Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician 8

For my write-up today on Stephen Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician, I'd like to use as my starting-point how Ambrose characterizes the Old Guard of the Republican Party, which was influential during Richard Nixon's time in Congress.

On page 230, Ambrose characterizes the Old Guard's stance on foreign policy as follows: "the Old Guardsmen were a strange breed of isolationists----they wanted to get out of Western Europe, liberate Eastern Europe, and fight all out in Asia..."  In Ambrose's characterization, the Old Guardsmen were isolationists in that they were critical of foreign interventionism and foreign aid programs such as the Marshall Plan, and yet they desired a hawkish policy in terms of addressing Communism in Asia, for they wanted for the Korean War to be expanded into China.  Moreover, they were concerned about Communist infiltration into the U.S. Government, and they thought that this had contributed to the Communist success in China.

According to Ambrose, Richard Nixon overlapped with the Old Guard on some things but not others.  Unlike the Old Guard, Nixon was a supporter of the Marshall Plan of economic aid to Europe.  In contrast to Old Guardsmen within the China Lobby (and General Douglas MacArthur), Nixon supported Truman's policy of fighting Communism in Europe rather than focusing in Asia: "Nixon was not advocating sending more troops or tanks to Korea----he wanted to send more ships and planes, with the troops and tanks going to Europe" (page 243).  And yet, like the Old Guard, Nixon supported a tough stance on Asia, for he wanted the U.S. to allow Chiang Kaishek to attack Red China from Formosa so as to divert China's attention from Korea, to use "strategic bombers to destroy targets inside China", to pressure the British to cease their selling of goods to China, and to "impose a naval blockade on Red China" (page 241).  At the same time, Nixon was open to the U.S. withdrawing from the Korean War if the UN did not supply enough troops.  Nixon also overlapped with the Old Guard in his concern about Communist infiltration into the U.S. Government.

In 1952, when Nixon became Dwight Eisenhower's running mate, Nixon altered some of his stances.  First, Eisenhower disagreed with MacArthur's desire for complete victory in Asia, and so Nixon said that it was too late to pursue that sort of policy, with "truce talks already going on" (Ambrose on page 269).  Still, Nixon supported "bombing across the Yalu" if China failed to agree to an armistice, as well as blockading Red China.  Second, instead of supporting containment of Communism, Nixon agreed with the 1952 Republican platform, which called for the liberation of Eastern Europe, something that Ambrose said that the Old Guard wanted.  Nixon moved away and towards the Old Guard, depending on the issue.

I'd like to make three points.

1.  Did all of the Old Guard support a hawkish foreign policy in Asia?  According to this article, conservative Republican Senator Robert Taft, often an isolationist, was critical of sending U.S. troops to fight Communists in Asia, saying:

"I have never felt that we should send American soldiers to the Continent of Asia, which, of course, included China proper and Indo-China, simply because we are so outnumbered in fighting a land war on the Continent of Asia that it would bring about complete exhaustion even if we were able to win... So today, as since 1947 in Europe and 1950 in Asia, we are really trying to arm the world against Communist Russia, or at least furnish all the assistance which can be of use to them in opposing Communism.  Is this policy of uniting the free world against Communism in time of peace going to be a practical long-term policy? I have always been a skeptic on the subject of the military practicability of NATO. ... I have always felt that we should not attempt to fight Russia on the ground on the Continent of Europe any more than we should attempt to fight China on the Continent of Asia."

Nixon may have overlapped with Taft's concern in that Nixon believed that the U.S. should withdraw from Korea if the UN did not provide enough assistance, even though Nixon was more hawkish than Taft and did not proceed in the direction of isolationism.  I wonder if Taft supported means to fight Communism in Asia that did not entail sending U.S. troops, such as offering aid to Chiang Kai-shek or anti-Communist nations.

2.  What exactly was the total victory in Asia that MacArthur and many conservatives desired?  Was it ending Communist rule in China, or simply making all of Korea a non-Communist nation?  On page 228, Ambrose says that conservative Republicans "wanted to do to Communist China what they had done to Nazi Germany and militarist Japan."  If the conservative goal was to overthrow Communism in China, then I consider such a stance to be problematic, not because I'm for Communism in China, but because my hunch is that such a goal would have been unrealistic----we'd be biting off more than we could chew.  In my opinion, it's one thing to bomb across the Yalu River because China was using that river to send supplies to North Korea (as MacArthur proposed); it's another thing to attempt to take down Communist China entirely.  The former is just doing what it takes to win the Korean War, whereas the latter is getting into a whole new ballgame.

3.  It was interesting to read about the Truman Administration's perspective on certain issues, especially since I grew up reading the right-wing anti-Truman side.  Why did Truman issue an executive order banning the executive department from releasing "loyalty and security files to congressional committees" (page 234)?  Was it because he had something to hide?  Actually, Truman said it was because he didn't want for HUAC to exploit any "rumors and unverified charges" that those files contained (Ambrose on page 234).  Why did George Marshall question U.S. aid to Chiang Kaishek in China, whose regime was being assaulted by the Communists?  Was Marshall a traitor?  Marshall's problem was that he didn't think that Chiang was effectively using that aid.  As Nixon said, however, Truman supported aiding Greece in its battle against Communism, even though the Greek government was "weak, corrupt, and had an army that was not properly organized" (Nixon's words, page 240).  

Enjoying the Tree

In The Search for God at Harvard, Ari Goldman talks about a conversation that he had with Louis Jacobs, a Jew who was teaching Jewish studies at Harvard Divinity School when Goldman was a student there.  Goldman had just heard Jacobs explain the Documentary Hypothesis, the scholarly belief that the Pentateuch consists of four sources: the Yahwist (J), the Elohist (E), the Priest (P), and D, who wrote Deuteronomy.  The Documentary Hypothesis rests (in part) on the existence of contradictions and different ideologies within the Pentateuch, and it challenges the traditional Jewish belief that God gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Goldman wondered what would happen to one's faith and religious practice if he (or she) were to see the Torah as flawed and composed by humans rather than God.  When Goldman asked Jacobs about this, Jacobs pointed to an oak tree whose leaves had fall colors.  Jacobs said: "Do you know how that tree began?  Just because you don't know how it began doesn't mean you cannot enjoy the tree."

As Goldman reflects on his own life, he sees value in some of the Jewish rituals that he has long observed.  For example, he says that the routine and the beauty of Sabbath observance helped him during a particularly unstable time, namely, his parents' divorce.  Wherever Ari was, life would "come to a halt" on the Sabbath, and he could use that day "for attending a synagogue, reading a novel, taking a leisurely walk to the park or reflecting on the week past" (page 58).

The Sabbath was long a special time for me.  Wherever I was----whether I was attending school, or working at a job----I appreciated not having to work on the Sabbath.  Not only is it good to have a day of rest, but it's also good to have a day on which I don't have to prove my worth to others----I can just be.  Nowadays, I've somewhat gotten away from that.  I write a blog post everyday, and blogging can easily contaminate the Sabbath (or any day, for that matter) because I become obsessed with proving my worth, as I try to write good posts and check to see if people like them, feeling affirmed when they click "like" and resentful when they don't.  Moreover, I do research for my dissertation on Saturdays.  But I wouldn't say that I have entirely abandoned the principles of Sabbath.  There are times when I find that it's conducive to my peace of mind to simply turn off the computer.  On Friday, I don't research for my dissertation, but I study a Psalm, and that is usually followed by a nice long nap.  So, in a sense, I follow principles of the Sabbath, even if I don't rest on Saturday and Sunday.  The thing is, though, that I play by ear when I decide to follow these principles, rather than adhering to rigid rules (i.e., I must turn off my computer right now).  I think that approach has its positives and negatives.

Do I agree with Louis Jacobs that I can enjoy the Bible and religious life, even if I'm not sure that they come from God?  I believe that I can, on some level.  I can benefit from the Sabbath and fellowship with others, for example.  I can read the Bible and identify with its characters.  And yet, for me, I need assurance that what is in the Bible is true and from God for me to believe parts of it.  I suppose that I can see some principles in the Bible as true, whether there's a God or not----one who wants friends should be friendly (Proverbs 18:24), for instance.  But, when it comes to statements that God will provide for my needs or that I should live well because of a reward in the afterlife, I need to see those statements as much more than human opinion, for why should I trust human opinions about these issues?  I suppose, though, that, even here, I can have opinions without having to see the entire Bible as God-given and inerrant.  I can hear people's stories about God providing for their needs (even though I wonder about those who die because their needs were not met), or about having some experience with the afterlife.

