WASHINGTON — Marcus Raskin, an influential liberal opinion shaper who co-founded the progressive Institute for Policy Studies, died on December 24 in his Washington, DC home. He was 83 years old.
His son, Jamie Raskin, a member of the US House of Representatives, told US media the cause of death was heart failure.
The second child of Russian Jewish immigrants, Raskin was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1934. His father was a plumber and his mother was a seamstress.
Growing up, he showed a facility for playing the piano when he started at age four and quickly became a child prodigy. Later, as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, he gave lessons to Philip Glass, an American composer widely recognized as one of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century.
“I asked Marcus for help with the piano, and he became my piano teacher,” Glass wrote in “Words Without Music,” his 2015 memoir. “With him, I started on a real piano technique, and he was serious about my progress.”
After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School in 1957, Raskin worked for several congressmen before joining the John F. Kennedy administration as an assistant to national security adviser McGeorge Bundy. He was also a member of the National Security Council.
Raskin’s first day on the job was April 17, 1961, which also happened to be the first day of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, an operation carried out by an anti-Castro group of Cubans but was supervised by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Following Kennedy’s 1963 assassination, he left government and established IPS with Richard Barnett, a former State Department official. Most of their work centered on opposition to America’s war in Vietnam, but it focused also on civil rights and other social and national security issues.
In 1971, the former government consultant Daniel Ellsberg sent Raskin excerpts of the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret government analysis detailing the history of the US involvement in Vietnam. Raskin put him in contact with Neil Sheehan of The New York Times, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his series of reports on the study.
Ever the provocateur, Raskin, along with Barnet, was put on former president Richard Nixon’s famous enemies list, largely for his activism against the war in Vietnam. IPS was thus kept under surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from the late 60s through the early 70s.
Throughout his life, Raskin authored or edited at least 22 books. His most recent project was “The Four Freedoms Under Siege: The Clear and Present Danger from Our National Security State,” which he wrote with Robert Spero about the George W. Bush administration.
Toward the end of his life, Raskin also served as a public policy professor at George Washington University.
He is survived by his wife Lynn Randels Raskin and three children from his first marriage, including Rep. Raskin.