Paul Kengor is the author of the new book, “DUPES: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.” The political science professor and executive director of the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College has previously authored such books as “God and Ronald Reagan” and “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism.”
Kengor recently answered 10 questions about his new book for The Daily Caller:
1. Why did you write the book?
I know people will think I wrote it to be polemical or sensational, but the fact is that I would have never had this idea if I hadn’t been regularly reading Soviet archives for previous projects, and especially the Soviet Comintern Archives on CPUSA— that is, Communist Party USA. There are hundreds of reels of microfiche from this archive just sitting on shelves at the Library of Congress. Our esteemed “scholars” in the academic left are ignoring them. Once I took a close look, I quickly understood why: This material is shocking, fully vindicating the worst fears and claims of anti-communists throughout the 20th century. It shows not only that American communists were secretly serving the Soviet Union, but that they considered themselves loyal Soviet patriots. They were absolutely, unequivocally dedicated to the goal of worldwide communism, headquartered in Moscow, with the United States itself becoming a communist state. I’m not exaggerating at all.
2. What is the biggest revelation you make in your book?
This sounds like shameless self-promotion, but there really are dozens of them. Think about this: the book is 600 pages long, small print, with over 1,500 endnotes. It has three appendices, numerous photo exhibits. And with all that, believe me when I tell you that I held back. This could be volume one in a multi-volume set. And given that the book is based on newly declassified archives, naturally it has lots of revelations.
What’s the biggest revelation? I don’t know, but here are four that will interest modern audiences:
I have all of the weekly columns written by Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, for the 1949-50 Honolulu Record, which was the CPUSA organ in Hawaii. These columns are unbelievably outrageous. Davis toed the Stalinist line unerringly, perfectly parroting every talking point of the Communist Party. This means that Davis demonized the Democratic Party leadership opposing Stalin at the time. Davis turned Harry Truman into a monster, not to mention George Marshall and wonderfully generous programs like the Marshall Plan. Why did Davis do this? Because Frank Marshall Davis was a communist — which itself is one of my revelations. It took me four years to determine whether Davis was a duped liberal or a duping communist; I found, definitively, that he was the latter. See pages 507 to 515 of the book, where we reprint documents from Davis’s recently declassified FBI file, including the document that lists his actual Communist Party membership number.
This is not an exaggeration: Our current president’s mentor in Hawaii in the 1970s was a pro-Soviet communist. I promise you that I’m not misrepresenting that one bit. I know it’s incendiary to say that, but it’s absolutely accurate. Americans, voting for “change,” voted Davis’s pupil president in November 2008.
NEXT: Kengor’s shocking revelations on Ted Kennedy and Humphrey Bogart
Beyond Davis, the material on Ted Kennedy is likewise shocking. I include the entire May 1983 KGB document on Kennedy’s private offer to Yuri Andropov — an offer to work against Ronald Reagan. The letter has since been resealed in Russian archives. We publish it in its entirety in both Russian and English.
Speaking of Russian and English, another revelation is the scandalous neglect by historians of John Dewey’s deep admiration for the Soviet Union in the late 1920s, and the fact that the Bolsheviks were busy translating Dewey’s education works into Russian even before they swept American public schools and trained a century of American public-school teachers. Dewey is the father of modern American public education. The Soviets adored his work, believing it was perfect for a communist state.
One more major item: I found a January 1934 document from the CPUSA Workers School in New York City, which lists a “Bogart” among its students. At great length and with great care — and, hopefully, sensitivity and fairness — I consider whether that Bogart might have been Humphrey Bogart. I cannot prove that it was, and I don’t say that it was. But the document is obviously intriguing, and, at some point, someone else would have stumbled upon it. I deal with it, and I hope I treated Bogart with fairness.
We also have documents and testimonies and quotes on all sorts of other figures: Upton Sinclair, Benjamin Spock, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Miller, Lillian Hellman, Howard Zinn, Walter Cronkite, and a rich cast of dupes from Hollywood — Katharine Hepburn, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland—among others.
3. The book discusses Jimmy Carter’s record of dealing with Communism and Islamism. Impressive record, right?
Horrible. Jimmy Carter is the bridge between those two threats, making a seamless transition from being duped during the Cold War to being duped into the War on Terror. Carter’s actions and comments regarding Leonid Brezhnev (USSR) and the Ayatollah (Iran) in 1979 — the latter’s Islamic revolution basically birthing modern Islamic terrorism — were repeated again and again by Carter well after his presidency. For instance, see his post-Cold War comments on the likes of Kim in North Korea, Hamas, Iraq, the Palestinians. It’s no coincidence that the cover of this book features Carter kissing Leonid Brezhnev in June 1979 — just a few months before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, incidentally.
I should add that I always knew that Carter was a bad president, and was duped. But even I had no idea of just how terribly naïve he was until I dug deep into the Presidential Papers. What Carter said, again and again, was nothing short of jaw-dropping. I’d sit there and stare at his statements, reading them over and over, saying to myself, “I can’t believe this. I simply can’t believe this.”
NEXT: Kengor on how his political mentor, Ronald Reagan, was duped
4. You write that even the great Ronald Reagan was duped – at least when he was a young actor in Hollywood. How so?
That’s right. And Reagan is basically my political mentor. Those who recognize my name usually recognize me because of my previous books on Reagan, like “God and Ronald Reagan” and “The Crusader.” I hope my inclusion of Reagan shows that I’m not being partisan. Reagan, as a young actor in Hollywood in the 1940s, was duped, and admitted to being duped, only to emerge as arguably the greatest anti-communist.
