Six Years Ago — Club Dues: Geoffrey Wolff’s “The Final Club”

This post originally ran this week in June of 2009. Since then I have referenced it regularly. The novel in question dramatizes what it was like for a young man of the 1950s to leave the netherworld of the West Coast for Princeton and learn the nuances of proper dress from his peers.

* * *

I recently wrote a shortie for the blog at RL’s about Geoffrey Wolff’s 1990 novel “The Final Club.” This is the novel set at Princeton in the late ’50s I alluded to in the Bruce Boyer interview, which caused a reader to ask what book I was referring to. It can now be revealed, and I’ve excerpted some sartorial passages below that I think you’ll enjoy.

Wolff is the brother of Tobias Wolff, whose novel “Old School,” another campus tome set in the same era, was the subject of a previous post.

Here’s a New York Times article about their brotherhood and literary rivalry.

Though I enjoyed both books, I preferred the energy and stronger coming-of-age themes in “The Final Club,” which centers around a half-Jewish boy named Nathaniel who attends Princeton, takes in the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, goes sailing and dances outdoors under the stars. Basically the life we’d all like to lead, at least for a day, if we could eliminate the bigotry and disillusion.

One of Nathaniel’s character-building trials is enduring the process of Bicker, basically Princeton’s equivalent of fraternity rush. Initially passed over for the school’s eating clubs, Nathaniel is ultimately admitted to Ivy Club (pictured above), considered the school’s most exclusive.

Now for the excerpts. Here’s Nathaniel on his train ride from Seattle to school, making a stop in St. Paul, Minnesota:

Here was Nathaniel’s first sight of a gathered tribe of boys and girls sent east to become gentlemen and ladies, bond salesmen and post-debutantes. They were being seen off by clots of tanned moms and bluff, red-faced men wearing (like their sons) pink-soled white bucks or saddle shoes, and Brooks Brothers blue button-downs, white button-downs, yellow button-downs, pink button-downs. No pockets, a roll to the front of the ample collar. Nathaniel didn’t note (then) the specifics of these shirts, but he should have: this had been his father’s button-down of choice.

Here are Nathaniel and his friends getting dressed for their first day of Bicker:

The boys were uniform in Brooks white button-downs. Tweeded up: Pownall’s jacket was an out-at-elbows herringbone, a nice fit when he got it fourth-form year, two inches ago, at six feet. Booth’s houndstooth, cut for his father on Savile Row by Huntsman during the Battle of Britain, was pinched at the waist; the boy rescued his presentation from foppery with a black knit tie and faded blue canvas Top-Sider sneakers, spattered by specks of bronze boat-bottom paint. Nathaniel was remarkably unremarkable in Harris Tweed, a paisley tie either dark green or brown (the light was bad), Bass Weejuns, which he called “penny loafers,” an expression Booth seemed relieved never before to have heard.

Nathaniel’s idyllic summer vacation:

And that was how Nathaniel came to spend the summer of 1958 playing tennis on grass, watching Columbia defend the America’s Cup, listening to jazz, dancing under tents and washing down scrambled eggs and sausage with champagne at four in the morning.

There’s always a girl. Here’s Nathaniel getting dressed for his big date:

Tonight was Nathaniel’s final shot at Diana, he reckoned, and to prepare for it he spent a good portion of his summer’s earnings on charcoal-gray tropical worsted trousers, a white crash linen jacket (whatever “crash” linen was meant to be), and a sporty blue canvas belt spruced up with sailboats and anchors. He asked one of the Griggses’ housekeepers to iron his best broadcloth shirt, and she gave him the business, laughed and asked who was the lucky lady? He waxed and buffed his Bass Weejuns. He chose a skinny bleeding madras tie (he knew what “bleeding” was, and would soon know better) …

Finally, a reunion scene many years later includes this superb encapsulation of the sudden decline in popularity of the Ivy League Look, with the year 1967 offered as the beginning of the end. Here’s Nathaniel regarding the photos of Ivy Club members over the decades that line the wall of the club:

Lining the second-floor hall were group portraits of Ivy members, and Nathaniel paused to examine them. Till 1967 the club sections were photographed indoors, in the billiard room; dress was uniform — dark suits, white shirts, Ivy ties. In 1967 a white suit was added here, an open collar there. In 1968 the insolent, smirking group moved outside, and was tricked out in zippered paramilitary kit, paratroop boots, tie-dye shirts, shoulder-length locks, and not a necktie in view.

