Cass Sunstein's Unreliable Witness
We have much to learn from Whittaker Chambers, but not for the reason that Cass Sunstein suggests.
10:40 AM, Nov 11, 2013 • By ADAM J. WHITE
Let’s give Sunstein his due. Yes, Chambers harshly criticized Rand for dealing “wholly in the blackest blacks and the whitest whites,” for allowing her ideological obsessions to replace human beings, with all of their nuances and failings, with abstract shadows of true men and women.
But just as Rand reduced men to a small handful of premises and then filled them out with her own ideology, Sunstein does the same to Chambers: Drawing exclusively from a few snippets of Chambers’s work, Sunstein describes a man who resembles in no way the real Whittaker Chambers, the man who stood up to Communism and who wrote stirring defenses of Western civilization, not because of skepticism, but because of profound belief and certainty.
Indeed, that is the entire point of Witness: Chambers stood, much like Jonah (the biblical prophet who "fascinated" Chambers), against the tide of History, committed to God and to Western Civilization. As Chambers explained unflinchingly, in the book’s prologue:
And, he continued, in lines presaging his criticism of Rand:
Those convictions, not the skepticism of Sunstein’s caricature, were what caused Chambers to rise as a witness against Alger Hiss, and against Communism:
Moreover, what drove him to be a witness was the same "particular quality of my revolutionary character" (as he put it in a letter to William F. Buckley Jr.) that drove him to join Communism in the first place:
This is not to say that Chambers expected success; he was supremely pessimistic. Yet those doubts reflected not a lack of certainty that his cause was just, but a lack of faith in the West's willingness to beat Communism.
That theme pours forth from not just Witness, but also his letters to young Bill Buckley (collected in Odyssey of a Friend), his letters to Ralph de Toledano (Notes from the Underground), and his last book, Cold Friday. As he explained to Buckley in 1954, two years after Witness and six years after he first testified against Hiss:
Recent Blog Posts