“Loyalties, a Son’s Memoir”
Executive Order No. 9835
By Richard E. Noble
I’ve just finished reading a book entitled “Loyalties, a Son’s Memoir” by Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter of Watergate fame.
Carl Bernstein’s dad was a lawyer. He was interested in politics. He got involved in the Roosevelt administration and served on several prominent committees. He joined the military in World War II and went over to Europe to fight against Fascism and Nazism. When he returned to his home, it seems to me, he found more of the same waiting for him right here.
On March 21, 1947 Harry Truman passed executive order 9835. This order was to trigger the American Inquisition of the late 40’s and early 50’s - the McCarthy Era.
This law basically stated that anyone suspected of disloyalty could be summarily dismissed from their government job. You could be called before a commission on information provided anonymously. You had no right to a lawyer, no jury, no trial. You weren’t allowed to confront your accusers, or to even know who they were. No proof or specific evidence was required, but yet if the board found that you were suspect, you would be fired from your job, and labeled as a subversive. You might never find another job. You might have to move from your neighborhood, change your name, lie, hide and keep the knowledge of your appearance before this inquisition committee a secret for the rest of your life. And this all could happen to you because you were a member of some labor union, or an associate of a member of a labor union. Or you were a member of a club that petitioned for the rights of blacks or minorities in America; or you wrote something positive about the Soviet Union, or you associated with someone who did. You could lose your job, your career and the potential for your whole life’s efforts on the false accusation of an anonymous, jealous fellow worker; someone who may have had a cousin in line for your job.
Carl Bernstein’s dad was one of these people. He was bigger than an unjustly accused victim though. He was an outright champion of the victimized. As a lawyer, he took it upon himself to defend over five hundred of these people brought before Mister McCarthy and his team of government investigators until finally like, Clarence Darrow before him, he was brought to the firing line by his political rivals and enemies. He lost his status and position. He lost his Washington career. He lost his ability to practice law. He ended up opening up a Bendix coin-operated Laundromat in a black neighborhood, and that is how he earned his living from that time on.
This is quite a story, in itself, but there is more.
Carl Bernstein’s dad, a defender of the liberal left was confronted by the McCarthy champions of the right. Two of McCarthy’s prominent Knights were the infamous Roy Cohn, and Richard M. Nixon.
Richard M. Nixon, the man who was forced to resign from the highest government job in the land, who had his whole career ruined; who lived the rest of his life fending off accusations and denying his being labeled a crook, and a criminal - this man’s life, very much in the pattern of his late rival, Alfred Bernstein, was brought to this disgraceful position, at least in part, by the son of his victim, Carl Bernstein. The man whose life and career Richard M. Nixon had once helped to destroy.