I agree with reviewers that the focus gets lost when “The Final Club” leaves the college years in the last hundred pages to chronicle Nathaniel’s adulthood in the ’70s and ’80s. I think it would have been stronger to find a resolution to Nathaniel’s story in the process of his graduation, and skip the cursory summary of his world-weariness over the next two decades. — CC

44 Comments on "Six Years Ago — Club Dues: Geoffrey Wolff’s “The Final Club”"

  1. Christian,

    This article is brilliant as always….such well
    researched information and extremely insightful
    notes seem to always resonate with me…

    Keep up the amazing work…


  2. Richard M | June 16, 2009 at 5:11 pm |

    From the late 50’s till now= The Decline and Fall.

  3. Christian | June 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm |

    I think you’re a bit premature. Geoffrey Wolff says ’67, and in an interesting interview I did today for the site, which will post in a couple weeks, another menswear savant pinpoints ’67 as the year everything began to change. Stay tuned.

  4. I think the “change” that would be attributed to the 1967 era would have to be the Vietnam War. The “ivy” ruling class leaders were sending young boys off to be killed in an unnecessary and ridiculous war. The counter culture that we are still seeing today is a result of the poor decisions made by the ruling “ivy” elite.

  5. Love your posts…sartorial erudition at it’s best. Read The Final Club when it was first published…I think we have a mutual friend in Rykken.


  6. Richard M | June 17, 2009 at 3:17 pm |

    Bermuda has a point-the Vietnam War follies empowered the hippie craziness- a folie a deux.

  7. Christian | June 17, 2009 at 3:49 pm |

    In my interview with Boyer I remember him saying that he felt the war had a lot to do with hastening a backlash against the establishment look because it was felt that they were the people who got America into that mess.

  8. Richard M | June 17, 2009 at 5:46 pm |

    Then the backlash against the hippies brought us Dick Nixon. (Apologies for the politics)

  9. Richard M | June 17, 2009 at 5:47 pm |

    P.S.: Rykken is a good man.

  10. Christian | June 17, 2009 at 5:50 pm |

    Richard, you might want to re-visit our piece on the Time article from ’73 “Goodbye to Wing-Tips,” which sheds some more light on the backlash, here written in the midst of Watergate:

  11. Richard M | June 18, 2009 at 3:42 am |

    Chrisian: Thanks. If I remember, John Dean was a BB customer then.

  12. Having been there, but on the west coast, where the counter culture lifestyle was growing in a big way, 1967 may be key, but there were still masses of Ivy league looks in ’68 and ’69.
    As a fashionista in a big way then, I can recall a sea of guys in light blue oxford cloth shirts that filled the steep incline of my American History lecture hall, fall’68. Guys were still wearing the look for classes and dates, switching out to what we now call a ‘hippie’ look for weekends and casual. At least the “A” students were.
    note: altho it is fun to read the fashion descriptions in fiction, I am a ‘primary’ resource gal, it’s the only way to be sure you aren’t getting the myth over reality.

  13. Ward Wickers | June 13, 2015 at 2:53 pm |

    By 1967, “…playing tennis on grass, watching Columbia defend the America’s Cup, listening to jazz, dancing under tents and washing down scrambled eggs and sausage with champagne at four in the morning,” became something else altogether.

    In 1967, people were highly concerned about the summer race riots in the larger cities. The National guard was scrambled to quell the rioting in Detroit, Oakland, New Haven and other cities. People worried that the riots would be coming to suburbia.

    Tastes in music had changed–dramatically. Young people were listening to the new ‘underground’ FM radio stations (Yale hosting one of the first) and the music of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, and the Beatles’ St. Pepper’s. Purple Haze and White Rabbit had replaced Moon River.

