In 1988 I wrote my first book, The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline. I had long heard about “the Establishment” (what we now more commonly call “the Deep State”). But I wanted more than a nebulous description; I wanted to know specifically who they were.
In his landmark 1937 book America’s Sixty Families, Ferdinand Lundberg had documented that America was run by an oligarchy operating behind a façade of democracy. In his chapter “The Press of the Plutocracy” he also showed it that had commandeered most of America’s mass media. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) was incorporated in 1921 to push the United States toward world government, following the Senate’s 1919 refusal to ratify the Versailles Treaty (which would have joined America to the League of Nations). I found that the Council was the main connection between the oligarchs Lundberg spoke of and the U.S. government. It was supplying cabinet-level personnel to both Democratic and Republican administrations, which explained why war policies, trade policies, financial policies, etc., changed so little when the White House shifted from one party to the other. In The Shadows of Power, I progressed administration by administration, documenting how the CFR had dominated every cabinet. Passage through the Council (attending occasional study groups and dinners) “qualified” Wall Streeters and corporate CEOs—often with no experience in government or diplomacy—to head federal departments. As just one example, when retired Goldman Sachs banker John C. Whitehead became Deputy Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, The New York Times commented: “Mr. Whitehead brings to the job no apparent expertise in international diplomacy . . . . In describing his attributes for the job, Mr. Shultz [Secretary of State] said that Mr. Whitehead was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was regularly invited to dinners given by Henry A. Kissinger, the former secretary of state.”1
James Perloff Archive
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