Stewart Alsop, the son of Joseph Wright Alsop (1876–1953) and his wife Corinne Douglas Robinson (1886–1971), was born in Avon, Connecticut, on 17th May, 1914. His older brother was Joseph Alsop. He attended Groton School and Harvard University. After leaving university he moved to New York City where he worked as an editor for the publishing house of Doubleday.
After the United States entered the Second World War Alsop was rejected by the United States Army because of high blood pressure. Desperate to play his part he went to England and joined the British Army. While serving in the army he met and married Patricia Hankey. Alsop eventually joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
In July 1944, and Thomas Braden went to work with Allen Dulles at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Soon afterwards he was parachuted into the Périgord region of France to aid the French Resistance. Alsop later recalled: "Going behind enemy lines, according to the rules of warfare, is not a task which one man can command another to do. Perhaps one tenth of the men who were in OSS saw service behind the lines, but all of them who did so volunteered to do so, and the volunteers knew no bounds of money or political belief." Alsop was later awarded the Croix de Guerre for his work. After the war Alsop co-wrote with Braden a history of the OSS called Sub Rosa: The O.S.S. and American Espionage (1946).
In 1945 Stewart Alsop became co-writer, with his brother Joseph Alsop, of the thrice-weekly "Matter of Fact" column for the New York Herald Tribune. Stewart concentrated on domestic politics, whereas his brother traveled the world to cover foreign affairs. In 1946 Joseph and Stewart Alsop urged militant anti-communism. They warned that "the liberal movement is now engaged in sowing the seeds of its own destruction." Liberals, they argued, "consistently avoided the great political reality of the present: the Soviet challenge to the West." Unless the country addressed this problem, "In the spasm of terror which will seize this country... it is the right - the very extreme right - which is most likely to gain victory."
The Alsops lived in Washington where they associated with a group of journalists, politicians and government officials that became known as the Georgetown Set. This included Frank Wisner, George Kennan, Dean Acheson, Richard Bissell, Desmond FitzGerald, Thomas Braden, Tracy Barnes, Philip Graham, David Bruce, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow, Eugene Rostow, Chip Bohlen, Cord Meyer, Richard Helms, Desmond FitzGerald, Frank Wisner, James Angleton, William Averill Harriman, John McCloy, Felix Frankfurter, John Sherman Cooper, James Reston, Allen W. Dulles and Paul Nitze. Most men brought their wives to these gatherings. Members of what was later called the Georgetown Ladies' Social Club included Katharine Graham, Mary Pinchot Meyer, Sally Reston, Polly Wisner, Joan Braden, Lorraine Cooper, Evangeline Bruce, Avis Bohlen, Janet Barnes, Tish Alsop, Cynthia Helms, Marietta FitzGerald, Phyllis Nitze and Annie Bissell.
Frances Stonor Saunders, the author of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War? (1999) has pointed out: "In long exchanges, heated by intellectual passion and alcohol, their vision of a new world order began to take shape. Internationalist, abrasive, competitive, these men had an unshakeable belief in their value system, and in their duty to offer it to others. They were the patricians of the modern age, the paladins of democracy, and saw no contradiction in that. This was the elite which ran American foreign policy and shaped legislation at home. Through think-tanks to foundations, directorates to membership of gentlemen's clubs, these mandarins were interlocked by their institutional affiliations and by a shared belief in their own superiority."
The brothers's articles appeared in over 300 newspapers. Both were Cold War warriors but were critics of Joseph McCarthy. It has been argued by the historian, Arthur Schlesinger: "That paradox is the alleged contradiction between Joe's hatred of communism in the world and his hatred of McCarthyism at home, as shown by his brave and undaunted defense of dissenters with many of whose policy recommendations he vigorously disagreed. But did not his passionate advocacy of the Cold War sow the seeds from which McCarthyism sprang?"
Robert W. Merry, the author of Taking on the World: Joseph and Stewart Alsop: Guardians of the American Century (1996), has pointed out that they viewed McCarthy as "a heartland populist stirring up passions against the country's foreign policy elite... They also viewed his attack on the State Department as an attack on the internationalist philosophy that had guided American foreign policy since the end of the war. Nobody was saying it explicitly, but it seemed clear to the brothers that if McCarthy succeeded in bringing down the Department's internationalists, the result would be a new wave of isolationism".
Evan Thomas, the author of The Very Best Men: The Early Years of the CIA (1995), argues that the Alsop brothers worked very closely with Frank Wisner, the first director of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), the espionage and counter-intelligence branch of the CIA. He points out that he "considered his friends Joe and Stewart Alsop to be reliable purveyors of the company line in their columns". In 1953 the brothers helped out Edward Lansdale and the CIA in the Philippines: "Wisner actively courted the Alsops, along with a few other newsmen he regarded as suitable outlets. When Lansdale was manipulating electoral politics in the Philippines in 1953, Wisner asked Joe Alsop to write some columns warning the Filipinos not to steal the election from Magsaysay. Alsop was happy to comply, though he doubted his columns would have much impact on the Huks. After the West German counterintelligence chief, Otto John, defected to the Soviet Union in 1954, Wisner fed Alsop a story that the West German spymaster had been kidnapped by the KGB. Alsop dutifully printed the story, which may or may not have been true."
Richard Bissell, the head of the Directorate for Plans (DPP), was also a close friend of the Alsops. He later recalled: "The Alsops were fairly discreet in what they asked, but I was not as discreet as I should have been. They could usually guess." Bissell admitted to Jonathan Lewis, who was helping him with his memoirs, that the Alsops were the only journalists who he provided with secret information. In 1955 the Alsops reported details of what had taken place in a National Security Council meeting. Allen W. Dulles was so angry that he ordered Wisner to cancel a meeting with the Alsop brothers that weekend at his farm in Maryland. On another occasion, Paul Nitze was so upset that they published the contents of a sensitive cable, that he told them, "You're not the Alsop brothers! You're the Hiss brothers!"
At the end of 1966, Desmond FitzGerald, Directorate for Plans, discovered that Ramparts, a left-wing publication, were planning to publish an article that the International Organizations Division had been secretly funding the National Student Association. FitzGerald ordered Edgar Applewhite to organize a campaign against the magazine. Applewhite later told Evan Thomas for his book, The Very Best Men: "I had all sorts of dirty tricks to hurt their circulation and financing. The people running Ramparts were vulnerable to blackmail. We had awful things in mind, some of which we carried off." This dirty tricks campaign failed to stop the magazine publishing this story in March, 1967. The article, written by Sol Stern, was entitled NSA and the CIA. As well as reporting CIA funding of the National Student Association it exposed the whole system of anti-Communist front organizations in Europe, Asia, and South America.
Stewart Alsop, who was now working for the Saturday Evening Post, asked Thomas Braden, the former head of the International Organizations Division (IOD) to write an article for the Saturday Evening Post in response to what Stern had written. The article, entitled, I'm Glad the CIA is Immoral , appeared on 20th May 1967. Braden defended the activities of the IOD unit of the CIA. Braden admitted that for more than 10 years, the CIA had subsidized Encounter through the Congress for Cultural Freedom - which it also funded - and that one of its staff was a CIA agent.
Hugh Wilford, the author of The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (2008) has argued: "It was a well-worn technique of the CIA to blow the cover of covert operations when they were no longer considered desirable or viable, and there were a number of reasons why, by April 1967, the Agency might have tired of its alliance with the non-communist left. For one, the NCL had become a far less reliable instrument of U.S. foreign policy than it had been a decade earlier. With their propensity for criticizing the war in Vietnam. ADA-style left-liberals such as the Reuther brothers were increasingly perceived in Washington as a hindrance rather a help in the prosecution of the Cold War."
Frances Stonor Saunders, has pointed out in Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War? (1999) that a high-level CIA official told her that Stewart Alsop was a "CIA agent". Saunders discussed this issue with Joseph Alsop. He dismissed this claim as "absolute nonsense" but admitted that both men were very close to the agency: "I was closer to the Agency than Stew was, though Stew was very close... I dare say he did perform some tasks - he did the correct thing as an American... The Founding Fathers of the CIA were close personal friends of ours... It was a social thing. I have never received a dollar, I never signed a secrecy agreement. I didn't have to... I've done things for them when I thought they were the right thing to do. I call it doing my duty as a citizen... The CIA did not open itself at all to people it did not trust... Stew and I were trusted, and I'm proud of it."
Stewart Alsop died of cancer on 26th May, 1974.
The anteroom is generally full of furtive-looking characters who look as though they might be suborned State Department men. McCarthy himself, despite a creeping baldness and a continual tremor which makes his head shake in a disconcerting fashion, is reasonably well cast as the Hollywood version of a strong-jawed private eye. A visitor is likely to find him with his heavy shoulders hunched forward, a telephone in his huge hands, shouting cryptic instructions to some mysterious ally... As Senator McCarthy talks he sometimes strikes the mouthpiece of his telephone with a pencil. As Washington folklore has it, this is supposed to jar the needle off the concealed listening device. In short, while the State Department fears that Senator McCarthy's friends are spying on it, Senator McCarthy apparently fears that the State Department's friends are spying on him.
The Dumbarton Avenue sceptics were joined by David Bruce, Averell Harriman, John McCloy, Joseph and Stewart Alsop, Richard Bissell, Walter Lippmann, and the Bundy brothers. In long exchanges, heated by intellectual passion and alcohol, their vision of a new world order began to take shape. Through think-tanks to foundations, directorates to membership of gentlemen's clubs, these mandarins were interlocked by their institutional affiliations and by a shared belief in their own superiority. Their job it was to establish and then justify the post-war pax Americana. And they were staunch supporters of the CIA, which was fast being staffed by their friends from school, business or the "old show" of OSS.
