She hope to see Arab... the Arab lands, as they were called, thrive, emerge. She didn’t expect they would be democratic for a while at least because they they were not at that state of historical development. They needed time, you know, out from under colonialism before they even began to think how they were going to become as independent nations, what their governments were going to be. She recognized that a lot of the Middle Eastern regimes were backward and despotic. She was not, did not overpraise them, but she did say they were like any other...any other group in the world. They have the right to self-determination, and they needed to be better understood in the West because they were not understood at all in the West. They still aren’t understood in the West really. They’re just more publicized.


What she was trying to get people to have some kind of idea what Arab culture and our values were, it’s odd...I mean that it’s interesting that at the time no one was talking about Muslims. They were talking about Arabs. It wasn’t… hadn’t been redefined as as a religious dispute between, you know, the Muslims and Christians or Muslims and Jews. It wasn’t looked at that way. It was looked at as Palestinians and Zionists or Arabs and colonizers. It was… no one would’ve prohibited these religious things at that time, especially as there had been no definition as to what a Jew was, whether a Zionist Jew was in fact a religious person a race or a certain race of people or a political movement. These things were not carefully explored or had been fully explored at that time so Dorothy’s goal was to was to bring the Middle East to light, to see if it couldn’t be… if it couldn’t help to to… for everyone understand who was with we were dealing with all directions. And she she was attacked mercilessly for that; she was… it didn’t take long for the notion of Israel… for them to remove the distinction between a political opposition and a personal thing, so that if you are against Israel you were anti-Semitic, which of course absurd. And for her it was especially absurd because she had been such a foe of... she was such a friend of the Jews in the war and before it. She’s not at the least bit anti-Semitic, ever. And that today, we all know what that’s about. It happens all the time. She said Israel was the only state in human history to be canonized at birth. It is unassailable. You cannot critique it. You cannot challenge. It is... perfect. And she refused to accept that, and that was at great cost to her career and for that matter her livelihood.


So she was … she had the courage of her own convictions on that. It was easy for people to make fun of Dorothy Thompson in her time, not to make fun of her so much as to take her maybe a little less seriously because she was a woman. She was a woman in a man’s game.  At that level it was a man’s game. She never saw it that way, but other people did. And the joke about Dorothy was that she would change her mind like a woman. She was always changing her mind. Actually she didn’t change her mind. She was very consistent. She said a character that is consistent and is rooted in some personal truth will always seem to be changing as things around change because as things move over this way people are looking at it but the immovable thing from a different angle. What her… basically she grew up on on the Golden rule of the absolute belief in the principles of libertarian... liberty democracy and one-man-one-vote basically. She had been a suffrage fighter so she didn’t understand why one-man-on- vote, only men obviously, but she believed that a liberal democracy had the the apparatus, the structure to run the best to to provide the best form of self-government that human societies had as yet evolved, and that was her principle. She was opposed to anything that got.. that took, that went over and above the basic principle of representation at the Democratic level, so corporations were not supposed to stomping on people. The government itself, especially the presidency, should not have much power. She would be horrified if she saw what happened to the presidency now. She believed the executive branch was, as it is, one of three co-equal branches. The president’s job is not more important that the Congress’s job; it’s not more important than the Supreme Court’s job. They all need to be there, and they’re all fallible. They all are balanced by the others.