I guess my problem with what Jacobs is saying is that, in order for me to know what God thinks, what God wants, and what God is doing, I need for God to reveal that.  Human beings writing down their opinions in writings that became Scripture is not enough.  Or is it?  Perhaps they were experiencing God, or getting to know God better, and they were recording their thoughts on that.  Their thoughts may not be perfect, but they offer us some insight.  Besides, even having a Bible and regarding it as divinely-inspired have not removed all ambiguity, for even religious people who are committed to inerrancy arrive at different conclusions.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician 7

My latest reading of Stephen Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician covered Richard Nixon's 1950 race against liberal Democratic Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas for the U.S. Senate.

How did Ambrose's narrative about this particular election compare with that of Irwin Gellman in his book, The Contender?  Here are some of my comparisons between the two narratives:

----Ambrose and Gellman agree that the Democrats in the Democratic primary basically ripped each other to shreds before Douglas even had to face Nixon.

----Gellman says that there was no shred of evidence that Nixon's campaign had a huge supply of money from wealthy interests.  Ambrose never says that Nixon's campaign had a huge supply of money, but he does say on pages 213-214 that big ranchers and farmers, as well as oilmen, donated to Nixon, and the reason was that they preferred Nixon's stances on certain issues.  Douglas, for example, supported President Harry Truman's attempt "to limit farmers in California to 160 acres of land that could be irrigated with federally controlled water", whereas Nixon was against it (page 214).  In addition, Douglas "had voted for federal control of the tidelands oil, and Nixon against" (page 214).  And, while Douglas does not say that realtors and developers contributed money to Nixon's campaign, he does say on page 210 that many of them didn't care for Douglas' support of low-income housing (perhaps in terms of the policies that she embraced).

----Gellman argues that Douglas was unfair to lump Nixon together with Senator Joseph McCarthy.  I have not read everything that Ambrose has said about Nixon's stance regarding McCarthy, but my impression is that, according to Ambrose, Nixon thought that McCarthy was raising valid concerns, but Nixon had issues with McCarthy's recklessness and lack of evidence for some of his accusations.  (On page 237, Ambrose said that Nixon was unimpressed by McCarthy's lack of knowledge about Communism in the United States, for McCarthy did not even know who Earl Browder was, when Earl Browder was the head of the Communist Party USA!)  On page 212, Ambrose states: "Nixon's initial response to McCarthy was negative.  In a press conference on April 15, 1950, he said that only the [Communist Party] was profiting from McCarthy's charges."  At the same time, McCarthy did come to California to express his support for Nixon's candidacy, but this was not at Nixon's invitation, nor did Nixon share a stage with him.  As Ambrose says on page 219, "Nixon did not repudiate McCarthy, but neither did he embrace him."

----Gellman argues that even Democrats had problems with Douglas because she was so far left, and yet he does narrate that prominent Democrats came to California to express their support for her.  I get a similar picture from Ambrose.  Ambrose narrates that Douglas was disliked because she was a woman in a man's world and was very left-wing.  Even John F. Kennedy delivered to Nixon a contribution from his father, Joseph Kennedy!  Moreover, Ambrose tells a story by reporter Earl Mazo that "is probably too good to be true", but it would be ironic if it were true!  One of Nixon's campaign strategies was to point out the significant number of times that Douglas voted the same as Congressman Vito Marcantonio, who was extremely left-wing and was believed to have Soviet sympathies.  According to Mazo, Marcantonio didn't even like Douglas, and he indirectly encouraged Nixon to pursue the Douglas-Marcantonio-connection strategy in order to win!  Ambrose is clear, though, that Truman really wanted Nixon to lose, and California was visited by prominent Democrats who spoke in favor of Douglas: Vice-President Alben Barkley, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.

----The picture that I got from Gellman (and this was my impression) was that Nixon believed that he was simply presenting the facts about Douglas' record, rather than calling her a Communist.  Meanwhile, according to Gellman, Douglas (in a vain attempt to play on anti-Communism) was making the baseless charge that Nixon was against aid to South Korea, and she also said that Nixon voted to cut NATO funding.  I got a little more detail out of Ambrose's narration.  For one, Ambrose does not think that Nixon's accusation against Douglas that she voted with Marcantonio 354 times was particularly fair, for Nixon himself voted with Douglas and Marcantonio 100 of those times, and many of those other votes Douglas made were along party lines.  Ambrose also says that "One of Nixon's favorite lines was to say that Helen Douglas was 'pink right down to her underwear'" (page 218), which sounds like quite an attack!  Regarding Douglas' accusations against Nixon, Ambrose, like Gellman, refers to Nixon's defense that he voted against the first aid package for South Korea because it omitted aid to anti-Communist Formosa, but Nixon voted for the second aid package.  But Ambrose also states that Douglas was distorting Nixon's record on aid to Europe: "In fact, Nixon had not voted to cut the aid in half, but for a one-year rather than a two-year bill, with a renewal provision" (page 215).

----In their own way, Gellman and Ambrose conveyed the nuances in some of Douglas' positions.  Gellman went into more detail than Ambrose on Douglas' stance regarding internal Communist subversion (she was against it, but she thought that HUAC's methods were inappropriate), as well as her position on Korea (she attacked Nixon for voting against aid to South Korea and even believed that the U.S. needed to defend South Korea, but she herself preferred peaceful solutions to problems and international disarmament).  Ambrose, however, provided Douglas' rationale for opposing the Truman Doctrine, which sought to combat Communism in Europe: she wanted UN involvement in the process. 

----In their own way, Gellman and Ambrose discuss the nuances in some of Nixon's positions.  I'd like to refer to a couple of positions that Ambrose mentions.  First, while Nixon was a strong supporter of Taft-Hartley, he sought the union vote by saying that "management should give labor a stake in business and industry, through profit sharing plans and similar devices" (Nixon's words, page 213).  That sounds rather progressive, especially when it's compared with conservatism today!  Second, while Nixon opposed Truman's proposed national health insurance, Nixon "favored voluntary health insurance provided by private companies, but insured by the federal government" (Ambrose's words on page 220).  I'm not sure how that would work, but it's worth noting, since Nixon's name came up in recent discussions about health care: that Nixon as President supported a public option (like President Obama), that he supported private HMOs, etc.

I'd like to close this post with something that Ambrose says on page 212, as Ambrose discusses the claim of certain Republicans that Communist infiltration into key institutions (namely, the Manhattan Project and the State Department, respectively) enabled the Russians to develop an atomic bomb and the Communists to take China.  Ambrose believes that the reality was more complex:

"Things were obviously not so simple as the Republicans painted them.  That there was an atomic spy ring is unquestionable; that it explained the Russian success is uncertain.  In a sense, the only real 'secret' was that the theory was correct and an atomic bomb did work, which was a 'secret' the United States gave away at Hiroshima.  That there were China hands [in the State Department] who preferred Mao to Chiang is also unquestionable; that they were traitors is altogether another matter.  But these complexities were lost on many voters, who concluded that Nixon was correct in his assessment of the danger of internal Communism."

More on this topic tomorrow!

Christian Spirituality at Harvard Divinity School

In my latest reading of The Search for God at Harvard (copyright 1991), Ari Goldman talks about the dearth of Christian spirituality at Harvard Divinity School, as people sought to avoid offending those from non-Christian religions.  He says that the chapel at HDS focused largely on left-wing political causes.  Goldman also discusses the spirituality of people he knew at the divinity school, who believed that they found spirituality in relationships with others, in language, and in life.  While I did not identify much with the students' spirituality, I did identify with their stories, particularly because they were searching for community and meaning in life.

So why did I have a hard time identifying with the students' spirituality?  Well, I mentioned finding spirituality in relationships with others, in language, and in life.  Regarding relationships, I have a hard time connecting with people.  On language, maybe I identify with that a little bit more, since I interact with God by seeking to understand the words of the Bible.  Regarding life, I struggle to believe in God despite life being tough; only occasionally do I feel that I'm having a spiritual experience in the course of day-to-day life.

