Some of you youngsters might not know who Dick Cavett is. That’s a shame. Cavett is one of the best interviewers in America. He had a talk show many years ago which was must-see TV for any thinking person. Cavett was an unabashed liberal and often had like-minded guests on his show for intelligent, deep conversation. Sure, he would have celebrities like Debbie Reynolds, Groucho Marx (a favorite who was on many times) and John Wayne on the show — which ran in various incarnations from 1968-1995 — but he also hosted people like Shirley Chisolm, Sen. Edward Kennedy, Abbie Hoffman, J.K. Galbraith and NYC Mayor Ed Koch. Taking a look at the guest list for his over 3000 shows is like reading a who’s who of the latter 20th century.
On Cavett’s website, there is a page detailing some memorable moments from his shows over the years. Things like the Woodstock show, with Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell. And the time former Georgia governor Lester Maddox walked off the show when Cavett refused to apologize to Maddox’s satisfaction about calling the people who voted for the governor “bigots.” Cavett hosted a debate about the Vietnam War in 1971 with a young John Kerry (anti) and John E. O’Neill (pro) who later founded Swiftboat Veterans for Truth. If you have some time and are interested in seeing history makers talking about history, check out Cavett’s website.
Cavett enjoyed having authors on his show. Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal and Truman Capote visited many times and Cavett would have new authors on his show as well. He enjoyed giving them a platform to talk about their books. One author Cavett did not host was Ayn Rand.
In a recent interview with Elon Green for the New Yorker magazine — Cavett is a proud New Yorker — the topic roamed into books; reading them, writing them, good ones, bad ones, all the ones we will never have time to read… and ones that waste your time. Cavett puts Ayn Rand’s books into this last category. He had this to say about Ms. Rand:
CAVETT: … You can piss away valuable hours of your life reading Ayn Rand—her wretched appeal to the young, her wretched writing, her wretched person.
She was supposed to be on my show; I was kind of sorry she wasn’t, because I was kind of laying for her. I did not succumb, as a kid, to being enthused by Ayn Rand, and that sense of power, as every kid was at one time until they outgrew it. The old bag sent over a list of fifteen conditions for appearing with me, or for appearing with anyone, I guess. One of them was, ‘There will be no disagreeing with Ms. Rand’s philosophy.’
GREEN: You’re kidding.
CAVETT: No! I wrote at the bottom of the list, to be sent back to her, ‘There will be no Ms. Rand, either.'”
Now, that’s the way you handle an ideologue. Can you imagine? Apparently, Ms. Rand’s philosophy was so tenuous that she could not be challenged on it. Were she alive today, she’d be a regular guest on Fox News. Couldn’t you just see her and Karl Rove hitting it off, gleefully attacking the poor, elderly, sick or anyone else who needs our help?
There’s a great quote about Rand’s books:
“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.” — [Kung Fu Monkey — Ephemera, blog post, March 19, 2009] ― John Rogers
Today’s Republican party has never let go of that childish fantasy. Ayn Rand’s selfish Objectivist philosophy has become the calling card of the right and it’s not only hurting them, it’s hurting the entire country. It’s past time we said to them what Dick Cavett did; “There will be no Ms. Rand.”