How a Joseph McCarthy speechwriter and 'Franco fanboy' became the Supreme Court’s inspiration: author
Back in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the late Republican L. Brent Bozell Jr. was controversial even on the right. Many conservatives and libertarians denounced him as a crackpot and an extremist, and with good reason. Bozell was a proud member of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s staff, considered Richard Nixon much too liberal, slammed the Supreme Court’s Brown v. the Board of Education ruling of 1954 as an assault on states’ rights, and was an apologist for Spain’s fascist dictator Francisco Franco, a.k.a. El Generalísimo.
When Bozell temporarily moved to Spain in 1965, he loved the fact that Franco favored a very strict version of Catholicism; Bozell opposed not only abortion, but also, contraception. And even though Bozell was married to National Review founder William F. Buckley’s sister, Buckley eventually distanced himself from Bozell’s politics.
Bozell was 71 when he died on 1997. Journalist/author Jacob Heilbrunn, in an essay published by Politico on July 7, argues that Bozell’s far-right ideas are much more influential now than they were when he was alive — ideas that, according to Heilbrunn, are a blueprint for the radicalized U.S. Supreme Court and former President Donald Trump’s MAGA movement.
“Ever since Donald Trump’s ascension in the GOP,” Heilbrunn writes, “a kind of intellectual treasure hunt has taken place to try and identify the true source of the political right’s embrace of radicalism…. With the Supreme Court’s dismantling of Roe v. Wade and its decision to examine the ‘independent state legislature’ theory this fall, it’s time to nominate a fresh candidate: Buckley’s brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell, Jr. Often dismissed as a kook during his lifetime, ‘Hell Bent’ Bozell did more than perhaps anyone to create the blueprint for the militant conservatism now triumphant at the High Court and the grassroots.”
Heilbrunn describes Bozell as the Republican Party’s “first theocon,” noting that after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, Bozell angrily railed against the “tide of death set loose by the contraceptionalists, the population planners, the war planners, the pornography legitimizers, the sex educationists, the women’s and gay liberators, the genetic manipulators, and of course, by the abortionists’ own massive successes in the great population centers.”
Heilbrunn interviewed Niskanen Center historian Geoffrey Kabaservice, who discussed Bozell’s influence.
Kabaservice told Heilbrunn, “Bozell valorized the theocratic authoritarianism of Spain under Francisco Franco. The radical conservatives on today’s Supreme Court, wittingly or not, have channeled Bozell’s vision and are in the process of overthrowing the rights-based liberal vision of equality that in many ways began with the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.”
McCarthy, Heilbrunn notes, thought enough of Bozell to hire him as a speechwriter and an adviser during the 1950s. And in the early 1960s, according to Heilbrunn, Bozell “became a fan boy of Franco whose strict adherence to the Catholic creed and readiness to crush dissent struck a chord with him.”
Heilbrunn also points out that Bozell had a falling out with Buckley when his brother-in-law decided to “excommunicate the John Birch Society from the conservative movement.” And like the MAGA movement, Heilbrunn observes, Bozell was willing to resort to violence.
“In June 1970, Bozell organized the first violent anti-abortion protest, leading a Spanish Carlist faction calling itself the Sons of Thunder to a George Washington University Student Clinic,” Heilbrunn recalls. “Bozell was later convicted on several counts, including assaulting a police officer with a 5-foot wooden cross.”
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