The younger generation of movement conservatives, especially those whose focus is the
day-to-day battles going on in Washington, DC may not recognize the name or work of Bruce Herschensohn, but he was an important figure in the anti-communist wing of the modern conservative movement at its dawn.
A gifted filmmaker Mr. Herschensohn, who passed away on November 30, helped guide Richard Nixon to the presidency in 1968, and he later became director of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in the Nixon administration. As Arnold Steinberg noted in his memorial piece for National Review, “Bruce was already director of USIA’s motion-picture division and continued in that post, gifting America with movies for international distribution that told our story and hit hard at communism. That he had been known as a Goldwater supporter in 1964 had not stopped President Lyndon Johnson from personally recruiting him to the post.”
By this point, noted Mr. Steinberg, “Bruce had already built a formidable body of work in documentary film-making, putting his name to everything from the 90-minute JFK: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums, made as a tribute after Kennedy’s assassination, to assorted pro-American films with narrators such as Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck. Perhaps the most effective American propaganda film ever was his Oscar-winning short on the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Politburo knew who he was and hated him.”
While at USIA Herschensohn tangled up with the vile segregationist and anti-Semite Democrat Senator William Fulbright and got himself fired due to his honesty about Fulbright’s intellectual limitations, but leaving government allowed him to return to Los Angeles to become a top-rated conservative television and radio commentator.
Herschensohn became a familiar face on Southern California TV screens in the 1980s and early ’90s, appearing as a political commentator on ABC7, where he filled the conservative half of the station’s “point/counterpoint” segment alongside former Democratic Senator John Tunney. He also served as a commentator for KABC-AM (790) and was a prolific columnist for newspaper opinion pages.
Herschensohn twice ran for the US Senate and, although he lost his second campaign in 1992, with his upbeat conservative message and legions of volunteers and first-time donors attracted to his personality, Herschensohn ran one million votes ahead of his party’s national ticket in a California that was beginning to slide leftward with increasing velocity.
Mr. Herschensohn also taught foreign policy as the Nixon Chair at Whittier College, where the former president attended college, and served as Distinguished Fellow at the Claremont Institute. He was one of the earliest voices to raise the alarm over Islamist terrorism and in a media environment that was increasingly hostile to the Jewish state he was one of the era’s strongest defenders of the State of Israel.
Among Bruce Herschensohn’s many books and columns is one that might serve as a prescient warning for today. In American Amnesia Herschensohn explains how we turned victory into defeat and lost what was gained at great sacrifice in Vietnam and Cambodia. In so doing he examined the incredible actions taken by the 94th Congress and by many American citizens which forced South Vietnam's surrender to the Communist North, an event that brought about immense tragedy for Southeast Asians and haunts our political landscape to this day. You can watch Mr. Herschensohn discuss the book through this link and more generally how Democrats forced America to squander its success in Southeast Asia through this link.
Beyond the many students and young conservatives Mr. Herschensohn mentored his greatest legacy may be his warnings to freedom-loving people around the world that they cannot expect Democrats in the White House and Congress to back them up in a crisis.
U.S. Information Agency (USIA)