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All the same, the buzz created by Raimondo, Garris, and Antiwar.com is anything but deafening. Although writer and editor Tom Englehardt, who runs the popular political blog TomDispatch.com, says he reads Antiwar.com every day, Slate.com's William Saletan had never heard of it. Neither had UC Berkeley journalism professor and political columnist Susan Rasky. National Review editor Rich Lowry also claimed ignorance, despite Frum's coverage, as did the Weekly Standard's Kristol.
"I've only logged on to Antiwar.com a few times," writes Salon.com columnist Joe Conason in an e-mail. "I also can't say that I know anyone who reads it regularly, although people sometimes send links to it in email. I would say that I don't think the anti-war movement in general has done much to advance the cause of libertarian conservatism (or vice versa)."
But if there are doubts about the longevity of the Antiwar.com phenomenon, Raimondo hasn't had them. "People know me now," says Raimondo. "I'm a contender."
On the outside wall of the guesthouse, near its front door, is a bronze and dark green metal sign that reads "Randolph Bourne Institute." Bourne, a writer in the early 1900s, is now a libertarian hero because he opposed big government and entry into World War I. The institute named after him represents the highest ambitions of Garris and Raimondo.
In 2001, they incorporated the institute as a nonprofit parent company for Antiwar.com; as Garris describes it, the institute will be an "educational think tank-type thing." It will allow them to apply for grants, so they can break free of Hunter's patronage. They also have big plans for an institute summer school where "young cadre," as Raimondo says, would come to live (in Hunter's house), to lounge around the pool listening to distinguished speakers, and to do assigned reading in the evenings.
The Randolph Bourne Institute feels – on many levels – like a kid's playhouse. When Hunter, Gilmore, Garris, and Raimondo refer to their bookshelves in the downstairs part of the guesthouse as "the library" and talk importantly about having "scope," "outreach," and "symposiums," the institute seems a grown-up fantasy. You can't help but imagine the "young cadre" showing up for summer school and being surprised – and maybe even creeped out – when the imposing-sounding Randolph Bourne Institute turns out to be some rich couple's guesthouse.
Still, Garris is confident that the institute is the start of something big. "It gives us, in terms of being in the world of opinion-making, something beyond just the Web site," he says one day while Raimondo is visiting.
"But we're not really an organization, Eric," says Raimondo, more realistically. "We're a conspiracy, pushing ideas out into cyberspace."
"We're not really an organization," agrees Garris. "We're a pre-organization."
One recent afternoon, Raimondo is visiting Garris at Antiwar.com's headquarters. Gilmore has gone to pick up her daughter at karate practice, and Hunter is at work, which leaves Garris and Raimondo sitting outside by the pool, so Raimondo can smoke. They drink coffee from a matching service a maid brings out to them. A small army of groundskeepers meanders over the property, clipping hedges and blowing leaves.
Garris and Raimondo talk to each other constantly on the phone, and often they bicker. Now, reflecting on their activist history, they can't quite agree on their degree of ineffectiveness.
"Looking at, say, LROC – the amount of time we spent at the 1988 Republican Convention! And look what we got out of it! Very little," fumes Garris.
"It's not TRUE, Eric," whines Raimondo. "Because the long term ..."
"There's long term, and there's ...," interrupts Garris.
"But what we handed out at the convention ..."
"I totally understand," says Garris.
"Our platform – we predicted the END of the Soviet Union!" says Raimondo.
"That's not my point."
"The END of communism," adds Raimondo.
"I'm not saying we didn't have ANY effect," says Garris. "I'm just saying we didn't see any immediate effect. With Antiwar.com, we have ..."
Raimondo slams both hands down on the wooden table, jiggling the coffee service. "POWER!"
Garris cracks up and nods.
"POWER!" Raimondo says again. "And we're using it for good.
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