Wednesday, May 28, 1975. A telephone rings impatiently in an 11th-story office at Hoover Tower, Stanford University's architectural "trademark." A secretary at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace answers the phone and takes down a cryptic message. The caller speaks with a Slavic accent of purest gravel; he leaves a phone number with an Alaskan area code.
The following morning, Richard Staar, the Hoover's Russian-speaking associate director, dials Alaska with some trepidation. A man comes to the phone and identifies himself as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel laurete writer expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974. He is unable to return to his homeland, and the White House has refused to receive him for fear of jeopardizing detente. Could he come to the Hoover Institution to continue research on his saga of the Russian Revolution?
Since the early '70s, the Hoover Institution had been smuggling to him in the USSR copies of rare Russian documents from its archives, which are among the largest private archives in the United States -- exceeded in size only by the National Archives and the Library of Congress. It has become a Mecca for cold war scholars or, for that matter, anyone researching economic, political, and social movements of the 20th century.) Solzhenitsyn used the documents for research on his historical novel "1914."
The Hoover Institution, founded in 1919 by the late President Herbert Hoover to "demonstrate the evils of the doctrines of Karl Max," welcomed the Soviet dissident with open arms.
Solzhenitsyn's 1975 pilgrimage to the Hoover archives -- his first stop in the mainland United States -- became a feather in the institution's cap which it never hesitates to wave. Everyone from receptionist on up to the Director proudly recites the story of how the Soviet writer was made an honorary fellow of the Hoover. Today Solzhenitsyn's photograph hangs in many Hoover Tower offices, side by side with authorgaphed portraits of the Institution's other favorite son, Ronald Reagan.
While the Hoover flaunts its liaison with Solzhenitsyn, its scholars downplay in conversation the Institution's kinship with Reagan. Yet this understated alliance with the leading Republican presidential candidate appears to be an important link in the Hoover Institution's emergence as the nation's preeminent conservative brain trust.
Over the years, the institution's increased political muscle has come primarily through its connection with the right wing of the GOP and wealthy California Republicans. The Hoover's board of overseers is well stocked with high-level executives from large companies like General Electric, Champion International, the Times-mirror Company, and Hewlett-Packard. Among its overseers are: William Simon, former Secretary of the Treasury; Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers; Anne Armstrong, former ambassador to the Court of St. James (Brit- ain); John E. Swearingen, Chairman of the Board, Standard Oil of Indiana; and John R. Grey, President of Standard Oil of California.
The Hoover Institution's research has also shaped debate within the Republican Party over issues ranging from health care to the Middle East, welfare reform to airline deregulation. In 1964, W. Glenn Campbell (no relation to the singer), director of the Hoover Institution, took a leave of absence to advise Barry Goldwater in his presidential campaign. In 1976 Darrell Trent, a associate director at the Hoover, took a leave of absence to become deputy national director in Reagan's campaign.
Martin Anderson, senior fellow and one of the Hoover "whiz kids," served as richard nixon's director of research in the 1968 campaign and later worked in the Nixon White House. In 1976 he advised Ronald Reagan and is now acting as a campaign "consultant" to the former California Governor in the present presidential race.
In 1975, Reagan was made an honoray fellow at the Hoover (one of three, along with Solzhenitsyn and Novel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek). That same year he donated to the Hoover archives 20 tons of his gubernatorial papers and memorabilia from the years 1967-1975.Today the papers occupy some 1800 cardboard boxes which, if stacked side by side, would stretch the length of six football fields. The Reagan archive is three times larger than any other in the Hoover collection.
Political observers have come to refer to the Hoover Institutionas A "REpublican government-in-exile." Some call the Hoover staff a "shadow cabinet" for the next coservative Republican administration. Others project Glenn Campbell, an ecomonist, as the next secretary of the treasury if Reagan is elected in 1980. (In 1968 then-Governor Reagan appointed Campbell to al 16-year term on the Board of Regents of the University of California.)
"Hoover people assume the country is getting more conservative," says a former Hoover fellow, "and if Ronald Reagan wins the election they will ride to glory on his coattails. After the invasion of Afghanistan, they began to talk in Hoover Tower as if they were on the verge of public policy hegemony."