By the way, this hits on a major theme in this book: the redemption found by onetime dupes who learned, switched, and weren’t duped again, instead reemerging as stalwart anti-communists. Really, my heroes in this book are almost all liberals and Democrats: those who were duped but then changed, or those who were never duped to begin with. If I had to count them, there are probably a hundred such liberals and Democrats in this book.
5. Who are the biggest dupes in government today?
Those would be politicians like Dick Durbin, John Kerry, Pete Stark, Barbara Lee, and Maxine Waters. The duping in the War on Terror, however, is quite different. Today, it has been more a matter of these liberals excoriating the likes of George W. Bush with absurd allegations that please the Islamist enemy, but allegations that were not prompted by Islamists nor even intended to help Islamists. It’s an unwitting form of assistance. That’s what a dupe does: unwittingly, unknowingly helps the adversary.
That said, there has been some deliberate manipulation by the enemy in the War on Terror. For instance, the way that Congressman Jim McDermott was rolled by Saddam Hussein’s crew in Baghdad in late 2002 is disturbing. I detail that at length in the book.
6. Your research uncovers Soviet records that show that it was a specific policy of the Soviet Union to target liberals, especially academics and the leftwing religious figures. Can you explain this further?
Those were the two groups most successfully targeted by communists. On page 65, I include a 1920 letter from the Comintern listing four pages of “liberal” college professors to be targeted with communist materials. Among them, by the way, is Dr. Harry F. Ward, the liberal Methodist who was one of the founding members of the ACLU. Ward was one of the biggest dupes I encountered in all of my research.
Generally, the Religious Left is a tragic case. Herb Romerstein, the veteran investigator of the communist movement and authority on the Venona papers, calls the Religious Left “the biggest suckers of them all.” I think that’s right. Picture this scenario: here was the Religious Left, invoking Jesus — “blessed are the peacemakers,” “turn the other cheek” — being exploited by clandestine communists, who they trusted to a fault. Bear in mind that these were militantly atheistic communists, whose leader, Stalin, was blowing up churches and locking up and executing priests, and yet the Religious Left, again and again, joined the communists at their rallies, in their petitions, and on and on — sometimes literally locked arm in arm.
It would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. These liberal Christians were sheep led to the slaughter. The brooding communists privately held them in contempt for their breathtaking gullibility.
NEXT: The parallels Kengor sees between the fight against Soviet Communism and Islamism
7. What parallels, if any, do you see between America’s fight against Soviet Communism and America’s battle against Islamist terrorist movements today?
Once again, you have people on the left making some really ill-advised and even irresponsible statements — especially aimed at the likes of a George W. Bush — which inadvertently serve our adversaries. At the same time, there are crucial differences. In the Islamic world, for instance, there’s no centrally coordinated organization akin to a Soviet Comintern, which is cooking up propaganda to send to the field workers at CPUSA offices in New York and Chicago. The communists excelled at the crass art of propaganda. They worked at it full-time. They were outstanding liars.
Also, very interesting, people on the liberal/progressive left during the Cold War shared some common sympathies with the communists, making them vulnerable to duping. Today’s liberal, however, shares nothing in common with the Islamist. And yet, isn’t it fascinating to see liberals — under the guise of religious “tolerance,” which they rarely extend to fundamentalist Christians — rallying to defend the construction of a mosque near ground zero, or denouncing the pastor in Florida threatening to burn the Koran? Do these liberals think that Muslim fundamentalists would join them in support of, say, gay marriage, or would extend similar levels of tolerance toward non-Muslims living in the Middle East under Sharia law?
8. Can we use “dupe” and “useful idiot” interchangeably?
I suppose we could, but, if I wanted to be strict about it, I’d use them interchangeably only for a limited period, namely, the Cold War. The phrase “useful idiot” is attributed to Lenin. So, that term caught on early in the 20th century. The term “dupe” is broader and deeper, with roots in the founding of the American republic. George Washington actually warned of “dupes” in his “Farewell Address.” Also, I would add that the term “dupe” was more common than “useful idiot” throughout even the Cold War period. In Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s, for example, it was very common to hear some celebrity like Humphrey Bogart, or Ronald Reagan, or Edward G. Robinson, or John Garfield, exclaim, “Boy, was I duped.” They rarely said, “Boy, was I a useful idiot.” “Duped” has been the more common word.
9. Explain the harm that these progressive dupes have caused? And when you say they have aided America’s enemies, do you believe this was their intention?
It wasn’t their intention. That’s the very essence of being duped: you’re unwittingly misled. A dupe has been deliberately manipulated — preyed by those with concealed purposes not disclosed to the dupe. This can have the ultimate effect of helping the enemy, but the willful intent is on the side of the duper, not the duped.
The dupes are culpable, to some degree, but they are really innocent. They’re oblivious.
10. Any plans to write another book? If so, about what?
Right now, I have a few ideas, but I’m not sure what I’ll do next. These things aren’t always planned. Ten years ago, I could not have imagined writing this book. I set aside three or four other book ideas once I started looking through the archives and got the motivation. So, I’m not sure.