It was not all frivolity, of course. Friendship did mix with policymaking; serious issues were discussed passionately, and the men who sat at the Georgetown dinner parties sometimes made use of the information they gleaned there. The subtle interplay, a mixture of trust, patriotism, and mutual manipulation, can be seen in the relationship of the CIA men to the Alsop brothers, Joe and Stewart.
The Alsops wrote a well-informed, very influential, sometimes strident column that appeared in the New York Herald Tribune as well as several hundred papers around the country. Stewart was witty and urbane, a "gent," though perhaps more complicated than he appeared. Joe made no effort to hide his opinions or strong tastes.
Joe Alsop was a kind of keeper of the gate in Georgetown. It was he who decided who should be let in - who set the standards, made the rules, and broke them when he felt like it. For a man schooled in the social graces, Alsop could be unpleasantly argumentative, and he did not disguise his arbiter's power. But Alsop had a great capacity for friendship; he made it his occupation, and his friends learned to forgive his occasional cruelties. His dinners were undeniably entertaining, though perhaps not to the meek. "They would seem relaxed," said Susan Mary Alsop, who was married to Alsop for a time in the 1960s, "the guests would be talking from right to left, but Joe hated it. He knew it had to be done, but he wanted general conversation. Halfway through dinner, after a lot of wine, Joe would scream down the table, "Wisner! Frank! What are they saying about this new movement in Cairo?" The table would silence. The women were trained for it. They would stop talking about the trouble with the new kitchen maid. Joe would go on, "That's what you think, Wisner," and he would turn to another guest, "But what about you? You were in Moscow last week. What about you?" More wine would be poured. Fights would break out. Chip would stalk out. "I'm not staying in this room another minute! Come on, Avis, we're going home. The next day, Joe would write a note to Avis, "looking forward to seeing you next Thursday." Some people were put off by Joe's outbursts, but it was really rather thrilling, if you see what I mean."
The dinners were "planned," said Mrs. Alsop. "He'd look for a subject. It was taken for granted that it was all off the record. He was careful; the information was to inform his judgment." His guests sometimes accused him of revealing more than opinion in the column he wrote with his brother Stewart. Angered that Alsop had printed the contents of a sensitive cable, Paul Nitze exploded, "You're not the Alsop brothers! You're the Hiss brothers!" This allusion to alleged treason got Nitze thrown out of Alsop's house, to be readmitted soon thereafter."
The Alsops knew not to inquire too hard, but they were clever, and by using public sources and their intuition, they could use their CIA friends to guide them toward scoops. "The Alsops were fairly discreet in what they asked," said Richard Bissell, "but I was not as discreet as I should have been. They could usually guess." On one famous occasion in 1955, Stewart Alsop guessed correctly that the CIA was worried about the possibility of a Soviet satellite. As it happened, a National Security Council meeting had been discussing the Soviet space threat the day before Alsop's column appeared. The White House was furious. Allen Dulles had to take the unusual step of forbidding Frank Wisner and Bissell to spend the weekend with the Alsop brothers at Wisner's farm in Maryland. Joe Alsop caused a big scene in Dulles's office, pounding on the table about freedom of the press. "It was pretty funny," said Bissell. "A tempest in a teapot." Bissell regarded the Alsops as somehow different from ordinary journalists. At the end of his life, Bissell told Jonathan Lewis, who was helping arrange his memoirs, that he disapproved of leaking to the press and never did. Lewis asked, But what about your friend Joe Alsop? "Oh well," Bissell replied, "I did talk to Joe."
Wisner actively courted the Alsops, along with a few other newsmen he regarded as suitable outlets. Alsop dutifully printed the story, which may or may not have been true.
Alsop had no qualms about being used in this way: he was a believer - in the work of the agency and its anti-communist cause. To cooperate with the CIA from time to time was not cozy but rather patriotic. Alsop knew many of the station chiefs around the world; they informed and improved his reporting. Wisner was not able to help, however, when Alsop foolishly allowed himself to be caught in a honey trap by the KGB on a trip to Moscow in 1957. The Russians took photos of Alsop in the midst of a homosexual act with a KGB agent and tried to blackmail him into becoming an agent. Indomitable, Alsop refused and continued to write his anticommunist screeds, though he was haunted by the incident, especially when J. Edgar Hoover learned of it and added it to his secret FBI files.
Alsop was not the only journalist in Washington to play along with the CIA. Jean Friendly's husband, Washington Post managing editor Alfred Friendly, "never told secrets," she said. The CIA "trusted him." James Reston, the all-powerful Washington bureau chief of the New York Times, kept some distance from the Georgetown cocktail circuit, but he spent hours talking to Wisner, and his next-door neighbor, with whom he talked through a hole in the fence, was Paul Nitze. When the occasional journalist dared to cross the national security establishment, he was cut off. Drew Pearson, a muckraking columnist, was struck from the guest list of the Bankruptcy Ball because he had written something critical about Paul Nitze. Many reporters, like the Alsops, knew about CIA plots to overthrow the governments of Iran and Guatemala, but they did not print a word. It is no wonder that men like Richard Bissell believed they could try ever-more ambitious operations without fear of damaging leaks.
Braden's article had all the appearances of an unauthorized action by a famously maverick operator, even to those who had once managed him at the CIA. However, some clues point to a different interpretation of the Saturday Evening Post piece... In a memorandum from National Security Advisor Walt W. Rostow to President Johnson dated April 19, 1967. "I assume you know of the forthcoming Braden article on the CIA in the Saturday Evening Post," the note reads. "Here is the story from Dick Helms." Although the attached report by the DCI is missing, Rostow's covering memo suggests that the Agency not only had sufficient advance warning of the article's appearance for it to invoke Braden's secrecy oath and thereby prevent publication, it might even have played a part in the piece's planning, along with a knowledgeable and supportive White House. Two other pieces of circumstantial evidence point to the same tentative conclusion. One is the fact that the CIA had planted stories in the Saturday Evening Post before, with the help of one of its editors, Stewart Alsop. According to Braden's later recollection, Alsop also collaborated in the drafting of the article... Second, much press coverage of the article's impact dwelled disproportionately on the embarrassment of the non-communist leftists identified as witting assets by Braden, especially Victor Reuther...
It was a well-worn technique of the CIA to blow the cover of covert operations when they were no longer considered desirable or viable, and there were a number of reasons why, by April 1967, the Agency might have tired of its alliance with the non-communist left. ADA-style left-liberals such as the Reuther brothers were increasingly perceived in Washington as a hindrance rather a help in the prosecution of the Cold War. This view had, of course, long been held by conservatives such as James Burnham, but it had now come to be shared by the Johnson White House, with the president himself deeply resentful of liberal anti-communists who had once supported U.S. policy in Vietnam and now opposed it.
America’s First Elites
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In spring of 1970, social commentator Peter Schrag produced a piece for Harper’s entitled “The Decline of the WASP,” which was really about the decline of America’s Anglo-Saxon establishment. Schrag described it as “a particular class of people and institutions that we identified with our vision of the country. The people were white and Protestant the institutions were English American culture was WASP.” He recalled a time when the “critics, the novelists, the poets, the social theorists, the men who articulated and analyzed American ideas, who governed our institutions, who embodied what we were or hoped to be—nearly all of them were WASPs.”
All that, Schrag averred, was in progressive deterioration. He explained, “It is not that WASPs lack power and representation—or numbers—but that the once-unquestioned assumptions on which that power was based have begun to lose their hold.” In case any readers missed the point, he explained further, “Gary Cooper has been replaced by Dustin Hoffman.”
One reader who responded to the piece was journalist Stewart Alsop, then a high-profile weekly columnist for Newsweek (a perch he had taken over from Walter Lippmann a couple years before). Alsop pronounced Schrag’s thesis “valid, and important, politically and in other ways.”
Alsop harbored more than a passing interest in this social development. He was himself a member in good standing of that old Anglo-Saxon elite. Eleanor Roosevelt was his mother’s first cousin his mother’s mother was Teddy Roosevelt’s sister. On his father’s side, the Alsops stretched back to the 17th century New England shipping trade, in which the family had made tons of money. One forebear, Joseph Wright Alsop II (1804-1878), had been one of the richest men in America of his time, with extensive holdings in shipping, railroads, and finance. Stewart Alsop’s brother, also a prominent journalist, was Joseph Wright Alsop V.
Although that Alsop wealth had long since dissipated by 1970, the social standing it had conferred on the family so many decades before remained an Alsop birthright. Such was the nature of that tight old WASP clique. But even the birthright, as Stewart Alsop well knew, was fading fast. “The old Wasp elite…,” he wrote, “is dying and it may be dead.”
Today we look back on that old elite, if we look back on it at all, as a relic of the distant past. But this development—the old elite’s slow loss of self-confidence after World War II and then its obliteration as a cultural force—represents a profound transformation in America’s social history. What emerged was a new country with a new elite.
In place of the old-school folkways and legends and values of the Anglo-Saxons, we have what is known as a meritocratic system dominated by a class of strivers who have managed to scope out the new system and rise to the top. It was captured in a recent Atlantic article by Matthew Stewart, an avowed member of the new elite but a critic of it. “The meritocratic class,” he writes, “has mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children. We are not innocent bystanders to the growing concentration of wealth in our time. We are the principal accomplices in a process that is slowly strangling the economy, destabilizing American politics, and eroding democracy.”
