The Right wing got off to a beautiful start in the culture wars 64 years ago today, when a ballsy congressman from California, Richard Nixon, smelled a rat in Alger Hiss’s denial of Whittaker Chambers accusation of being a communist. The Left has spent much political capital in trying to defend the traitor ever since. The August 17th 1948 meeting set in motion a series of Cold War battles that ended with a Right wing TKO so devastating, that Chuck Wepner is said to have looked away.
The final blow was the release of Soviet intelligence files in the late 1990’s which specifically implicated Hiss as a spy. Thankfully, Hiss lived long enough to witness his lifelong lie exposed, specifically by those he sought to aid. When I think of the elderly Hiss knowing that others now knew with certainty of his lies and betrayal, I get all gooey inside.
In 1984, President Reagan posthumously awarded Chambers the Presidential Medal of Freedom and made these remarks:
At a critical moment in our Nation’s history, Whittaker Chambers stood alone against the brooding terrors of our age. Consummate intellectual, writer of moving majestic prose, and witness to the truth, he became the focus of a momentous controversy in American history that symbolized our century’s epic struggle between freedom and totalitarianism, a controversy in which the solitary figure of Whittaker Chambers personified the mystery of human redemption in the face of evil and suffering. As long as humanity speaks of virtue and dreams of freedom, the life and writings of Whittaker Chambers will ennoble and inspire. The words of Arthur Koestler are his epitaph: “The witness is gone; the testimony will stand.”
Book: Alger Hiss’s Looking-Glass Wars— The Covert Life of a Soviet Spy by G. Edward White
Method: Read library copy
What I got from the book:
- Great recap of the ebbs and flows in public opinion given efforts by Hiss and Fellow Travelers to rehabilitate his reputation.
- How Allen Weinstein fell victim to Left wing attacks, despite widespread acknowledgement that he had written a compelling book about the Hiss-Chambers battle named Perjury.
- Learned of the mob friends Hiss made during his 44 months at Lewisburg federal prison. Chief among them, Frank Costello.