The American Right Has Long Thought in Its Secret Heart That Roosevelt Was a Communist. Eisenhower Too!
When you got a certain class of Republicans of a generation ago--Meldrim Thomson comes immediately to mind--together in an arena where they feel comfortable--feel willing to let their hair down--and, I found, pretty soon they began to muse: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was certainly a Communist--look at how he gave eastern Europe to Josef Stalin. U.S. Army Chief of Staff, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense George Marshall likewise--look at how he gave China to Mao Zedong. And Eisenhower--Marshall was Eisenhower's patron, did you know that? Typical of this class was science-fiction author Robert Heinlein. First, the setup--what Heinlein wrote in 1958 during the nuclear test-ban debate:
"The National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy." It may well be that none of the persons… are Communists… possibly all of them are loyal and merely misguided…. If nuclear weapons and their vehicles are outlawed… then--but you figure it out. 170,000,000 of us against 900,000,000 of them. Who wins?… "That all nuclear test explosions be stopped immediately…. This is the straight Communist gospel direct from the Kremlin…. In the vast spaces of Russia, Siberia, and China missiles of every sort--even the long-range ICBMs--can be tested in secret, manufactured and stockpiled and installed ready to go, despite all "monitoring."…
It is no accident that this manifesto follows the Communist line, no coincidence that it "happens" to appear all over the United States the very week that Khrushchev has announced smugly that the U.S.S.R. has ended their tests…. They used this method to gut our army after the Japanese surrender with the slogan of "Bring the Boys Home."… We say to the commissars: "You will never enslave us. The worst you can do is kill us. But we are resolved to die free!"… No scare talk of leukemia, mutation, or atomic holocaust will sway us. Is "fall-out" dangerous? Of course it is!… If atomic war comes, will it kill off the entire human race? Possibly--almost certainly so if the Masters of the Kremlin choose to use cobalt bombs…. We accept the risks.
And then Eisenhower agreed to suspend nuclear tests and negotiate for a test ban. And Heinlein's reaction:
When the soi-disant "SANE" committee published… We published our ad… encouraged its publication elsewhere, mailed thousands of reprints, spoke before countless meetings, collected and mailed to the White House thousands of copies…. Then the rug was jerked out from under us; by executive order Mr. Eisenhower canceled all testing…. I was stunned…. I should not have been as I knew that he was a political general long before he entered politics--stupid, all front, and dependent on his staff…
Note the fig leaf--that Eisenhower was "stupid, all front, and dependent on his staff". Nobody who impressed both George Marshall and Douglas MacArthur could be "stupid, all front". Nobody who could successfully manage Patton, Montgomery, Churchill, and the rest of that extremely motley crew was "dependent on his staff".
Heinlein in 1958 does not dare say "Eisenhower was a Commie". But he thinks it.
And now this long Republican underworld has crept out into the light of day with Diana West's American Betrayal, endorsed by--surprise! surprise!--Amity Shlaes ("Diana West masterfully… paints for us the broad picture of our own long record of failing to recognize bullies and villains. She shows how American denial today reflects a pattern that held strongly in the period of the Soviet Union"), Monica Crowley ("American Betrayal is a monumental achievement. Brilliant and important"), &c.
Kevin Drum watches, awestruck:
The Latest One-Upsmanship on the Lunatic Right: It's hard to keep up with the latest in right-wing looniness. But Andrew Sullivan helps out by highlighting American Betrayal, a loopy new book that updates and then turbocharges the whole Yalta-treason-conspiracy-so-vast fever swamp of the late 40s and 50s:
Take a new book by Diana West about how the Soviet Union “occupied” America under FDR and dictated foreign policy to serve communist interests…. And then you begin to inquire further and your eyes widen a little. A few paragraphs into reading the debate, you realize that all of this is connected with the claim of a current huge conspiracy lying in plain sight--the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on the White House. Obama is a closet Islamist, just as FDR was a closet Stalinist. It all makes sense now!…. So do yourself a favor and get a glimpse of the insanity now dominating what was once a vibrant intellectual culture….
West's book is nonsense… well-marinated in the worst kind of Glenn Beck-style nutballism. And yet, great swathes of the right wing have embraced it eagerly. This is part of a peculiar trend on the right over the past few years, in which conservatives are no longer content to argue that liberalism and the New Deal were merely misguided policies. That's not enough. They're now returning to Bircher-esque narratives that were abandoned long ago, in which the history of America since the 30s is just one long story of treachery, corruption, economic decline, and deliberate appeasement….
You can barely get any attention these days by writing merely that liberals are trying to turn America into a socialist hellhole. That's so 2009. Instead you have to argue that FDR was basically a Soviet mole. I'm not sure where it ends.