Theodore H. White, in his New York City apartment with the book that won him the Pulitzer Prize, on May 7, 1962. (AP)

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist credited with inventing the genre of the modern presidential campaign book told a close friend in a 1960 letter that all of politics is a fraud but that he played along — endorsing it to the public — because he felt compelled to.

Jon Schwarz reported on the letter, written by Theodore H. White, on The Intercept’s Unofficial Sources blog. Schwarz gives a sketch of the stance White took in public by quoting from the first pages of White’s book, “The Making of the President, 1960.”

White wrote:

I owe two general acknowledgments:

First, to the politicians of America — men whom I have found over the long years the pleasantest, shrewdest and generally the most honorable of companions …

Second, I must thank my comrades of the press — whose reporting at every level of America[n] politics purifies, protects and refreshes our system from year to year.

Then Schwarz shows us what White thought privately not just of U.S. politics but of the business, media, academic and financial establishments. From a letter White sent to a friend on August 31, 1960, during the Kennedy-Nixon presidential campaign:

…it is all fraudulent, all of it, everywhere, up and down, East and West. The movies, radio and state and books and TV — all of them are fraudulent; and the foundations and universities and scholars, they are all fraudulent too; and the executives and the financiers … and the Commissars and the Krushchevs and the Mao Tze-tungs, they are fraudulent equally; it is all a great game; and there are two dangers in this great game: first, the fraudulent people come to believe their own lies, they come to have faith in their fraud; and second, underneath it all, because people are fundamentally good, they come to realize that we live in lies and the people get angrier and angrier and they may explode.

The scenery of politics is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. Yet I must report all this as serious. This is the strain on me. That I must be serious, and I must exhaust myself trying to find out what is true and what is fraud and yet, even after I know, I must take them both seriously and write of them both as if I did not know the true distinctions between them.

Though widely sensed and intrinsically understood, this hard-evidence revelation is highly damning, “the emperor has no clothes” stuff. It belongs on the front page of every major and minor newspaper and site. With it in hand, how should we regard Barack Obama, the upcoming presidential candidates or our local leaders? What are we who want to know the truth to do?

(Schwarz thanked Politico contributor Scott Porch, who recently wrote a “fantastic” historical profile of White, for providing him with White’s full letter.)

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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