Book: Teddy Kennedy Plotted with Soviets to Oust Reagan
A conservative author and political scientist alleges in a new book that Senator Teddy Kennedy made an overture to the Soviet government to assist in a campaign to smear President Ronald Reagan to derail his 1984 re-election bid.
The antipathy that congressional Democrats have today toward President George W. Bush is reminiscent of their distrust of President Ronald Reagan during the Cold War, a political science professor says. “We see some of the same sentiments today, in that some Democrats see the Republican president as being a threat and the true obstacle to peace, instead of seeing our enemies as the true danger,” said Paul Kengor, a political science professor at Grove City College and the author of new book, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism.
In his book, which came out this week, Kengor focuses on a KGB letter written at the height of the Cold War that shows that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) offered to assist Soviet leaders in formulating a public relations strategy to counter President Reagan’s foreign policy and to complicate his re-election efforts. The letter, dated May 14, 1983, was sent from the head of the KGB to Yuri Andropov, who was then General Secretary of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. In his letter, KGB head Viktor Chebrikov offered Andropov his interpretation of Kennedy’s offer. Former U.S. Sen. John Tunney (D-Calif.) had traveled to Moscow on behalf of Kennedy to seek out a partnership with Andropov and other Soviet officials, Kengor claims in his book.
Specifically, Kennedy proposed that Andropov make a direct appeal to the American people in a series of television interviews that would be organized in August and September of 1983, according to the letter. “Tunney told his contacts that Kennedy was very troubled about the decline in U.S -Soviet relations under Reagan,” Kengor said. “But Kennedy attributed this decline to Reagan, not to the Soviets. In one of the most striking parts of this letter, Kennedy is said to be very impressed with Andropov and other Soviet leaders.”
In Kennedy’s view, the main reason for the antagonism between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1980s was Reagan’s unwillingness to yield on plans to deploy middle-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe, the KGB chief wrote in his letter. “Kennedy was afraid that Reagan was leading the world into a nuclear war,” Kengor said. “He hoped to counter Reagan’s polices, and by extension hurt his re-election prospects.”
But Kennedy’s attempt to partner with high-level Soviet officials never materialized. Andropov died after a brief time in office and was succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Several rather important caveats apply here. First, we don’t know the authenticity of the letter. Why the KGB would fake such a memo and then not use it is unclear but it could certainly happen. Second, Kengor is a rabid partisan. He’s the author of God and Ronald Reagan, God and George W. Bush, and several other books praising contemporary Republican presidents. He’s also the director of The Center for Vision & Values which “embrace[s] the wisdom of Western Civilization that biblical truth is the foundation of freedom.” His scholarship is very much informed by his ideology. Third, 1983 was hardly “the height of the Cold War.” Tensions had certainly escalated during the last days of the Brezhnev regime and the unstable period before Gorbachev took power but the prospects for something akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis were remote.
That said, if this is indeed true, it is indeed, as Dan Riehl puts it, “freaking outrageous.” One simply doesn’t collaborate with foreign powers, let alone the enemy, to undermine the official policies of one’s country. Michael van der Galien thinks it “dangerously close to something called treason.” SeeDubya would like to see Kennedy impeached if this is proven true. Since that’s Constitutionally reserved for officers of the Executive and Judicial branches, we’d have to settle for expulsion from the Senate pursuant to a vote by at least 67 of his colleagues.
There’s reason to be skeptical, though, beyond the caveats above. Ace (via someone called MS) has unearthed a 2004 NewsMax article archived at Free Republic (again, obviously very biased fora) alleging this and other collaborations between Kennedy and the Soviets.
Teddy also will have unprecedented power in a Kerry White House. Clearly, a serious examination of Uncle Ted’s views needs to be conducted before Election Day.
NewsMax was deeply disturbed by an article written last December by Herbert Romerstein for Human Events, the conservative weekly. Romerstein, a former House intelligence committee staffer and a researcher of Soviet archives, uncovered numerous documents suggesting that Ted Kennedy was a “collaborationist” with the Soviets during our Cold War. Romerstein also co-authored, along with Eric Breindel, the highly praised “Verona Secrets, Exposing Soviet Espionage and America’s Traitors.”
According to Romerstein, a review of Soviet Communist Party archives offers an unflattering view of Kennedy. Some of the documents that have come to light since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 include claims that:
Sometime in 1978, Kennedy requested the KGB’s assistance to set up a relationship between the Soviets and a firm owned by former Sen. John Tunney, D-Calif. Again, on March 5, 1980, Tunney, acting as Kennedy’s liaison, met with KGB agents in Moscow. During that meeting, Tunney articulated Kennedy’s position that “nonsense about ‘the Soviet military threat’ and Soviet ambitions for military expansion in the Persian Gulf … was being fueled by [President Jimmy] Carter, [National Security Advisor Zbigniew] Brzezinski, the Pentagon and the military industrial complex.” Kennedy, according to the documents, offered to speak out against President Carter on Afghanistan.
Romerstein notes that soon after the meeting, several public speeches subsequently were made by Kennedy criticizing Carter on his handling of Afghanistan. This particular document was found in KGB archives by a KGB officer named Vasiliy Mitrokhin, who copied the records and defected to the West.
Other reports regarding Kennedy’s affiliation with the Communists also were divulged. According to information provided by the KGB, Kennedy told Tunney to carry a message to the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Yuri Andropov. Kennedy conveyed his concern over the anti-Soviet activities of then-President Ronald Reagan.
I don’t recall them getting mainstream attention at the time. Granted, as Ace implies in a separate post, the mainstream press isn’t as eager to investigate scandals involving liberal politicians as conservative ones. But the story was first reported in Human Events, which is much more mainstream than Freep or NewsMax (hell, I write for them occasionally) in December 2003. The conservative blogosphere, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and others were in full swing by then.
There has to be a reason that story never got any legs.
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