Further, as far back as 1995, social commentator Christopher Lasch, in a book entitled The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (published posthumously), excoriated what he called America’s “new aristocracy of brains.” He wrote: “There has always been a privileged class, even in America, but it has never been so dangerously isolated from its surroundings.” He foresaw an emerging chasm between the country’s new upper class and its great mass of citizens. “The new elites,” he wrote, “are in revolt against ‘Middle America,’ as they imagine it: a nation technologically backward, politically reactionary, repressive in its sexual morality, middlebrow in its tastes, smug and complacent, dull and dowdy.”
Lasch’s characterization of the elite’s low regard for the masses calls to mind Hillary Clinton’s put-down of Donald Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential race. Her famous “deplorables” insult reflected the cultural chasm foretold by Lasch. This mutual animus between the elites and the people they purport to govern is an ominous development in America and thus merits an exploration. Our starting point will be that old WASP establishment that dominated America for nearly three centuries before expiring with hardly a cri de coeur. It should be noted that this article represents no call for any kind of restoration. History moves forward with a crushing force and doesn’t pause for nostalgia. But to understand where we are, we must understand where we came from. And the old WASP establishment represents a large part of where we came from.
Its emergence was a natural part of the American story. This ruling class served from the beginning as custodian of the nation’s affairs, and the nation in turn looked to it instinctively for governance. The country and its elite, after all, shared the same provenance. As E. Digby Baltzell pointed out in his 1964 book, The Protestant Establishment: Aristocracy and Caste in America , this system “worked quite well, and was taken for granted” until the 20th century, “largely because the WASP upper class was still representative” of the country at large. And when new people rose into the elite from lower socio-economic stations, they were almost always “of old-stock origins anyway.” Even when non-WASPs made it into the establishment, adds Baltzell, they “were assimilated the more easily because they constituted such a small minority.”
This easy accommodation between the old Eastern elite and heartland America was reflected in two powerful journalistic institutions with self-consciously Anglo-Saxon sensibilities—the New York Herald Tribune and the Saturday Evening Post , both prominent in American society from the late 19th century to the 1960s. Together they reflected the mind and heart of the country they served. The Herald Tribune ’s connection was with the predominantly Anglo-Saxon establishment of the Northeast, which owed its national influence to its dominance of U.S. financial centers and corporate boardrooms, prestigious academic institutions and major publications, big law firms and the foreign policy apparatus. The Herald Tribune spoke to these people, represented their view of America, and reflected their leadership ethos.
The Saturday Evening Post ’s connection to the old stock was through the predominantly Anglo-Saxon localities of the heartland, whose leaders ran their communities much as the national elite ran the country. They dominated the banks, civic organizations, school boards, county courthouses, and businesses. And they constituted the core readership of the Post , for decades the nation’s most influential and widely circulated magazine. Its old-fashioned editorials and Norman Rockwell covers depicting middle-class scenes were regarded by many as symbolic not just of the magazine and of their own families but of the nation itself.
This cultural symbiosis between the elites of the Northeast and the heartland masses made for a relatively high degree of civic amity within the polity and relatively little class animosity. The acceptance of the elite by the masses generated self-confidence at the top, and this in turn generated an accommodative and soft-edged leadership. Stewart Alsop, in writing about the elite’s decline, referred to it as having been made up of “self-confident and more or less disinterested people.”
On another occasion he referred to it as “self-respecting and respect-commanding.” It was significant that the elite didn’t have to strive or grasp for wealth or societal position in large measure, it was the elite because it already had those things.
But it would be a mistake to view the old elite as soft or easygoing on matters related to the national identity or the country’s political and foreign policy aims. This was brilliantly captured by writer and thinker Benjamin Schwarz in a provocative 1995 essay in The Atlantic Monthly entitled “The Diversity Myth.” Schwarz punctures what the magazine called the “hortatory version of our history, in which America has long been a land of ethnic tolerance and multicultural harmony.”
No, says Schwarz: until probably the 1960s, the “unity” of the United States derived not from its “warm welcoming of and accommodation to nationalist, ethnic, and linguistic differences but from the ability and willingness of an Anglo elite to stamp its image on other peoples coming to this country.” This was the legacy of “a cultural and ethnic predominance that would not tolerate conflict or confusion regarding the national identity.”
Consider the stark expression of Stewart Alsop’s great-uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, who offered words of both welcome and warning as waves of immigrants entered the United States from Eastern and Southern Europe. “We have no room,” declared Roosevelt, “for any people who do not act and vote simply as Americans.” Newcomers who had become “completely Americanized,” he added, “stand on exactly the same plane as the descendants of any Puritan, Cavalier, or Knickerbocker…. But where immigrants, or the sons of immigrants, do not heartily and in good faith throw in their lot with us, but cling to the speech, the customs, the ways of life, and the habits of thought of the Old World which they have left, they thereby harm both themselves and us.” America would not tolerate, said Roosevelt, newcomers inclined to “confuse the issues with which we are struggling by introducing among us Old-World quarrels and prejudices.”
This was a distillation of the concept of the melting pot—which, as Schwarz correctly notes, “amounted to the repression, not the celebration, of ethnic diversity.” He adds that, given the immigrants’ value as working-class stalwarts at the dawn of industrial America, no effort to curtail the immigrant wave could succeed politically (until the 1920s). But these groups weren’t allowed to vitiate Anglo-American dominance. “Americanization, then,” writes Schwarz, “although it did not cleanse America of its ethnic minorities, cleansed its minorities of their ethnicity.”
This is not entirely correct, as Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan demonstrated in their famous 1963 book Beyond the Melting Pot , which argued that the ethnic consciousness of various New York City groups persisted through the generations despite the country’s Anglo-Saxon dominance. But Schwarz’s central point was that, despite this consciousness, citizens of whatever provenance were expected to absorb the fundamental folkways and mores of the prevailing class and the dominant population group. Peter Schrag elaborated when he wrote that during the WASP ascendancy it was assumed that the country “did not need to be reinvented. It was all given, like a genetic code, waiting to unfold. We all wanted to learn the style, the proper accent, agreed on its validity, and while our interpretations and our heroes varied, they were all cut from the same stock.”
It has been fashionable among left-leaning thinkers in recent decades to see ethnic harmony in the early emergence in the New World of non-Anglo-Saxon peoples, including Dutch, Welsh, Scottish, and Scotch-Irish immigrants. But their story actually bolsters the Schwarz thesis, as these Northern European strains blended readily into the substantial English majority. The 17th century non-English Roosevelts, for example, and other continental immigrants of the time could scarcely have retained their particular identities for long, since the families with which they merged tended to be English. Franklin Roosevelt’s global outlook was far less a product of his Dutch heritage than his family’s absorption, over the decades, into the Anglo-Saxon ascendancy. And the larger non-English but English-speaking elements had no trouble regarding themselves as part of the prevailing culture. Edgar Allan Poe, who possessed Scottish and Scotch-Irish ancestors as well as English, felt that “the self-same Saxon current animates the British and the American heart.”
Such attitudes led eventually to a strong sentiment of Anglophilia within America’s WASP elite, reflected in such educational institutions as Groton School, which produced such elitists as FDR, Sumner Welles, Dean Acheson, Averell Harriman, and numerous Bundys, Morgans, Whitneys, Dillons, and lesser Roosevelts. As Stewart Alsop (Groton ’32) once wrote, at Groton, “a boy was stuffed to the gills with English history and literature while American history and literature were passed over as though they scarcely existed.”
This powerful sense of heritage drove American cultural and political expression for most of the country’s history, giving it a strong sense of continuity. The nation’s past was intertwined with its present, which would be similarly connected to its future. But, as Schwarz argues, the “hegemony that has unified America has been at bottom not so much cultural and linguistic as physical.” America didn’t just evolve, he writes, “it was made by those who claimed it fiercely and rendered it in their image.” Schwarz has a bit of fun with foreign policy mandarins such as Zbigniew Brzezinski (since deceased), who derived their anti-Russian animus from what Brzezinski considered Russia’s congenital expansiveness and “imperial impulse” to dominate or absorb bordering states. Brzezinski and others like him, writes Schwarz, could better understand such an “impulse” if they pondered the history of their own nation, which was “formed by conquest and force, not by conciliation and compromise.”
One need only read, for example, the debates and newspaper commentary surrounding America’s expansionist thrust at the time of the Mexican-American War, as I did in researching a biography of James K. Polk, to understand the power of the Anglo-Saxon identity in driving America to conquer Mexican lands. Of particularly are those parts of Mexico that were sparsely populated, thus easing the way for Anglo-Saxon settlement and hence the spread of the Anglo-Saxon culture. Schwarz quotes a Kentuckian who declared, on the eve of the war, that Americans were “as greedy after plunder as ever old Romans were, Mexico glitters in our Eyes—the word is all we wait for.”
Nor can we ignore the bloody Anglo-Saxon wars of conquest and obliteration against Native American tribes whose devotion to their lands stood in the way of the spread of the Anglo-Saxon sodality. Whatever moral conclusions one may wish to draw from that suppression, it certainly belies any suggestion that ethnic amity and tolerance undergirded the making of America. Further, as Schwarz suggests, the United States would not exist today in its present form “if a more reasonable course had been pursued.”
Indeed, the point can be crystallized by a look at the different approaches of the British and the Spanish in North America. The British ventured to the New World largely as families to create communities, commerce, and wealth born of toil. Bent on perpetuating the folkways and mores of the Old Country, the menfolk brought their own women and generally refused to mix with the Native Americans. The Spanish of Mexico, by contrast, came as conquerors and plunderers. They mixed freely with indigenous women—beginning with Hernan Cortes, who, upon arriving, promptly took as his mistress the lovely and intellectually vibrant Princess Malintzin. The result was that, within a few generations, ethnicity became a particularly vexing issue in the lands of New Spain. Eventually, a new class system based on blood lines emerged, with the increasingly numerous mixed-blood mestizos harboring political and social resentment born of mistreatment and prejudice from both Indians and Spaniards. One result was that the kind of civic solidarity seen in Anglo-Saxon America couldn’t take root in Mexico.