What do I think about the state of Christian spirituality at Harvard Divinity School?  Was my experience at Harvard Divinity School like that of Ari Goldman?  There was still a desire to avoid offending people, but there were also more evangelical students attending than was probably the case when Goldman went there, plus there were some evangelical professors.  And I'd say that, in classes, there was much discussion about Christian biblical interpretation, beliefs, and spirituality, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was also the case (on some level) when Goldman went to HDS.

Regarding the chapel, I went a few times and did not care for it.  I don't remember much talk about leftist political ideology at the chapel services, as Goldman narrates, but rather New Agey-like sermons.  I remember one speaker paraphrasing Romans 8:38-39 by saying that nothing will separate us from the love of the earth.  When I attended chapel about a year later, I liked it much more.  Students who won a preaching contest were preaching, and I thought that their sermons were really down-to-earth and God-centric.  I especially enjoyed one sermon by a Jewish lady about her thoughts on Jesus and his message of inclusion.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician 6

In my latest reading of Nixon: The Education of a Politician, Stephen Ambrose talked about the Alger Hiss case.  I did not finish Ambrose's discussion of it, but I'll comment on what I did read.

Let me start this post by giving you a rough summary of the Alger Hiss case.  In the 1940's, ex-Communist
(and senior editor of Time) Whittaker Chambers accused distinguished former government official Alger Hiss of being a Communist, and Chambers alleged that Hiss had given him documents to relay to the Soviet Union.  Richard Nixon, a Republican Congressman who was serving on the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), believed that Hiss was lying when Hiss equivocated about knowing Chambers.  In the course of the case, many came to believe that Hiss indeed did know Chambers, since Chambers was aware of certain details about Hiss' life, plus Hiss eventually admitted that he knew Chambers under a different name.  Another significant detail in the case was a Woodstock typewriter, which, according to Chambers, Hiss' wife had used in copying government documents that were given to Chambers.  Chambers eventually hid those documents (or, I think, microfilms of the documents) in a pumpkin on his farm.  The typewriter was significant because typewriters were believed to be like fingerprints, and so there was optimism that finding Hiss' Woodstock typewriter that supposedly copied the documents in Chambers' possession would demonstrate that Hiss engaged in espionage.  Hiss was found guilty of perjury, but not for espionage due to the statute of limitations running out.

I liked how Ambrose opened his chapter on the Hiss case.  Ambrose states on page 166: "Because of the complexity of the Alger Hiss case, the emotions it aroused, the personalities of the principal characters involved, and its importance, entire shelves in the stacks of large libraries are filled with books on the subject.  Small details have become the subject of big books.  Four decades after the case, monographs continue to appear, 'proving' this case or that, about Hiss' typewriter, or his car, or his [Communist Party] involvement."  In my January 15, 2013 post about the Hiss case when I was blogging through Irwin Gellman's The Contender, I mentioned how some of Hiss' defenders have sought to explain the typewriter.

Since I wrote that post, I read pieces of the script for Oliver Stone's Nixon,  and the script puts the following narration of the Hiss case in the mouth of a reporter: "Nixon became one of the leading lights of the notorious House Un American Activities Committee, questioning labor leaders, Spanish Civil War veterans, Hollywood celebrities...but it was the Alger Hiss case that made Nixon a household name[.] One of the architects of the United Nations, intimate with FDR and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Alger Hiss was a darling of the liberals[.]  But Whittaker Chambers, a former freelance journalist, said he was a Communist[.] Hiss claimed he was being set up by Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover to discredit the New Deal's policies. The case came down to an Underwood typewriter, and a roll of film hidden in a pumpkin patch[.] Years later the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the film showed a report on business conditions in Manchuria, and fire extinguishers on a U.S. destroyer. None of these documents were classified. Were they planted by Chambers, who seemed to have a strange, almost psychotic fixation with Alger Hiss?[.] After two confusing trials, Hiss went to jail for perjury. To the right wing, Nixon was a hero and a patriot. To the liberals, he was a shameless self-promoter who had vengefully destroyed a fine man. Eleanor Roosevelt angrily condemned him. It was to become a pattern: you either loved Richard Nixon or hated him."  That's one narrative that's out there: Hiss was being set up, and Chambers was using declassified documents in an attempt to smear Hiss!  

(UPDATE: Regarding whether the pumpkin papers were declassified or not, Ambrose states on page 192 that they contained "top-secret material", and on page 194 Ambrose says: "Former State Department officials testified [before HUAC] that the documents were indeed valuable and that just their removal from the office was a serious breach of security.  Some were still too hot to reveal."  Regarding their content, this site states: "The Pumpkin Papers consist of sixty-five pages of retyped secret State Department documents, four pages in Hiss's own handwriting of copied State Department cables, and five rolls of developed and undeveloped 35 mm film.  The film included fifty-eight frames, mostly photos of State and Navy Department documents.  The State Department documents dealt with a wide variety of subjects, including U. S. intentions with respect to the Soviet Union, the Spanish Civil War, and Germany's takeover of Austria.  Other frames dealt with subjects that hardly seem the stuff of spy novels, such as diagrams of fire extinguishers and life rafts.  All of the documents that bore dates came from the period from January 5 through April 1, 1938.") 


Irwin Gellman in The Contender argues that Nixon was fair and committed to finding the facts in his investigation of Hiss, and Gellman disputes a charge that, even before Chambers and Hiss' initial HUAC appearances, Nixon was already aware that Hiss was a Communist due to FBI reports and was prolonging the proceedings for his own political advancement.  Gellman accepts that Nixon first became interested in Hiss at Hiss' initial appearance before HUAC.  What is Ambrose's take on this?  Well, overall, Ambrose differs from Gellman on some aspects of Nixon's HUAC career, for, while Gellman's portrayal of Nixon is largely positive, Ambrose argues that Nixon tended to put words into people's mouth and sometimes even to bend the truth in his questioning of witnesses.  But Ambrose appears to accept Nixon's version of how he became interested in Hiss: Nixon became skeptical when he first heard Hiss' testimony to HUAC because Hiss used a lot of qualifiers and equivocations when discussing whether or not he knew Chambers, and, even though many on HUAC believed in Hiss' innocence, Nixon spent a lot of hours trying to uncover the truth.  At the same time, Ambrose on pages 171-172 notes that there was long concern in Washington that Hiss had Communist associations.  Ambrose says that this was "common gossip among those in Washington whose business it was to ferret out the Reds", that J. Edgar Hoover since 1943 raised his concerns about Hiss to FDR and Harry Truman (yet failed to show any documentary evidence), and that the State Department responded to the concern by easing Hiss out of policy-making and eventually government.  That makes me wonder why HUAC was investigating Hiss, even though he was no longer in government.  Was there concern that he could be subversive where he was serving at the time----in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace?

(UPDATE: On page 686, however, Ambrose says: "For reasons that escape this author, Nixon never admitted in public his prior knowledge about Chambers that came from Father John Cronin."  Ambrose speculates that perhaps Nixon was the one who suggested bringing Chambers before HUAC to corroborate the testimony of Elizabeth Bentley, another ex-Communist.  I don't know much about this issue, but people have argued that Nixon knew about Hiss' Communist connections prior to Hiss' initial appearance before HUAC by appealing to interviews with Father Cronin from 1958 through the 1980's.  But, according to Gellman, Cronin in 1990 retracted his claim that Nixon learned about Hiss from him and said that Nixon first learned about Hiss when Chambers mentioned Hiss before HUAC on August 3, 1948.  See here.  Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician was published in 1987, which was before Cronin retracted his earlier claim.)   

Notwithstanding the Hiss case, Harry Truman won re-election as President, and he "brought a Democratic Congress in with him" (page 187).  According to Ambrose, this happened because many voters could not bring themselves to buy into the notion that Truman was soft on Communism: "It was just plain dumb of Nixon and other Republicans to try to convince people that Harry was soft on the Reds after Harry had stood up to them in Greece and Turkey, called for a worldwide policy of containment, accelerated the atomic-bomb-testing program, met Stalin's challenge in Berlin head on, instituted loyalty oaths for federal employees, and otherwise done so much to lead and even feed the anti-Communist crusade."

