Philip Graham, a military intelligence veteran from World War II, marries Katharine and thereby inherits the Post from her multi-millionaire father Eugene Meyer. Phil admires the work of philosopher and MI6 agent Sir Isaiah Berlin and frequently seeks the company of CIA propaganda heavies Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner, Desmond FitzGerald, and Richard Helms. He brings CIA mouthpiece Joseph Alsop to the Post in 1958, and soon reaches the pinnacle of Washington insider success -- sharing girlfriends with President Kennedy. After his suicide in 1963, his wife Katharine takes over ownership of the Post and hires Ben Bradlee to run it. James Truitt, a former Post vice- president and close aide to Phil, is fired in 1969.
Both Truitt and Bradlee are friends of CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton, with Bradlee also close to President Kennedy. In the fifties, Bradlee's wife Tony Pinchot and her sister Mary, who is married to CIA heavy Cord Meyer, Jr., are both close to Vassar classmate Cicely d'Autremont, who is married to Angleton. After her divorce from Cord, Mary Meyer becomes President Kennedy's lover. She is murdered in 1964 (the case is never solved), whereupon Angleton, as trustee of her children, makes off with her diary.As a screenplay it doesn't make it, because while it represents the historical record more accurately and with far broader perspective than Redford's movie, there's no happy ending. All of the above has been reported widely, but unlike a movie it goes on and on without ever finding an audience.
There's much more. According to his Who's Who entry, Alfred Friendly was a Post reporter while also serving in Air Force intelligence during World War II and as director of overseas information for the Economic Cooperation Administration from 1948-49. Joseph B. Smith (Portrait of a Cold Warrior) reports that the ECA routinely provided cover for the CIA. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were set up by the CIA and John S. Hayes was their chairman by 1974. Years earlier when Hayes was vice-president for radio and television at the Post, he was appointed by Kennedy to a secret CIA propaganda task force. Friendly left the Post soon after Bradlee came on board, and Hayes left when Johnson appointed him ambassador to Switzerland in 1966.
But poor Bradlee claims he didn't know that Cord Meyer was a globetrotting CIA destabilizer in the fifties, just as he knew nothing about CIA links when he took time off from the Post to work as a propagandist for the U.S. embassy in Paris from 1951-53. Deborah Davis includes in her book a memo released under the FOIA that shows Bradlee responding to a request from the CIA station chief in Paris, Robert Thayer. His assignment was to place stories in the European press to discredit the Rosenbergs, who had been sentenced to death, and Bradlee followed orders.
Benjamin Bradlee: from Post reporter to embassy propagandist, then on to Newsweek and back to the Post as executive editor, without breaking stride. The point of Davis' book is that this pattern is repeated again and again in Post history; she calls it "mediapolitics" -- the use of information media for political purposes. Robert Thayer's status as CIA station chief in Paris is confirmed in Richard Harris Smith's book OSS. While in Paris, Bradlee already knew Thayer, having attended the preparatory school Thayer ran while Robert Jr. was his classmate. Bradlee categorically denies any CIA connection, but it's a toss-up as to which is more disturbing: Bradlee in bed with the CIA and lying about it, or Bradlee led around by the CIA and not knowing it.
Unlike Bradlee, Katharine does not seem as sophisticated or conniving; she was apparently completely sucked in by such charmers as Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, and even Henry Kissinger, who took her to the movies. She supported Nixon in 1968 and 1972, changed her mind about him later, but has yet to waver from the anti-Communism that kept the Post from criticizing U.S. policy in Vietnam. Her idea of an awkward situation is asking Nixon for National Guard protection during anti-Vietnam demonstrations in Washington; Lyndon never made her ask. The demonstrators had to be duped -- after all, she had taken the time to get her facts straight with a trip to Vietnam in 1965, where she shopped for blue and white china, and had access to all the assorted power brokers and opinion makers who showed up at the 1966 masked ball that Truman Capote gave for her. Between Bradlee and Katharine, with journalism such as this it's a wonder that the Vietnamese people survived.
The elitist conservatism and intelligence connections of the Post are as important today as they ever were; Katharine and Bradlee are still in control. Davis could have remarked on the current New Right editorial line in the Post, or added the fact that former editorial page editor (1968-79) Philip Geyelin joined the CIA for a year in 1950, while on leave from the Wall Street Journal, but found the work boring and went back to the Journal. And she also doesn't mention that Walter Pincus, a Post reporter who still covers intelligence issues, took two CIA-financed trips overseas to international student conferences in 1960, and waited to write about them until 1967 when reporters everywhere were exposing CIA conduits. Informed readers of Geyelin (who stills does a column) and Pincus can learn much from they way these writers filter history. This may qualify them as good journalists among their colleagues, but for the unwitting masses it simply amounts to more disinformation.
