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John B. OakesJohn B. Oakes
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criticizing the extreme, I think radical, so-called anti-subversive legislation that even otherwise liberal people, like Harry Truman and Hubert Humphrey were responsible for, in the early days after World War II. Nobody remembers it now, but Truman was not good at all on the subject of immigrants, loyalty oaths and all the stuff that went on in the U.S. government during that period and the process of rooting out alleged Communist subversives and so forth.

Q:

Didn't the loyalty oath begin under Truman?

Oakes:

I think it did, I think it did. It was right after the war. Sure. Sure. Absolutely. My recollection is that even such a great liberal as Humphrey was also involved in legislation, which Truman signed, that was really very illiberal legislation in respect to this question. I was always very, very skeptical about that sort of stuff. Therefore, naturally, I would write editorially about the kind of repressive “ultra-loyal” legislation that was in place and that was being proposed. Particularly, of course, the kind of crazy sort of persecution for political purposes that was characteristic of both the Dies Committee and then later of McCarthy.

Then I was not all that liberal, I guess, on economic matters, but I think on social matters it was fair to say I was probably on the -- it seems to me quite consistently, really, from younger days, quite consistently liberal in the proper sense of the word. For that matter, I just have to say, even today, when “liberal” is considered a bad word, I think this is crazy, and I still would be very proud to call myself a liberal if I were running for office. God knows, I'm not, but I think it's terrible the way people now sort of think of liberal -- and that's [Ronald] Reagan's influence -- as a dirty word.



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