The Public Interest

The Krogh file- the politics of “law and order”

Edward Jay Epstein

Spring 1975

UNTIL 1968, the “law and order” issue in American politics was confined mainly to the state and local levels. Scant mention of this theme can be found in any prior Presidential campaign. To be sure, a fair number of aspiring politicians had earlier used “crusades” against putative criminal conspiracies notably, the “Mafia" -as a means of achieving a national reputation. In the late 1930s, for example, Thomas E. Dewey, then district attorney and special prosecutor in New York City, made a name for himself nationally by holding a highly publicized investigation of “Murder, Incorporated”-a wholly fictive organization he invented for the purpose of calling attention to organized crime (and himself) in the headlines. More recently, in the 1950s, the late Senator Estes Kefauver managed to make a splash on national television and project himself as a candidate for national office-by rehashing a series of unsubstantiated charges against alleged gamblers and racketeers, who played their part in the spectacle by taking the Fifth Amendment. And Robert F. Kennedy, as Attorney General in the early 1960s, focused the nations attention on something called the “Cosa Nostra’by presenting a carefully primed “defector,” Joseph Valachi, to the national media. The Valachi “revelations” were intended to mobilize national support for legislation expanding wiretap and other authority for the Kennedy Administration.

Download a PDF of the full article.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.