Interestingly, even though many Republicans made Hiss into a campaign issue, Truman's Republican opponent in 1948, Thomas Dewey, and John Foster Dulles (who would later become Dwight Eisenhower's anti-Communist Secretary of State), refused to do so, for a variety of reasons: Dulles associated with Hiss within the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Dulles anticipated becoming Secretary of State were Dewey to be elected President, and Dulles did not want European allies to see him as a Red-baiter; Dewey regretted trying to link FDR with Communist Party leader Earl Browder when Dewey ran against FDR in 1944; and Dewey did not want to think that Truman personally was soft on Communism.  I should also note that Dewey was a critic of the Mundt-Nixon bill, which Dewey thought would outlaw the Communist Party (which was false, according to Nixon), for Dewey believed that it promoted totalitarianism and thought-control. 

Finding God at Harvard, and It's Never Too Late to Learn

I started Ari Goldman's 1991 book, The Search for God at Harvard.   Goldman was a New York Times reporter who had an Orthodox Jewish upbringing, and he attended Harvard Divinity School for a year as part of a paid sabbatical, so that he could learn about world religions.

This book often came up when I was at Harvard Divinity School as a student, especially within evangelical circles, which had issues with Harvard Divinity School's theological and cultural liberalism.  (As far as politics went, there were evangelicals who were politically liberal, and evangelicals who were politically conservative.)  We wondered if God could be found at Harvard!  When the number of evangelicals who were attending Harvard Divinity School was increasing, there were evangelicals who became more optimistic.

As far as Goldman's book is concerned, what I heard at HDS overlapped with this Book Description of Kelly Monroe's book, Finding God at Harvard: "Ari Goldman's best-selling book, The Search for God at Harvard, chronicled his search for signs of genuine religious faith at Harvard Divinity School. The New York Times reporter concluded that God was not very evident at the prestigious Ivy League campus."  I'll be reading the book to see if this characterization of it is true.  I doubt that Goldman would define finding God at Harvard as people becoming evangelicals, or as more evangelicals attending Harvard Divinity School, for he narrates that he looked at a variety of religious traditions when he was there.  But perhaps he believes that he found God at Harvard Divinity School in some other way.

For a long time, I was reluctant to read this book, largely on account of my own insecurities.  I was afraid that I would become bitter when I read Goldman's book because I thought that he probably had a better experience at Harvard Divinity School than I did----because he was more adept at getting to know people (students and professors) and took more fulfilling classes.  (I took fulfilling classes, but, I also took a lot of language courses, which prevented me from taking other classes, plus I was somewhat afraid of wading into certain classes.)

But, in my reading so far, I saw that Goldman had his own struggles.  For one, he wasn't much of a student, and one reason was that his parents divorced when he was in elementary school, and that deprived him of a supportive environment for learning during that time.  But Goldman resolved to be a better student at Harvard Divinity School.  Second, Goldman relates that a number of prominent faculty members were away from Harvard during his time there: Henri Nouwen, Harvey Cox, Krister Stendahl, and others.  Third, Goldman testifies to how difficult it was for him to get to know some of the faculty, since they tended to hide in their offices throughout the year, plus one professor who was an excellent lecturer was reportedly stand-offish in interactions with students.  And, fourth, Goldman mentions some of his social flub-ups, as when he was pressing his fellow Jewish students about what exactly they were planning to do with their MTS (Master of Theological Studies) degree, and they weren't comfortable trying to answer that question!

I'll close this post by saying that, while I look back at my time at various schools and reflect on how I could have done things better (i.e., in terms of interacting with students and professors or taking certain classes), I am glad that, for some things, it's not too late.  I can still read about theology, biblical studies, world religions, etc., etc.  It's never too late for me to learn!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician 5

I have three items for my write-up today on Stephen Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician.

1.  I read about Richard Nixon's 1946 run for Congress against Democratic Congressman Jerry Voorhis.  Ambrose overlaps with Irwin Gellman on certain issues, particularly in his contention that Nixon's campaign was not primarily bankrolled by wealthy big business interests, as well as his notion that Murray Chotiner (a campaign manager whose strategy was to attack severely the opponents of the candidates for whom he was working) did not play a significant role in Nixon's 1946 campaign, for Chotiner was busy with another campaign.  But Ambrose still maintains that Nixon played rough, for Nixon alleged that Voorhis was supported by NC-PAC, which had some of the same prominent members as the Congress of Industrial Organizations, into which Communists were making incursions.  While Voorhis had NC-PAC's support in 1944, he did not have it in 1946 on account of his commitment to an anti-Communist foreign policy, though there were some liberals within NC-PAC who wanted for the organization to endorse Voorhis.  Nixon also brought up Voorhis' past as a socialist.  But Ambrose and Gellman both present Voorhis' responses to Nixon's accusations as quite inept, so Voorhis' loss was partly his own fault.  For example, in Ambrose's narration, rather than denying that he had support from NC-PAC, Voorhis said that NC-PAC and the CIO were two separate groups, and he also repudiated the support of NC-PAC, which he didn't even have.

On the question of whether people on Nixon's campaign staff called voters and told them that Voorhis was a Communist, a charge against Nixon's campaign that Gellman thinks is without factual basis, Ambrose appears to be open.  Ambrose says there is no firsthand evidence for such a notion, and that Nixon's supporters say that such a strategy would backfire anyway, as they hint that the Democrats made those calls so that Nixon would get the blame.  Yet, Ambrose mentions a Voorhis leader whose niece claimed to work for two days in Nixon's 1946 campaign, and she said that she got $9 a day for making phone calls alleging that Voorhis was a Communist.

2. Ambrose talks about Nixon's role on the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) when he was a Congressman.  Ambrose depicts Nixon as open-minded when he was asked to serve on HUAC, for freshman Congressman Donald Jackson related that Nixon wondered aloud if liberals were correct in their criticisms of HUAC.  When Nixon listened to a speech by President Harry Truman about the dangers of international Communism, as well as talked with Father John Cronin, an anti-Communist priest who was once in the CIO and who helped the FBI on projects, Nixon became more convinced that Communism was a threat.

What did Nixon believe that the Communist Party in the United States would do, however?  Did he fear that it would overthrow the United States government?  Ambrose's answer to that is no.  Ambrose notes that Nixon stated that the U.S. government was "stronger than that of the Czar in 1917" (Ambrose's words on page 151).  But Nixon feared that, if there were a war between the U.S.S.R. and the West, the Communists in the U.S. would support the U.S.S.R. and would sabotage the U.S. economy.  As Ambrose says on page 151, "Everyone recalled that during the Hitler-Stalin pact period, CIO unions that were Communist-dominated had called strikes for the purely political purpose of disrupting American aid to Britain."

I have much left to read before I can judge whether Ambrose will portray Nixon's activity on HUAC as fair and moderate, or as extreme and exploitative.  Irwin Gellman in The Contender argued for the former.  On page 159, however, Ambrose tries to read between the lines on the issue of Nixon's approach to alleged Communist influence within Hollywood: "Always unspoken in Nixon's remarks, but always there, was the implication that the Jewish studio owners and the Communist movie writers were involved in a conspiracy.  They were willing, in fact eager, to attack Nazis, but hesitant, not to say unwilling, to go after the Communists."

3.  On pages 137-138, Ambrose talks about the inflation that existed during the Truman Administration.  The inflation was essentially due to demand exceeding supply right after World War II.  Ambrose narrates : "After the binge of the V-J Day celebration, America went into a long hangover.  Throughout the nation, people had eagerly anticipated the coming of peace.  It would mean jobs, houses, new cars, new refrigerators, electric toasters, plentiful supplies of meat and liquor, the good life they had fought to preserve and expand.  But a year after the Japanese surrender, all these items remained in short supply.  The economic dislocations of the war could not be set straight overnight."

Ambrose can see Nixon's point that the governmental Office of Price Administration (OPA) was part of the problem.  The OPA's limits on the price of beef discouraged ranchers from putting their cattle on the market, since the price for their product was too low, and thus there was a shortage of beef on the market.  That encouraged more people to look for substitutes such as chicken and fish, thereby increasing demand for those products, and thus prices.

John 20:23, and Concluding Reflections

I finished Lee Harmon's John's Gospel: The Way It Happened.  In this post, I'll write about John 20:23, then I will provide my overall assessment of Lee's book.