In the days of the New Frontier and the Great Society when liberalism was fashionable, the Hoover Institution was a conservative voice crying in the wilderness. Today as the cold war gets chillier and detente becomes a dirty word, Hoover scholars feel vindicated. The published research of the institution (The Hoover PRess cranked out 31 new titles last year) and the congressional testimony of its resident scholars (who include nuclear physicist and "father of the H-bomb" Edward Teller; sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset; philosopher Sidney Hook, and Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman) carries increased weight in Washington, D.C.
"The state Department called me a crazy militarist last year when I told them the Soviet Union was trying to seize the Persian Gulf. Now Carter is talking like he read our book," says Peter Duignan, a senior fellow and curator of the Hoover's Africa and Middle East collection. The book he refers to is "The United States in the 1980s," which he coedited and which was published in January by the Hoover Press.
"The only solution to conflict in the Persian Gulf," says Duignan "is to station a quick reaction strike force of 35,000 to 40,000 men in the Sinai. There are no radical students, lefties, or peaceniks there to bother us. We should tell the Soviets, 'You can have Iran but we want everything west of the Persian Gulf. That's where your sphere of influence stopes.'"
Duignan has been at the Hoover Institution longer than anyone else on the research staff. In the last 18 years he has written or edited 65 books on colonialism and Africa, most of which are neatly shelved in his office at the base of Hoover Tower. Behind his desk is a Masai tribesman spear, once used for killing lions. In front of his desk is a metal mesh basket filled with tennis balls. He practices his serve during the lunch hour.
An anamated academic with a riotous Robinson Crusoe beard, Duignan says he was "raised by a militant IRA mother." It shows. His anti-communism comes richly clothed in Irish hyperbole. "There is no justification for any communist regime in the world, their record is so bad. I have no trouble being anticommunist; it's in the nature of being a ood person," Duignan was once quoted as saying.
"We learned the wrong lessons from Vietnam," he told me. "The great tragedy was that we didn't stay. We lost our nerve and didn't stick to the domino theory. Anyone who just looks at the documents in our archives could never support detente."
In addition to influencing america's future, the Hoover is collecting the world's past. Among its more than 4,000 archival collections are: the diaries of Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler; official records of the Nazi Party, including the Gestapo's arrest list for Britain and some of Hitler's last directives; files from 1885-1917 of the Okhrana -- the czarist secret police -- including dossiers on suspected revolutionaries such as Leon Trotsky; rare records of the Chinese Communist Party; Japanese documents on the attack of Pearl Harbor; a rare first edition of the Communist Manifesto and the first public copy of Pravda, dated March 5, 1917. (at one point the editors of the Soviet newspaper had to ask the Hoover to send them a microfilm copy of that particular issue because their own original had been destroyed).
Herbert Hoover's gift in 1919 of several thousand World War I documents to stanford, his alma mater, has grown into a collection of tens of millions of items spanning the entire century. Under the direction of archivist Milorad drachkowitch, the Hoover continues to acquire more than 100 new collections every year.
Drachkowitch, a Yugoslavian emigre who has every right to be bitter, is as warm-hearted as they come. His father, a leader in the Serbian democratic Party, was assassinated by Yugoslav communists after World War 1. Milorad fought in the Yugoslav Resistance during World War ii, was arrested by the Nazis, sent to a labor camp in Germany' Black Forest, and eventually escaped to Switzerland.
In his basement office, Drachkowitch muses that gathering archival material today involves little of the "cloak and dagger" activities associated with Herbert Hoover's notorious "Operation Packrat." After World War i, Hoover donated to Stanford $150,000 to finance a team of young scholars who combed Europe collecting documents, political leaflets and posters which might provide grist for future historians. At the time, Hoover was head of the American RElief Association, providing food for millions of needy Europeans. His research project was dubbed "Operation Packrat" after then-Stanford President Ray Lyman Wilbur's remark, "Hoover is the greatest packrat of all time because whenever he leaves a ton of food, he picks up a pound of history."
After World War ii, Hoover recruited a new team of packrats who raced into Berlin, vying with the Russians for rare Nazi documents and acquiring material in unorthodox ways. According to Drachkowitch, they traded a pair of American stockings with the girlfriend of a former SS officer to get his personal papers. One American historian stumbled upon a pile of documents behind Goebbles' Ministry of Propaganda only a few days after Russian soldiers had found them stuffed in several garbage cans. In the most utilitarian fashion, the Soviet soldiers had dumped the priceless material and had made off with the cans.