Thus do we see that America’s Anglo-Saxon elite both reflected and perpetuated Anglo-Saxon sensibilities on the Continent for some 300 years. And it did so as its proportion of the country’s population declined steadily throughout that period. Given that, Schwarz suggests that the American elite’s ability to “dominate American cultural and political life for three centuries—…in fact define what it meant to be an American—is a remarkable achievement.” It was an achievement of cultural identity and pride.
It couldn’t last forever. The question was—and remains—why. Alsop speculated that a significant factor was the decline of Great Britain as a global power, which undermined a significant element of the elite’s sense of identity. He surmised that the “erosion of authority” that transformed American society in a host of ways in the 1960s (and later the 1970s) may have been a factor as well. But probably the largest contributor was demographics. America was becoming less and less an Anglo-Saxon country, and less and less did it look to its old elite for guidance and governance. New impulses, attitudes, and agendas—precisely what Theodore Roosevelt had warned against—were making their way into the American consciousness with more diverse waves of immigration, and these had a profound effect upon the nation.
Thus did the old elite soon come under attack from those who saw it as an impediment to American social and cultural progress. And it seems beyond dispute that, as the demographic mix of the nation changed, the old Anglo-Saxon establishment became increasingly insular and out of touch with the nation, perhaps even a bit disoriented. Digby Baltzell drew a distinction in his book between an aristocracy, which allows new members to enter its ranks, and a “caste system,” which seeks to maintain power and influence through exclusion. Arguing that the Anglo-Saxon elite had embraced a caste consciousness since the immigration wave that began in the 1890s, he wrote that “an authoritative leadership structure will evolve in this country only when and if a new and representative upper class and establishment are created.” Such an establishment, he added, would “discriminate on the basis of the distinguished accomplishments of individuals rather than classifying men categorically on the basis of their ethnic or racial origins.” In other words, he wanted a new meritocratic elite.
And now we have one. In his Atlantic essay, Matthew Stewart posits that the top 0.1 percent of Americans have been the big winners in the country’s growing economic inequality of recent decades. This is the nation’s financial autocracy, consisting of just 160,000 or so households. The losers have been the lower 90 percent. That leaves the 9.9 percent in between as “the new American aristocracy.” Writes Stewart: “We have left the 90 percent in the dust—and we’ve been quietly tossing down roadblocks behind us to make sure that they never catch up.” Stewart notes that in 1963 a person at the middle of the country’s wealth distribution would have to multiply his wealth by six times to get into the 9.9 percent. By 2016 it was 12 times. To get to the middle of the 9.9 percent, the poor schmuck would have to multiply his wealth by a factor of 25.
This isn’t unprecedented, of course. The famous Gilded Age of the late 19th century saw the emergence of a huge wealth gap similar to our own. It was generated in large measure by a similar phenomenon: the amassing of great wealth by those who managed to harness new technologies (in that instance, industrial technologies) to create powerful life-changing products that spawned huge revenues and huge profit margins.
But, as Stewart writes, money isn’t the entire picture in our own time. “Family, friends, social networks, personal health, culture, education, and even location are all ways of being rich, too,” he writes. “These nonfinancial forms of wealth, as it turns out, aren’t simply perks of membership in our aristocracy. They define us.”
As Stewart notes, the 9.9 percent enjoy huge advantages in educational opportunity, in access to the healthcare “cartel,” and in the ability to exploit the flow of money through commerce. He points out that $1 of every $12 in GDP now goes to the financial sector in the 1950s, it was only $1 of every $40. “The financial system we now have…,” he writes, “has been engineered, over decades, by powerful bankers, for their own benefit and for that of their posterity.” The federal government favors the 9.9 percent further with lavish tax preferences that totaled some $900 million in 2013, with 51 percent going to the top quintile of earners and 39 percent to the top decile.
In addition, real estate inflation has generated a striking increase in economic segregation, further separating the 9.9 percent from society’s less favored folks.
The result of all this, as Stewart sees it, is growing political resentment, as reflected in the 2016 election returns. In the Trump vote, Stewart saw “a large number of 90 percenters who stand for pretty much everything the 9.9 percent are not.” The economic cleavage was unmistakable. The counties carried by Hillary Clinton represented fully 64 percent of GDP, while Trump counties accounted for only 36 percent. One study found that Clinton counties had a median home value of $250,000 for Trump counties the figure was $154,000. Clinton counties saw their real estate values shoot up by 27 percent from January 2000 to October 2016 (adjusted for inflation) for Trump counties it was 6 percent. Similar cleavages could be seen in educational levels, with the country’s 50 most educated counties surging to Clinton and the 50 least educated moving markedly to Trump.
Stewart presents here a laudable social and economic analysis as far as it goes, but his focus on factors of economic and social well-being exclude less tangible but extremely powerful definitional questions facing the country, such as the impact of mass immigration and the hollowing out of the industrial base. “The raging polarization of American political life is not the consequence of bad manners or a lack of mutual understanding,” he writes. “It is just the loud aftermath of escalating inequality.” He invokes an earlier time of inequality in America, the 1920s, and asks where the 90 percenters were during the “acts of plunder” of that era, corresponding to our own time of plunder. An “appreciable number,” he suggests, could be found at Ku Klux Klan rallies, and many railed against “mooching hordes of immigrants” as a source of their problems.
So here we have it. Stewart is channeling Barack Obama’s famous (some say infamous) expression of 2008 about working class voters in distressed industrial towns with plummeting job opportunities. “They get bitter,” said the future president, “they cling to guns and religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” His rival for the Democratic nomination that year, Hillary Clinton, promptly labeled Obama an “elitist.” It must take one to know one, as Hillary doubled down on that sentiment eight years later with her “basket of deplorables” expression, directed at essentially the same people.
What we see here is the hoary old liberal notion that as long as the unwashed are fed and clothed adequately, they won’t go astray with faulty thinking about the country’s definition or identity. Those delicate matters, after all, belong to the elites, who will tell us what to think about them and what not to think. Matthew Stewart seems to be saying that the sooner the 9.9 percent addresses the resentment of the 90 percent through redistributionist initiatives under governmental auspices, the sooner the country can get on with the task of redefining itself. “As long as inequality rules,” he writes, “reason will be absent from our politics.”
This misses a huge segment of what’s going on in America today. Christopher Lasch got closer to the heart of it in The Revolt of the Elites . To Lasch the problem doesn’t reside simply in the distribution of wealth or income, although these are not insignificant. It goes much deeper, far into the civic consciousness of the elite and the nation at large. The destructive nature of the new elite, by his reckoning, touches on profound questions of who we are, where we are going as a nation and society, and how we reconcile our present with our past and our future.
Like Stewart, Lasch sees major civic problems festering in America under the new elite. He views many of them, though not all, as economic in nature. And he believes that the new elites, in pursuing their positions of economic and social privilege, have ignored the fate of those below. “Elites, who define the issues, have lost touch with the people,” he writes.
But he goes further, painting a picture of an elite that harbors little sentiment of noblesse oblige toward the common people that has little regard for democratic ideals that favors globalism over patriotism that accepts assaults on free speech in the academy that sneeringly assaults the national heritage and the foundations of Western thought that promotes a politics of diversity and a preoccupation with “self-esteem” (tied to identity politics) to the detriment of civic harmony that fosters civic rancor through its open borders advocacy and that employs powerful weapon-words such as “racist,” “sexist,” and “xenophobic” to stifle debate on matters it wants handled out of established halls of discourse.
In short, Lasch portrays an elite that has cut itself off from its own nation and civilization. He invokes Jose Ortega y Gasset’s famous book from the 1930s, The Revolt of the Masses , written in the era of the Bolshevik Revolution and the rise of European fascism. Ortega saw the Western crisis of that time as a product of the “political domination of the masses…the spoiled child of human history.” Now the spoiled child, says Lasch, is the new elite.
“Today,” he writes, “it is the elites, however—those who control the international flow of money and information, preside over philanthropic foundations and institutions of higher learning, manage the instruments of cultural production and thus set the terms of public debate—that have lost faith in the values, or what remains of them, of the West.” Indeed, he adds that for many of these people the very term “Western civilization” now “calls to mind an organized system of domination designed to enforce conformity to bourgeois values and to keep the victims of patriarchal oppression—women, children, homosexuals, people of color—in a permanent state of subjection.”
Some 22 years after those words were published, President Trump delivered his noted Warsaw speech in which he extolled Poland’s indomitable spirit, seen repeatedly throughout a history of extensive existential adversity. In doing so, the president referred to “the West” 10 times and used the phrase “our civilization” five times—suggesting, it seemed, that that hallowed Polish spirit emerged in part from the country’s sense of heritage, including its civilizational identity.
This proved incendiary to two writers for The Atlantic , Peter Beinart and James Fallows, who declared that such terms betokened a kind of white nationalism or tribalism. Beinart saw “racial and religious paranoia” in the speech while Fallows viewed it as “shocking.” Fallows even excoriated Trump for using the word “will” in describing the Poles’ resolve to defend their borders and values over the centuries he said the president should never have used a word etched in the consciousness of Europeans (or at least his own) due to Leni Riefenstahl’s famous Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will . He seemed to be saying that the word’s use was prima facie evidence of fascistic tendencies. (Fallows generously omitted the word “triumph” from his proscription list.)
