Well, the leading candidate is Hillary Clinton, who has the opposite view—that triangulation is the way to win. Triangulation is the strategy of trying to find a middle path between the Democrats and Republicans, something Bill Clinton was famous for and something that Hillary has adopted. She wants to win over some Republicans by conceding the legitimacy of some of their positions. That's the opposite of offering a clear and bold alternative to the administration's policies. I'm against Hillary's strategy, and I hope there's a clear and strong alternative to Hillary when the Democrats get around to picking their candidates a year from now.
The war in Iraq is often compared to the war in Vietnam. How accurate is the comparison?
There is much more opposition to the war in Iraq, and it arose much sooner than the war in Vietnam. Vietnam ended up with 58,000 Americans being killed and two to three million Vietnamese. What's the death toll of Americans in Iraq today, 2,500, 2,600? So the anti-war movement is much more advanced at a relatively early stage of the war. I mean, the war has been going four years now. That's as long as our involvement in World War II, just about, but still, Vietnam went for nine years or more, depending upon when you count the beginning. So the anti-war movement today is much bigger and was much bigger from the day the war started. It hasn't been any more effective in bringing the war to an end, but it certainly is bigger and stronger than anything that happened in the '60s.
The idea of such a trial today, putting the anti-war movement on trial today, I simply don't think it would work.
I don't think it would either. What we have instead today is Guantanamo and NSA eavesdropping and the library surveillance program and other parts of the USA PATRIOT Act. That's where we see government abridgement of rights and challenges to freedom. But it's much more targeted at immigrant Muslim men, non-citizens. One of the things I learned from doing this book was that if Nixon had not been elected in 1968 there never would have been a trial of 1968. The Democrats were not interested in indicting and bringing to trial this group of people. In fact, the Democratic attorney general, Ramsey Clark, was prepared to testify for the defense that he thought the indictment was wrong. But the judge wouldn't allow him to testify. And you know, the Chicago Eight trial was certainly not a slam-dunk event for the Nixon White House. It was an experimental effort that ended up succeeding, but another president could have made quite a different decision.
It's interesting—if not disconcerting—that a book about government efforts to prosecute the anti-war movement could be so laugh-out-loud funny.
Well, believe me, a lot of the 22,000 pages of trial transcripts were not funny.
Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Eight edited by Jon Wiener; New Press. Paperback, 304 pages, $16.95.