CLARE BOOTHE LUCE
A BICENTENNIAL-YEAR DISCUSSION ON THE DECLINE OF THE WEST.
Byline: Susan Watters, April 1976
It’s such a different America than it was eight or nine years ago,” says Clare Boothe Luce, recalling the days when she was married to media magnate Henry Luce. “I think my husband would be very distressed by much that has happened in the country — Vietnam, Watergate, the general collapse of morals, the growing isolationism.”
Luce, a woman who married her way to wealth and power and then dared to use both, is still fighting. But lately the odds have troubled her. “The trend is all in the wrong direction. There is a decline of Western Christian civilization and many of the signs of collapse are present, among which is a general failure of will in this country — a feeling of ‘I want to get mine while the getting is good,’ a general lack in the country of a sense of duty or obligation and a tremendous desire for what’s been called ‘entitlements’ — what the state owes me as an individual, or owes my family.”
Is there any hope for the future?
“If you really want to be cheerful, you can look on the fall and decline of Rome as the beginning of a great new period in European history. So it’s quite likely that if the West declines and falls — which it gives every sign of doing — that this may mean the beginning of a great new period in civilization, perhaps a renaissance in the Orient, with the Chinese the great nation of the future.”
Luce’s Watergate apartment, from the antiques and artifacts to the needlepoint pillows she embroidered herself, are all in the Chinese style.
“The Luce family had a great deal of love for China,” she explains.
After a glittering political career as congresswoman, first woman appointed ambassador to a top European post, Republican convention delegate seconding Barry Goldwater’s 1964 nomination, herself mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate, Luce, at 73, is clearly uncomfortable with her somewhat limited view from the sidelines.
But while she resides full-time in Honolulu, she is spending increasingly frequent month-long stints in Washington, where she serves as a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a board member of Encyclopedia Britannica and a consultant to the Library of Congress.
Here, more than ever, events are disturbing for the veteran Cold Warrior.
“I think there’s been a great reaction in the U.S. from people against the rather systematic destruction of the CIA’s reputation and image that’s taken place on the Hill,” she says. Later, she adds: “If the people knew how many Communist agents there are working throughout American life, they would climb the walls. Some Americans are making such a very great fuss about Americans bugging Americans. If they knew how many Soviets were bugging them, they would be very much perturbed.”
Luce refuses to estimate just how many spies there are. “Now you’re getting into classified information,” she cautions.
A leader in women’s rights — Luce marched for the Equal Rights Amendment in 1922 — she is uncomfortable with today’s sexual revolution.
“The ordinary thing would be for a girl today to shop around before she gets married. Virginity is lost very early and considered no big deal. I don’t know, it may be just because I’m of a different generation, but it seems to me there was more mystery, romance and charm about the old ways than there is now. I think sex has become very public. I know that I don’t want to see those movies and read porn books. It’s very hard to speak of morals and mores in an age where they do not exist, isn’t it?” she asks. “I don’t know anything that shocks anyone anymore.”