Experts analyzed May 3 on MTL Washington Update radio the sequester's impact on the public, as well as chilling revelations about the FBI's long-term campaign to stifle political opponents.
Richard Sammon, left, is senior associate editor of the Kiplinger Letter. He drew from his in-depth report this week on spending cuts and their impact on businesses and consumers.
Also on the noon (EDT) public affairs show, author Seth Rosenfeld summarized his findings from his award-winning book, Subversives. It documents how the FBI in the 1960s worked with prominent politicians to advance their careers.
He focused especially on how Ronald Reagan as president of the Screen Actors Guild began a strong relationship with the FBI to target suspected communists and other left-wingers -- first in Hollywood and then in such other realms of public life as California's state university system.
Rosenfeld, right, obtained 300,000 pages of confidential records revealing chilling cooperation between political and FBI leaders to target mutual opponents. His investigation began when he was a student newspaper editor in 1981 at the University of California at Berkeley. Through five lawsuits to obtain document release, he continued his research through his 25-year career as a prominent San Francisco newspaper reporter.
Sammon has been a full time national political reporter in Washington D.C. since 1990. He covers the White House, Congress, national politics, elections, defense and several other issues.
"Nearly everyone who deals with Uncle Sam will share the pain of the sequester – those automatic spending cuts in federal programs," Sammon and his colleagues said about their special report this week to Kiplinger subscribers.
"The real world impact? Longer waits for help from bureaucrats. Dried-up business for contractors and suppliers of everything from pens to planes. Closed national parks and monuments. And delayed trials in the U.S. Court system – maybe even for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect."
The Kiplinger Letter answers key questions about the sequester -- and forecasts how and when it will play out. Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc., a family-owned publisher founded in 1923, covers the economy, foreign affairs, government, trade, politics, labor, health, science, and consumer buying trends.
Sammon is a past president of the National Press Club and served for several years on its Board of Governors. During his term, Sammon presided over many of the club's trademark and nationally broadcast luncheons featuring speeches and Q&A sessions with prime ministers, presidents and national figures in the government, arts and entertainment, business, science and politics.
Rosenfeld's focus also is on high-level government officials. Rosenfeld (portrayed in the photo above by Heidi Elise Benson) is an accomplished investigative reporter who won the Ridenhour Book Prize for Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals and Reagan’s Rise to Power. The book documents 1960s FBI surveillance, illegal break-ins, infiltration, planted news stories, poison-pen letters, and secret detention lists.
The revelations about Reagan are the heart of the book. Reagan proudly opposed the left throughout his career following his early membership in the Democratic Party. Rosenfeld's research, however, suggests that his opposition was stronger than commonly known.
"Reagan’s FBI connection is rooted in the turbulent years of post-World War II Hollywood, a time when, Reagan has written, his worldview was coming apart," Rosenfeld argued in a New York Times column, Reagan’s Personal Spying Machine. "His film career, his marriage to Jane Wyman and his faith in the political wisdom received from his father, an FDR Democrat, were all faltering."
"Reagan went on to make his fight against Communism in Hollywood a centerpiece of his talks as spokesman for General Electric in the 1950s," Rosenfeld continued. "Those eventually became broader warnings about what he saw as creeping socialism. The founding fathers, he declared in his 1961 speech, believed 'government should only do those things the people cannot do for themselves.'”
"But that guidance apparently didn’t apply to Reagan himself," Rosenfeld continued. "According to FBI records, in 1960 he turned to the federal government for help with the kind of problem families usually handle themselves."
Rosenfeld described how Reagan successfully urged the FBI to spy on two of his children, Maureen and Michael, when they were developing what he regarded as dangerous associations in their youthful years. They are shown at right with their father in a 1976 photo from the Reagan Family Photo Collection.
The interventions involved FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. "Here was Ronald Reagan, avowed opponent of overdependence on government," Rosenfeld wrote, "again taking personal and political help from Hoover."
