Tom Braden

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Tom Braden
Thomas Braden.jpg
Thomas Wardell Braden

February 22, 1917[1]
DiedApril 3, 2009(2009-04-03) (aged 92)
Denver, Colorado, US
Alma materDartmouth College, 1940
OccupationColumnist, pundit
Joan Ridley Braden
(m. 1949; died 1999)

Thomas Wardell Braden (February 22, 1917 – April 3, 2009)[2] was an American CIA official, journalist — best remembered as the author of Eight Is Enough, which spawned a popular television program — and co-host of the CNN show Crossfire.[3][4]

Intelligence service in OSS and CIA[edit]

After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1940, Braden enlisted in the British Army, while the U.S. was still neutral in World War II, and saw combat in Africa in the King's Royal Rifle Corps.[5] When the United States entered the war, he was recruited by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the World War II predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and parachuted behind enemy lines into Nazi-occupied France. At the end of the war, with the encouragement of OSS director William "Wild Bill" Donovan, who thought of Braden as a protégé, he and his OSS paratrooper compatriot Stewart Alsop wrote a journalistic book about the OSS, just as it was being dissolved by Harry Truman, two years before the creation of the CIA.[6]

After the war, Braden taught English for a time at Dartmouth (where he met Robert Frost), then moved to Washington, D.C., becoming part of a group of well-connected former OSS men, some of whom were journalists such as the Alsop brothers, known as the Georgetown Set.

In 1950, at the start of the Korean War, Braden joined the CIA and in 1950 became head of the International Organizations Division (IOD) of CIA's Office of Policy Coordination, the "covert action" arm of agency secret operations, working closely with Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner.[7][8] Believing that the cultural milieu of postwar Europe at the time was favorable toward left-wing views, and understanding that The Establishment of Western Allies was rigidly conservative and nationalistic as well as determined to maintain its colonial dominions, it was estimated that American supremacy would be best served by supporting the Democratic left. Thus the program was begun by which more moderate and especially anti-Soviet leftists would be supported, thereby helping to purge the social democratic left of Soviet sympathizers.

Consequently, Braden's efforts were guided toward promoting anti-Soviet left-wing elements in groups such as the AFL-CIO. Eventually, despite heavy resistance from British and French allies, the CIA made the leap toward recruiting disaffected anti-Soviet ex-communists, especially in the international labor unions. Thus, from 1951 to 1954, the CIA provided $1 million a year, through Braden, to Irving Brown, a moderate Labor leader, and eventually recruited as a CIA officer Jay Lovestone, a noted former communist follower of Nikolai Bukharin (who had been executed by Stalin in 1938),[9] helping him financially to run his network with $1.6 million in 1954 (equivalent to approximately $15,232,714 in 2019 dollars[10]).[11]

After Ramparts, the flagship publication of the New Left, broke the story of the CIA's funding of anti-Communist citizen groups like the National Student Association in a 1967 article,[12] Braden defended the agency's covert work in the student and labor movements with an article titled "I'm glad the CIA is 'immoral'" in The Saturday Evening Post.[13]

Politics, government, and journalism[edit]

Braden left the CIA in November 1954 and became owner of the Oceanside, California, newspaper The Blade-Tribune, which he bought with a loan from his friend Nelson Rockefeller.[14] Active in California Democratic politics, he served as president of the California State Board of Education during the 1960s, and had a running battle with conservative Republican state superintendent of public instruction Max Rafferty.[15]

Braden himself ran for office only once, mounting an unsuccessful primary challenge in 1966 (with the campaign theme "Guts") to incumbent Democratic lieutenant governor Glenn Anderson.

After the assassination in Los Angeles of his friend Robert F. Kennedy during the 1968 presidential campaign, Braden returned to Washington and became a popular newspaper columnist in partnership with Kennedy's press secretary, Frank Mankiewicz. He also became a prominent political commentator on radio and television.

Although the Nixon White House initially included him on a list of friendly journalists,[16] his work eventually landed him on the master list of Nixon political opponents.

Personal life[edit]

In 1975 Braden published the autobiographical book Eight is Enough, which inspired an ABC television series of the same name with Dick Van Patten in the role of Tom Bradford, the name of Braden's character in the series. The book focused on his life as the father of eight children and also touched on his political connections as a columnist and ex-CIA operative and as husband to a sometime State Department employee and companion of the Kennedy family, Joan Ridley Braden.[17]

During John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign, Joan Braden reportedly ghosted a weekly newspaper column, "Campaign Wife", for Jacqueline Kennedy, who could not understand the respect of her husband and brother-in-law, Robert F. Kennedy, for Braden's opinions.[18]

After replacing Mankiewicz as the "voice from the left" on the syndicated radio show Confrontation, Tom Braden co-hosted the Buchanan–Braden Program, a three-hour radio show with former Nixon aide Pat Buchanan from 1978 to 1984.[19] He and Buchanan also hosted the CNN program Crossfire at the show's inception in 1982, with Braden interviewing guests and debating Buchanan and Robert Novak. Braden left Crossfire in 1989.


Braden died of heart failure April 3, 2009 at his home in Denver, Colorado.[20] He was predeceased by Joan, who died in 1999, and son Tom, who died in 1994.[14]


  1. ^ Resting Places
  2. ^ a b Woo, Elaine (April 4, 2009). "Tom Braden dies at 92; former CIA operative became columnist and talk show co-host". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 4, 2009.
  3. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (4 April 2009). "Tom Braden, Real-Life Dad Behind 'Eight Is Enough' and 'Crossfire' Pundit, Dies" – via
  4. ^ "Tom Braden, author and co-host for 'Crossfire,' dies at 92". St. Paul Pioneer Press. April 4, 2009. Retrieved April 4, 2009.
  5. ^ Braden, Thomas (1975). Eight Is Enough: A Father's Memoir of Life with His Extra-Large Family. Open Road Media. ISBN 978-1-5040-4535-3. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  6. ^ Stewart Alsop and Thomas Braden. Sub Rosa; the OSS and American Espionage (NY, 1946); with the aid of historian Richard Harris Smith, Braden later wrote a retrospect,"The Birth of the CIA," American Heritage (28, no. 2, 1977)
  7. ^ Saunders, Frances Stonor (2013). The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. New Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-59558-942-2. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  8. ^ Prados, John (2006). Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Ivan R. Dee. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-61578-011-2. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  9. ^ "Under the Beds of the Reds". Berman. March 28, 1999.
  10. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  11. ^ "Les belles aventures de la CIA en France". Bakchich. January 8, 2008. Archived from the original on July 2, 2013.
  12. ^ "The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America". Central Intelligence Agency. 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  13. ^ Braden, Thomas W. (May 20, 1967). "I'm glad the CIA is 'immoral.'". The Saturday Evening Post.
  14. ^ a b Pace, Eric (1999-09-01). "Joan Braden Is Dead at 77; Hostess to a Capital Elite". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2019-04-08. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  15. ^ Croddy, M (1991). "Bringing The Bill Of Rights To The Classroom". Social Studies. 82 (6): 218. doi:10.1080/00377996.1991.9958341.
  16. ^ Louis Liebovich. Richard Nixon, Watergate, and the press. Retrieved April 7, 2009.
  17. ^ The Associated Press (2009-04-06). "Tom Braden, Who Fathered 'Eight Is Enough,' Dies at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  18. ^ "Grace and Power, the Private World of the Kennedy White House by Sally Bedell Smith, Random House, Inc., 2006, ISBN 0-345-48497-5, ISBN 978-0-345-48497-0, p.292". Sally Bedell Smith. 2006.
  19. ^ Stanley, T. (2012). The Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan. St. Martin's Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-4299-4128-0. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  20. ^ "Tom Braden". NNDB tracking the entire World. Retrieved June 18, 2017.

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