Today collecting archival material is relatively pedestrian and frequently boils down to "just plain letter-writing." Drachkowitch sends out some $:,200 solicitations every year. On average he waits 6 years before he makes the actual acquisition. The "most recent jewel" to arrive at the Hoover Archives, says Drachkowitch, is nearly a quarter million fee of newsreel and documentary film from Czarist and Commu nist Russia. The films, gathered by Ukranian emigre Herman Axelbank, date back to 1980 and make up the only collection of its kind outside of the Soviet Union.
Last year, the Hoover's academic storehouse and 1 1/2 million volume library attracted more than 1,000 visiting scholars from 40 states and 28 foreign countries. Researchers included Charles Malik, past president of the UN General Assembly; Oxford professors David Fieldhouse and Anthony Kirk-Greene; and British writer Malcolm Muggeridge.
While the Hoover is bursting its seams with business, liberal think tanks which flourished in the '60s, like Santa Barbara's Center for study of Democratic Institutions, seem to be drying up. As big government solutions continue to have their faces rubbed in the mud, conservative brain trusts such as the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies, the American Enterprise Institute (both in Washington, DC), and the Hoover Institution are perking up.
"The liberal solutions mostly haven't worked," says Thomas Moore, a Michigan State economist who has headed the Hoover's domestic programs since 1974. "People are looking for new ideas, they are coming from what are called conservative economists. I prefer the term, 'free market economist.' Sure the free market isn't perfect but government isn't either. Now the liberal think tanks which have been committed to government solutions are on the defensive."
Conservative think tanks have not always been in vogue. In the late '50s, the Hoover Institution was going broke. In 1959, Herbert Hoover handpicked Glenn CAmpbell to be the Institution's new Director. Campbell, an economist who had just put the faltering American Enterprise Institute bank on its feet, moved to Stanford that winter to take on a larger challenge. Campbell and Hoover teamed up on fund raising, and within a year the research center was in the black. Under Campbell's direction over the last 20 years, the Hoover staff has grown nearly fivefold (the Institution now has some 40 senior fellows and research fellows and the operating budget has swelled from less than $400,000 to
The University provides nearly one-third of Hoover's annual budget. Individual, corporate, and foundation gifts account for almost half. Less than 5 percent of Hoover's funds comes from government grants, the bread and butter of most consulting firms. Unlike most think tanks which work "on contract," the Hoover prefers to see itself as a scholarly institution, not a gun for hire.
The Hoover's association with a prestigious university has been a mixed blessing. While the link is a source of pride for the Hoover staff, it has also irritated Stanford's predominantly liberal faculty. Faculty members not only question the quality of the institution's research but also charge that the Hoover's "politicking" violates the University's policy of academic neutrality.
Professor Alexander Dallin, a Soviet specialist in Stanford's History Department, spent eight years at the Hoover Institution as a senior research fellow and left in 1978 because he "felt cleaner not being associated with the Hoover." Says Dallin: "They [members of the Hoover staff] compare themselves to the Brookings Institution on the Democratic side, and it seems to me inappropriate to have something like that, as part of an academic institution whether it is politically conservative or radical."
The Hoover staff bristles at the suggestion that the Institution serves the research needs of conservative elements within the Republican Party. They protest that the staff is sprinkled with a few registered Democrats and libertarians and among those are scholars who support such "liberal" causes as the Equal Rights Amendment, the all-volunteer army, and the decriminalization of marijuana and so-called "victimless" crimes like prostitution, gambling, and narcotics.
Lipset, the renowed sociologist who left Harvard four years ago to join the Hoover, resists the "neo-conservative" pigeonholing. As evidence of his open-mindedness, Lipset offers his status as a registered Democrat and Vice-Chairman of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, closely associated with Senators Henry Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
"Political labels don't work these days," says Lipset. "Most Americans are ideologically conservative, but pragmatically liberal. They want to cut taxes but are all for maintaining education and health care," he says.
"The average American is like an accordion with liberal notes and conservative notes. That's why politicians spend so much time figuring out which notes to play."