This remarkable book traces the FBI’s secret involvement with three iconic figures who clashed at Berkeley during the 1960s — the ambitious neophyte politician Ronald Reagan, the fierce but fragile student radical Mario Savio, and the liberal university president Clark Kerr. Through these converging narratives, Rosenfeld tells a dramatic and disturbing story of FBI surveillance, illegal break-ins, infiltration, planted news stories, poison-pen letters, and secret detention lists.
He reveals how the FBI’s covert operations — led by Reagan’s friend J. Edgar Hoover — helped ignite an era of protest, undermine the Democrats, and benefit Reagan personally and politically. At the same time, Rosenfeld vividly evokes the life of Berkeley of that era — and shows how the university community, a center of the forward-looking idealism of the period, became a battleground in an epic struggle between the government and free citizens. As Rosenfeld concludes, Subversives illuminates “the dangers that the combination of secrecy and power pose to democracy, especially during turbulent times.”
Indeed, the FBI spent more than $1 million trying to block the release of the secret files on which Subversives is based, but Rosenfeld brought five lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act over 27 years that ultimately compelled the bureau to release more than 300,000 pages. As Matt Taibbi wrote in the New York Times Book Review, Subversives provides “a relevant warning. Domestic intelligence forces will tend to use all the powers they’re given (and even some that they’re not) to spy on people who are politically defenseless, irrelevant from a security standpoint and targeted for all the wrong reasons. And policemen who abuse their powers don’t just ruin innocent lives and undermine our faith in the law. They miss the real threats.”
“Subversives at first appears to be about a single place at a specific moment in a part of our past that is safely tucked away,” said the Ridenhour judges. “But its genius lies in its masterful and seamless braiding of investigative research and storytelling dexterity to depict an American government that used its vast resources for partisan political gain under the cloak of protecting the nation from a nebulous external threat. Seth Rosenfeld has done us an enormous service to remind us today that the efforts of a courageous few — even against the most powerful institutions — can make a difference.”
Related News Coverage
The Economy, Budget and Sequester
Kiplinger Letter, Trying to make sense of the sequester, The Editors, April 26, 2013 (Subscription required). Here’s our best judgment on key questions: 1) Do the cuts hit all agencies equally. No....
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, A Roundup of Our Analysis on the Bipartisan Path Forward, Staff report, May 2, 2013. Over the last two weeks, the Committee has been analyzing the new proposal from former Fiscal Commission co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, “A Bipartisan Path Forward to Securing America’s Future.” The new proposal contains $2.5 trillion of additional savings over ten years, enough to put debt on a clear downward path and falling below 70 percent of GDP by 2023. We present our analysis.
Washington Post, Cancer Clinics Turn Away Patients, Sarah Kliff, April 3, 2013. Citing the sequester, cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts. Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially. Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them. “If we treated the patients receiving the most expensive drugs, we’d be out of business in six months to a year,” said Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York. “The drugs we’re going to lose money on we’re not going to administer right now.” After an emergency meeting Tuesday, Vacirca’s clinics decided that they would no longer see one-third of their 16,000 Medicare patients.
Washington Post, Gridlock is no way to govern, Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann, April 18, 2013. Larry Summers is a brilliant, award-winning economist. Monday, in his monthly op-ed column for The Post, he opined about politics and history [“Sometimes, gridlock is good for America,” April 15]. Our advice, as political scientists, is that Summers should stick to economics. Summers painted a rosy scenario, saying that the frustration people feel at the slowness and gridlock of recent years is misplaced — that things were just as bad, if not worse, in the early 1960s. Yes, there are signs of progress in our political system. The universe of problem-solvers in the Senate has increased since the 2012 elections. But the broader pathologies in our politics remain. For all the problems that existed in previous decades, in a system designed not to act with dispatch, there was a strong political center, with responsible bipartisan leadership. The same cannot be said today.