John 20:23 states (in the King James Version): "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained."

This verse has long disturbed me, the same way that Matthew 16:19 has troubled me.  (Matthew 16:19 says in the KJV: "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.")  The reason is that I have a hard time with the notion that God would condition God's acceptance or rejection of me on what fallible human beings think.  I have seen or heard of church leaders abusing their power and scaring their congregants with the threat that God will reject them if they disobey the church authorities.  And I draw comfort from the notion that God sides with what's right and that God loves me, even if there are other human beings (even church authorities) who might not.

Is there a better way to understand John 20:23?  As I look at Protestant commentaries, such as those of John Gill and John MacArthur, I see the idea that the church has the authority to declare that people are forgiven or unforgiven in the sense that God has given it stewardship over the Gospel, upon which forgiveness is conditioned: if a person repents and receives the Gospel, then the church will declare that person forgiven; if the person rejects the Gospel, then the church will declare him or her unforgiven.  According to this view, as I understand it, the church has authority in terms of forgiveness because it possesses the means of forgiveness (the Gospel), and yet whether or not a person is forgiven does not depend on the whims of church leaders, but rather on acceptance of the Gospel that the church preaches. 

Lee has a similar view, at least somewhat.  Lee talks about John 20:23 on pages 342-343.  According to Lee, Jesus in John 20:23 is encouraging the disciples to go out and preach forgiveness, which is the way that people will become free.  Otherwise, people are lost and in sin.  But my impression is that Lee differs somewhat from how many evangelicals would understand this: that we need to preach the Gospel because otherwise people will not hear and will go to hell because they did not have a chance to receive God's forgiveness, and thus are in a state of unforgiveness.  According to Lee, God has already forgiven everyone, but we're the ones who keep dragging others' sin up in our refusal to forgive and let things go.  By atoning for our sin, Jesus has given us the opportunity to "see beyond it."  In this Jubilee, we should be setting people free rather than holding grudges.  God has forgiven everyone, but that does not free people if we do not let them know that they are forgiven or forgive them ourselves.

Both the views of Protestant interpreters and Lee's view are thought-provoking, and I wouldn't be surprised if there is truth in what they say.  Still, when I read the verse, it seems to say that God's forgiveness (not just our cognizance of God's forgiveness) is somehow conditioned on whether or not the disciples exercise forgiveness (not just preach the Gospel).  I don't think that Jesus was giving the disciples a loaded pistol or knowingly sanctioning the abuse of power.  But, somehow, the church seems to have authority when it comes to people's forgiveness.

Now, for my overall assessment of Lee's book.  Again, I'd like to thank him for sending me a copy.  I have enjoyed reading it, and I have found it thought-provoking, intellectually stimulating, and spiritually inspiring.  In terms of its positives, I appreciated its picture of Christians struggling to recover their faith after the failure of their apocalyptic expectations, Lee's discussion of early Christians' diversity and their complex interaction with the Hebrew Bible, and Lee's wide-ranging knowledge of biblical scholarship, which he manifests in the book.  In terms of its negatives, there were times when I wished that Lee provided more footnotes to document what he was saying, especially when he was talking about how John's Gospel reflects pagan religions in areas (which, as he knows, has been debated within scholarship).  Moreover, it seemed to me that Lee contradicted himself in areas: he presents Paul as believing in a realized resurrection, but later he says that Paul expected for the resurrection to be future; he says that John's Gospel knew of II Thessalonians 2:13 (which is about the son of perdition, the man of sin) and applies the "son of perdition" label to Judas, but Lee later contends that II Thessalonians 2:13 was a reaction against John applying the label to Judas (pages 268, 350); and I'm still not clear about whether or not Lee thinks that John believed in an afterlife.  Contradiction is understandable, for there are plenty of arguments that can make sense or manifest a degree of plausibility, even though they contradict each other; I struggled with this when I did my comprehensive exam in Hebrew Bible!  But I think that a book should be consistent.  Overall, I'd say that Lee's book was consistent, in terms of its big picture: that John was replacing a futurist eschatology with a realized eschatology.  But it was mostly on side-issues that there appeared to be inconsistencies.

I blogged a lot through this book, but there were plenty of topics that I did not get to (i.e., John was from a priestly family).  My blog posts hopefully gave you a taste, and you are now tempted to buy Lee's book and read it for yourself!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Accountability and Individuality

For my write-up today on my church's service this morning, I'll use as my starting-point a question that was part of the service of installing a new deacon: "Will you be governed by our church's polity, and will you abide by its discipline?"

The terms "discipline" and "accountability" within evangelical Christianity give me the creeps.  They sound authoritarian to me.  They sound like they repress human individuality.  I seriously doubt that my church takes these concepts in an abusive and authoritarian direction.  But there are settings within conservative Christianity in which these concepts have been abused.

And, to be honest, I don't think that such concepts are abused only within conservative Christianity.  They're also abused by liberal or progressive Christians (not all, but some of them).  I recently read a post that argued that Mark Driscoll should be accountable to the larger Christian body on the Internet when it comes to his offensive tweets.  I am far from being a Mark Driscoll fan, and I certainly believe that people should feel free to criticize him.  I also hope that Driscoll, as a Christian, will recognize why his comments are offensive and will reach out to those who feel hurt by them.  But he's entitled to his own opinion.  I don't think that he's obligated to check his individuality at the door of Christian "accountability".  I don't agree with Driscoll's belief that President Barack Obama is not a true Christian (not that I think that Obama's religion has anything to do with how well he governs), but that's Driscoll's opinion, and he has a right to express it.  "But that makes Christianity look bad", one could argue.  Do you know what makes Christianity look bad?  The way that it tries to pressure people to think and act the same way, in the name of "discipline", "accountability", and "witness".

I one time read a conservative Christian lady say that, if a blogger sees her blog as a ministry, that blog should be supervised by the blogger's pastor.  Hogwash!  That blogger has a right to be an individual and to express her own thoughts on her blog, without having to get the approval of any pastor.  Why are there religions that are so authoritarian?

Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician 4

For my write-up today on Stephen Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician, I'd like to highlight Ambrose's quotation on page 120 of something that Richard Nixon said in a speech when Nixon was running for Congress in 1946:

"[Nixon] began by saying there were two conflicting views on the nature of the American system.  'One advocated by the New Deal is government control in regulating our lives.  The other calls for individual freedom and all that initiative can produce.'  Pausing, Nixon declared, 'I hold with the latter viewpoint.'  He explained, 'I believe the returning veterans, and I have talked to many of them in the foxholes, will not be satisfied with a dole or a government handout.  They want a respectable job in private interest where they will be recognized for what they produce, or they want the opportunity to start their own business."

According to Ambrose, Nixon got support from small businesspeople who felt strangled by New Deal regulations and did not care for the continual strikes that were occurring.  I don't know what exactly the New Deal was like in 1946.  During the Depression, it put people to work.  The value of hard work that Nixon highlights in his speech was a part of the New Deal, for people were paid by the government to plant trees and to do other tasks.  But had the New Deal become more of a dole by 1946?  I suppose that Social Security is a dole, but that's largely for people when they are retired, not when they are returning veterans desiring a job (unless you count disability).

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician 3

A question I had in my latest reading of Stephen Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician is how Richard Nixon and the lady he would marry, Thelma (Pat) Ryan, fit so many activities into each day.  I think particularly of the time that they were students.  Richard Nixon as a student at Duke Law School studied a lot, worked at the library, engaged in extracurricular activities, did exercises in the afternoon, and the list goes on.  And not only did he survive in an intense and competitive law school, but he graduated with a high class rank.  (I should also mention that he lived in a shack during some of that time in order to save money.)  Pat Ryan went to school, worked at the bank, took care of her father (who had tuberculosis) after her mother died, was involved in dramatics, etc.  How did they do all of these things each day?

I found a passage on pages 95-96 of Ambrose's book to be somber yet profound.  Author Jessamyn West (remember the lady who went to Frank Nixon's Sunday School class) interviewed Pat Nixon in 1970, and Pat said that she (meaning Pat) never got tired.  West reflected: "That statement and Pat Nixon's belief in it probably grew out of her experiences as a girl; began in those days when, motherless, her father ill, she, a student, housekeeper and breadwinner all in one, no doubt told herself, 'You cannot be tired.  You dare not be tired.  Everything depends on you.  You are not tired."

Psalm 113

For my weekly quiet time this week, I'll blog about Psalm 113.

According to Psalm 113, God dwells above the nations and even above the heavens, yet God looks at what is going on below Him in heaven and on earth.  And God is not a passive observer, as far as the Psalmist in Psalm 113 is concerned, for God lifts up the poor and seats them with princes and gives children to women who are barren.

Patrick Miller in the HarperCollins Study Bible states that "the song stands in a line of tradition with 1 Sam 2.1-10; Lk 1.46-55."  I Samuel 2:1-10 is Hannah's song of praise after God answered her prayer for a son, a prayer that she prayed when she was barren.  And Luke 1:46-55 is the Magnificat, which Mary sang when she was pregnant with Jesus.  Hannah's song is about how God lifts up the hungry and the poor and gives the barren woman seven children.  And Luke 1:46-55 is likewise about God elevating the lowly and the hungry.

Psalm 113 is similar to Hannah's song and the Magnificat in its theme of God exalting the lowly.  But Psalm 113 is also different from Hannah's song and the Magnificat, for Hannah's song and the Magnificat are not just about the exaltation of the lowly, but also the debasement of the well-off.  I Samuel 2:5, for instance, says that those who were full have hired themselves out in an attempt to get bread, and that the woman who had lots of children has become feeble.  Luke 1:51 affirms that God has scattered the proud, Luke 1:52 says that God has cast the mighty from their seats, and Luke 1:53 states that God has sent the rich away empty.  Psalm 113, by contrast, is thoroughly positive in that it focuses on God's elevation of the lowly, while it does not mention God's debasement of the mighty.

Of course, Psalm 113 is part of a unit called the Hallel or the Egyptian Hallel, which consists of Psalms 113-118.  Many Jews sing the Hallel during the Passover.  Was Psalm 113 originally written to be part of the larger Hallel unit?  And does the larger Hallel unit focus primarily on God's elevation of the lowly, or does it also include the notion that God will debase the mighty?  As I glance at the Hallel unit, most of what I see is positive.  Psalm 118:10-11 affirms that the Psalmist cut down the adversarial nations who were surrounding him, but, overall, the Hallel focuses on God's deliverance of people.  That's my impression, based on my quick scanning of the Hallel.

But I'd like to play a little bit with the theme of thanking God for blessing us, rather than praising God for casting down the mighty.  Whenever I am told that I should pray for my enemies and ask that God give them the things that I desire for myself (i.e., health, economic provision, etc.), I am very hesitant, for I don't want for God to bless my enemies.  But I should want for God to bless both of us, not for me to be blessed while my enemies are cursed, or for my enemies to be blessed while I have to struggle.  I'd like to think that there are plenty of God's blessings to go around!  Of course, Psalm 113 does not even mention the Psalmist's enemies, but rather focuses on God's elevation of the lowly.  The reason that people tell me to pray for my enemies is that they believe that this could cure my resentment, and the curing of resentment does not appear to be a theme in Psalm 113.  But Psalm 113 is still a Psalm that focuses on the positive----on God's goodness and how far God has brought people who once were in the dumps, and now no longer are.  Such a positive attitude is something I should strive for.  At the very least, I should appreciate and enjoy what God gives me, rather than looking at my enemies to see how they are doing.  But a state of spiritual advancement beyond that is for me to pray that God will bless my enemies with the blessings that I desire for myself (meaning that the prayer is for God to bless both of us).

But is there a place for the attitude of Hannah and Mary in the Magnificat, of wishing for the downfall of those who are mighty?  I would say "yes" and "no".  I'd say "yes" because Hannah and Mary were probably talking (at least in part) about the oppression of Israel at the hands of the mighty.  Hannah, perhaps, was expressing her hope that God would use her son Samuel to deliver Israel from her oppressors, such as the Philistines, and that is what happened (I Samuel 7:13).  And Mary had Messianic expectations regarding her son Jesus, that in Jesus rested the deliverance of Israel from those who afflicted her.  It is right to desire the end of oppression, which humiliates people, dehumanizes them, or reduces them to poverty.

I'd say "no", albeit with some hesitation, if Hannah were glorifying the woman with lots of children becoming feeble because she did not care for her husband's other wife, Peninnah, who had lots of children and mocked Hannah when Hannah was barren.  If Hannah in I Samuel 2:5 is hoping that God will make Peninnah feeble, then such a sentiment is certainly understandable and human on Hannah's part.  But there is an attitude that is spiritually advanced beyond that: to have compassion for Peninnah and to forgive her.  Peninnah may have mocked Hannah because Peninnah was jealous that their husband loved Hannah more than he loved her (Peninnah).  Hannah perhaps should have sympathized more with Peninnah's predicament, or she should have forgiven Peninnah.  But I realize that this was probably easier said than done, since it's easy for one to talk about forgiveness, but it's harder to extend it to those with whom one comes into contact.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rome and Spiritual Emptiness

For its Bible study, my church is going through Romans: The Letter That Changed the World, with Mart De Haan and Jimmy DeYoung

We watched the DVD for the lesson last night, and the picture that I got from it was that the Roman Empire during the time of Paul was keeping the peace quite well, in terms of providing services and protecting people in the Empire, and yet there was a lack of spiritual peace.  Elites gorged themselves on food and entertained themselves by watching displays of brutality in the arena.  There were many who did not feel at peace with the divine, for they felt that they had to climb up to heaven by their own efforts.  Moreover, in their eyes, they themselves were the ones who had to deal with sin, either by hiding their sins from Zeus or by making up for their sins.  In such an environment, Paul's message that a loving God took the initiative in dealing with our sin and reconciling us with himself, that salvation and intimacy with God come by accepting God's grace, and that there is a good afterlife for those who receive God's gift was counter-cultural, and also refreshing to a number of people.  On the DVD that we watched, a variety of scholars were interviewed: Paul Maier, Douglas Moo, and others.

I'm usually hesitant to say that Christianity is superior to other religions, since there are Christian apologists who claim this in arguing that Christianity is divinely-inspired, and I think that they disingenuously exaggerate Christianity's good points while downplaying or ignoring Christianity's flaws and also the assets of other religions.  (In saying this, I do not have in mind the scholars who were on that DVD, but others.)  But I tend to agree with the scholars on the DVD that we watched last night that Christianity was offering something that Roman religion largely lacked.  I'm hesitant to say that grace was unheard of in Roman thought, for that would be a pretty sweeping statement.  But G. Reale does hold that a belief in grace was unusual in the philosophical schools of the second-fifth centuries C.E., and that there was an emphasis on theurgy, which was the performance of rituals in an attempt to achieve a union with the divine (see here).  Philip Schaff says that Christianity's belief in a blissful afterlife contrasted with the "gloom of paganism, for which the future world was a blank" (see here).  And Helmut Koester affirms that there were many who turned to mystery cults so that they could avoid becoming "unconscious shadows after death" (see here).  There is debate about whether or not mystery religions influenced Paul.  In any case, the rather bleak picture of Roman religion that I saw last night on the DVD appears to be accepted by other scholars.

Does this mean that Christianity was divinely-inspired?  I think that a secular explanation can be provided for how Christianity offered a counter-cultural belief-system that contained what Roman religions largely lacked.  Christianity inherited a belief in resurrection from Judaism, and, while there were Jews who held that even Gentiles could enter the blissful afterlife, Christianity took that belief further by emphasizing it, and that probably attracted Gentiles.  But was early Christianity revolutionary in its conception of grace?  I'd tentatively say "yes".  Judaism and (if I'm not mistaken) paganism held that a divine being could forgive people, but early Christianity seems to present God taking a larger, initiating role in people's salvation; moreover, while early Christianity had rituals, I doubt that they were a way for people to try to climb their way to God, but rather were celebratory acts of what God had already done, through grace.  Does Christianity's revolutionary teaching on grace demonstrate that it was divinely-inspired?  Not necessarily, for there was a widespread belief in the ancient world that the flesh (or part of the soul) weighed people down, physically and morally.  Human beings without divine inspiration could have taken that belief further by saying that people were so corrupt that they could only be saved from their immoral nature through an act of divine grace.

