When Reason Met Eldridge Cleaver


Former Reason staffer Bill Kauffman remembers some interviews he did for us in the '80s:

I'm not sure whether this belongs in the Sperm file or the Jim Morrison file.
Eldridge De Paris

My first interview was back in 1985, when Lynn Scarlett, an engaging New Leftist who wound up in G.W. Bush's subcabinet, and I traveled to Berkeley to spend the day chatting with Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver for Reason. When Eldridge—a loquacious and fascinating guy—got up to take a whizz, we glanced at his files. The two I remember were devoted to "Sperm" and whether Jim Morrison was extant or extinct.

I also interviewed a one-time Panther sympathizer, Clarence Thomas, who impressed me as friendly and intellectually curious. I liked the Booker T. Washington/Marcus Garvey/Malcolm X self-help streak in Thomas, then EEOC chairman.

Ted Kennedy later used that interview in the Thomas hearings to paint the nominee as a radical libertarian. If only!

You can read Kauffman's Cleaver interview here and his Thomas interview here. For more about those pants in the picture, go here.

NEXT: Brian Doherty on How Ron Paul Is Not Ending His Campaign for Liberty

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  1. My GF put the ixnay on the ongday antspay, sadly.

  2. So, I learn from reading that article in Jet that Eldridge Cleaver was crazier than I ever suspected. Nice to know.

  3. The Reason interview is interesting. Cleaver really did develop a more nuanced view of politics than I would have given him credit for. He certainly had more perspective than Thomas Friedman.

    When I first went to those countries boy was I impressed. If you would read some of the things I wrote then! I was full of praise, because I got that standard tour that they give people to impress them. I took the same tour that Barbara Walters took in Cuba, and Senator [George] McGovern, but after the tour I had a chance to meet other people and have a different experience. If I had gone only on the basis of how the governments treated me, I would have continued praising them, because really they did treat me well. They gave me a red-carpet treatment in those countries. But when you get off the red carpet and step down in the mud where the people are, you get a chance to talk to them and hear the stories that they have to tell, over and over again.

  4. Ted Kennedy later used that interview in the Thomas hearings to paint the nominee as a radical libertarian. If only!

    If only? The purists really do get tiresome.

    1. The real shame is Clarence Thomas is as good as it gets for libertarians and given presidents choose candidates based on executive branch supremacist views, will likely be as good as it ever gets.

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