    Virtually everyone–young and old–was watching the Vietnam war be woefully mishandled nightly on TV. Some people were even lucky enough to see American lose it’s first war real time in living color.

    Every so often a rock star would be arrested for burning their draft card and Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavy weight title for steadfastly refusing the draft.

    Hair had become longer by this point, but people wondered if their hair was really long enough after Hair opened on Broadway. The play was like a national anthem to the so-called “counter-culture” of the day (i.e., a large proportion of the nation’s adolescents and young adults), encouraging profanity, drugs, rejecting sexual repression, and rejecting the Vietnam war, among other themes unpopular with the “Establishment.”

    Timothy Leary, once a Harvard psychology professor in charge of the Harvard Psilocybin Project, now, in 1967, encouraged people to “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Many did.

    With all that going on, washing down breakfast with champagne was at best probably considered quaint, and by some, even perverse. The Ivy League Look didn’t stand a chance.

  14. 1967 was the year the “New Left’ went to war with the “Old Left”.

  15. I was never part of the counter culture. In 1967, I was in high school, a boy of working class parents. Dress codes were still strict. Hippies and college demonstrations were becoming more and more prevalent. The Vietnam War was escalating.

    I was drafted in 1971, but fortunately, served in the US. The threat of being sent to Southeast Asia dangled over my head, though. By my personal observation, most of the dissent and demonstration seemed to involve those who, by the social status of their parents, would never be drafted. The war was being fought mostly by guys who would never see the inside of a college. If they survived the war, a blue collar job was an optimum scenario.

    The draftees should have been the ones protesting the war. But, they did the job given to them, right or wrong. In the past, most presidents and government officials served in the military. Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy; even Reagan made training films during his hitch. Without looking it up, I’d venture very few presidents did not serve, until recent times.

    Bush, Jr, “served” (or draft dodged) in the National Guard, attending very few meetings. My Dad served in WW2, always commented that it had been a disgrace for a man to be exempted during those years. During the Vietnam era, it was considered a disgrace to serve.

    I praise all of our current service personnel and all veterans. Am I mistaken, or is today June 14, Flag day?

    God Bless the United States of America.

  16. Ward Wickers | June 14, 2015 at 9:59 am |


    You are right about the sentiment of serving during the Vietnam war. It was considered by many a disgrace to be a part of the military at that time.

    Those times were incredibly tumultuous. The “Establishment” was on the rocks in a big way. Events overtook them. 1967 is a good marker for the beginning of the tremendous changes that occurred in American society. In the next year, LBJ decided against seeking reelection for president, making everyone wonder what was wrong with the country.

    1968 also saw the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr. and later that year, Bobby Kennedy. Just like the jets flying into the twin towers on 9-11, these assassinations were burned into the country’s consciousness through the media coverage. If left us believing no one was safe and America was no longer a secure place to live.

    In Vietnam, the NVA launched the Tet Offensive, which was a major battle and which the US actually won, but ironically, no one at home felt it was a victory. It marked the (downward) turning point of the war.

    Nixon became president in 1969 with Spiro Agnew as VP. Agnew would later lose the office, be disbarred and jailed for accepting bribes while in office. Our elected officials at the highest levels would soon be seen to be criminals. Ted Kennedy got off lightly for Chappaquiddick (many thought it was due to privilege, and many felt betrayed by a family they believed in), and the gay rights movement started when police raided a gay bar in NYC and the gays fought back for three nights. The only bright spot this year was when Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon.

    1970 was marked by Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and, then, while protesting this expansion of the Vietnam War, four students at Kent State University were shot and killed by the National Guard. It was the first time in most people’s memory that the government was killing its own citizens. Of all the difficult events of this period, the Kent State shootings were probably the most significant.

    By 1971, there were lots of anti-war protests occurring in the major cities across the country. In Washington, DC, 12,000 protesters were arrested by police and military troops. They were later released, but the sheer number of arrests was staggering. Later that year, the Pentagon Papers were published, highlighting the fact that the government lied about the scope of the military involvement in Vietnam and Laos.