And yet, I cannot exclude the possibility that God was indeed involved in this entire process.  Perhaps there were people who concluded from observation that God delivered people spiritually through an act of grace: they saw changed lives within the Christian movement, and so they concluded that Christianity had the answer to the moral weakness of human beings, and thus that transformation came through an act of divine grace, apart from works or theurgy.

I think that the DVD did a good job in painting a picture of spiritual barrenness.  On some level, at least in my case, I think that Christian spirituality offers hope and fills the void that is left by hedonism or entertainment.  Does Christianity totally satisfy me, though?  Not entirely, but that could be because I do some things wrong, or at least in a manner that isn't conducive to satisfaction (which is not to say that Christianity is all about personal satisfaction, but many Christians like to advertise that it does satisfy in ways that the "world" does not).

Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician 2

I have two items for my write-up today on Stephen Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician.

1.  In Oliver Stone's 1995 movie Nixon, Richard Nixon's brother Harold dies of tuberculosis, and Harold's death allows the Nixon family to have enough money for Richard to go to law school.  Richard's mother, Hannah (played by Mary Steenburgen), tells Richard that law school is Harold's "gift" to him.  Richard incredulously responds, "Did he have to die for me to get it?"  Years later on the movie, when Richard Nixon is President, Richard reflects that two deaths paved the way for him to become President: Harold's, and that of Bobby Kennedy, who could have won the 1968 Presidential election had he not been assassinated.

I don't know how much of this, if any of it, reflects reality.  (UPDATE: On page 72, Ambrose says that "Hannah thought that Dick might have felt guilty about surviving Arthur's and Harold's deaths", and that doesn't sound to me like she was contributing to his survivor's guilt.) In my reading of Ambrose, it did seem that Harold's tuberculosis was holding Richard Nixon back, on some level.  Nixon got a scholarship to Harvard, but he did not have enough money to move to Massachusetts and live there, and Ambrose says that one reason was the cost to Nixon's family of treating Harold's tuberculosis.  Ambrose does say, however, that Harold's death made Richard Nixon lonelier and even more standoffish, and that Richard could have been less so had Harold lived, since Harold was gregarious.  Ambrose says on page 72:

"Harold's death played an important role in [Richard's] loneliness, because Harold was his best chance at establishing an open, trusting, honest, loving adult relationship with another human being.  Harold could have thrown an arm around him, given him a hug, penetrated his mysteries, told him to stop being such a stuffed shirt, taught him to laugh and see the funny side of life, in general made him loosen up and enjoy himself...But Harold was not healthy enough to do these things for Dick before he died, and no one else could take his place."

2.  On pages 57-58, Ambrose discusses an essay that Nixon wrote in 1933 about his religious beliefs, in which Nixon sought to reconcile the Bible with science.  Nixon was raised to regard the Bible as infallible and as literally correct, and his parents warned him "not to be misled by college professors" at Whittier, a Quaker college (page 58).  Nixon wrote that he believed in God as the creator, but he did not think that Jesus was God's son in a physical sense, but rather in the sense that Jesus "reached the highest conception of God...His life was so perfect that he 'mingled' his soul with God's" (Nixon's words).  Nixon had problems with the story that Jesus rose physically from the dead, saying, "I believe we in the modern world will find a real resurrection in the life and teachings of Jesus."

This coincides with something that I read in William Martin's book With God on Our Side: that Chuck Colson said that Nixon did not take Jesus' resurrection literally.  Apparently, Nixon carried some of his liberal religious views for quite a long time, from 1933 through his Presidency.

In my reading about Nixon thus far, religion has been an interesting topic in the few times that it has come up.  Both Irwin Gellman and Stephen Ambrose tell the story, for example, about how Nixon's father Frank felt after the death of one of his sons that God was punishing him for keeping his store open on Sundays, and so he closed the store on Sundays and became more religious.  I wonder if Richard Nixon rejected that sort of view when he became more of a theological liberal.

John 20:17: Mary Magdalene and Jesus' Ascension

In John 20:17, Jesus says to Mary Magdalene shortly after his resurrection: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God" (KJV).

Why didn't Jesus want for Mary Magdalene to touch him before he ascended to his Father?  Later in the chapter, Thomas touches Jesus when he puts his hand into Jesus' side.  Did Jesus ascend sometime between his conversation with Mary and his conversation with Thomas, and that was why Thomas could touch him whereas Mary could not?  (UPDATE: Lee Harmon later argues in John's Gospel: The Way It Happened that the part of John's Gospel about Thomas touching Jesus' side was added by a later hand.)

In this post, I'll go into various interpretations of John 20:17, including that of Lee Harmon in John's Gospel: The Way It Happened.  Not all of the interpretations that I will mention are scholarly, for I don't own a lot of scholarly commentaries on the Gospel of John.  But I will draw from what I have.

Lee Harmon's view is that Mary was interrupting the ascent of Jesus' soul to heaven.  According to Lee, there was a notion at this time that the souls of the martyrs went to heaven, whereas the souls of everybody else went to Sheol, and, for John, Jesus was a martyr whose soul was going to heaven.  The soul departed from the body after three days, and Jesus at the time that he was speaking to Mary was therefore "incorporeal, untouchable" (page 330).  Lee also brings realized eschatology into the picture.  A common view within Christianity was that Jesus ascended to heaven and would one day come back to perform his Messianic role.  But John interprets this view within the lens of realized eschatology, according to Lee: Jesus would ascend to heaven, and soon thereafter he would come down and dwell with believers through the Holy Spirit.  Remember from my previous posts that, according to Lee, John's Gospel regards the coming of the Holy Spirit as Jesus' second coming.

Do I buy into this view?  While I am happy that Lee interacts here with the issue of the afterlife in the Gospel of John (since I was wondering what Lee's view on that is), I have a hard time with his focus on Jesus' soul to the exclusion of his body.  For one, as N.T. Wright has noted, this was a resurrection, and that's not entirely the same as a disembodied soul.  Moreover, in the Gospel of John, we can tell that John believed that Jesus' body rose on the third day because his body was missing from the tomb, and, later on, Jesus appeared to his disciples with his wounds.  If Jesus' soul were absent from his body when he appeared to Mary, then where exactly was his body?  It wasn't in the tomb!  Lee addresses this question, but he does not appear to answer it head-on; instead, he discusses the empty tomb tradition in the New Testament.  (UPDATE: In an appendix, on page 359, Lee says that what happened to Jesus' flesh is a mystery, and that it "has simply disappeared, never to be seen again!")

Regarding Lee's claim on realized eschatology, I find that to be plausible.  Jesus ascended to heaven, and then he returned and imparted to his disciples the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), which arguably could have been a means for him to dwell with his disciples.  (On a side note, Lee makes an interesting point when he interprets the five hundred witnesses to the risen Jesus in I Corinthians 15:6 in reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.)

Why, then, could Mary not touch Jesus before his ascension?  There are a number of commentators (i.e., Peake's commentary, Bullinger, and others) who contend that something important happened at Jesus' ascension----he was presented to the Father as the wavesheaf offering, the Father accepted Jesus' sacrifice, Jesus officially was crowned with glory, etc.  But advocates of these positions did not explain, at least not to my satisfaction, why Mary could not touch Jesus before his ascension, whereas people could touch him after the ascension had taken place.  The closest I saw them get to an explanation was their assertion that Jesus wanted for Mary to regard him in a new way, not in her old manner of familiarity, and so Jesus needed to officially become new before that could happen.

But there are other commentators who take a different track altogether.  They don't regard Jesus' ascension as something that took place between the time that Jesus spoke to Mary and the time that Jesus appeared to Thomas.  Rather, in accordance with Luke-Acts, they regard Jesus' ascension as Jesus going to heaven forty days after his resurrection.  Consequently, when Jesus tells Mary not to touch him because he has not ascended, such commentators contend that Jesus is telling Mary that she should not cling to him but should rush to tell the disciples, for she'll have plenty of time to interact with Jesus before he goes back to heaven (John Gill), or that Mary should not cling to Jesus on earth because he will eventually have to go to heaven (John MacArthur).  I can't really argue against these sorts of ideas.  But they don't entirely set right with me.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician 1

I started Stephen Ambrose's Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962.  This is the first volume of Ambrose's trilogy about Richard Nixon.  I have two items for today's post.

