October 30, 2013


How the Alger Hiss Case Explains the Tea Party (Cass R. Sunstein, Oct 29, 2013, Bloomberg)

The Hiss case casts light on why conservatives and liberals are suspicious of each other, on their different attitudes toward elitism, on their understandings of patriotism and on the parallel universes in which they seem to live. [...]

The conviction was stunning, for Hiss had been a member of the nation's liberal elite. A graduate of Harvard Law School and a law clerk for the revered Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, he held positions of authority in the Agriculture, Justice and State departments. He was tall, handsome, elegant, gracious, even dashing.

At his 1949 perjury trial, an extraordinary number of liberal icons served as character witnesses for Hiss, including two Supreme Court justices (Stanley Reed and Felix Frankfurter); John W. Davis, who was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1924; and Adlai Stevenson, who was to become the Democratic nominee for the presidency in 1952 and 1956.

By contrast, Chambers was short, plump and badly dressed. He was a college dropout. After abandoning Communism, he became a conservative and a Christian, and he saw the 20th century as a great battle between Communism on one hand and religious devotion on the other. [...]

Most of those who have carefully studied the case, and who have explored evidence emerging long after the trial itself, have concluded that Chambers was telling the truth and that Hiss did indeed perjure himself. But the legacy of the case extends well beyond the issue of Hiss's guilt.

Yes, it's not just that Hiss was guilty, which liberals refused to acknowledge until the Venona transcripts became public, if at all, but that the Ivy Leaguers accusser was a commoner and a Christian to boot.  

The target of the essay is ostensibly the Tea Party but the shot lands on the Left.

Posted by at October 30, 2013 1:08 PM

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