    Nixon made his historic trip to China in 1972, but that did little for the American psyche. Eleven Israeli Olympic Athletes were murdered by terrorists in Munich, turning the Olympics into violent games. The Watergate scandal began in 1972 with the arrest of Watergate burglars who were quickly discovered to be employees of the Committee to Reelect President Nixon.

    America’s involvement in the Vietnam War finally ended in 1973 (unceremoniously), and so did the Nixon presidency (also unceremoniously). It seemed like every week there was a high level resignation or firing due to the Watergate Affair. The Watergate hearings were televised and were front page news nearly every day. For many people, this event destroyed whatever confidence they had left in government.

    Finally, in 1974, Congress set off to impeach Nixon for obstruction of justice and other crimes. Our president was a criminal. Nixon resigns (we had to kill the king) and Ford becomes the next president. Ford’s first act was giving a full pardon to Nixon as a way to end the inquiries and the seemingly bottomless national disaster. It was probably the appropriate thing to do.

    These highlights reflect the difficulties of this period of time. Despite the challenges, there is much to be thankful for (e.g., America survived it). In any event, there was no way that “establishment” (i.e., Ivy League) style would be embraced during all this upheaval. By the end of this period, the Establishment was viewed by many, if not most, with the highest suspicion. Rightly or wrongly, it was simply no longer trusted. Tie-dye, long hair, bell-bottoms, and beads were adopted probably as a direct protest to what sack jackets and button-down shirts represented at the time, though I doubt anyone was really conscious of that. It wasn’t until the early 1980s when the country was coming out of recession and enough time had passed for the memories of the late 60s to early 70s to fade a bit before preppy/Ivy style could come back into vogue.

  17. Ward Wickers | June 14, 2015 at 10:37 am |


    Another thing about military service in the late 60s early 70s: So many were dodging the draft and so many looked with disdain on military service that the government resorted to a lottery system to enlist men. I suppose they were trying to make what few wanted to do seem more fair. So they turned the draft into a game of chance. If you were lucky, you didn’t get drafted and could hang out at home, wear bell-bottoms, smoke pot, and protest the war. If you were unlucky, you got to go Southeast Asia. I think it started in 1970.

  18. @ Ward Wickers

    Very nice essay on the late 60’s early 70’s. My draft lottery number came up, a very low 25. I looked upon it as fair and just. Of course, a body could avoid the draft if he had the connections. All kinds of stuff occurred, student deferments, finding medically induced high blood pressure and other ailments to the potential soldier, and other means, bribes and other forms of corruption.

    I recall the day of the lottery. I was a “winner.” I don’t think a week passed before I was getting all kind of forms from the local draft board. They certainly didn’t waste any time.

    I was very fortunate. I spent my time in Fort Knox, KY, helping keep our gold safe from the Vietcong. For what it’s worth, very few people were ever admitted to the Depository. Most of it was underground. The movie Goldfinger was shot on location. The vault scene was fictional, but other locations were actual. Most scenes were taken around the basic training areas of post. If you look closely in one scene, you’ll see the Ireland Army Hospital in the hazy distance. (I was a patient there for pneumonia, which resulted from the lack of care one received in the mild stages of illness. Once a patient was hospitalized with a serious condition, a Private received as good care as a General, or the President.)

    I don’t know about the military today, but back in 1971, goofing off and doing as little as possible was the order of the day.


  19. Roy R. Platt | June 14, 2015 at 12:53 pm |

    Changing from normal style to hippie fashion was entirely a matter of choice. I never changed from normal. Most of those who did change from normal to hippie were left leaning and drug users. Those of us who remained normal were mostly right leaning and not drug users.

    The evils of the hippie lifestyle were best demonstrated when the hippies and their fellow travelers rioted in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic convention.

  20. Ward Wickers | June 14, 2015 at 1:11 pm |


    My number was 264 (funny how we remember this). So I got to stay home, wear bell-bottoms, and smoke pot. Many friends with low numbers did go to Southeast Asia. Not many came back as happy campers.