This may seem like silly stuff, but it is precisely what Lasch was talking about—the resolve of the new elite to, among other things, rip the American polity away from the moorings of its heritage. A meritocracy, he explains, has to maintain the fiction that its power and privileges rest exclusively on its own brilliant efforts. “Hence,” he adds, “it has little sense of ancestral gratitude or of an obligation to live up to responsibilities inherited from the past.” That continuity of past, present, and future that was so much a part of the Anglo-Saxon consciousness is now under mortal threat.
Indeed, the new elite is engaged in a continuous assault on the Western heritage and, to a large extent, the American heritage. In his last book, Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity , the late Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard posited the thesis that America has embraced over its history four elements of identity—race, ethnicity, culture, and creed. Racial thinking played a significant part in how Americans viewed themselves through the Indian wars, the struggle for black emancipation and civic equality, and the issue of Asian immigration. “For all practical purposes,” writes Huntington, “America was a white society until the mid-twentieth century.” But it no longer is, and race today doesn’t represent a significant pillar of U.S. identity. Race consciousness now resides at the far fringes of U.S. politics, at least with whites.
Ethnicity emerged as a significant political issue with the new wave of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe from around 1890 to the beginning of the 1920s. Concerned about assimilation, Congress in 1924 curtailed both the numbers of immigrants and the ethnicity of those allowed in. But that policy had a paradoxical effect, writes Huntington. It “contributed to the virtual elimination of ethnicity as a defining component of American identity” as descendants of those ethnic arrivals moved inexorably into the mainstream of American society, particularly during World War II. America soon saw itself as a “truly multiethnic society.”
But America has retained, says Huntington, “a mainstream Anglo-Protestant culture in which most of its people, whatever their subcultures, have shared. For almost four centuries this culture of the founding settlers has been the central and the lasting component of American identity.” Back in 1789 John Jay identified the central components of this culture as a common ancestry, language, religion, principles of government, manners and customs, and war experience. The element of common ancestry no longer exists, of course, but the others remain intact, though they have been modified and diluted over the decades. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once wrote that “the language of the new nation, its laws, its institutions, its political ideas, its literature, its customs, its precepts, its prayers, primarily derived from Britain.”
This cultural core of America also gave birth to the American creed (the fourth element of identity)—the country’s commitment to “the political principles of liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, human rights, the rule of law, and private property,” as Huntington described the creed. He added that this creedal definition allows Americans—perhaps unfortunately—to hold that theirs is an “exceptional” nation built on “universal” principles applicable to all human societies.
And thus do we get to the crux of today’s epic struggle between America’s new elites and its mainstream populace. The elites want to wipe away all aspects of the cultural core except the creed, leaving America to stand upon, and project itself from, that small patch of the American identity. As globalists, the elites have developed a contempt for American nationalism, including any robust view of the national identity. And they take delight in the idea that America is exceptional precisely because its essence is universal, applicable to all mankind.
But a question remains whether a creed alone can sustain a nation. “Can a nation be defined only by a political ideology?” asked Huntington. “Several considerations suggest the answer is no. A creed alone does not a nation make.”
Besides, it’s clear that millions of Americans, including those of multiple ethnic backgrounds, don’t get excited by the concept of a strictly creed-based national identity. They harbor a reverence for the country’s governmental creed, to be sure, but they feel that their country’s definition goes far beyond that, to include elements of the core Anglo-American culture that Jay and Schlesinger and Huntington identified. And for many the creedal preoccupation, with its American exceptionalism and universalism, has generated a troubling promiscuousness in foreign policy that has spawned in turn too many wars.
Lasch captured this cultural and political chasm when he noted that most members of the elite think globally, not nationally, and that there was “a question whether they think of themselves as Americans at all.” Patriotism leaves them cold, while multiculturalism excites them—“conjuring up the agreeable image of a global bazaar in which exotic cuisines, exotic styles of dress, exotic music, exotic tribal customs can be savored indiscriminately with no questions asked and no commitments required.”
No commitments required. That seems to sum up the new elite’s regard toward the rest of society, a far cry from the sense of duty and obligation toward the American people and the country’s traditional definition that were embraced through centuries by the old WASP elite. Now we have an elite that separates itself from the nation at large, that seeks to transform it through open borders enforced by political correctness, that even seeks to proscribe such innocent vehicles of expression as the words “civilization” and the “West.”
Anyone who doesn’t see a direct line between this and Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory isn’t paying attention. Matthew Stewart has paid attention, and he sees the direct line. But, alas, he sees it through the prism of the 9.9 percenters, his own class, because he can’t get beyond his preoccupation with economic distribution. And, for all his disclaiming, he reveals in a single sentence that he views the 90 percent pretty much as the rest of the 9.9 percenters do. “With his utter lack of policy knowledge and belligerent commitment to maintaining his ignorance,” writes Stewart, “Trump is the perfect representative for a population whose idea of good governance is just to scramble the eggheads.”
Yes, Trump has an utter lack of policy knowledge and parades his belligerent commitment to maintaining his ignorance. He is also a boor, a cad, a phony, a misfit, and a disgusting human being. But somehow along the way he perceived through instinct what Christopher Lasch discerned through prodigious inquiry. The elites were taking America in a direction that America didn’t want to pursue—or at least close to half of Americans didn’t. This is not sustainable.
In taking on the elite, Trump brought to the fore issues and issue prescriptions that the elite preferred to keep out of the tumult of stump politics, to be handled in the more controlled environment of Congress, the mysterious federal labyrinth, and the courts. He has transformed the immigration debate, brought forward new trade concepts, assaulted the foreign policy establishment, questioned the prevailing global order, taken on the regulatory bureaucracy, and embraced judicial conservatism. All this represents a direct assault on the new elite, which didn’t see it coming and still can’t comprehend it.
Trump’s political fate, and perhaps his legal fate, remain speculative. But one element of his legacy is secure. He has opened up a new fault line in American politics—the elites of the coasts versus the heartland masses. This fault line crystallizes profound questions of the American future. What is the American definition? What is its identity? What will be its connection to its past? What will be its demographic makeup? What kind of country will it be in 10 or 20 years? And what kind of elite will it turn to for guidance and governance in coming decades?
Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century.
TAKING ON THE WORLD Joseph and Stewart Alsop -- Guardians of the American Century. By Robert W. Merry. Illustrated. 644 pp. New York: Viking. $34.95.
IT is the fate of most journalists to write not for the ages but for their day alone -- and to see their toilsome scrivening unceremoniously chucked out with the daily trash. So it is to be expected that few Americans under the age of 40 have even heard of Joseph and Stewart Alsop, let alone read their copy. Yet in the Alsops' heyday, during the three decades following World War II, millions of Americans regularly ingested Alsop prose by the wholesale lot. Their jointly written column, Matter of Fact, widely syndicated by the now defunct New York Herald Tribune, appeared four times a week for nearly a dozen years. And pieces in mass-circulation periodicals like The Saturday Evening Post and Newsweek reached millions of additional readers. The Alsops enjoyed matchless access to the most highly placed sources in Washington and in many of the world's other capitals as well. They wrote with lapidary authority about the issues that convulsed their era, especially cold war foreign policy. To a degree equaled by few of their peers, and rarely exceeded in the history of their craft, Joseph and Stewart Alsop reigned in their time as the very highest panjandrums of American journalism.
In this rich and fascinating book, Robert W. Merry, himself a professional journalist and currently executive editor of Congressional Quarterly Inc., offers a literary triptych. "Taking On the World" is at once a dual biography of two intriguing personalities and a revealing analysis of the practical workings of the journalistic guild. Most consequentially, it is also a probing examination of the severely attenuated "American Century" -- the 30 years of unequaled prosperity and extraordinary national self-confidence from World War II until Vietnam -- as seen through the eyes of two men who both chronicled and shaped the great events of their era.
In the rough-and-tumble world of American journalism, the Alsops stood out as pedigreed blue bloods. Descended from a long line of Connecticut Yankees, they were related by marriage to the Roosevelts. They were raised on the family estate at Avon, Conn., a genteel country establishment where tea was served in the afternoons and gentlemen invariably donned black tie for dinner. The Alsop boys were schooled, of course, at Groton. Joe (1910-89) went on to Harvard, and Stewart (1914-74) to Yale. Privilege and arrogance formed no small part of their patrimony, but so did the work ethic and ideals of public service, as well as a reflexive, unapologetic Anglophilia -- a sentiment reinforced at Groton, where the curriculum required five years of British history and no American history at all. Joe throughout his adult life affected British mannerisms in speech and dress, and Stewart served in World War II in the uniform of the King's Royal Rifle Corps.
Their social connections landed them their first jobs -- Joe in 1932 at The Herald Tribune, then in its glory days as the official voice of moderately progressive and solidly internationalist Eastern Establishment Republicanism. Stewart started out in 1936 at the publishing house of Doubleday, Doran, where Uncle Ted Roosevelt was a vice president. Joe, foppish, supercilious and outrageously Anglicized, struck The Herald Tribune's city editor as "a perfect example of Republican inbreeding." But the young reporter's eye for detail and flair for trenchant, clear, colorful writing -- and those invaluable social connections -- brought him swift advancement. In 1935 The Tribune sent him to Washington. There he was soon dining regularly with cousins Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt at the White House, and laying the foundations of a journalistic career built on intimate familiarity with the innermost precincts of power. The line between Joe's social and professional life was indistinct. The one served the purposes of the other, and his courtship of the well placed and powerful often lapsed into shameless sycophancy. To his elegantly laid table at his Georgetown home in the 1930's came, among others, the New Dealers Ben Cohen and Felix Frankfurter, the British playwright No]l Coward and the brilliant young British diplomat Isaiah Berlin. By 1937 he had his own nationally syndicated column. The star of Joe's journalistic career was already in the ascendant and still rising. He was not yet 30 years old.