Huffington Post, Paul Krugman Responds To Critics: 'Maybe I Actually Am Right,' Staff report, April 28, 2013. Paul Krugman’s got it right when it comes to the economic crisis, says Paul Krugman. The Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist responded in a blog post Sunday to his countless critics who claim he’s choosing specific facts and ignoring others to make his case that budget-tightening policies are hurting economies around the world.
PR Watch, Reinhart and Rogoff surely knew the purposes for which their work was being cited, Staff report, April 12, 2013. It will come as no surprise that Reinhart and Rogoff have ties to Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson, a big fan of their work. Peterson has been advocating cuts to Social Security and Medicare for decades in order to prevent a debt crisis he warns will spike interest rates and collapse the economy.
Seth Rosenfeld and His Book, 'Subversives'
New York Times, Reagan’s Personal Spying Machine, Seth Rosenfeld, Sept. 1, 2012. In 1961, when Ronald Reagan was defining himself politically, he warned that if left unchecked, government would become “a Big Brother to us all.” But previously undisclosed FBI. records, released to me after a long and costly legal fight under the Freedom of Information Act, present a different side of the man who has come to symbolize the conservative philosophy of less government and greater self-reliance. When Reagan needed government help, he was happy to take it, which is particularly interesting in light of the current debate over “entitlements,” and which might give pause to members of both political parties who speak glowingly of the Reagan legacy. The documents show that Reagan was more involved than was previously known as a government informer during his Hollywood years, and that in return he secretly received personal and political help from J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime FBI. director, at taxpayer expense.
New York Times, The Hunters and the Hunted: ‘Subversives,’ by Seth Rosenfeld, Matt Taibbi, Oct. 5, 2012. America never got over the ’60s. The deep social divisions that emerged during that decade remain, for the most part, the divisions that define modern American politics. The battle lines are still so painfully visible that 50 years after the beginning of the Vietnam War and the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, the presidential race this year will come down to a contest between a former community organizer pilloried for supposed ties to ’60s radicals and a former Stanford student who protested against campus antiwar demonstrations.
Selected Reviews of Subversives
“Masterfully researched . . . A potent reminder of the explosiveness of 1960s politics and how far elements of the government were (and perhaps still are) willing to go to undermine civil liberties.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Armed with a panoply of interviews, court rulings, and freshly acquired FBI. document, Rosenfeld shows how J. Edgar Hoover unlawfully distributed confidential intelligence to undermine the nineteen-sixties protest movement in Berkeley, while brightening the political stars of friendly informants like Ronald Reagan. Rosenfeld’s history, at once encyclopedic and compelling, follows a number of interwoven threads.” —The New Yorker
“In case you’ve forgotten or are too young to know, the 1960s were the template for today’s political divisiveness. In Subversives, Seth Rosenfeld chronicles how the abyss formed. His book is crucial history. It’s also a warning . . . Profound thanks to Seth Rosenfeld for outing the truth and speaking truth to power.” —Carlo Wolff, The Christian Science Monitor
“Several books have dealt directly or tangentially with the Berkeley student revolt, but Seth Rosenfeld’s Subversives presents a new and encompassing perspective, including a revisionist view of Ronald Reagan and a detailed picture of FBI corruption. The details of the story did not come easily. It took Rosenfeld, a former reporter for The Chronicle and the Examiner, 25 years and five Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to finally get all the material he requested from the FBI. The bureau fought him every inch of the way, spending more than $1 million of taxpayers’ money in an effort to withhold public records, until it finally had no choice . . . A well-paced and wide-ranging narrative . . . A deftly woven account.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
“Vivid and unsettling.” —The New Orleans Times-Picayune
Catching Our Attention on Other Justice & Media Issues
National Press Club, National Press Club marks 20th year of World Press Freedom Day, May 3, John M. Donnelly, May 2, 2013. The National Press Club commemorated the 20th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day today with a sober reminder of how unfree the press is in most of the world and a pledge to keep working to change that. Created in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly, World Press Freedom Day is celebrated on May 3 each year and has three goals. The first is to evaluate the state of press freedom. The second is to defend the press from attacks on its independence. And the third is to honor those who have sacrificed, sometimes with their lives, to bring the public the news. Since 1992, at least 982 journalists have been killed worldwide, and 594 of those murders are unsolved, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. An estimated 232 journalists are imprisoned today, the group says.