    In subsequent years, I spent time in the VA hospitals working with vets from the Vietnam era who had PTSD, addiction and other problems. Even decades later, the guys who experienced combat in Vietnam were reliving it as it if happened just that morning in New York.

    One vet was involved in over 500 fire fights. He and his platoon would be sent in as bait to lure out and engage the VC/NVA so the gun ships could finish the job. I still have a hard time comprehending this.

    I met a lot of vets in the VA who were selfless and heroic, but just everyday people doing what they thought was the right thing. One of the most distressing things for these vets was the disdain the public had for them when they returned home. Decades later that still stuck to them. I think people needed to blame someone for the mess, and the vets were a handy scapegoat.

    Fortunately, that has changed. We have gotten a little better at separating the policies from the soldiers.

  21. Ward Wickers | June 14, 2015 at 2:38 pm |


    Normal? Most hippies were just normal kids looking to figure out a world gone crazy.

    You may be the only person who views the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention as caused by the “evils of the hippie lifestyle.” The Walker Report—a federal assessment of the violence between the police and protestors in Chicago prepared for the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence—determined that it was “…unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence on many occasions, particularly at night” that caused the violence, not evil hippies. The report makes clear that the police “violence was made all the more shocking by the fact that it was often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat. These included peaceful demonstrators, onlookers, and large numbers of residents who were simply passing through, or happened to live in, the areas where confrontations were occurring.”

    It further says, “Newsmen and photographers were singled out for assault, and their equipment deliberately damaged. Fundamental police training was ignored; and officers, when on the scene, were often unable to control their men. As one police officer put it: ‘What happened didn’t have anything to do with police work.’”

    Regarding the incident in front of the Hilton Hotel you mention, an LAPD officer observing the confrontation said, “There is no question but that many officers acted without restraint and exerted force beyond that necessary under the circumstances. The leadership at the point of conflict did little to prevent such conduct and the direct control of offices by first line supervisors was virtually non-existent.”

    These acts of violence were defined as a “police riot.”

    All that was happening on the streets was a reflection of the divisiveness of the Democratic Party inside the convention hall. Many fights broke out among delegates, often leading to physical pushing and shoving. Newsman Dan Rather who was on the scene was roughed up while trying to talk live with Walter Cronkite in the NY studio. Abe Ribicoff, the senior senator from my home state, addressed the convention and condemned the violence being wrought by the Chicago police. In response, Chicago Mayor Daley yelled back racial epithets at Ribicoff. It was a sad and scary time.

  22. The first Draft “Lottery” was in Fall 1969. It was preceded by an end to graduate school/law school deferents until degree & replaced by a deferment to finish that year only. By Fall 1969 the Reserve & Guard were full with very few exceptions. The Vietnam veterans deserved better treatment, but those who got us into the conflict in SE Asia did not. And that includes not just Presidents Nixon & Johnson but also their predecessors . The tragedy is that today’s news is full of those who want to return to the Iraq War Debacle. And those who want to renew the draft system. I say Honor the Vets – be suspicious of the war mongers.

  23. Ward Wickers | June 15, 2015 at 11:51 am |

    Agree with you about those who got us into Vietnam. In my judgement, the war, the government-sanctioned brutality towards its citizens, and all the other sturm and drang of that time created the move towards meritocracy. I could be wrong on this, but looking back it seems clear that the Establishment could no longer be trusted to run things. Better to have merit than privilege and legacy lead us.

  24. Ward Wickers – I hadn’t thought of it that way – that’s a good point.

  25. My father was a member of Ivy Club during the late 50’s and early 60’s…..I wish I knew if his experience was similar to this telling of it.

  26. The irony of American democracy (title of my college Political Science textbook) is that our “elites”–our aristocrats and patricians–have been more democratic (small “d”), tolerant of diversity, skeptical about small concentrations of power, and hesitant about using military force than the masses. Still true today?

