Re: Princeton Historian: Just Get Over Watergate Already!

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Ryan, here is that Kirkpatrick Sale article, “The World Behind Watergate,” which Murray N. Rothbard referenced in his Libertarian Forum article, “Notes on Watergate” you posted. As I pointed out in an earlier LRC Blog, it contains many crucial pieces to solving the enigma that is the Watergate Scandal, particularly relating to power elite analysis. Sale expands on his pioneering work in his book, Power Shift: The Rise of the Southern Rim and Its Challenge to the Eastern Establishment. A related volume which also undertakes a grand synthesis of “Clandestine America” and the subterranean forces at play in Watergate is Carl Oglesby’s The Yankee and Cowboy War: Conspiracies From Dallas To Watergate, published in 1976. Rothbard was particularly enamored with this later work (and critical of Sale’s book):

Carl Oglesby’s new book is not only exciting and thoroughly researched, it presents the only analytic framework — originated by himself — which makes sense of the violent events of the last decade and a half our recent political history, and puts them all into a coherent framework: the Yankee vs. Cowboy analysis.

The important question looms: why is it that Oglesby has been alone in coming up with this framework? I think the answer is that the methodologies of other writers and researchers have led them astray: the free-market economists who are critical of government actions never bother to ask who benefitted from those actions and who were likely to be responsible for them; the Marxists are anxious to indict an abstract, mythical and unified ‘capitalist class’ for all evils of government, and believe that detailed research into concrete divisions and conflicts among power elites detract from such an indictment; those sociologists who have engaged in concrete power elite analysis have only examined structures (who owns corporation X, who belongs to what social club?) rather than the dynamics of concrete historical events; the one writer who has treated Yankees and Cowboys has been so blinded by particular hostility to the Cowboys that he virtually includes everyone living in the Sunbelt as part of a vast Cowboy conspiracy; and the various doughty investigators and reporters of Dallas or Watergate have struck to surface events because they lacked the overall coherent framework.

Carl Oglesby has surmounted all of these defects, and has therefore been able to make a giant breakthrough in explaining our recent history.”

This important book, along with Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope (which Oglesby discusses in detail in a crucial chapter) played a decisive role in shaping my intellectual worldview regarding the exercise of State power in America, and has my highest recommendation. One cannot fully understand the Reagan Revolution phenomenon or the rise of the Bush dynasty (who were able to transcend both worlds of Yankees and Cowboys) without having comprehended Oglesby’s insights.

The natural, logical follow-up volumes to this book are Robert Parry’s superb, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, and Russ Baker’s seminal Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years. As both books point out, the Bush dynasty was able to survive and withstand the wars of Watergate because they straddled this Yankee/Cowboy divide, having feet in both elite power blocs.

12:52 pm on July 7, 2014