Note From the Publisher

Agents of Influence

By From the December 2009 - January 2010 issue

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Whom is the president listening to, and what is he being told?

Judging from those we've read about in the past several months, it is a scary thought indeed. Presidents always get lots of advice from many quarters, but there are a few people in any administration who, when all is said and done, turn out to have been the ones whose policies were actually adopted and who, from time to time, change the direction the president takes. They may even change the world.

When he entered the Oval Office almost a year ago, the boy-wonder president knew virtually nothing about national security and foreign policy, little more about economics and taxes, and not much more about anything else, although he did have fairly definite ideas of what he wanted the United States to look like after however many  years the voters would put up with him. Since then he has hired experts from every corner of the country to tell him what to think, what to say, and what to do.

Nobody, it seems, is too radical or too far to the left for Barack Obama. Just a few have made the news: green jobs adviser Van Jones (who became a political embarrassment and was fired); White House spokesman Anita Dunn, a Mao Zedong admirer; safe schools adviser Kevin Jennings, an advocate of teenage gay sexual unions; and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission nominee Chai Feldblum, a gay rights advocate extraordinaire and advocate of polygamy. There are many others -- assistants, czars, administrators, or whatever else they maybe called -- many of whom will forever serve anonymously, who may be even more radical than those whose names we know. In this issue (p. 26), Philip Klein sheds much-needed light on some of these undeservedly obscure Obama appointees as they bore away inside the Departments of Labor, Transportation, HUD, the EPA, FCC, and other agencies.

And what is the cost that we pay? What influence do these advisers and behind-the-scenes policy-makers have?

Well, in a word, lots. History is always a good teacher, and it is worth looking back to see just what impact those who whisper in presidents' ears have had.

Two months after being named secretary of state in late 1944, Edward Stettinius accompanied FDR to the Yalta conference, where the United Nations was formed and the spoils of World War II, namely east and central Europe, were divided up among the allies. Stettinius, a successful businessman who knew little about world affairs, took State Department hand Alger Hiss along as his expert. Hiss, of course, was an undercover Soviet agent who would later be indicted for espionage and sent to federal prison for lying about whom he was working for. Hiss, acting behind the scenes, kept Stettinius, and more importantly Franklin Roosevelt, apprised of how the UN should function and who would control Poland and occupied Germany. The rest, of course, is history.

To say that Hiss had his own agenda would be an understatement. His usefulness to Stalin was not through the documents he purloined from the State Department but because he was an agent of influence -- serving the interests of the Soviets. The damage done was extraordinary -- the map of Europe redrawn, the fortunes of a good many nations forever changed, and millions of Eastern Europeans enslaved for half a century.

Obama's radical appointees -- people who have spent their lives toiling in the vineyards of the left -- are less interested in serving the public interest than they are serving the causes they espouse. Agents of influence, in other words. So as they whisper in the ears of the president and his cronies, beware for the good of the country.

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About the Author

Alfred S. Regnery is a former publisher of The American Spectator. He is the former president and publisher of Regnery Publishing, Inc., which produced twenty-two New York Times bestsellers during his tenure. Regnery also served in the Justice Department during the Reagan Administration, worked on the U.S. Senate staff, and has been in private law practice.  He currently serves on several corporate and non-profit boards, and is the Chairman of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute .