Sunday, April 11, 2021

Bad Old Days by Alan J. Levine; Reviewed by David in TN

Sun, Apr 11, 2021 8:47 p.m.

Alan J. Levine’s 2008 book, Bad Old Days: The Myth of the 1950s, shows the standard picture of the decade given by the political left and opinion makers in general, is wrong. The 1950s were supposedly the time of racism, McCarthyism, boring materialism, conformity, etc.

Levine makes the case for sentimentalization of the 1960s and a desire to avoid seeing how badly many things have gone since. The 50s were a time of considerable progress.

There are chapters on McCarthyism, Race, poverty and prosperity, postwar culture, men and women. The most challenging one is Chapter 4: "The Myth of McCarthyism."

First, Levine is a hard-line anti-Communist who feels Joe McCarthy was an opportunistic demagogue and publicity hound. He rips the leftist “revisionists,”' many of whom place the Truman administration and anti-Communists in general on the same plane as McCarthy.

The passage of time has shown Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs were guilty, but most of “McCarthy’s charges don’t match the facts now known—and certainly not the charges he made against such improbable Soviet agents as Secretary of State Dean Acheson, General George C. Marshall, and Philip Jessup. (It should be said that the record DOES vindicate the most far-reaching claims of Communist infiltration made by those short of McCarthyism, e.g., James Burnham and Earl Latham.)”

Levine makes clear there was no "Great Fear" of Joe McCarthy. Truman and the rest of the Democratic Party attacked McCarthy relentlessly. Most newspapers opposed him.

McCarthy thought Soviet agents were more dangerous than Stalin's regime itself. [N.S.: And he was right!] Most Americans were more concerned with Communism as a foreign policy issue than domestic communism.

Alan Levine believes Truman and Eisenhower were better men than almost all of their successors. He considers 1952 and 1956 with Eisenhower-Stevenson the last time both candidates were honest and able men, and we have been lucky if one of the candidates fit that description in the years since. Often it has been neither.

He feels Truman was often wrong on minor matters but usually right on the big ones. Eisenhower was an effective leader, popular with the great majority of Americans, even if liberals considered him “a senile old goof.”

Levine observed that Eisenhower led the GOP to victory, but was not of it. “Like the only other successful Republican president after Theodore Roosevelt, he had been a Democrat most of his life (a decided clue to the GOP’s problems!).”

[N.S.: Reagan?]

Levine strongly dislikes both Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, unusual for a historian in my experience. He feels it was unfortunate Eisenhower wasn’t able to maneuver Nixon off the ticket in 1956.

Alan Levine’s next book is The Soviets’ Greatest Gambit, on the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Here is an exchange between the late Lawrence Auster and Alan Levine in February 2010 on the Kennedys at Larry Auster’s site, View from the Right. Levine’s is the final comment.



David In TN said...

Yes, Levine meant Reagan.

David In TN said...

I don't know why the link to View From the Right didn't work. Here is what Alan Levine wrote about JFK and RFK in 2010:

"I read your initial comments on the withdrawal of Patrick Kennedy and the Kennedys in general some days ago. I did not comment though it seemed to me (as it has before) that you were a might soft on JFK and RFK.

(LA replies: All I said was that both had 'extraordinary' qualities, which is obviously true. The word 'extraordinary' doesn't necessarily mean they were great or even good men. It doesn't mean I was approving of them. But the mere statement of any praise for Kennedys is enough to set off a wave of Kennedy hostility from some quarters. So go ahead, Alan. The floor is yours.)

"Yet that was enough to set off this outpouring. There are people who I did not want to agree to disagree with again. I was offline for some days and saw the rest of the thread today. Seeing the lengthy exchanges that resulted, I have to say I am largely in agreement with the comments of James P. and n., however over the top they may seem to you. Yes, JFK and RFK were obviously intelligent and articulate, vastly more so than George shrub junior, and JFK was loaded with charm and a great speaker. He was also a drug addict, a pathological liar, and bully whose whole life was a lie. He was not even physically fit for the Presidency. RFK was obviously incapable, but I doubt he would have gotten anywhere without his brother (even within JFK's administration, he was widely disliked and called 'the little bastard.') He was also a bully and a thoroughly nasty character, who had quasi-treasonable dealings with the Soviets and physically assaulted Chester Bowles. Both men were so surrounded by flatterers and court biographers and historians that it is still hard to see what they were really like. I suggest that you look at Thomas Reeves and Seymour Hersh on the Kennedy Administration. I can only say that both brothers, though doubtless better than the rest of the Kennedys, were even more awful than I have made them sound, or even than Reeves makes them sound. I myself grew up admiring JFK (I never had much use for RFK and the rest of the clan) but in the last 35 years have learned that what I believed about JFK was almost entirely false. I have dealt with aspects of JFK and his administration in several of my books (mostly on the Cold War and the space race) and have never found anything that did not make me think worse of the man...Both brothers were thoroughly despicable and it is very hard not to hate them. In fact, while there may well have been and perhaps ARE men in the White House who have done more damage to the USA, I think that JFK was the most evil, perhaps the only really evil President, we have ever had. By the way, I do not much care about his womanizing, although that too was worse than we usually hear (e.g. the Rometsch woman). In JFK's case, cheating on his wife was about the nicest thing he did. At least, it kept him out of deeper involvement in public life! I remain a little puzzled by your 'softness' on the Kennedy brothers."

I'm the same age as Alan J. Levine and to use the old expression, "know where he is coming from." I too grew up as an admirer of JFK and have changed my opinion, but wouldn't go as far as Mr. Levine.

I look forward to his book on the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Anonymous said...

"McCarthy thought Soviet agents were more dangerous than Stalin's regime itself."

If McCarthy really knew the number of commie spies in the USA government he probably would not have himself believed the actual number how great it was.