[ TITLE: 11pm, JULY 25th 1967 ]
PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON: Law and order have broken down in Detroit, Michigan. Pillage, looting, murder…
VO: Only a few years before, President Johnson had promised policies that would create a new and a better world in America. He had called it “the Great Society.”
[ TITLE: President LYNDON JOHNSON, 1964 ]
JOHNSON: The Great Society is in place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind. It is a place where the City of Man…
VO: But now, in the wake of some of the worst riots ever seen in America, that dream seemed to have ended in violence and hatred. One prominent liberal journalist called Irving Kristol began to question whether it might actually be the policies themselves that were causing social breakdown.
IRVING KRISTOL: If you had asked any liberal in 1960, we are going to pass these laws, these laws, these laws, and these laws, mentioning all the laws that in fact were passed in the 1960s and ‘70s, would you say crime will go up, drug addiction will go up, illegitimacy will go up, or will they get down? Obviously, everyone would have said, they will get down. And everyone would have been wrong. Now, that’s not something that the liberals have been able to face up to. They’ve had their reforms, and they have led to consequences that they did not expect and they don’t know what to do about.
VO: In the early ‘70s, Irving Kristol became the focus of a group of disaffected intellectuals in Washington. They were determined to understand why the optimistic liberal policies had failed. And they found the answer in the theories of Leo Strauss. Strauss explained that it was the very basis of the liberal idea—the belief in individual freedom—that was causing the chaos, because it undermined the shared moral framework that held society together. Individuals pursued their own selfish interests, and this inevitably led to conflict. As the movement grew, many young students who had studied Strauss’ ideas came to Washington to join this group. Some, like Paul Wolfowitz, had been taught Strauss’ ideas at the University of Chicago, as had Francis Fukuyama. And others, like Irving Kristol’s son William, had studied Strauss’ theories at Harvard. This group became known as the neoconservatives.