If she is she saw what presidents of the United States are about now, whoever was in the office… she… well, I don’t know what she would do. She’d be so stricken because she totally opposed the idea of an imperial presidency. She regarded it as an executive office, which meant that it basically, it had some powers but it basically was there to make sure everything... the decisions of the whole government were implemented.  She she would’ve insisted what people seem to forget now, that the commander-in-chief is a civilian, that the president as commander-in-chief is not a soldier and is not a military man. He is precisely not. Specifically, he is a civilian and therefore not in the military, not of the military. I think probably currently we’re doing a little better on that, but not much after George Bush. But anyway she... her her basic premise of the traditions of Western democracy and liberalism were she... she could... she regarded them as eternal values and she regarded it as her job to oppose anything that came in as a threat to those things. That is how she was consistent from start to finish. At the end of the war Dorothy was pretty much alone in calling for a just peace with Germany. She… it was very unpopular, and this is even before the full extent of the final solution was known to anyone outside of Germany. The camps had not been opened yet, the extent of that horror was not known. She was perhaps a little tone deaf to that when the time came but that’s because she’d been made… she’d been made angry by the response to her calling for for a sane peace with Germany, as she said. She started as a 1943-44. It was clear that the Germany would be defeated. She was interested in what our relations with Germany were going to be after this, and given what they have been after that, you know, with Japan are our very best friends. You know, she didn’t see the need for this punishment punitive period. She did not believe the German people were guilty as a collective. She believed the only individual Germans were guilty of anything they had done. She was alone with this. The mood was one of vengeance and long before, as I said, long before the extent of the extermination was known to anyone.


The mood was already triumphant and punitive, and she she would get into the debates with people about this. There were few people in particular. There was Lord Van Sifford, who was for British stooge for… anyway … she she got into big public debates with Robert Morgenthall and the government who wanted, what he said he wanted.. wiped out, he said he wanted Germany wiped from the map. That was the base, almost a government position. It was the position Rex Stout, of all people, who was vociferously anti-Germany, and he and Dorothy got into a big public debate about it that went on for about a year. She was pretty much alone on this. She wanted… she didn’t see any reasons given that the world would have to be rebuilt. She didn’t see any reason for punishment that wasn’t constructive, if we can look at it that way. She didn’t defend the Germans, what they had done, she didn’t... she just said that that we’re just talking about nations, we’re talking about world affairs, we’re talking about the welfare of huge, huge numbers of people, and the best thing to do with Germany after the war is to help it rebuild itself in the liberal tradition. So she was off center compared with other people. It was very unpopular. She… her reaction to that… first of all the Holocaust, as we now understand it, was not quite the—how do I want to put this?—it hadn’t formed into the well-known historical image in that time. It was still being discovered when Dorothy was writing. As the camps were opened and it became obvious what horrors had happened there, there was a huge of course revulsion against it, but they hadn’t come up with their figure of 6 million quite. At the time of this was going on something like 2 million ethnic Germans were being slaughtered in in the wake of the Nazi defeat from mainly in the Eastern countries where any German ethnic people living...they were being killed. It was… there has been a lot studied about this and written about this now, lately, about the sheer number of people who were murdered just because it was reprisal. Justified or not, this was this was going on When Dorothy was writing so she was seeing millions killed in the camps, millions killed over here in the east, the whole of central Europe in total chaos, totally destroyed. What’s the best thing to do? That was basically her idea. She did not… she was… I think personally that she did not fully acknowledged the reality and horror of the Holocaust. I think she she was a little… this is what I say: tone deaf; she was tone deaf to it because of… I don’t know, pride or or her love for Germany or something prevented her from from seeing it in quite the colossal shape that it actually was. She she would... she was little too much in it. I suppose that if she’d taken some time and gone out and looked at it the way we now can, we can see it is as this uniquely awful thing and there has been nothing like it, nothing like it. But she even.. even if she saw that she would’ve said, well, there’s nothing like this either and pointed at Stalin and the gulag and the execution. And she’d have said because this one is against Jews and this one is against Jews and Russians, which one is worse? She would never… she would not have entered into those questions. She… when they dropped the bombs on Japan, she said, “You tell me, what is a death? What is one death? What is 200,000 deaths? What is 500,000 deaths? Is is one okay and the other one not? and if so, why?


Well, Japanese were bombed ostensibly to end the war, which they didn’t need do; we all know that now. It didn’t have to be done that way. They could’ve made peace in another way—we know that. She knew that then. Truman Truman could have done something differently. Is that justified because we did stop the war that way and in fact won it, as opposed to another political regime, namely the Nazis, exterminating millions of people that are regarded as enemies but they lost and they were deranged. Well, who….where do you draw the line? That’s what Dorothy was saying. Who decides what is a just death, what is... you know, how do you decide these things? She would’ve said that you can’t or than any one of these deaths is wrong, any one of them.  And and you don’t buy peace at the expense of 500,000 lives, you don’t. So it’s obviously deep territory for anyone. I feel totally inadequate to to debate it in its own in its full depth. I’m talking here right off the top of my head but obviously these these questions were not being addressed at all in Dorothy’s time. These questions of what is happening. and what does this mean? what does this say about us, not them? What does this say about us? That wasn’t being talked about her time. No one was addressing it. She was basically alone with that. That said, I do need to repeat I don’t think she was… I think she was somewhat professionally insensitive about the Holocaust. I don’t think she grasped its enormity.


