I went to the same high school as Les Moonves, Valley Stream Central High School on Long Island. He was a year ahead of me, but I knew him. We were both on the debating team. Actually, my Big Brother knew him even better than I did: they ate in the same lunch room group for a year.
The debating team at Central was a pretty big deal. We won trophies and competed one year at the state championships in Albany. (My team got fourth place, even though my regular partner had gotten sick, and we had to bring in a guy from the “B” team at the last minute.)
Which brings me to Moonves: Les was on the “B” team in his year. The guys on the “A” team were really smart: two of them went on to be eminent professors, at Columbia and University of Illinois-Champaign respectively. (I lost track of the others.) Les was what we called a “scrub.”
And his nickname was “Moonie-Toonie.”
Nice guy, but nothing special. The main thing about Les is that he was Alan Moonves’ younger brother. Les’ older brother Alan was a Central superstar. He went to Harvard, and kids from my high school didn’t usually get into Harvard. Les went to Bucknell, which is a fine school, I’m sure, but it ain’t the pinnacle of the Ivy League.
Alan was also a major, major leftist: he was an active proponent of civil rights and was a force in THOUGHT, the controversial student-published political journal that was banned by the school administration. (Ah, the Sixties!)
Alan died at the age of 31, a suicide. I don’t know the reasons, but I’ve always thought that Alan’s sad fate (and the long shadow he cast over his schmucky younger brother) were major motivating factors in Les’ irresistible rise to the top of the TV world and his tenacious hold on power for more than twenty-five years.
At first, I was happy for Les’ success. I’m always happy to see Valley Stream Central guys (Steve Buschemi, Fred Armisen, Jim Breuer, etc.) do well. I never liked his CBS shows except for the first incarnation of CSI with William Petersen. The rest were crappy sitcoms with way-too-loud laugh tracks and the same proecedural cop shows, one after the other. Sure, he figured out ways to win the ratings wars against NBC and ABC, but he never greenlit anything very good. He was quoted as saying, “America doesn’t like dark,” so he never risked much as a programmer: just the same junk, over and over again.
But I never figured that he was a sexual criminal. Hard-nosed, highly competitive, resiliant executive, yes – but a pervert? And a real disgusting creep. Reading the Ronan Farrow articles in The New Yorker was a shocking experience.
I’m no innocent. The TG spent many years in the upper echelons of the movie industry and suffered her share of sexual harassment. She never told me about any of the episodes until years later. As she said, “What was I going to do? Quit?” Virtually all women are sexually harassed at some time or another; too many men are dogs. Creeps. Lechers. Boors. Perverts. In all walks of life.
And it’s not about the sex: it’s about the dominance. Moonves could’ve gotten laid as much as he wanted (besides Julie Chen Moonves) just on his own status. Forcing all this sex on women – his doctor??? – is sick. Thirteen women have charged him with abuse so far. Who knows how many there are, and how many are still afraid to come forward? He seemed like a regular guy at Central: what happens to people?
After all these years, I also can’t help but think, “What would Alan – that major lefty – think about his little brother’s becoming a major cutthroat, predatory, uber-greedy capitalist?” Irony of ironies.
Maybe what motivated Les’ ambition and rage was all those years of being called “Moonie-Toonie.”
Which brings me to Brett Kavanagh. I didn’t know him when I was growing up, but I knew plenty of preppie guys like him at Columbia and other places. We’ve all known these confident bully boys who bluster and push their way through life to find their pre-destined places in the Establishment. Kavanagh has a great resume (Yale-Yale), and he made all the right Republican moves, working for Ken Starr, doing political work at the White House, getting onto the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit where he compiled one of the most conservative voting records on virtually every issue.
But it’s all about to blow up in his face because of who he is.
And it’s not just the attack on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when he was in high school and the harassment of Deborah Ramirez at Yale many years ago, or the “look” his female clerks had to have, or what he did with Mark Judge: it’s Kavanaugh’s lying to the Judiciary Committee multiple times … it’s his gambling debts and country club fees (who paid them?) … it’s his past as a political hitman/leaker/sleaze merchant … it’s what’s in his documents from his time in the Bush administration … it’s his decisions that penalized unions … it’s his always taking the side of the corporation over the worker … and it’s his threat against Roe v. Wade … and it’s his stand on unlimited executive power (which is why he was Trump’s choice.)
Maybe on some level Kavanugh is smart. But his ideas are wrong, his past actions show a questionable respect for women, and he’s a proven liar. And he was political operative his whole life: just the wrong kind of person for a job that would (normally) require impartiality. But the judges that the GOP nominates for the judiciary are there to carry out Republican policies, not weigh the law.
The real problem is that even if Kavanaugh is not confirmed (some combination of Murkowski, Corker, and—save us--Collins, swings), the Federalist Society has dozens of clones, ready to fill the judiciary on all levels—from this Supreme Court vacancy on down. The right wing works hard and smart; they are flooding the court with True Believers, just like they attempt to take over local school boards. The right has worked for decades through “think tanks” and organizations like ALEC … the Heritage Foundation … the Manhattan Institute … the Chamber of Commerce … the Club for Growth … the Heartland Institute … the Cato Institute … Family Research Council … the Hoover Institution … Freedomworks … the American Enterprise Institute, etc., etc.
They are well financed by billionaire donors and are organized. They have thousands of radio stations and one very big “news” network that is hard-wired right into the White House. Things couldn’t be clearer than when Trump named Fox News head Bill Shine to be his new Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications. (In fact, Shine is coaching Kavanaugh for his appearance before the judiciary committee.)
The left has nothing like this apparatus to promote its beliefs.
Kavanaugh is only 52; he could be on the Court for a long, long time. (Sulking and brooding like Clarence Thomas?)
The question remains: what is to be done? It’s simple. Democrats need to vote. There are more of us than there are of them, but they get their core voters out, every election. Whether the issue is guns, God, or gays, right wing voters/Fox viewers -- it doesn’t even make sense to call them “conservative” anymore -- go to the polls religiously. (Get it?)
The only thing to do is to work towards November 6th and hope for a Blue Wave.