    It’s true that a some among this crowd failed us during the 60s, but plenty–most?–abandoned the war and its commander in chief. That an elite with considerbale clout (Ellsworth Bunker) became a cheerleader for the policies of two non-elite presidents (one of them a lame duck) remains a bizarre and lamemtable twist in history. After March of ’68, Bunker could have challenged the president’s demands for short term progress reports. He didn’t. Either he was genuinely hawkish and believed the reports he was receiving about progress or…?

    LBJ’s presidency was disastrous. We can only guess what would’ve happened (or not happened) if JFK had lived. It’s not that elites don’t make mistakes. Of course they do. Halberstam and others have chronicled them. But more often than not the mistakes are rooted in a misplaced desire to cater to the bloodlust, the bigotry, the ignorance, and sheer stupidity of the masses. Populism is always ugly, but it’s at its worst when the prince (who knows better) appeases the Idiocy of the citizenry.

  27. I’ll stand by, the new left and the old left at war. The protesters in Chicago were there for confrontation and to embarrass the democratic convention. The old left, Mayor Daley gave them what they wanted.

    The Waker Report,

    “During the week of the Democratic National Convention, the Chicago police were the targets of mounting provocation by both word and act. It took the form of obscene epithets, and of rocks, sticks, bathroom titles, and even human feces hurled at police by demonstrators. Some of these acts had been planned; others were spontaneous or were themselves provoked by police action. Furthermore, the police had been put on edge by widely published threats of attempts to disrupt both the city and the Convention.”

    Interestingly, the War protest originated on campuses by young men that had very little exposure to the draft as long as they remained in school. That wasn’t hard considering the massive grade inflation of the time.

  28. S.E.
    Agreed, but the populous didn’t get us into the war. The “Best and the Brightest” did and as alway Americans supported the war. Let’s not forget the players in Nam, the Soviets, China, America and both Viet Nams. The war was nothing more than a continuation of our policy since WWII, containment.

    One could argue that both Iraq and Afghanistan invasions and occupations were the same, only containment of a different threat. Note that the major players are all involved.

  29. Ward Wickers | June 16, 2015 at 10:34 am |

    Bunker was a hawk, regardless of who was president. He was a cheerleader of the war.

    Certainly the police were provoked in Chicago. The anti-war organizations were purposefully using the Democratic National Convention to voice their objections to the war. Because they felt that no one was listening, they took their demands to the streets. Regardless, obscene epithets, rocks, sticks, bathroom titles, and even human feces were no reason to beat people bloody and send them to the hospital or to kill them later on an Ohio college campus.

    Also, signaling out one or two people here or there as elite or non-elite misses the point, in my judgement. White men, well-educated at mostly ivy schools, mostly Protestants and many who were of WASP background and old-line families largely ran the country and had been running the country for decades. Collectively, these folks made up the “Establishment.” While some may have tolerated some diversity and were more hesitant than the masses to use force, the fact is that in the late 1960s women’s place was still considered to be in the home, Blacks continued to experience repression, races were considered best kept separate and segregated, gays were considered a mental disorder, Jews were suspect, the Irish were inferior and so on. It was the masses of the 60s voicing their opinions in the streets that lit the fuse to change all that. Some here may not like it and think it was wanton lawlessness and still view it and some or all of the changes it wrought as totally wrong, and others may think it was “right on,” a shining example of democracy in action, and that there is still much more work to be done in that direction. Regardless of how we feel about it, that’s the history, and that’s the history we all come from.

    The simple point I was trying to make above is that there were tremendous currents of change occurring in the country around that time. The post placed a marker on 1967 as the year in which things began to change. I thought it worthwhile to take a look at some of those changes, as some remain points of contention today, not surprisingly. In any event, the currents of change in the 60s were massive. They had little to do with ivy style, and yet everything to do with it. The old ways could no longer be tolerated, and that, by god, included the clothes.

  30. Ward
    You are correct, but I think the Irish thing was over before WWII. Gays cease to be a mental illness in 1973. Blacks still riot, mostly inspire and financed by the new left, now the establishment. The revolution continues.

