Back to Normal; Conway's Offer; Free Speech Pioneers
Good morning, it’s Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Fifty-five years ago today, 814 demonstrators, most of them students, were arrested at the University of California, Berkeley and hauled off to jail in nearby Santa Rita. The mass arrests, requested by Edwin Meese, the Republican district attorney of Alameda County, and ordered by Pat Brown, the Democratic governor of California, ensured that the Free Speech Movement would not be a passing fad.
Among those incarcerated were the students' leader, charismatic New York native Mario Savio, and a graduate student in the physics department named Richard A. Muller. I’ll have a further word on both men in a moment.
First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:
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Trump Tries Normal -- How Long Can It Last? A.B. Stoddard takes note of the president focusing lately on positive things that unite most voters, like pets, freedom and the flag.
Kellyanne Conway, Playing Chicken With Adam Schiff? Phil Wegmann reports on the White House adviser’s offer to represent President Trump at upcoming impeachment hearings -- if the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is called to testify.
House Democrats Promised No “Partisan Pitchforks.” They Lied. Liz Harrington contrasts quotes from many lawmakers in the freshman class with their party’s actions on impeachment.
Who Will Decide the Democrats’ 2020 Nominee? Nancy Pelosi. Harland Hill argues that the speaker had an ulterior motive in choosing to go forward with impeachment proceedings.
Biodiesel Is Good for the Economy and the Environment. In RealClearPolicy, Lisa Mullings urges Congress to renew the federal biodiesel tax credit.
Putin Nukes Trump -- Again. In RealClearDefense, Mark B. Schneider explains why a recent weapons test in Russia is a setback for the U.S.
Even a “Small” Nuclear War Could Upend Civilization. RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy spotlights a study on the impact.
Kansas City’s New Model for Job Skills Training. Nathan Harden has the story in RealClearEducation.
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In the autumn of 1964, the Berkeley campus, known then and now simply as “Cal,” was a place in transition. Fraternities and sororities were still popular, and fans of Cal’s Golden Bears football team had watched in delight as an otherwise dismal season was highlighted by the team's home win over highly ranked Navy. Cal’s quarterback was All-American Craig Morton; the Naval Academy’s team was led by Morton’s future teammate on the Dallas Cowboys, 1963 Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach.
But a little over two weeks earlier an event had occurred that would define Cal's identity, and its future, more than any football team could.
On Oct. 1, a political activist named Jack Weinberg was manning an information table for the Congress of Racial Equality. Although he had been a grad student in Berkeley, he wasn't at the time and when campus police asked him for his student ID, Weinberg refused to produce any identification and was arrested.
A spontaneous protest erupted as hundreds of students surrounded the police car, refusing to let it move. Weinberg was ultimately released, but the police cruiser was not: It was pressed into service as a speakers’ platform used by students and campus radicals to denounce the school's ban on political fundraising and activism.
The administration wouldn’t back down, and two months later 1,500 students occupied Sproul Hall demanding that all restrictions on political speech and political activity on campus be eliminated. Mario Savio, a former altar boy from Queens, had by then emerged as the students' unofficial leader. And it was Savio who gave a ringing speech on Dec. 2 that crystalized the protesters’ grievances. It was a time of Freedom Riders in Mississippi, rising U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, and a general stirring -- especially on college campuses -- that the old order needed shaking up.
“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious -- makes you so sick at heart -- that you can’t take part,” Savio told the crowd. “You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”
Although such talk is de rigueur on college campuses today -- heck, it’s standard fare on the 2020 Democrats’ debate stage -- a majority of Americans weren’t ready to hear that message in 1964. So hours after delivering it, Savio was carted off to jail along with 800 of his pals. This heavy-handed law enforcement response wasn’t enough to help Pat Brown: He was defeated for reelection two years later by Ronald Reagan, a candidate who promised “to clean up the mess at Berkeley.”
Eventually the young radicals grew up. Some of them even got old.
Mario Savio married, divorced, remarried, helped raise a couple of kids, and ended up teaching at Sonoma State University. He died from heart issues in 1996. Richard A. Muller, an unknown graduate student arrested with Savio, got out of jail, resumed his studies at Cal, earned his doctorate, was awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant, and was eventually a tenured professor at Berkeley.
Like Savio, Muller came from New York, not California; he was raised in the South Bronx. He, too, went into academia, and enjoyed -- and is still enjoying -- a much more prominent career than the onetime student leader of the Free Speech movement. To my knowledge, Richard Muller is the only one of the students arrested 55 years ago today who became a member of Cal’s faculty. He went on to a distinguished career, in fact, becoming one of the school’s most popular professors and making a name for himself in climate science. Muller was one of the few prominent academics with the courage to call out the global warming dogmatists for their excess in seizing upon the now-infamous “hockey stick” graph that supposedly shows the rapid heating up of the Earth. When he examined its flaws, he spoke out.
“That discovery hit me like a bombshell, and I suspect it is having the same effect on many others,” Muller wrote. “Suddenly the hockey stick, the poster-child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics. How could it happen?”
In 2009, he co-founded (with his daughter Elizabeth) a think tank called The Berkeley Earth Temperature Project. Climate change skeptics rejoiced, but not for long. Three years later, Muller announced his conclusions in testimony to Congress and in a New York Times op-ed:
“Our results show that the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years,” Muller asserted. “Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”
That phrase “essentially all” seems so sweeping that it generates immediate doubt in the mind of a traditional journalist like me. But if you’ve been reading this nation’s mainstream newspapers lately, that uncertainty is not shared by my brethren in the media. As for Dr. Muller, he turned his popular Cal lecture series, “Energy for Future Presidents,” into a book. Five years ago, he also unearthed some never-published photos he took during the December 1964 sit-in. The most striking is the one with Joan Baez. The times, well, they were a-changin.’
Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics