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Ordinarily, I wouldn't make more than a mental note; however, the "evolution," as they say, of historian and professor Paul Kengor's verdict on pro-Soviet, FDR advisor Harry Hopkins seems worth marking.
Last Sunday, Kengor joined Mark Levin on "Life, Liberty & Levin" to discuss actual Russian influence over the life of this nation. As the author of The Communist, a book about Obama's Communist mentor Frank Marshall Davis, and Dupes, a chronicle of Communist manipulation, Kengor certainly makes a knowlegable guest for any such interview, even if one mere hour of TV can do little more than skim the vastness of the dark, deep subject. Indeed, the pair were able to spent much of the show discussing just one treacherous "collusion" in 1983 between Sen Ted Kennedy, the KGB, and Soviet dictator Yuri Andropov. Turning to earlier history, Alger Hiss, too, came under discussion, along with a light sprinkling of names from among the five hundred known (many remain unknown) Soviet agents and agents of influence functioning in and around the halls of power in Washington, D.C. by the time of World War II.
One of those names was Harry Hopkins -- only not as an agent or agent of influence, but rather as someone who was "probably" just "duped."
It was Kengor who introduced Hopkins in order to make, as he put it, "a very important point."
Here is the full exchange.
KENGOR: "A lot of these guys, too - this is a very important point -- if they weren't Soviet agents, a lot of them were agents of influence, or they were duped, which meant that they were kind of soft liberals who didn't really realize they were being -- "
LEVIN: "Unwitting --"
KENGOR: "Yeah, which is probably the case of Harry Hopkins; it's probably the case of FDR's vice president Henry Wallace. A lot of times, the worst damage is caused not by a guy who's directly working as an undercover agent feeding information to the other side, but by guys who were clueless, oblivious."
Well, blow me down. It is one thing for me to say that "duped," "soft liberal," "unwitting," "clueless," and "oblivious" are not adjectives I would apply to political impresario Harry Hopkins -- especially not after the extensive scrutiny of the Hopkins record I engaged in while writing American Betrayal, a book that minutely explores the question of whether Hopkins ever served Moscow as an agent of Soviet influence while inside the White House (literally, since Hopkins lived alongside Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House residence for three and a half years, including during World War II). What struck me on hearing Kengor's comments, however, was that it was not so long ago that he was leaning in the opposite direction, himself.
In 2010, when his book Dupes came out, Kengor portrayed Hopkins in a different light.
"As I lay out carefully in Dupes, with all the sources and footnotes, Hopkins may have been “Agent 19,” Kengor said in an interview with Breitbart News.
That's no dupe. "Agent 19" refers to a code name in a certain 1943 KGB cable, one of thousands intercepted during World War II, some of which were eventually decrypted (or partly decrypted) in the "Venona" project and released to the public by the US government in the 1990s. In the cable in question, "Agent 19" conveys to Moscow details of a small, highly sensitive discussion between FDR and Churchill inside the Oval Office, which "Agent 19" was present for, concerning the date of the planned Normandy invasion.
As Kengor indicated in 2010, there is evidence that Hopkins "may have been" Agent 19. Whoever he was, of course, he was no dupe. Nor was he "clueless," "unwitting," etc., etc. As set forth in detail in American Betrayal, however, there is extensive evidence of Hopkins' perfidy above and beyond any one Venona cable. Much of this evidence was developed by the late Herbert Romerstein, a towering expert in domestic subversion, who now enters the story in Kengor's 2010 Breitbart interview.
Noting Kengor's caution about definitively making the "Agent 19"-Hopkins i.d., the Breitbart interviewer prompted him: "Others are more certain."
Kengor replied: "Yes. The leading authority on Venona, Herb Romerstein, who himself was once a communist, who remains America’s top expert on the communist movement, and to whom I dedicate the book, is convinced that Hopkins served the other side. “He was a dedicated Soviet agent,” Romerstein told me categorically. “He was both a spy, that is, he supplied information, and an agent of influence.” Hopkins was not a dupe, says Romerstein, but one who sought out dupes, even in the White House."
I realize the question of whether Harry Hopkins was a "dupe" or "agent of influence" inside the White House 80 years ago will strike some as the essence of esoteric; however, as I learned the hard way after presenting in American Betrayal a portrait of Hopkins that builds on the research of Romerstein and others, this one, perplexing man's eternal innocence is a precious, vital myth to academia's cabal, and woe to anyone who dares to dispute it.
Why? In part, it may come down to this: If Americans judge the evidence for themselves and conclude, like Herb Romerstein and others, that senior Roosevelt administration honcho Hopkins was an agent of Soviet influence, his central role, first, in bringing off the socialist revolution we know as FDR's "New Deal," and, later. the disastrous decision-making which, among other things, appears to have prolonged the fighting in World War II, thus enabling the Communists to occupy half of Europe and later seize China, appears in a new and terrible light. Everything we have been taught, not only about FDR and World War II, but about the Cold War and the "American Century," is suddenly upended. Even our conception of ourselves starts to unravel.
This is bad juju -- at least, for the Swamp, which perpetuates "court history" to ennoble itself. It is, however, good, if bitter, medicine for the cause of honesty, repair, and reconstruction of the American republic.
Might Kengor have shifted his Hopkins assessment due to the emergence of new evidence that neutralizes Romerstein's case? If so, I have yet to see it. In fact, all that erupted from "the professors" in response to to my own brief against Hopkins -- for example, Hopkins' warning the Soviet embassy that the FBI was eavesdropping on communist agents enaged in atomic espionage; testimony that Hopkins sent embargoed uranium to Moscow in the midst of the Manhattan Project; Hopkins' urging FDR to return the important defector Victor Kravchenko to the Soviets (just like Soviet Ambassador Andrey Gromyko, Hopkins chillingly referred to Kravchenko as a "deserter"); and much more -- were toxic clouds of disinformation, not facts.
When Herb Romerstein died in 2013, Paul Kengor wrote a warm appreciation of exceptional scholarship and real-life communist investigations for Congress. Ironically, Kengor met Romerstein in 2005 while attempting to vet the very 1983 Kennedy document Kengor and Levin recently discussed; also ironically, in light of Kengor's downgrading of Hopkins to "probably" just a clueless dupe, he ends with a testament to the care and caution Romerstein applied to the sensitive work of trying to identify America's covert enemies within.
Given Romerstein's scholarly and professional assessment that Hopkins was a Soviet agent of influence, this section of Kengor's appreciation is worth quoting. Herb Romerstein, Kengor wrote, "was no bomb-thrower. He was the epitome of responsible, informed anti-communism. He was careful about drawing the necessary lines of distinction between a liberal, a liberal anti-communist, a genuine progressive, a closet communist masquerading as a “progressive,” a socialist, a small “c” or big “C” communist/Communist, a Party member or non-Party member, and so forth. He never wanted to falsely accuse anyone. I doubt his detractors on the left will pause to credit him for such prudence. For many on the left, every anti-communist rightly concerned with Soviet agents or agents of influence was merely another burgeoning Joe McCarthy."
(It pains me, but I will have to let Kengor's gratuitous "Joe McCarthy" dig pass.)
Kengor continued: "Herb Romerstein was anything but. And he wanted those of us who follow in his footsteps, or who are concerned about communism still — and about truth above all — to be likewise as careful and thoughtful. Perhaps our best tribute to Herb’s memory would be to do our best to expose what he exposed and remind Americans and the world of what he reminded."
I agree. So here goes. Herb Romerstein responsibly and carefully and thoughtfully concluded, Harry Hopkins, a.k.a., FDR's "co-president," was both a spy and an agent of influence.
Not a dupe.