The CIA connections that Davis does mention are dynamite. The issue is relevant today because frequently the D.C. reader has to pick up the Washington Times to get information on the CIA the Post refuses to print. For example, while almost every major newspaper in the country, as well as CBS News and ABC News, use the real name of former CIA Costa Rican station chief "Tomas Castillo," the Post, as of late June, continues to gloat over their use of the pseudonym only. This is probably Bradlee's decision, not Katharine's, because Newsweek let former Associated Press reporter Robert Parry use Castillo's real name (Joseph F. Fernandez, age 50) when Parry joined the magazine earlier this year. According to Davis, Katharine doesn't make editorial decisions these days unless they threaten the health of the company.
The question, then, becomes one of myth-management, and attempting to discern why the Post enjoys such a liberal reputation in spite of its record. Once you redefine liberalism as something slightly closer to the center than the New Right, it means that "genuine" liberalism (if such a thing was ever important) is stranded and soon becomes extinct. Add to this the fact that U.S. liberalism since World War II, whether "genuine" or contemporary, has a record on foreign policy that would make Teddy Roosevelt proud. That leaves two media events to explain the Post puzzle: the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Forget the first event, because the Post was merely trying to keep up with the New York Times so as not to lose face. Besides, they didn't make a movie about it.
Watergate and the Post, the stuff of great drama. Much has been written already about the probability that Nixon was set up. McCord as a double agent has been covered neatly in Carl Oglesby's Yankee and Cowboy War, Bob Woodward's previous employment with a Pentagon intelligence unit was mentioned in Jim Hougan's Secret Agenda, and the motive -- that Nixon was losing perspective and becoming a threat to those who were still able to see their long-range interests clearly -- is evident after reading Seymour Hersh's The Politics of Power.
If you put it all together and summarize it in the context of Deep Throat and the Post, along with Bradlee's CIA sympathies, you must agree with Davis that Nixon wasn't the only one set up; Deep Throat led the Post by the nose. Whether they knew it or not, whether they cared or not assuming that they knew, and whether or not a noble end can justify shabby means -- all this pales next to Davis' main point. That point is this: the Post, whose history of journalism by manipulation helped create the conditions that led to Vietnam, the demonstrations, and the psychosis of Nixon, ended up using or responding to these same manipulative methods to avoid political obsolescence, and somehow it worked.
Davis identifies Deep Throat as Richard Ober, the chief of the CIA's domestic spying program called Operation CHAOS. The evidence is circumstantial and her sources remain anonymous. According to Davis, Kissinger moved Angleton into the White House and set him up with his own Israeli intelligence desk in 1969. This sounds like vintage Kissinger as he acts swiftly to capture the foreign policy apparatus, but it's the first I've heard that Angleton, who thought the Sino-Soviet split was a ruse designed to catch the West napping, was on any sort of terms with the China-hopping, detente-talking Kissinger.
Davis writes that Angleton's deputy Ober was also given a White House office, and after the Pentagon Papers were published Ober had privileged access to Nixon and was able to observe his deterioration. Again, this is news to me. If Davis is correct, it means Angleton and Ober were running Operation CHAOS out of the White House, Nixon knew about it while Kissinger didn't, but both Kissinger and Nixon were deeply suspicious of the CIA and felt it necessary to start up the Huston Plan to cover the CIA's shortcomings in domestic intelligence. At least the book includes a photograph of Ober -- the first one I've seen. Davis makes more sense than some of the Watergate theories that have kicked around in past years, but this is still the most speculative portion of her book.
Part of the Post success story has to do with sheer wealth. As one of the world's richest women, Graham has the empire backed up with many millions, which guarantees continued access to privilege and power. Another part is an ability to play dirty. Katharine Graham, who became one of Washington's most notorious union-busters in the name of a free press, used her "soft cop" with Bradlee's "hard cop" to insure that William Jovanovich, who published the first edition of this book in 1979, was bullied into recalling 20,000 copies because of minor inaccuracies alleged by Bradlee. Jovanovich made no effort to check Bradlee's allegations. Deborah Davis filed a breach-of- contract and damage-to-reputation suit against Jovanovich, who settled out of court with her in 1983.
The entire saga of Katharine the Great is a sobering antidote to the intoxication I felt when All the President's Men first played. A myth has been more than punctured; Davis bludgeons it mercilessly -- yet in a manner that shows far more journalistic integrity than one can expect from the Post or from Jovanovich. This bludgeoning was overdue for eight years, delayed by exactly the sort of Washington hardball that Davis exposes. Indeed, there can be no more eloquent testimony to the substantive nature of Davis' material than the sound that those 20,000 copies must have made as they, at the behest of Post power, went through a shredding machine.
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