- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2001

The Bush White House, seeking to keep alive the flame of freedom, yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the death of anti-communist hero Whittaker Chambers, who exposed treason and espionage at the highest levels of the U.S. government.
Mr. Chambers, who described communism as "evil, absolute evil" and exposed Soviet spy Alger Hiss, died long before the demise of communism in Eastern Europe. But yesterday's ceremony came 13 years after President Reagan, who helped bring about that demise, had honored him posthumously with the Medal of Freedom.
Tears came to many in the private White House audience of 160 invited guests as they heard tributes by conservative journalists William F. Buckley Jr., Ralph de Toledano and Robert Novak, and by Chambers biographer Sam Tanenhaus.
"This shows that George W. Bush, the president, understands it's important to honor somebody who did something extremely difficult, who told the truth about something that was very hard to tell the truth about," said Eugene Meyer, executive director of the Federalist Society and an invited guest, in an interview after the ceremony.
More than four decades ago, Mr. Chambers was vilified by liberals and leftists for having accused Mr. Hiss, a former State Department official, of being a communist spy and traitor.
Mr. Chambers, then a Time magazine editor, had to reveal that he too had been a communist. Richard M. Nixon, then a freshman House member, took up Mr. Chambers' case against Mr. Hiss and also earned the undying enmity of liberals and leftists.
Although once-secret Soviet documents subsequently proved Mr. Chambers right about Mr. Hiss having spied for Moscow, the left still ignores Mr. Chambers' contribution to uncovering communists in the U.S. government and maintains Mr. Hiss' innocence, the speakers said.
Mr. Novak yesterday said liberals rejected Mr. Chambers' testimony before Congress at the time because they thought it was aimed at undermining President Roosevelt and the New Deal.
In an interview at the event yesterday, Tony Dolan, a former Reagan White House chief speechwriter, was asked if such a tribute to Mr. Chambers' memory would have taken place with Al Gore as president.
Mr. Dolan, now an aide to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, paused and said with a chuckle: "Would Henry Ford have endorsed a Chevrolet?"
In 1984, Mr. Dolan broached with Mr. Reagan the idea of honoring Mr. Chambers. The president subsequently gave the highest civilian medal to Mr. Chambers' son John in a White House ceremony attended by the Chambers family.
Two weeks later, Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel named the Chambers farm in Westminster, Md. including the famous pumpkin patch where he had hidden microfilm a national monument.
Mr. Chambers, who prided himself on being a "counterrevolutionary" and "a man of the right," once told Mr. Buckley, his editor at National Review magazine, "I shall vote the straight Republican ticket as long as I live."
"But," Mr. Buckley yesterday recalled Mr. Chambers as saying, "if the Republican Party cannot get some grip on the actual world we live in and actually promote a program that means something to the masses of people, it will become like one of those dark little shops that never sells anything."
Tim Goeglein, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, oversaw yesterday's event and said the idea was his.
Mr. Novak said that his "philosophical outlook and, without exaggeration, my life," was changed when, as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1953, he first read Mr. Chambers' book, "Witness."
The book challenged Mr. Novak's agnosticism at the time "by defining the spiritual dimension of the struggle. He described communism as posing the most revolutionary question in history: God or man? … Whether the West's faith in God could be stronger than communism's faith in man."

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