If Dorothy Thompson were alive today and working, I mean. doing what she did in her own lifetime, the very first thing she would do is to turn to the people of citizens of the United States of America and tell them to get back on track about what their democracy is, what their government is, what their country is. She was a federalist; she was a strict constitutionalist; she would be… she… I don’t really know what words to use beyond appalled and frightened to see the strength of the U.S. Military, which never be was never intended to be that. She would be appalled as United States were acting as and would be regarded as a policeman of the world, the policeman of the world, which was not an American adventure originally. She would whack down the presidency. She would bring it right back down to its basically bureaucratic desk features. She would she would be horrified by public education, which was another one of her causes where she saw the the the relaxing of educational standards, of standards of performance, of education, as a symptom of a general cultural relativism, if you want, where everyone is regarded as bas-... everything and everyone is regarded as basically equal whether they are not. You know, you don’t get to say that everyone goes home with a star. Basically now in any walk of American life, there’s no… no one’s taking strong stands. Anyone who does seems like nut case, seems like a crackpot, and maybe is, a lot of them. She would... she wouldn’t know where to begin. She would start with with the structure of government. She would remind people that the state’s government was the first government, I mean in the chain of command. She would not go in for silly Tea Party things like no income tax. She, you know...obviously the country and the culture has advanced to the point where there has to be a federal system, and that being the case its job is to function to the benefit of everyone. She would... she would denounce the corporations. She would denounce the idiotic Supreme Court ruling about corporate personhood. She would never… she wouldn’t believe such a thing. She wouldn’t believe that that could happen.


She would urge people to take what they … to find out what they really think and what they really believe and what they really fight for. That was her... basically her last admonition when she was still writing was to… no one really knows who they are until they come into a confrontation with themselves and find out what they really believe in and what they don’t. She would urge everyone to do that. She would remind Americans that democracy was friendly to its members. She would reject all this anti-immigrant stuff because the whole country is based on immigration originally and needs immigrants always to keep it going and exceeding and excelling itself. Well, she’d have a lot; she’d have a lot. But I know should stop start at the top with the federal... with the presidency, the Supreme Court, and the Congress, get them back in shape. I... I find it hard to imagine what Dorothy would think of the Middle East situation today because it’s... it’s gone so so far beyond what she saw coming. Nothing has happened that wasn’t predicted, but it has become such a huge worldwide sore and wound. I don’t know. She would probably have... Dorothy would probably have some specific prescriptions for certain situations going on right now. She would remain in her opposition to Israel as she she would... I expect, recognize the reality of Israel, which is because Israel is now real. It maybe wasn’t in her time when it first began. Now it is. It’s a real place, a real country with real people, real citizens—many of them are native but she would demand that they retreat to its borders before 1967, and she would insist that there be a freeze on all Israeli settlements outside of its own territory. She would refuse... she would she would break any special relationship that the U.S. and Israel had. She would say that Israel is not treated like some special client of ours. She would recall the ambassador to the Vatican, I’ll tell you that right away. We have no business having an ambassador to the Vatican, but in the Middle East she would, she would be obviously despairing about its future but maybe a little hopeful that over the course of time there might be enough of an inward evolution of some of these lands, Israel and Palestine where there might be some hope of mutual coexistence but not if Palestine and the Palestinians are kept as virtual prisoners and treated as prisoners in their own lands and confined, pushed into ghettos and removed from their own product. That can’t work. There will always be reaction against that. There will never be peace there so long as that’s going on. And she would know that she would say it outright.


Interview Transcripts