Does America have a future? Even in 1975, the question alone brought an avalanche of grimaces, shrugged shoulders and baffled Thousand Yard Stares. Nobody really knew – all they could do was guess, surmise, toss a coin in the air.
And based on America in the 1970s, it was a real crapshoot. We had Watergate, or America’s National Nervous Breakdown – an episode in our culture that probably did the most to destroy our faith in Washington. Perhaps second only to Vietnam, which was the basis for countless books, discussions and positions over our involvement which, up to that point, was the longest period of time America waged a war just about anywhere (America in Afghanistan now has that record beat by several years, and with the same successful track record). We have always been great at waging war, but lousy at waging peace.
But what was America’s place, with reference to the rest of the world? We were loved, hated and the endless source of perplexion and frustration.
In 1975 we still had the Cold War, and the Middle East and the periodic Oil crisis. But as former 1970s President Jimmy Carter pointed out some decades later, we were having a moral crisis -not the religious kind, the human kind. Who were we as people? What were we all about as a nation?
This panel discussion – which handles it about the only way you could in 1975; with humor of the dark and gallows variety features two well-known journalists and writers; James J. Kilpatrick and David Halberstam – the panel is moderated by Nicholas von Hoffmann. Kilpatrick was a noted and popular Conservative writer – Halberstam was a noted and popular liberal-leaning writer.
One of the big differences is how these writers, from opposite sides of the political spectrum, regard each other. The 70s may have been very confusing, but they were still civil.
Cast your ears back 42 years and compare notes.