When World War II came, Stewart fought his way with the British Eighth Army through North Africa and Italy, and later served with a special airborne unit dropped into Nazi-occupied France to bolster the French Resistance. Joe had his own good war in China. Assigned as a Lend-Lease administrator to Chiang Kai-shek's headquarters at Chongqing, he landed squarely in the midst of the "China tangle," the messy conflict between Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, an infantryman who held Chiang in contempt and clung to the strategy of ground warfare, and Gen. Claire Chennault, the flamboyant flier who tirelessly flattered Chiang and ceaselessly urged an air offensive against the invading Japanese. Mr. Merry tells this complicated story exceedingly well, emphasizing Joe's role as a resourceful supporter of Chennault. Joe's partisanship earned him the bitter hatred of Stilwell's principal defender, Chief of Staff George C. Marshall. Alsop, Marshall said, was "a seriously destructive force," a sentiment destined to be echoed by countless other officials who found themselves crosswise with Joe's often ferocious advocacy.
The war's end inaugurated the triumphal phase of the Alsops' careers. "The war had transformed the world," Mr. Merry writes. "Whether the country liked it or not, the American Century had begun." The Alsops' great fear was that their countrymen wouldn't like it at all, but would prefer, rather, to revert to their historic isolationism and shun the duties of international leadership. Speaking to a group of journalists shortly after the war's end, Joe warned that "a sickness of the soul -- a loss of certainty -- a failure of assurance" might fatally compromise the willingness of Americans to take up the burdens that in his view destiny had thrust upon them. "This fat and flabby country," Stewart later wrote, "was not fitted by history or temperament for the great-power role thrust upon it by the Second World War." The Alsops now dedicated themselves to educating their fat and flabby fellow citizens about the hard and demanding realities of the cold war. They mercilessly flailed the Soviet Union, demanded bigger military budgets, supported the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine, promoted the views of such like-minded internationalists as Dean Acheson and George Kennan, excoriated isolationists like Robert Taft, championed the Korean intervention and warned of a widening "missile gap" with the Soviets. To all of this they brought phenomenal energy and reportorial skill, and not a little courage --- particularly in the McCarthy era, when their attacks on the Wisconsin demagogue risked exposing the deeply guarded secret of Joe's homosexuality.
For a long season these views represented and reinforced the dominant ideas of the remarkable "Anglo-Saxon sodality" that managed American diplomacy through the first decades of the cold war. But it was the Alsops' painful fate -- particularly Joe's -- to carry those views uncritically into the Vietnam era. While Stewart, perhaps influenced by his own college-age children, displayed at least a modicum of detachment and intellectual flexibility in writing about the Vietnam debacle, Joe proved incapable of modifying the orthodoxies of an earlier era. In company with the political class that disastrously prosecuted the Vietnam War, he seemed to suffer from a kind of intellectual sclerosis, falling back on axioms and platitudes rather than thinking anew. He was the most rapacious of Vietnam hawks and became in the process less a journalist than a propagandist. He also became an object of loathing and ridicule to the younger journalists, who watched contemptuously as Joe took air-conditioned, red-carpet tours of Vietnam and then pontificated in print about the justice of the American cause and the inevitable victory of American arms. In a satirical play in 1970, the columnist Art Buchwald lampooned him as "Joe Mayflower," a mannered WASP political columnist whose polemical writing managed to start a war in an obscure third-world country. "I have finally become an old codger, frozen in the viewpoints of the past," Joe conceded to his friend Isaiah Berlin in a moment of rare candor in 1967.
The concluding pages of this book make for a sobering read. Stewart succumbed to leukemia in 1974 at the age of 60, after a three-year struggle with the disease about which he wrote movingly in his last book, "Stay of Execution." "I sometimes thank God you and I were born Americans so long ago," he said to his brother just before his death. "I begin to suspect we have seen the best time in this country." Joe gave up his column at about the time of Stewart's death and devoted himself until his own death in 1989 to lecturing and writing about art. "The front pages today almost make me sick," he told a friend, and he remarked to another that "I am wholly out-of-date." Adapting Stewart's remark, he entitled his autobiography "I've Seen the Best of It," and, tellingly, ended the account of his own life in 1963 with John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Mr. Merry, emphasizing the congruence of the Alsops' personal decline and their country's fin de sicle political entropy, ends "Taking On the World" on a sort of Henry Adamsesque note of regret for a lost age of youth and promise. But one does not have to share fully in that sense of wistfulness to commend this book as a sensitive portrait, executed with respect and affection but also with critical acumen, of two American lives and an American era that are well worth the remembering.
Journalism [ edit | edit source ]
From 1945 to 1958, Stewart Alsop was co-writer, with his brother Joseph, of the thrice-weekly "Matter of Fact" column for the New York Herald Tribune. Stewart usually stayed in Washington and covered domestic politics, and Joseph traveled the world to cover foreign affairs. In 1958, the Alsops described themselves as "Republicans by inheritance and registration, and. conservatives by political conviction." Γ]
After the Alsop brothers ended their partnership, Stewart went on to write articles and a regular column for the Saturday Evening Post until 1968 and then a weekly column for Newsweek from 1968 to 1974.
He published several books, including a "sort of memoir" of his battle with an unusual form of leukemia, Stay of Execution. He wrote, "A dying man wants to die like a sleepy man wants to sleep." At the end of his battle with cancer, he requested that he be given something other than morphine to numb the pain because he was tired of its sedative effect. His doctor suggested heroin.
Joseph Alsop, Columnist, Dead at 78 : Powerful Political Writer Known for His Interpretation of News
Joseph Alsop, power-wielding syndicated political columnist for three decades, died Monday in his home in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. He was 78.
Patricia Alsop, widow of his brother and writing partner, Stewart Alsop, said death was attributed to lung cancer, anemia and emphysema. He had been ill for several months.
Alsop, a fixture in Washington society and political commentary for a half century, went to Washington in 1932 as a reporter for the now-defunct New York Herald-Tribune. In 1937, he began his first column, “The Capital Parade,” with Robert Kintner for North American Newspaper Alliance.
He later joined his brother, Stewart, in writing “Matter of Fact” for the Herald-Tribune syndicate from 1946 to 1958. It appeared in more than 200 newspapers, and they won citations from the Overseas Press Club in 1950 and 1952 for the “best interpretation of foreign news.”
Stewart went on to work at Newsweek until his death in 1974, and Joseph wrote the column alone for the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times Syndicate from 1958 to 1974.
“Joe Alsop helped to invent the political column in its modern form and had enormous influence in this city for around half a century,” Meg Greenfield, editor of the Washington Post’s editorial page, told Reuters new service.
The two brothers began as New Deal liberals, reflecting the philosophy of their cousin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. But they became increasingly conservative about world politics and consistently took a strong stand against Soviet expansionism.
They were sometimes called “Old Testament prophets” and “disaster experts” because of their gloomy predictions. Too often, the predictions proved accurate--as in the 1948 Communist coup in Czechoslovakia.
The Alsops’ hard line about Soviet aggression was not reflected in their attitude toward civil rights. The two brothers were among the first journalists to oppose McCarthyism, the reckless campaign of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy to expose and condemn alleged Communists in the United States.
In the 1950s, the brothers sounded desperate alarms about the Communist threat in Indochina, the philosophic foundation of Joseph’s subsequent largely unpopular writings defending the U.S. war efforts in Vietnam.
In his column, Alsop raised the possibility of sending American troops to avoid a French withdrawal from Vietnam. One document declassified in 1982 quoted Alsop as telling the French minister for Indochina policy, Marc Jacquet, in 1954: “I intend to force the hand of the American government in this matter as the only means of saving the situation.”
Alsop’s pro-Vietnam War columns, many observers believe, weakened his considerable national influence. But he never wavered in his conviction that the United States must fight in Vietnam in order to protect the world from Communism.
“He is . . . courageous,” Evangeline Bruce, wife of Ambassador David K. E. Bruce, observed at a Washington party in 1977. “He did not want to be disliked . . . . He would sometimes lose his friends, which he minded very, very much, but he would not bend.”
Between his two column-writing stints with Kintner and his brother, Alsop leaped enthusiastically into World War II, first joining the Navy and then transferring to Gen. Claire L. Chennault’s volunteer air force, the Flying Tigers.
Alsop was captured by the Japanese in Hong Kong but, falsely claiming civilian status as a journalist, was repatriated in an exchange of civilian prisoners.
He then became chief of the Lend Lease Mission to China in 1942, and, once back in China, became a captain on Chennault’s staff until the end of the war.
The erudite and well-read Alsop wrote or co-wrote several books throughout his career on politics and his myriad other interests, such as archeology and art. The titles included “The 168 Days,” about Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the U.S. Supreme Court “Men Around the President,” about the Roosevelt presidency “We Accuse! The Story of the Miscarriage of Justice in the Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” a defense of the atomic scientist against charges that he was a security risk and “From the Silent Earth,” about the Bronze Age of Greece.
Although Alsop jokingly referred to himself as a “has-been” after his retirement as a columnist in 1974, he remained intellectually and socially active in his later years and was often seen at Washington’s toniest dinners.
In recognition of his expertise about art, Alsop was named to deliver the Andrew W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Art in 1978.
In 1982, he published a monumental book on the history of art and culture that he had spent many years researching.
The book, which detailed the difference between art patronage and art collecting, the development of the art market and social responses to art, was entitled, “The Rare Art Traditions: The History of Art Collecting and Its Linked Phenomena Wherever These Have Appeared.”
