Drove through the streets of Gainesville with my father, who talked about a book he is writing about Brazil. He said when he was in Brasilia as a political officer in the mid-60s he had no idea what was going on, and neither did the other political officers (Purdy, Lavitsky). Herb Okun [head of mission] might have known something, he had contacts, he spoke excellent Portuguese, but he did a terrible job. He should have been having cocktail parties, inviting his contacts to meet the junior officers. 'I don't know what he did all day, probably sat at home in his apartment reading Edmund Wilson.'
I said I was surprised, I had always though of Mr Okun as a great socialiser.
My father: Maybe he was when he was down in Belo Horizonte, he did a good job in Belo, he knew all kinds of people, in fact through one of his contacts he heard early that the military were marching on Rio, so he was able to tell the Embassy they were coming. He didn't do any of that in Brasilia. In fact, the best contacts we made were through Mary [my mother], she was teaching English at the Binational Center and she had all these deputies in the class, there was Bernardo Cabral who later became Minister of Justice, X [forget name], there was a very right-wing guy, there was a governor, I guess there were five in the class. So we had these guys over to the house and got to know them. Some of the other wives were also teaching English, but Mary had the most interesting students.
He explained: Anyway, we didn't know what was going on, sometimes Fred Purdy and I would say, Hey, let's go over to Congress and see if we meet anyone! and sometimes we would.
He said: It should have been easy to meet people in Brasilia, the deputies were there three days a week, anyway, even if they were away on weekends, they were away from their families, some of them left their wives at home, they were bored, but Herb just sat at home reading Edmund Wilson.
He explained: Well, the problem was, Herb was brought back en route to Moscow. He did a very good job in Belo, and then he spent a year in Brasilia, and then he was appointed to Moscow. So he actually left, and then the Ambassador decided he couldn't afford to let him go. The guy who was supposed to replace him was a very nice kind of guy but ineffectual, and it was a sensitive time, and they didn't think they could afford to have him in place, so the Ambassador called the State Department and they sent Herb back. And he bitterly resented it. They gave him a second title, he was also Political Counsellor for the whole of Brazil, you'd think it would have meant something to be indispensable but he bitterly resented it. So he didn't do anything. There was a special suite at the Embassy where you could give dinners for 12, it would have been perfect for inviting deputies to meet people, but Herb didn't use it once. He just sat in his apartment reading Edmund Wilson, and then he and Loraine went to Moscow and Steve Lowe came, and he didn't know anybody and didn't speak Portuguese. So nobody knew anything.
In a separate but not unrelated incident my father explains that he is finding all kinds of information about the activities of the CIA at the time. He expresses horror at the current practice of waterboarding, he can't believe these are AMERICAN CITIZENS. I remind him that his career advice to me was to join the CIA. My father: You'd have been good in the CIA. (My comment at the time of the advice was that I did not like the idea of going around assassinating people. My father: You would probably not be in the field. You would probably be analysing data.)