Carl Bernstein is best known for his role, along with fellow Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward, in exposing the Watergate scandal back in the early 70’s. The story created a sensation and ultimately turned into a Pulitzer Prize for each reporter. That led them to co-author the riveting “All the President’s Men.” The book was followed by a movie of the same title starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman, playing the part of Bernstein.
But that certainly was not where it stopped for Bernstein. He’s had a full and accomplished literary career outside of Watergate. Thanks to my eldest son, who follows such things, I recently read a book that he sent me, among other things, for Christmas. It was somewhat less known than “All the President’s Men.” The latter having spent six months on the NY Times best-seller list. The title of my son’s gift was “Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir.” Simon and Schuster published it. It hit bookstores early 1990. The book is mostly about Bernstein’s mother and father and their circle of primarily Jewish friends and their flirtation with the Communist Party back in the Truman-McCarthy era. It tells of the constant harassment of suspected communists and expands on Harry Truman’s infamous Executive Order 9835, generally referred to as the “Loyalty Order.” The Washington DC Jewish political culture of the time serves as the centerpiece.
You should be able to pick up “Loyalties” cheap. I checked Amazon and a used paperback starts at a minimum of a penny; a used hardcover is 8 cents and up. The new editions are a bargain as well. Don’t forget shipping costs.
What makes “Loyalties” so fascinating is its current application to the political happenings of 2014. There are innumerable parallels to the communist witch-hunt of 60 odd years ago and the current climate of equal suspicions, dictatorial political imperatives, vengeful punishments, ignominious expulsions and heartless, lifelong ruination of reputations and careers of many high-quality people.
A little background on Harry Truman’s Executive Order, signed in March of 1947, will be instructive in this context. It was born out of the fear of communists in the federal government and the prospect that our Cold War enemy of the time might develop the atomic bomb before the U.S. had a chance to unleash it’s deadly power on hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians. Over 3 million federal employees were investigated under the order. An estimated 300 were shown the door.
There was no question that American communists and communist sympathizers were involved in the espionage of giving the reds access to helpful secrets that could lead to the development of the A-bomb. There were some people who had to be found, investigated, arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced. The most memorable in the public consciousness would undoubtedly be Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, both convicted in March of ’51 of heading a spy ring passing atomic bomb secrets to the Russians.
You could probably make a reasonably strong case against Julius, but to many historians, Ethel seemed little more than an accomplished typist transferring the purloined state secrets to easily read lettered accounts and should have been spared. Nonetheless, both were electrocuted within 15 minutes of each other on June 19, 1953 at Sing Sing.
What makes this issue so timely is that the real targets were not the communist, but labor unions and “liberals.” Truman was reacting to the vicious right-wing vilification of all things progressive and a charge that he was “soft on communism.” Unions were a ready target since in the 30’s, some had indeed been infiltrated by those with communist beliefs who helped initiate and organize union activities. Communist participation weakened considerably in the ensuing years however and most of the questioning by congressional committees, including the horrific House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the later grillings by the Senate Committee on Government Relations headed by Wisconsin wing-nut thug, Senator Joe McCarthy centered around WERE you ever a member of the party, this union or suspect organization, rather than ARE you a member.
Like a fallen away Catholic, Bernstein’s father, who indeed did work for the government, had once been a member of a communist organization. He was no zealot, but joined out of a feeling of powerlessness to do good deeds under the current system. He was a relatively benign presence before dropping out completely a few years later. Still the FBI had gathered enough intelligence on the elder Bernstein to sink the Queen Mary, none of it germane as it turned out.
The book quotes a memo from Clark Clifford, a man of impeccable credentials and service to the country and the Democratic Party, as saying the whole communist thing was essentially manufactured for reasons just cited. Bernstein also shows his father the text of an interview of Truman by New York Herald Tribune reporter, Bob Donovan. The reporter told Truman that the Loyalty Order was the worst thing he had done in his presidency. Truman, not running for another term, said “Yes, it was terrible.”
That’s where the Tea Party comes in. Modern-day Republicans follow a ‘terrible’ Loyalty Order of sorts that demands they follow the group’s totally uncompromising, simplistic ideology: Hate the federal government and oppose with every fiber of your being any issue founded and/or favored by the Democratic Party. That’s it. It’s the simplest of imperatives for simple followers. It takes no imagination, work, research or deep thinking to “Just say no.” Candidates also sign silly, meaningless ‘pledges’ to earn their bones.
The parallels from “Loyalties” jump off the page. Highly orchestrated paranoia aimed at a common enemy. That enemy was Communism in the middle of the last century. Predictably, Catholics became barnacled to the issue back then, just as they follow the Tea Party Pied Piper nonsense in today’s America. Atheist Communism, by the way, is the same system that rules countries that are now home to some of our mightiest factories and biggest corporations that employ tens of thousands of overseas “communists.” For Tea Party power purposes, today’s communists are Muslims, gays, blacks and Hispanics. Elect Democrats and these monsters will be loosened on the population according to the Tea Party.
Talk even a sliver of compromise and the Tea Party will load up your next primary with their anointed ideologue and pour secret billionaire money into their campaign coffers. Some day or some decade hence, moderate Republicans may come to realize that the Tea Party is destroying all reason in a GOP that could at least occasionally work in harmony across the aisle when certain issues were seen to benefit supporters of both parties.
In the current political climate, the only compromising from the Tea Party is the highly transparent dive to the middle at election-time, only to revert to their right-wing fanaticism several seconds after their guy or gal is sworn in.
So, after all these years, the strategy remains. One final point: Don’t you find it strange that there’s no easily recognizable leader of the Tea Party? The only name ever consistently associated with this outfit was Dick Armey of FreedomWorks who will be given $8 million over the next 20 years just to get his ass out of there. Upon leaving, Armey called the Tea Party Sugar Daddy dishonest.
That’s the most honest thing Armey has said in years!
Raised rural & small town, then lived in N.Y., Chicago & LA. Widely traveled. Returned from world wandering to pursue media life of anchorman/reporter and major, medium and small market talk radio. Highly active in politics. Once worked as orderly & security in Mens Lock Ward for the Criminally Insane at a state institution. Much more rational population than current Teapublicans. Great concern for country run by and for the extreme wealthy. The inhumane current running through this country has no precedent in modern history.
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