Ike’s Mys­tery Man: The Se­cret Lives of Robert Cut­ler

The Week (US) - - Arts - By Peter Shin­kle

(Steer­forth, $30) Robert “Bobby” Cut­ler was “an ex­tra­or­di­nary man,” said Charles Kaiser in The­Guardian.com. Amer­ica’s first chief na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser was a Har­vard

Law School grad­u­ate, a for­mer bri­gadier gen­eral, a for­mer bank pres­i­dent, a poet, and—through­out his long ca­reer—a clos­eted gay man. That se­cret, re­vealed in this book by his great-nephew, is strik­ing be­cause Cut­ler, as Dwight Eisen­hower’s right-hand man, helped draft a 1953 ex­ec­u­tive or­der that trig­gered a mas­sive purge of fed­eral work­ers sus­pected of “sex­ual per­ver­sion.” Only decades later did au­thor Peter Shin­kle, an ex-re­porter, find a 725-page di­ary that re­vealed Cut­ler had been deeply in love at the time with a young male staffer, Skip Koons. But that’s not Shin­kle’s only theme, and the por­trait he’s cre­ated of Wash­ing­ton dur­ing the so-called Laven­der Scare has to be “one of the most re­ward­ing books of pop­u­lar his­tory I have ever read.” It may seem out­ra­geous that the sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion of civil ser­vants was con­sid­ered a na­tional se­cu­rity is­sue, said Joseph Goulden in The Wash­ing­ton Times. Back then, though,“the se­cu­rity fears had some ba­sis: that closet ho­mo­sex­u­als could be black­mailed into spy­ing.” Cut­ler him­self avoided be­ing outed by the in­ves­ti­ga­tors he’d un­leashed. Though Har­vard class­mates had known he was gay, he was a cipher to the White House press corps, re­veal­ing lit­tle about him­self or his work as he guided Eisen­hower through var­i­ous

Eisen­hower and Cut­ler at work in 1952

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