More fun with the John Birch Society...

Cpt. John Birch, Baptist, U.S. intelligence officer, and inventor of the missionary position.

It isn't often that someone contradicts themselves so blatantly in the comments to this blog as has Bryan Turner, the AZ state coordinator for the John Birch Society, whom I met Saturday as he was manning the JBS booth at Gilbert's Constitution Week Fair. Concerning a quote about President Eisenhower in JBS founder Robert Welch's book The Politician, Turner at first wrote that, "Robert Welch never called Ike a `a dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy.'" This was in reply to yesterday's post, "John Birch-ers, Ron Paul-ites and loads of white folk at Gilbert's Constitution Week Fair."

I responded to the comment, something I rarely do, pointing out that several sources indicate that the more outrageous assertions about Eisenhower were modified in later editions of Welch's Ike-indictment. (Remember, Ike was considered a hero, a victorious general. Slandering Ike in the '50s and '60s would be on par with someone today accusing Billy Graham of forced sodomy.) Turner still took issue, posting the following,

The quote is totally out of context, and in the context written in your article totally changes the meaning of the statement in the book.

The editions have NEVER altered that quote, to imply such is dishonest at best.

So which is it, is the quote made up, or was it taken out of context? It's difficult to overemphasize the importance of this controversy for the history of the JBS. Welch's smear of Republican icon Ike helped boot the society he founded out of the mainstream of American politics, earning it the scorn of fellow conservatives such as William F. Buckley, Jr.

Conservative commentator Russell Kirk, for instance, stated that, "Ever since [Welch] has founded the Society, he has done more to injure the cause of responsible conservatism than to act effectively against communism."

Kirk also had a great line about the charge that Ike was a commie: "Eisenhower isn't a communist, he's a golfer."

In his highly-acclaimed 1995 biography Barry Goldwater, author Robert Alan Goldberg discusses the ties linking Welch, the Birchers and Mr. Conservative, relating that Goldwater admired some elements of the JBS but later encouraged the rank-and-file membership to break with Welch. Check this passage from page 137 of Goldberg's tome:

Welch had approached Goldwater several years before founding the John Birch Society. Hinting of a matter of grave concern to the nation, Welch arrived at the Goldwater home in Phoenix with a nearly 300-page manuscript that he pressed the Senator to read. In "The Politician," Welch traced the path of the communist conspirators to the White House. Both Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, he argued, were under the control of the communists. In Dwight Eisenhower "the Communists have one of their own actually in the presidency...There is only one possible word to describe his purposes and his actions. That word is treason." Goldwater skimmed the manuscript and immediately dismissed its allegations. The next morning he telephoned Welch: "I want no part of this. I won't even have it around. If you were smart, you'd burn every copy you have." Welch was neither deterred nor alienated. He published the book in 1960 and contributed to the Senator's 1958 reelection campaign...

In the notes to the book, Goldberg explains that later editions of The Politician toned down the Ike-is-a-commie theme. Several other sources back him up on this. In Report on the John Birch Society 1966, then Anti-Defamation League national director Benjamin Epstein and the ADL's general counsel Arnold Foster stated that the "cleansed version" of the book appeared in 1963, and it received wide distribution in the JBS. "But it did not alter the basic thrust that the former President was a Communist agent."

Indeed, they reported,

Society members were never explicitly told that the published version differed in its text from the original, although an explanation was included in the revised text. Instead they -- and the public -- were told to "Read It and Judge for Yourself" --as if the readers were getting the original version.

Interestingly, Turner later e-mailed me, "... it is a flat out lie regarding the book the politician. I encourage you to look it up and find out the truth for your self."

Nutty similarity there. Perhaps Turner drank the Kool-Aid instead of the fluoride. (Birchers used to have a thing about the fluoridation of water, believing it was part of a pinko plot.)

The book American Extremists, by John George and Laird Wilcox also supports the Ike-is-a-commie theme and the fact that later editions of the Welch screed omit some of that stuff. George and Wilcox even have the whole "Dwight Eisenhower is a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy" quote in their book from the original source. The intent of the original is clear: Welch claimed Ike was a Red. No wonder Goldwater advised him to burn all copies of the tome. Goldy must've figured he had a real moonhowler on his hands.

George and Wilcox also suggest the myth of the martyred John Birch is a distortion. Birch was an intelligence officer in China during WWII, and the JBS claims him as the first victim of the Cold War for being killed by Chinese Communists shortly after the United States' victory over Japan. Evidently, Birch came across some Chinese Communists in the field, argued with their commander, and was subsequently shot and bayoneted. The commander of the base Birch operated out of, Major Gustav Krause, blamed Birch for his own demise:

"My instructions were to act with diplomacy," Krause is quoted as saying. "Birch made the Communist lieutenant lose face before his own men. Militarily, John Birch brought about his own death."

See, if Birch, by all accounts a fundamentalist fanatic, had kept his pie-hole shut, he might have avoided the bayonet in the keister and lived to a ripe old age. But then there'd be no JBS for us to have fun with, now would there?

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Bryan is disseminating falsehoods about this matter.

For anybody who wants to see the actual pages of the 1950's edition of The Politician which contained Robert Welch's unvarnished assessment of Eisenhower as a Communist traitor, you may see scanned copies of those pages in this report:


The Birch Society explicitly endorsed "The Politician". See for example:

JBS Bulletin, 09/63: Robert Welch declared that The Politician "has now proved to be by far the most effective single help to our recruiting efforts."

JBS Bulletin, 6/63Welch encouraged JBS members to make The Politician "the largest selling book in all history".

AND, in a 8/22/62 letter to Ezra Taft Benson in which he offered to send a copy of the unpublished edition of The Politician to Benson, Mr. Welch wrote to Benson:

"For there are quite a number of outstanding Americans who are among our strongest and most unshakable supporters who had been made so by reading this document; and we have never really had any trouble with, or criticism from, those who have actually read the ‘letter' themselves..."

