When the editor forwarded the letter from Robert Mailer Anderson that appears on page 2, I thought for a split second that it was a belated apology. More than 25 years ago RMA had slandered me in these pages, called me an assassin, a Lee Harvey Oswald, because he assumed I was the Fred Gardner who had complained to the FBI in November, 1967, that Ramparts was publishing an article critical of the CIA by an author who had faked his bona fides. A (supposedly) former FBI man named William Turner had provided Ramparts publisher Warren Hinckle with a copy of a Bureau document referring to this Fred Gardner and his friend John Raymond as informants.
I could hardly blame Hinckle and others for not knowing there was a Fred Gardner who wrote for a paper called the Berkeley Gazette and was pals with John Raymond, who worked for Ramparts. (The other Fred Gardner had gotten a few bylines in the mid-60s when I was working at Scientific American in Manhattan. And his meeting with the feds took place when I was in South Carolina, setting up a coffeehouse that would be a haven for antiwar GIs and cause the feds considerable grief. That may be why they provided Turner with the old document. It has the feel of a dirty trick.)
While this mistaken identity case was unfolding, Bruce Anderson and I were in the midst of a bitter falling out and I had stopped writing for the AVA. I got word in advance of the attack R.M. Anderson had written and drove to San Rafael, where he was working in a bookstore, to explain that he was making a terrible mistake. He didn’t believe me and why should he have? My name was Fred Gardner, I had worked at Ramparts when I moved to the Bay Area in ‘66, I’d had a stormy relationship with Hinckle and had subsequently criticized Scheer in print. My being a snitch was a big story (in our small pond) and RMA was an ambitious young writer. Moreover, his uncle, the editor, assumed I was guilty as charged. And so the piece ran, and I remained estranged from the AVA for many years.
Fast forward to January 2023, when I was contacted by a journalist in Toronto who is writing a book about a once notorious ‘Frisco character named Anton LaVey. LaVey had known the other Fred Gardner and the Toronto journalist thought he’d reached a useful source. I explained the crazy situation to him and later found out from Peter Richardson, author of an excellent history of Ramparts that the fellow in Toronto hadn’t quite believed me and required more convincing from Richardson.
A few weeks ago I wrote about all this, and how I had finally identified the other Fred Gardner. (He had worked for 11 years at WGBH in Boston, another city where I once lived.) So I thought, when I saw the LTE from Robert Mailer Anderson, that he had read my update and wanted to make amends. No such luck. He was going on the warpath again because I had expressed admiration for Rep. Barbara Lee and dissed Adam Schiff, who is running to succeed Dianne Feinstein.
* * *
Here’s my response.
I stand by my song. After the 911 attacks on the Rockefellers’ World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Congress rushed through a $40 billion appropriation that authorized the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld Administration to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against anyone involved in any way with the attacks.
According to Bob Woodward’s book “Bush at War,” Rumsfeld insisted at a Cabinet meeting on the morning of Sept. 12 that Iraq should be “a principal target of the first round of terrorism.”
Adam Schiff should have known in 2001 – as Alex Cockburn’s readers did, and as Barbara Lee surely did – that the administration’s foreign policy was directed by neo-cons whose Project for the New American Century was demanding “the removal of Saddam from power.” The Project was run by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s #2 at the Pentagon, who had predicted in a 2000 report that Saddam’s downfall might be precipitated by “some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor.” Heck of a guess, Wolfie.
Underneath the Capitol dome
our so-called representatives
cheer their leader in the Andover sweater
yelling “Fight! Smite evil wherever it lives!”
They’ve got what’s called a gang mentality
‘Cept you Barbara Lee, just you Barbara Lee...
Where did Rep. Adam Schiff stand? According to Wikipedia: “Schiff voted in favor of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In February 2015, discussing how or whether to tailor Bush-era plans from 2001 and 2002 to fight ISIS, Schiff was asked if he regretted voting to invade. He said: ‘Absolutely. Unfortunately, our intelligence was dead wrong on that, on Saddam at that time. The vote set in motion a cascading series of events which have [had] disastrous consequences.’”
Wikipedia also confirms the characterization of Schiff as a closeted neo-con: “In December 2016, he urged Obama to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories as a violation of international law.”
In 2019, when Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” to decry US politicians’ obeisance to the Israel lobby, Schiff responded that it was “never acceptable to give voice to, or repeat, anti-Semitic smears.”
Robert Mailer Anderson is certainly correct that power in the US Senate is a function of seniority. This is from Robert Caro’s great biography of LBJ: “Seniority – not even mentioned in the original Senate rules, much less in the framers’ deliberations; not even a consideration during the first half century and more of the Senate’s existence– was in a way a child of slavery. That issue came to overshadow all others, so political parties had to be able to count on loyalty from senators who sat on the committees that dealt with its various aspects. In December, 1845, party caucuses took over the power of committee appointments within the Senate, passing resolutions that committees would be chaired by members of the majority party, that members of committees be carried over from Congress to Congress, that rank within each committee be determined by length of service in the Senate, and that the most senior member of the majority party would automatically become chairman. Thereafter, party caucuses drew up lists of committee appointments; the Senate as a whole simply accepted them. A senator’s rank on a committee was therefore determined by one qualification, and one alone: how long he had sat on it.”
Among the California Democrats hoping to succeed Dianne Feinstein in the Senate, the one most likely to gain clout via seniority is 49-year-old Katie Porter. Assuming your wonderful system lasts that long.
The piece that offended RMA contained a factual error he didn’t nail me for. I’d been misled by a Chronicle headline and a Joe Garofoli piece into thinking that Barbara Lee had formally announced that she was running for Feinstein’s seat. She has only signaled an intention to do so. Maybe Nancy Pelosi’s swift endorsement of Schiff (which got a banner headline in the Chronicle) was an attempt to dissuade Lee or prospective donors to her campaign.
(To hear the song that caused the latest round of trouble, Google “youtube Just you, Barbara Lee”)
“I’d been misled by a Chronicle headline and a Joe Garofoli piece…”?
Perhaps it’s best not to believe everything you read, or write.