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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 35

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Midwestern travel and social obligations prevent me from writing too much today, but on the 113th anniversary of John Edgar Hoover’s birth, it’s worth recalling the words of Benjamin Spock, who offered this anti-eulogy on the day of Hoover’s death in 1972.

It was a relief to have this man silenced who had no understanding of the underlying philosophy of our government or of our Bill of Rights, a man who had such enormous power, and used it to harass individuals with whom he disagreed politically and who had done so much as anyone to intimidate millions of Americans out of their right to hear and judge for themselves all political opinions.

Arguably, Hoover came closer than any American ever has to developing the basic architecture for fascism. It would be an extraordinary error, however, to assume that Hoover’s proto-fascist tendencies derived from his conservative principles. Because his first job in Washington, D.C., was at the Library of Congress, and because everyone knows that librarians are liberals by nature and custom, J. Edgar Hoover’s life indeed offers a hearty vindication of the Goldberg Thesis.

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