Like pulling an all-nighter with the aid of caffeine pills, protesting a speech by a controversial political figure is a time-honored tradition on college campuses. So it should have surprised no one — least of all officials of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library at the University of Texas at Austin — that Henry Kissinger’s February 1 appearance there would raise a few hackles. If a man whom UT journalism professor and activist grise Robert Jensen calls “a uniquely evil figure in American history” can’t get a rise out of a crowd, who can?
Alas, the former secretary of state never got the chance to engage in a heavily accented shouting match with Jensen or other would-be demonstrators from groups like Students Against Sweatshops and Amnesty International. On January 28, mindful of what happened the last time he appeared at the LBJ Library — back in 1984, when he shared a stage with former secretary of defense Robert McNamara, fifty protesters were dragged out and hauled off to the clink — Kissinger decided to stay home, citing concerns about public safety. Subsequent newspaper reports played the blame game, with UT officials accusing the protesters of squashing Kissinger’s right to free speech and the protesters countering that UT was interfering with theirs, but they didn’t answer the relevant question: Was the threat real?
According to two sources with intimate knowledge of the preparations for the speech, the law enforcement authorities monitoring the situation felt certain it was. The sources say that the Austin Police Department obtained inside information indicating, first, that one