In 2002, the JBS published a new edition of The Politician. This new edition is self-described on the back cover as “the most devastating expose of the last century” because it “tells the bitter, but little known truth” about our postwar history and the back cover statement concludes:

“But most importantly, The Politician exposes that ‘conspiracy of gangsters’ which even now is setting America’s foreign and domestic policy.”

The JBS no longer tries to dissociate itself from the substantive content of Welch’s “private letter” because everything stated in The Politician has ALWAYS been part of official JBS ideology which is why the current 2002 edition is described on the back cover as presenting “the truth” about our postwar history as well as the Eisenhower Administration’s role in that history.

Furthermore, I have copies of letters written by Robert Welch in 1959 and 1960 which accompanied copies of the unpublished version of The Politician. In those letters, Welch told recipients to read The Politician and then join the JBS to do something about "the conspiracy" outlined in The Politician.

The notion that The Politician was entirely separate from the JBS -- is pure unadulterated fiction created by Welch and the JBS to divert attention from the ACTUAL beliefs of the Society.

In addition, most JBS members or officials play semantic games about this matter because they know that Robert Welch edited the original text of his 1950's manuscript before he published it in 1963.

On page 278 of the 1963 published edition of The Politician, there is a footnote #2 (page 472, note #543 in the 2002 edition) and its text appears on pages cxxxviii–cxxxix at the back of the 1963 edition. That text is as follows:

“At this point in the original manuscript, there was one paragraph in which I expressed my own personal belief as to the most likely explanation of the events and actions with this document had tried to bring into focus. In a confidential letter, neither published nor offered for sale and restricted to friends who were expected to respect the confidence but offer me in exchange their own points of view, this seemed entirely permissible and proper. It does not seem so for an edition of the letter that is now to be published and given, probably, fairly wide distribution. So that paragraph, and two explanatory paragraphs, connected with it, have been omitted here. And the reader is left entirely free to draw his own conclusions.”

Actually, Welch edited more out of the original text than what he acknowledged above.

Let us now consider how Welch actually described President Eisenhower.

First, let us quickly dispose of the falsehood that Welch proposed a benign interpretation of Ike’s motives.

On page 278 of the published version of The Politician, Welch summarizes, from his perspective, the only two possible interpretations regarding Eisenhower:

“The role he has played, as described in all the pages above, would fit just as well into one theory as the other; that he is a mere stooge, or that he is a Communist assigned the specific job of being a political front man.”

Oxford English Dictionary definitions of “stooge”:

(1) “A person whose function is merely to carry out another’s directions; an unquestioningly loyal or obsequious subordinate, a lackey; a person used as an instrument by someone behind the scenes, a cat’s paw"

(2) "a subordinate used by another to do routine or unpleasant works.”

On page 279, Welch discusses the 3 stages by which Communists came to control the U.S. Presidency.

In stages 1 and 2, FDR and Truman were “used” by Communists. In Truman’s case, according to Welch, he was used “with his knowledge and acquiescence, as the price he consciously paid for their making him President.”

Then, with respect to Ike,

“In the third stage the Communists have installed in the Presidency a man who, for whatever reasons, appears intentionally to be carrying forward Communist aims…With regard to this third man, Eisenhower, it is difficult to avoid raising the question of deliberate treason.” …

The quote above is from page 279 of the 1963 published edition of The Politician. However, the original formulation of this comment from the unpublished 1950’s manuscript of The Politician is as follows:

"In the third stage, in my own firm opinion, the Communists have one of their own actually in the Presidency. For this third man, Eisenhower, there is only one possible word to describe his purposes and his actions. That word is treason." [The Politician, unpublished version, page 268.].

Obviously, that is why Welch decided to entitle Chapter 17, “The Word Is Treason”.

There are many other passages in both the published and unpublished versions of The Politician wherein Welch makes clear that he considered Eisenhower a Communist traitor.

Below I quote a few examples.

In discussing Eisenhower’s appointment of Philip C. Jessup, Robert Welch refers to Eisenhower as “he and his fellow Communists” [The Politician, unpublished version, page 214]

In discussing Eisenhower’s appointment of James B. Conant, Robert Welch refers to “the appointment of Conant…made by a Communist President…” [The Politician, unpublished version, page 221]


“In my opinion the chances are very strong that Milton Eisenhower is actually Dwight Eisenhower’s superior and boss within the Communist Party.” [The Politician, unpublished version, page 210] and

“We think that an objective survey of Eisenhower’s associates and appointments shows clever Communist brains, aided by willing Communist hands, always at work to give the Communists more power, and to weaken the anti-Communist resistance.” [The Politician, unpublished version, page 239] and

“For Eisenhower and his Communist bosses and their pro-Communist appointees are gradually taking over our whole government right under the noses of the American people.” [The Politician, unpublished version, page 238-239] and

Welch refers to Eisenhower’s actions in Europe which “show his sympathies with the Communist cause and friendship for the Kremlin tyrants…” [The Politician, unpublished version, page 263]

“For the sake of honesty, however, I want to confess here my own conviction that Eisenhower’s motivation is more ideological than opportunistic. Or, to put it bluntly, I personally think that he has been sympathetic to ultimate Communist aims, realistically willing to use Communist means to help them achieve their goals, knowingly accepting and abiding by Communist orders, and consciously serving the Communist conspiracy for all of his adult life.” [The Politician, unpublished version, page 266] and

“But my firm belief that Dwight Eisenhower is a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy is based on an accumulation of detailed evidence so extensive and so palpable that it seems to me to put this conviction beyond any reasonable doubt.” [The Politician, unpublished version, page 267].

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