The Most Patriotic Act of Treason in American History?
It sounds more Hollywood than history. A paranoid president, unhinged, drinking heavily, ranting against his enemies, terrifies subordinates. The defense secretary commits what may be the most patriotic act of treason in American history: ordering the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ignore any White House military initiatives lacking his signature.
Most historians believe that as Richard Nixon staggered toward resignation in 1974, Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger undermined the president’s constitutional authority. The late Watergate expert Stanley Kutler was skeptical, asking where was the paper trail? But who would write down such orders? It is more believable that this prickly, patriotic, public servant risked his career to save America rather than risking his reputation by inventing such a crazy story.
Born to an immigrant Jewish family in New York in 1929, refined with a Harvard trifecta—A.B., A.M., and Ph.D.—in the 1950s, Schlesinger was one of the meritocratic Bureaucratic Braniacs who succeeded the WASPy, aristocratic, Cold-War-era “Wise Men.” Schlesinger converted to Lutheranism in his twenties. His Harvard classmate and Washington rival, Henry Kissinger, was a Jewish refugee who barely escaped Nazi Germany. Kissinger sniffed that Schlesinger was a rare intellectual “equal"...
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