  31. Ward Wickers | June 16, 2015 at 12:29 pm |


    Gays became a “Sexual Orientation Disturbance” in ’73. It wasn’t fully declassified by psychiatry until the mid-80s. Of course, Freud thought everyone was born bisexual and it was parenting that determined the ultimate sexual outcome, but we won’t go there! Don’t really know about the Irish — certainly not one of the “oppressed.” You could be right about the WWII marker.

    I do agree with you about the new left being the new establishment, BTW. When push comes to shove, there really isn’t much difference between the right and left in my view, regardless all the rhetoric. We could use another revolt!

  32. And yet…

    …by 1980, anti-establishment forces had been either co-opted or appeased. Or had simply grown tired and lazy. Ivy returned with a vengeance in the form of “preppy.” Former hippies wore madras and drove BMWs and Lacoste shirts could be seen at concerts when/where the multi-millionaire performers* offered up easy-going folk, blues, and bluegrass-based music that the older Yuppies dug the most.

    Ward Wickers says “the old ways could no longer be tolerated.” Nonsense. The “old ways” returned in shades of pink and green, sporting Ray-Bans and Topsiders and devouring episodes of Thirtysomething.

    *The Grateful Dead

  33. Ward Wickers | June 16, 2015 at 6:37 pm |


    I wouldn’t agree with you. In the early 80s, we experienced a political realignment from liberalism to conservationism when Reagan was elected president. The era was perfect for the marketing of TOPH, which brought the preppy style into vogue. But a returning of a clothing style shouldn’t be misunderstood for things deeper than that (i.e., old ways). Old ways are never returned to for long.

    If you think it nonsense that the old ways could no longer be tolerated, take a look at the Supreme Court docket for this term. It will decide if gay marriages will be respected as constitutional across the country. Old way? Hardly, mate. That would have never even been considered in 1965. What happened in the 60s – 70s has had a profound impact on this country and rightly or wrongly, its influence continues to reverberate–strongly.

  34. Ward
    I would argue that much of today’s social change has to do with the right’s intellectual libertarian tendencies.Of course the pendulum and all that.

  35. Ward Wickers | June 16, 2015 at 9:25 pm |


    I like some of the libertarian views, but I’m not sure they have brought real social change. What makes you say that?

    I think the libertarians arose mainly in response to Obama’s candidacy eight years ago. My reading (which could be flawed) is that there was a pretty strong backlash to Obama from the right and the libertarians via the Tea Party stepped in. Where was the right when it had power and Llewellyn Rockwell was telling everyone it was a very bad idea to go into Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001? He was correct then and continues to be right fourteen years later, but all we hear about lately is the need to increase the number of troops there.

  36. Robert MacNamara, in the documentary “The Fog of War,” expresses much regret for his part in escalating the war in Vietnam. It becomes very clear that he couldn’t stand up to LBJ because he was enamored of his position and the power that went with it.

    No way it was the bloodlust and stupidity of the populace that got us into war. The average soldier, my generation (Number 353 in the 1969 draft), knew this wasn’t WWII, our father’s war. And straight down the road mainstream commentators like Walter Cronkite knew it was a bad deal as well. The person who loved it, who thought it was American idealism fighting off Communism, was William Buckley. I still recall a Firing Line program in which he ridiculed a guest who thought that it was about U.S. political and economic expansion in the East (a current topic with Obama’s free-trade bill as well).

  37. Ward Wickers | June 17, 2015 at 9:38 am |


    Ayan Rand talked about how government officials would not base policy on sound analysis, but on what people in power wanted. Your example of MacNamara is a good one for this. I worked in a government setting for a short while and this feature was a fact of every important decision made. Incompetence and personal agendas became the true shapers of policy. It was revolting, to say the least.

    I don’t recall Buckley on the war, but I do remember many others thinking it was a very bad deal, including Cronkite. And, of course, the populace didn’t get us into that war. If anything, they got us out.

  38. RJG
    Viet Nam was just the continuation of the US and the West”s policy of Containment. It’s what NATO, SEATO, etc, and Korea was about. McNamara needed to rehabilitate his legacy and Cronkite was of the left.