BLT/Legal Times, Breaking Tradition, Obama Taps Non-Lawyer to Head FCC, David Brown, May 1, 2013. There's something a bit different about Tom Wheeler, nominated today by President Barack Obama to head the Federal Communications Commission. It’s not his work as a lobbyist or venture capitalist - rather, it's that unlike practically every other chairman in the agency's 79-year history, Wheeler is not a lawyer. To be sure, Wheeler by all accounts knows the industry well, heading two major trade groups for years. As Obama put it today in remarks at the White House, "Tom is the only member of both the cable television and the wireless industry hall of fame. So he’s like the Jim Brown of telecom… Tom knows this stuff inside and out."
FireDoglake, Obama Nominates Major Campaign Contributor Penny Pritzker for Commerce Secretary, DS Wright, May 2, 2013. President Obama plans to nominate Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker, a longtime political supporter and heavyweight fundraiser, as his new Commerce secretary this morning. With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans. Clearly the 1% need more of a voice in government.
Huffington Post, Howard Kurtz Indignantly Accuses Jason Collins Of Not Disclosing Thing He Actually Totally Disclosed, Jason Linkins, May 1, 2013.
Politico, Daily Beast drops Howard Kurtz, Dylan Byers, May 2, 2013. The Daily Beast is dropping Howard Kurtz, the veteran media critic who made headlines this week for his erroneous report about NBA star Jason Collins. The decision comes after Kurtz published a blog post that falsely asserted that Collins, who announced he was gay in an article for Sports Illustrated, had neglected to mention his previous engagement to a woman. In fact, Collins mentioned that engagement in the article and in a subsequent interview with ABC News. The Daily Beast retracted that post on Thursday morning. But sources at The Daily Beast also tell Politico that Kurtz was dropped in part because he had been dedicating much of his time to other ventures, including The Daily Download, a media criticism site. Kurtz also hosts a weekend media criticism show on CNN called "Reliable Sources."
Bill Moyers, Six Whistleblowers Charged Under the Espionage Act, John Light and Lauren Feeney, April 26, 2013. The Obama administration has been carrying out an unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers, particularly on those who have divulged information that relates to national security. The Espionage Act, enacted during the first World War to punish Americans who aided the enemy, had only been used three times in its history to try government officials accused of leaking classified information — until the Obama administration. Since 2009, the administration has used the act to prosecute six government officials. Meet the whistleblowers.
FireDogLake, In First Amendment Case Over Afghan War Memoir, Justice Department Asks Judge to End Lawsuit, Kevin Gosztola, May 1, 2013.The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to conclude that a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer “has no First Amendment right to publish the information at issue” in a memoir he penned at on his service in the war in Afghanistan. They maintain information the officer wants to publish is “properly classified” and the government is “entitled to substantial deference” that its publication would result in harm from disclosure. The case involves Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, right, an officer with twenty-five years of field experience, who wrote Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan and the Path to Victory.
Institute for Political Economy, You Are The Hope, Paul Craig Roberts, left, May 1, 2013. Dear Readers: If there is hope, you are it. You are motivated to find truth. You can think outside the box. You can see through propaganda. You are the remnant with the common sense that once was a common American virtue.
SFGate, Worst job in America: Newspaper reporter, Staff report, April 23, 2013. After declining dramatically during the recession, newspapers are expected to continue losing jobs at a rate of 6 percent per year through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. CareerCast said the job's grim outlook, shrinking budgets, stressful deadlines, lack of income growth and low pay made this the worst job in America. Median salary is $36,000.