Suzanne Muchnic, writing for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, termed the tome “annoying in style but engrossing in parts and impressive in scope.” A Chicago Tribune Book World critic called the book “a landmark” and added: “No book in recent memory deserves closer attention. None informs, startles and exhilarates to the same degree.”
Also in 1982, Alsop wrote a biographical essay about his famous cousin, “FDR, 1882-1945: A Centenary Remembrance.”
Although he was known as a dashing dresser who set a high sartorial standard for the Washington press corps, Alsop had been very fat as a young man. He lost 80 pounds from his 250-pound frame during a three-month stay in the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in 1937 and never regained the weight. He paid the large hospital bill with an article he sold to the Saturday Evening Post, called, “How It Feels to Look Like Everybody Else.”
After heart surgery in the early 1980s, Alsop wryly commented to a New York Times reporter: “It’s been my observation that you go on living like a young man until suddenly you’re an old man. It’s a bore. There’s absolutely nothing to recommend old age. It’s a great deal easier if you can have a pleasant house and a good cook (as he did) . . . so long as it lasts.”
Alsop was born to privilege on Oct. 11, 1910, in Avon, Conn., the son of Joseph Wright Alsop Sr., an insurance executive, and Corinne Robinson Alsop, a state legislator. He was educated at the private Groton School and Harvard University--where he was the only student to score 100 on the English entrance exam--and obtained his first job as a journalist with the Herald-Tribune through family connections.
He married Susan Mary Jay Patten on Feb. 16, 1961, and they were divorced in 1978.
He is survived by a brother, John deKoven Alsop of Old Lyme, Conn., and a sister, Corinne Chubb, Chester, N. J.
Taking on the World: Joseph and Stewart Alsop, Guardians of the American Century
This is a terrific book about a world that no longer exists. Stewart and Joe Alsop, patrician brothers from Connecticut, took on the world of political reporting from the 1930s (in Joe&aposs case post-WWII in Stewart&aposs case) to the 1970s. Well-regarded by politicians, power brokers, and readers, the brothers were prominent fixtures on the mid-century news scene, when people just like them were the ruling class, America was already great, and the American Century (1945 - 1975) was at its peak. As a This is a terrific book about a world that no longer exists. Stewart and Joe Alsop, patrician brothers from Connecticut, took on the world of political reporting from the 1930s (in Joe's case post-WWII in Stewart's case) to the 1970s. Well-regarded by politicians, power brokers, and readers, the brothers were prominent fixtures on the mid-century news scene, when people just like them were the ruling class, America was already great, and the American Century (1945 - 1975) was at its peak. As a reader, you follow them from their childhoods in Avon, CT, to their deaths in Washington, DC, and what a journey it is!
Joe is the somewhat snobby, somewhat pretentious, but very sincere and kind (to his friends and family!) older brother who harbors a well-known secret (view spoiler) [he's gay and marries a woman to cover for it (hide spoiler)] . Stewart is the cool, detached younger brother whose family life consists of 6 kids, a young wife, and lots of sports and social activities. (view spoiler) [He tragically dies from a rare form of leukemia in his 50s. (hide spoiler)] Meeting Joe, Stewart, their families, and their Washington friends and enemies is a fun journey, though one that's a bit too interspersed with squabbles between minor political and military characters, press gossip, and news items of the day. Learning about Stewart's habit of (view spoiler) [reciting Shakespeare sonnets in the shower (hide spoiler)] or Joe's (view spoiler) [love of Brussels sprouts with cream (hide spoiler)] is a much needed distraction and more interesting than reading about a petty newsroom meeting they took part in.
Robert Merry does an excellent job of mixing the professional and the social in this book, providing commentary on why the social class and social mores the Alsop brothers lived and breathed got cut short. He seemed to make Joe a more fleshed out character compared to Stewart, though this could be a factor of Joe's larger-than-life personality and Stewart's more subdued one. . more
The names Woodward and Bernstein are probably still the first to come to mind when considering the high point of investigative journalism in the US.
But for four decades before the Watergate scandal two brothers were pre-eminent in breaking the biggest stories of the time and delivering the most influential commentaries on them, the Alsops.
Author Bob Merry brings the characters of Joseph and Stewart alive with a political insider’s eye on their methods and a firm grasp of historical background to The names Woodward and Bernstein are probably still the first to come to mind when considering the high point of investigative journalism in the US.
But for four decades before the Watergate scandal two brothers were pre-eminent in breaking the biggest stories of the time and delivering the most influential commentaries on them, the Alsops.
Author Bob Merry brings the characters of Joseph and Stewart alive with a political insider’s eye on their methods and a firm grasp of historical background to put their reporting into perspective.
The brothers were prolific writers and they were golden. Four columns a week, every week, syndicated to 175 newspapers across the country, plus opinion pieces, extended investigative articles, political profiles, deep features and even books.
With family ties to the Roosevelts and a privileged upbringing they started out with a stellar contacts book and they worked hard to cultivate even more by hosting high-level dinner parties for makers and shakers of all persuasions.
There’s a wonderful anecdote from one of the parties in the 1950s in which a phone call for Dean Rusk, then the assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern affairs, disrupts the evening.
He takes the call, returns to the gathering looking ashen-faced and declares that he has to go. Within minutes Army Secretary Frank Pace and Air Force assistant secretary John McCone offer apologies and also depart abruptly. There had been, said Rusk, “some kind of border incident” in Korea.
It was, in fact, a full-scale invasion of the south by the north and illustrates one of the themes that runs through the book, the Alsops proximity to the biggest breaking stories and their close ties to those in power.
Joe saw eight presidents come and go during his time and he was a frequent guest at the White House where he was forthright with his opinions and free with his advice.
He and his brother were among the original WASPs, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who wanted to preserve the mores and values of their caste and keep its place in shaping the destiny of the nation.
They endured through the most turbulent times of the 20th Century: WW2 - from which Stewart emerged with a Croix de Guerre with Palm from Charles de Gaulle - the last gasps of the Pax Britannica, the “loss” of China to the communist party, wars in Korea and Vietnam, McCarthyism, the Oppenheimer affair, the Suez debacle, the Cuban missile crisis, the election and assassination of JFK, the Watts riots, and Nixon’s Watergate disgrace.
As the world turned, Joe’s view of America’s place in the world became increasingly out of step with the opinions and aspirations of a younger generation. His writing became increasingly polemical and his influence less and less so.
His last book, I’ve Seen the Best of It, underscores his belief that America’s best days were those when the old elite flourished and it comes with a sense of sad incomprehension that not everyone else could see it that way.
Are you an author?
For three decades, from the end of World War II well into the Watergate era, internationally renowned newspaper and magazine columnist Stewart Alsop was a fixture on the Washington, DC, political landscape. In 1971, the respected journalist was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, marking the beginning of his courageous three-year battle with the terrible cancer that ravaged his body but could not damage his spirit or slow his facile and brilliantly incisive mind.
A passionate social critic and peerless political analyst who hobnobbed with presidents from FDR to Nixon, and enjoyed the respectful fellowship of such notable figures as Winston Churchill, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and Henry Kissinger, Alsop insightfully chronicles the course of his medical history without a trace of maudlin self-pity while celebrating his family, friends, colleagues, and an extraordinary life well lived.
Stay of Execution is Stewart Alsop’s moving, powerful, and inspiring memoir of his terminal illness and his life before—an unforgettable true story of courage and accomplishment, trials and tragedy from one of the most revered American journalists of the twentieth century.
A thrilling history of the Office of Strategic Services, America’s precursor to the CIA, and its secret operations behind enemy lines during World War II.
Born in the fires of the Second World War, the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, was the brainchild of legendary US Maj. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan, designed to provide covert aid to resistance fighters in European nations occupied by Germany’s Nazi aggressors. Paratroopers Stewart Alsop and Thomas Braden—both of whom would become important political columnists in postwar years—became part of Wild Bill’s able collection of soldiers, spies, and covert operatives. Sub Rosa is an enthralling insider’s history of the remarkable intelligence operation that gave birth to the CIA.
In Sub Rosa, Alsop and Braden take readers on a breathtaking journey through the birth and development of the top secret wartime espionage organization and detail many of the extraordinary OSS missions in France, Germany, Dakar and Casablanca in North Africa, and in the jungles of Burma that helped to hasten the end of the Japanese Empire and the fall of Adolf Hitler’s powerful Reich.
As exciting as any international thriller written by Eric Ambler or Graham Greene, Alsop and Braden’s Sub Rosa is an indispensable addition to the literary history of American espionage and intelligence.
The Center: The Anatomy of Power in Washington
Alsop’s book is a collection of essays describing Washington, DC as it was in the 1960’s. Everything here was written then, so it’s a chance to jump back in time and see what the media—and this reporter in particular-- thought was appropriate for mainstream Americans reading the news of the day. I was invited to read and review this book thanks to Open Road Integrated Media and Net Galley in exchange for this honest review. I always hate to pan a book when I’ve been invited it sounds as if I am Alsop’s book is a collection of essays describing Washington, DC as it was in the 1960’s. Everything here was written then, so it’s a chance to jump back in time and see what the media—and this reporter in particular-- thought was appropriate for mainstream Americans reading the news of the day. I was invited to read and review this book thanks to Open Road Integrated Media and Net Galley in exchange for this honest review. I always hate to pan a book when I’ve been invited it sounds as if I am insulting the host after eating at his table. However, the truth is the truth, and I see this title as fitting a narrow niche audience, but not so much the general public.