    “containment, policy of definition. A United States foreign policy doctrine adopted by the Harry S. Truman administration in 1947, operating on the principle that communist governments will eventually fall apart as long as they are prevented from expanding their influence.”

    Conservatives and Libertarians have market based solutions and are constitutionalist. Regulation and the welfare state don’t solve poverty, they do increase the opportunity for graft,cronyism. and power.

  39. @MAC, your pseudo intellectualism and broad eneralizations aside, does your last comment suggest that ‘the market’ doesn’t create enormous opportunity for graft and cronyism? Our out of control free market system has led to an incomprehensibly long list of graft, pay to play practices, cronyism, fraud, outsized political influence, and abuse…not to mention wage stagnation and the off shoring of jobs and the middle class that depends on them. It’s amazing to me that anyone, in 2015, would still aspouse such broken, dangerous and discredited concepts. The bias and self interested echo chamber on here is something to behold.

  40. CC,
    the link to the Rugby website where your piece was is no longer active.. for the continuity of this post, can you repost it in its entirety here in the comments section?

  41. Free markets and free choice cause graft? Graft is all about liberty. WTF!

    If exercise of government power enters in to every facet of American life, it’s obvious why the Clintons get paid $500,ooo for the same thirty minute speech.

  42. Ward Wickers | June 27, 2015 at 10:43 pm |

    I wouldn’t call our markets free. Our lax lobbying, campaign finance, corporate tax, and special interest (PAC) laws rig the markets in one direction. I don’t see that as free, just rigged. The financial near collapse of 2008-2009 didn’t reflect a free market. Nor did the government’s heroic interventions to save the financial system. Social welfare for corporations—huge amounts of entitlement monies—flowed with all due haste into Wall Street coffers. Yes, I really felt good when former Wall Street leaders now in the Treasury and Federal Reserve were crafting the bailout programs. I was really pleased when the banks receiving TARP welfare, er, bailout funds paid out $33 Billion in bonuses to the people who created the meltdown, creating more than 700 new millionaires. But, hey! Those people deserved it right? Yes, it’s a free market all right.

    And government already enters into every facet of American life. Privacy is rapidly becoming extinguished in America. You can thank Bush, Cheney and the Patriot Act for that. The Clintons had nothing to do with it, by the way. I don’t know what it is, but every time the republicans run the White House, they run up the deficit, increase the size of the government pretty much like drunken sailors, and shred the kinds of regulations that would have kept banks and their mortgages separate from Wall Street. And, they create wars on false pretenses (Where are those WMDs anyway?) that we can only classify as quagmires. Thoughtful people I know say they just can’t be trusted.

    I don’t know that the democrats are all that much better, but with many of the republican candidates running around this weekend sabre rattling about the Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriage, they are looking very out of touch with the mainstream population, and very anachronistic. They will surely carry this position like an albatross strung tightly round their necks going into the general election.

  43. Ward
    You are correct, welfare states don’t have free markets. Welfare states privatize profits and socialise losses for their friends. Welfares states always run deficits, regardless of Democrat or Republican lite.

    The Patriot Act went to far, was an over reaction, but really didn’t control anyones’ lives. The IRS, EPA, Dept. of Energy Dept. of Ed. etc. , all have more adverse effects on personal freedom.

  44. Gentlemen:

    I’ve enjoyed the extended comments and the overall tone of the discourse. Moreover, I greatly enjoy the cultural, political and personal insight of those directly affected by the Vietnam War. I was born in 1966 and have very little recollection of the time and even lesser understanding besides that provided by high school, college textbooks (political science and international studies) and mass media. I do recall snippets of photos from Newsweek and TV coverage documenting the fall of Saigon, but otherwise my experience is nil. My father’s uncle served in WWII, my uncle served in Korea, my cousin served in the Middle East (career military), and my best friend served two tours in Iraq. Yes, my immediate family is conspicuously absent from military service as am I.

    Thank you all for your service, experience, and insight.

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