In 1905 Harvard Professor
George Santayana despaired of a younger generation’s ignorance, warning that
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” After World
War II John Kennedy published two best sellers: Why England Slept and Profiles
On May 29, 2008 Accuracy in
Media (aim.org)―in an article titled “The Network Behind the Bush-bashing Book”―exposed
the mendacity of Scott McClellan and his
editors. On May 30 Fox News reported “[Former Senator] Dole basically described
the former White House press secretary as a traitor looking to cash in on the
“liberal” media’s distaste for President Bush.”
With my recollection
refreshed by AIM, I have some painful remembrances of past treasons.
My memories are of two close
relatives who during the prohibition era were co-conspirators of Joe Kennedy
and mobster boss Frank Costello―whose headquarters were a short drive from my
home. A decade later I was in the Navy and regarded Kennedy as a traitor who
had given aid and comfort to Adolf Hitler.
One of my uncles was a part-time
Assistant District Attorney―and also a well paid “consiglieri” for
Costello. The other relative operated an illegal still. At that time Kennedy
had a monopoly on imported Scotch. Since our relative had many American
competitors, his earning were less than those of Kennedy―who diluted Johnny
Walker Scotch with our relative’s low priced ethyl alcohol.
In 1938, Roosevelt appointed
Kennedy as the United States Ambassador to Britain. Prior to the bombing of Britain in
1940, Kennedy had clashed with Winston Churchill―who had opposed efforts to
negotiate a compromise with Hitler. Also, without authorization from President
Roosevelt, Kennedy supported Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of
In 1938, as the Nazi
persecution of Jews intensified, Kennedy attempted―again without FDR’s approval―to
obtain an audience with Adolf Hitler. In September 1940, shortly before World
War II broke out, Kennedy―once again without presidential approval―sought to
negotiate personally with Hitler.
On November 10, 1940 Kennedy
told the Boston Sunday Globe that “Democracy is finished in England.
It may be here…” It isn’t that [Britain is] fighting for democracy.
That’s the bunk. She’s fighting for self-preservation, just as we will if it
comes to us…I know more about the European situation than anybody else, and
it’s up to me to see that the country gets it.”
When President Roosevelt read
Kennedy’s quotes he recalled him from Britain, and ordered him to resign
or be fired. After Kennedy left the oval office, FDR reportedly told the Secret
Service: “Never let that son of a bitch in here again.”
Kennedy then became a supporter
of the “America First” movement founded by Charles Lindbergh, who had met Hitler
and was also a Nazi sympathizer. At that time “America First” was also
supported Fritz Kuhn, the American fuehrer of the “German-American Bund.”
My saddest memories are of 1940,
when I was 15-years-old. During that period my grandfather―on learning that his
brother and more than 30 of his relatives in Poland were either dead or in Nazi
prisons―had a stroke.
Fortunately, during the
pre-Pearl Harbor months of the Battle of Britain, a family friend, Robert
Spivack―a protégé of Eleanor Roosevelt―had founded an organization called
“Fight For Freedom,” which mobilized African Americans and Jews, to petition Congress
to declare war on Germany.
My grandparents and mother contributed funds to Bob’s group.
At that time Joe Kennedy had
incited a student pacifist group to stage anti-war demonstrations at Harvard’s
Widener Memorial Library―calling for the removal from its walls of a large
mural by John Singer Sargent commemorating Harvard men who had died in the First
Titled “Death and Victory,”
the mural bore an inscription, “Happy are those who with one last embrace clasp
both death and victory. The demonstrators denounced it for “glorifying war” and
demanded its removal. A successful
counter demonstration was also waged that had included Bob Spivack, my
mother and grandfather, as well as one
of my high school teachers, Marjorie Hubbard―whose son would later die on a
bombing raid over Nazi Germany.
I first saw the mural in 1943
when I was sent to a Navy training program at Harvard. There President Conant―in
his welcoming address to our class of 1947―included advice that I have never
forgotten: “The hallmark of a modern well educated man is to know on which
experts to rely.”
Sadly, these days a majority
of Harvard professors at the Kennedy School of Government are experts at the
art of “how to avoid telling the truth without lying?” and revise history to
sanitize the sins of the father of Camelot.
Tyler Kent was an American
diplomat and alleged spy who, while working under the supervision of Ambassador
Joe Kennedy as a cipher clerk at the U.S. Embassy in London, stole thousands of secret documents
for a pro-German organization during World War II.
Kent was born in Manchuria
where his father was a U.S. Consul. Eventually, through his father’s
connections, he joined the State Department and was posted to our embassy in Moscow. There, he became
responsible for encoding and decoding Top Secret messages.
In 1939 he was under
suspicion for espionage for the Soviet Union, but lacking any solid evidence,
the State Department―apparently with the approval of Ambassador Kennedy―transferred
him to our embassy in London.
At that time Winston Churchill had just been appointed First Lord of the
Admiralty, and was regularly communicating with Franklin Roosevelt.
With a position which
required him to encode and decode sensitive telegrams, Kent had access to a wide range of
secret documents, especially the communications between Churchill and Roosevelt,
and he stole many of them. He also became politically active in support of “America
First,” as well as British anti-war campaigns.
On May 18, 1940, Ambassador
Kennedy was informed of Kent’s
treason, and agreed to waive diplomatic immunity against his subordinate. On
May 20, Kent
was arrested in a dawn raid at his flat. When officers of MI5 inspected the
flat, they found 1,929 official documents: besides Churchill’s cables, there
was a book containing the names of people under surveillance by Special Branch
and MI5. Searchers also found keys to the U.S. Embassy code room.
Kent was specifically charged with stealing documents that
“might be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy.” On October 23 Kent
was tried in camera in the Old Bailey. On November 7, 1940 he was convicted and
sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.
A high level White House
aide, Scott McCellan―like Joe Kennedy and Tyler Kent―had access to classified
information. Although his book gives aid and comfort to the enemy, it is
unlikely that a jury would find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the
felony defined in the U.S. Criminal Code.
However, in addition to being
a felony, the Constitution specifically makes treason an impeachable offense.
It also gives Congress the authority to impeach former federal officials―and to
prohibit them from ever again serving in public office. It is also noteworthy
that under the laws of impeachment, it is not necessary to prove the commission
of a statutory crime―or proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the
standard―as applied by the House Judiciary Committee in voting to impeach
President Nixon―is the “abuse of power.”
Today there are currently two
House Members, Charlie Rangel and John Conyers, whom I consider as my friends―and
whom I counseled in 1974, during our impeachment of Richard Nixon. Ironically, John led the successful fight to
impeach former Judge Alcee Hastings for bribery. Apparently―because of either
an oversight or by design―Conyers failed to add a clause in the article of
impeachment to bar Hastings
from holding a future federal office. As a result Hastings was later elected to Congress, now
serves on the Judiciary Committee and in the Congressional Black Caucus, and is
an even more strident Bush basher than McClellan.
Sadly, unlike Republican
Senator Dole, John and Charlie are not speaking out against McClellan. Instead
he and most of my fellow Democrats are now aiding and abetting the marketing of
the book by the author whom Dole described as a “traitor” and “a miserable creature.”
©Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zeifman