Alsop takes us back to the time that the USSR was a country and looked as if it was going to stay that way. He refers to Latvia and Estonia as former countries. Journalists that are female are referred to as “lady reporters”, and sodomy was still a crime on which the journalist frowned and assumed we would, also. He refers to justices of the Supreme Court and elsewhere as men, and with the assumption that this also is according to nature and will never change.
Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this collection is the chummy way he refers to the Miranda case, in which it was determined that those about to be charged with a crime had to be told that they had the right not to speak against themselves and to have an attorney. He explains that most of the court’s decision making was done in restaurants and over the phone long before they ever met, and so this case was “almost certainly” decided before the justices ever met in chambers.
This reviewer’s father-in-law is a retired judge that served many ethical decades for the State of Oregon, ending his career on the State Court of Appeals. Talk like Alsop’s would make his blood run cold—or maybe extra hot, actually. His ethics were so firm and fair that he would not tell his own family, when we dined in the privacy of our home or his, who he planned to vote for in the upcoming election…because judges are supposed to be above partisan politics. He did not discuss his cases with family, and I would stake the deed to my house on his not having entered into any chummy agreements over the phone when serving at any level on the bench.
So for those interested in the journalism of the 1960s, here’s a trip down the rabbit hole that will take you there, or at least to one version of it. Those interested in the sociology of that time period might also find this useful.
Those interested in building a better world may be encouraged to see how far society has come since this dark time. If you think things are bad now, check out what they were like 50 years ago. But don’t pay full jacket price unless it’s important to you.
You can have this book now if you want it.
I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of Net Galley and Open Road Multimedia, the publisher. It is with the understanding that I will post a review on Net Galley, Amazon, Goodreads and my blog. In addition, I have also posted the review on my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.
I requested this book as I am interested in the political history of the United States. This is the first book by Stewart Alsop that I have read.
This book written in the late 1960&aposs offers an i I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of Net Galley and Open Road Multimedia, the publisher. It is with the understanding that I will post a review on Net Galley, Amazon, Goodreads and my blog. In addition, I have also posted the review on my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.
I requested this book as I am interested in the political history of the United States. This is the first book by Stewart Alsop that I have read.
This book written in the late 1960's offers an interesting perspective on what was happening in Washington, DC during the Lyndon Johnson years with flashbacks to earlier times. The book is definitely an opinion piece and has greater meaning if the reader is a student of American history in particular to the time periods covered in the book. While the time period was interesting, the book itself tended to lag at times.
I recommend this book for those who have an interest in opinions about what transpired in Washington during the Lyndon Johnson years.
Written in the 1960&aposs this is the real inside view of politics in America. I may not have understood all the backgrounds, reasons, and outcomes but the bits that I wanted to know more about were well covered. The JFK decision making around the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile crisis were fascinating. Anyone interested in American Political history must read this. it is accessible, well written and engaging.
I was given a free copy of this book by netgalley in return for an honest review. Written in the 1960's this is the real inside view of politics in America. I may not have understood all the backgrounds, reasons, and outcomes but the bits that I wanted to know more about were well covered. The JFK decision making around the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile crisis were fascinating. Anyone interested in American Political history must read this. it is accessible, well written and engaging.
I was given a free copy of this book by netgalley in return for an honest review. . more
This account somehow serves as an insider lens as to what was happening in Washington during the Lyndon Johnson administration. If you are interested on what was happening back then, this book will help you go through it.
I like that the author used a personal style in writing this book because it makes the narration more personal.
Stewart Alsop, Columnist, Is Dead at 60
WASHINGTON, May 26 (AP) —Stewart Alsop, the columnist, died today at the hospital at the National Institutes of Health in nearby Bethesda, Md. His age was 60. He had been undergoing treatment for leukemia.
A funeral service is scheduled for 10:30 A.M. Wednesday at St. John's Church here. Burial will be at Indian Hill Cemetery in Middletown, Conn.
A prolific political writer, Stewart Alsop was a big, likable man whose beat was Washington and the world. But his most personal statement came last year when he wrote “Stay of Execution: A Sort of Memoir,” about his impending death as a 57‐year‐old man suffering from a rare formr of cancer.
Mr. Alsop told how on the morning of July 19, 1971, while performing closing‐up chores at his Maryland weekend house, he was suddenly overcome with breathlessness and heart‐pounding and suddenly knew “that something was terribly wrong with me.”
His disease was diagnosed as acute myeloblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood‐producing marrow. Mr. Alsop did not shrink from telling his most difficult story of coming to terms with death, and in telling it, a reviewer noted, he showed once again how possible it is for even a desperate and dying man to grow.
Mr. Alsop wrote at the end of his book:
“A dying man needs to die as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.”
After eglit weeks of intensive cancer treatment at the National Institutes of Health last spring, he was released to resume writing his Newsweek column when doctors decided that the disease had apparently been arrested. He last entered the hospital this month.
Mr. Alsop began his career as a reporter shortly after the end of World War II in 1945 when his brother Joseph, “the other writing Alsop” who was three years his senior, asked him to be his partner in writing a syndicated Washington column for The New York Herald Tribune.
For the next 12 years, their jointly bylined column, “Matter of Fact,” was carried by as many as 137 newspapers throughout the United States. Gathering their information by telephone and personal interviews, they made regular visits to all parts of the globe, guided by the rule that they would never write about a country or its leaders until they had visited there first.
Both the Alsop brothers had been greatly impressed during their service in the war‐‐Stewart in Europe and Joseph in
Asia—by how their views of the world were sharply changed by first‐hand experience in the countries where the war took them.
Their column received the acclaim of other newspapermen, who described their work as a “blending of political and economic punditry, forecast and crusades.” In 1950 and 1952 both were named award winners by the Overseas Press Club for “best interpretation of foreign news.”
This period of collaboration, described by some observers as a “stormy partnership,” ended with what Stewart Alsop once described as an “amicable divorce.”
Striking out on his own, in 1962 he became a contributing editor for national affairs for The Saturday Evening Post. After four years he became the magazine's Washington editor until its close in 1968, moving then to Newsweek, where his weekly column filled the last page, printed between two red streamers and datelined Washington.
Mr. Alsop told an interviewer in 1971 that he felt that his and his brother's “mind sets” were very much the same, except that ‘from the start I was dubious about the Vietnam war, where Joe wasn't. But once we made the decision, I, too, felt we could not just sneak out.”
On domestic issues, he said: “Both Joe and I are very square New Deal liberals, although have much more interest in the New Left than Joe does.”
In the mid‐fifties the Alsop brothers wrote an article for Harper's magazine, “We Accuse,” criticizing the Atomic Energy Commission for its security‐risk case against Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer. The article received an Authors Guild annual prize in 1955 for contributing to civil liberties. At the ceremony, the younger brother criticized the executive branch for “Daddyknowsbastism—telling us not to ask questions or Daddy spank.”
In a 1969 article for Newsweek, “Yale Revisited,” Mr. Alsop wrote his first reaction to booing by undergraduates of the university president for expressing admiration for those in military service: “Young jerks terrified of the draft Spocked when they should have been spanked.”
After further conversation and thought, he noted: “There's something going on here our generation will never understand.” He concluded that the “fraudulent” draft system had as much as the Vietnam war to do with student feeling that the American system was “a gigantic fraud.”
Early in 1970, Mr. Alsop argued in Newsweek that ending the draft would be the most important step to re‐establish the authority of the Government and the dignity of the Presidency. In 1971 he wrote, “It is not practical to try to continue to fight a war that has no popular support at all.”
In 1972, when CBS Inc. selected a range of well‐known commentators for its “Spectrum” program, from liberal to conservative, it classified Mr. Alsop as a moderate.
A third Alsop brother, John, a Republican, failed in several tries for the governorship of Connecticut. Their mother, the late Mrs. Corinne Alsop Cole, a niece of President Theodore
Roosevelt and cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt, founded the Connecticut League of Republican Women in 1917.
While married for more than 40 years to the late Joseph W. Alsop Sr., and as Corrine Alsop. she served with her husband in the Connecticut General Assembly.
After passing his early boyhood on the family farm in Avon, Conn., where he was born May 7, 1914, Mr. Alsop attended Groton, then Yale University (where his father had been a student) and graduated with a B.A. degree in 1936.
Shortly afterward he became an editor for the publishers,’ Doubleday Doran & Co. of New York. With the entrance of the,’ United States into World War’ II, he volunteered for service in the Army. Rejected for medical reasons, he went to England in 1942 and there became a member of the 60th Regiment, Kings Royal Rifle Corps. In 1944 he achieved the rank of captain.
Later that year, Mr. Alsop was transferred to the United States Army as a parachutist with the Office of Strategic Services and shortly after DDay was parachuted into France to join the force of the Maquis, the French underground resistance. In 1945 he resigned his commission and returned to the United States. The French awarded him the Croix de Guerre with palm.
With Thomas Braden, another O.S.S. parachutist, Mr. Alsop wrote “Sub Rosa: The O.S.S. and American Espionage,” published in 1946. The volume described the achievements and failures of the special intelligence office, its training program and the aid furnished the guerrilla armies in the various theaters of the war.
With his brother Joseph in 1955 he wrote, “We Accuse,” and in 1958, “The Reporter's Trade,” a plea for governmental candor in dealing with the press.
In 1960, Mr. Alsop wrote “Nixon and Rockefeller, A Double Image,” then in November, 1973, employed his talents’ to write “Stay of Execution,” In addition to his brothers he is survived by his widow, the former Patricia Hankey, whom he married in June, 1944, London during the blitz five ??ons, Joseph, Ian, Stewart, Richard and Andrew a daughter, Mrs. Walter Butler Mahony 3d, and a sister, Mrs. Corinne Chubb.