1.  Richard Nixon's father, Frank, was quite opinionated.  In my first post about Irwin Gellman's The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years, 1946-1952, I said that Frank was a Republican, and yet his Sunday School class inspired author Jessamyn West to lean towards socialism.  I got that part about socialism from wikipedia, which was basing it on something that West wrote in Double Discovery: A Journey.  In my latest reading of Ambrose, I saw what West said.  On page 18 of Ambrose, we read:

"Frank would express his strong political convictions in his teaching; he was, West declared, 'the first person to make me understand that there was a great lack of practicing Christianity in civic affairs.' He may have voted Republican, but 'what Frank had to say about probity in politics pointed...straight to Norman Thomas,' at least as far as West was concerned."  Norman Thomas was a six-time socialist candidate for the Presidency of the United States.

I got a taste of Frank's political beliefs in Gellman's book.  On page 11 of The Contender, Gellman states: "Frank also believed in the 'little man' and opposed the 'robber barons' who controlled a large portion of America's wealth at the turn of the twentieth century.  Despite the connection between big business and the Republican Party, he remained a staunch defender of the GOP."

Ambrose himself says that Frank could be quite staunch when it came to defending the Republican Party, for Frank alienated customers at his grocery store by debating the Democrats who came in to shop!  According to Ambrose, Frank grew up as a Democrat, but he became a Republican when he was seventeen.  Frank made the switch for at least three reasons.  First, Frank blamed an economic depression on Democratic President Grover Cleveland.  Second, as a hard worker, Frank came to appreciate the value of a dollar, so he supported the Republicans' policy of sound money.  And third, Frank met Republican candidate for President William McKinley, who was impressed with Frank's colt!

But that was not the last time that Frank switched his political affiliation, Ambrose narrates on pages 28-29.  Frank's wife Hannah had a Republican background, but she voted for Woodrow Wilson in 1916, and Frank "chided" her for that (Ambrose's word).  In 1924, however, Frank voted for the Progressive Party after his disenchantment with the Republicans.  In 1928, he returned to the Republicans by voting for Herbert Hoover.  But he voted for Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.  Ambrose states that "whoever his candidate, Frank was ardent about him, and politics in general" (page 29).

I identified with a lot of this.  I was once a Republican, but I ended up voting for Barack Obama and other Democrats in 2012.  I had my reasons for being a Republican back when I was one, and they were legitimate reasons, in my opinion, but I got to the point where I was disenchanted with the G.O.P. and thus switched.  I'm probably not as opinionated as Frank was, but I used to be.  Like Frank, who confronted and debated Democrats when he was a staunch Republican, I would start political debates with the liberals and Democrats I knew.  If someone made a harmless, innocent comment about how Bill Clinton was a good leader, I'd be right there, ready to argue!  Come to think of it, I sometimes behaved that way after I became a Democrat!  Nowadays, I don't feel as inclined to get into debates.

2.  Frank's son, Richard, liked to debate as well.  While Frank raised his voice, Richard focused on facts and logic.  And Richard would take a contrary position on an issue simply to have an opportunity to debate.  Richard did not like girls in his younger years, but as one female acquaintance remarked as she thought back, Richard was eager to debate them!

At Whittier College, Richard was awkward around women, yet he went steady with the most popular girl in school.  Why did she like him?  She said it was because she admired Richard's mind, and they'd get into political debates.  She liked Roosevelt, but Richard did not.  Conventional wisdom dictates that we should never bring up politics on a date, and there's probably a lot of wisdom in that: it's better to inquire about your date's family, movies he or she likes, etc.  But, in my opinion, it would be cool if I could have a relationship in which my date and I would discuss substantive issues.  That's part of getting to know what matters to a person.

A Random Tomb (Without a Stone and Guards)?

In my latest reading of John's Gospel: The Way It Happened, Lee Harmon discusses the tomb in which Jesus was placed in the Gospel of John.  Lee states the following on page 316:

"John's Gospel gives the impression that Jesus was hurriedly placed in a temporary location, his buriers aware of its impermanency, perhaps not even knowing the proper owner of the tomb.  Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea discover a tomb in an unnamed garden and borrow it for Jesus."

John 19:40-42 does give that impression.  It states (in the King James Version):

"Then took [Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea] the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.  Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.  There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation [day]; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand."

In this passage, it does appear to be the case that a Sabbath (perhaps the first Day of Unleavened Bread) was coming soon, and so Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were looking for any nearby tomb that they could find so they could place Jesus there until they could give him a proper burial.  They found a garden close to where Jesus was crucified, there was a tomb at that Garden, and so they placed Jesus there.

Lee depicts John and Matthew debating about Jesus' tomb (and I should say that the debates between John and Matthew are entertaining parts of the book).  Matthew says that Jesus was not put in a random tomb but rather in the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea's tomb, which Joseph of Arimathea himself had carved out of rock (Matthew 27:57-60).  Whereas John bases his account in this case on having seen Jesus die and having talked with Nicodemus, Matthew bases his understanding of what happened on Scripture: Isaiah 53:9 says that the Suffering Servant will be with the rich in his death (to draw from the KJV's language).  Moreover, while Matthew believes that a stone was rolled in front of Jesus' tomb and that guards were placed there, John says that he is not aware that a stone covered the tomb, and that there were no armed guards when he went there.

In my opinion, Lee's interpretation of the Gospel of John in this case makes sense of what occurs in John 20: Mary Magdalene sees that the tomb is empty and she thinks that someone moved Jesus to another location.  I can understand why Mary Magdalene would conclude that, if Jesus were put into a random tomb in a random Garden on a temporary basis. 

I guess where I am puzzled is when John 20:8-9 states: "Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.  For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead."  But why would the disciple whom Jesus loved believe after seeing the empty tomb, if the empty tomb by itself did not prove that Jesus rose from the dead, for there was a natural explanation for why Jesus' body wasn't there: somebody came and moved it (and, in John's Gospel, it was probably unencumbered by a huge stone or armed guards)?  Or did the disciple believe on account of Jesus' clothes lying in the tomb?  Or did the disciple even believe that Jesus rose from the dead at that point, for v 9 says that he did not know that the Scripture said that Jesus would rise from the dead.  Perhaps, when v 8 says that he "believed", it means that he accepted Mary Magdalene's testimony that Jesus' body was missing.

(UPDATE: On page 335, Lee presents Peter saying that a grave robber could not have removed the body of Jesus because "No grave robber could unwrap him and leave the grave clothes."  The idea is that anyone taking the body would take the wrappings as well.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years 16

I finished Irwin Gellman's The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years, 1946-1952.  I have a couple of items to discuss, then I'll give my overall impression of the book.

1.  In my write-ups on Gellman's book, I haven't gone into much detail regarding the charge that Richard Nixon was bankrolled by wealthy big business interests when he ran for the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, a narrative that Gellman seeks to put to rest.  In my latest reading, Gellman makes at least three arguments against that claim.

First, on page 456, Gellman essentially argues that the narrative is based on exaggeration.  Ernest Brashear, for example, who wrote a critical piece about Richard Nixon for the September 1, 1952 edition of the New Republic, noted that Herman Perry recruited Nixon to run for the U.S. House in 1946, but Brashear "promoted Perry from a local bank branch manager to a wealthy Bank of America 'financier'" (Gellman's words on page 456). 

Second, in taking on the charge that wealthy interests spent vast sums of money on pro-Nixon billboards, Gellman argues that Nixon's campaign budgets were "miniscule", and Gellman appeals to Nixon archives, which "demonstrate that almost all major expenditures were done by the campaign and accounted for" (page 458).  And, third, Gellman states that, if the numbers that certain Nixon detractors have posited concerning spending by wealthy interests on pro-Nixon billboards were indeed true, that would have to entail a huge pro-Nixon blitz that blanketed the state, but "Media reports from the time mention no such blitz" (page 458).  In short, people weren't asking during this campaign where Nixon got the money for all of the billboards blanketing the state, so the likelihood is that pro-Nixon billboards were not blanketing the state!

2.  I'd like to go back a couple of readings ago.  On pages 338-340, Gellman talks about Helen Gahagan Douglas' narrative about her loss to Richard Nixon in the 1950 U.S. Senate race.  In October 1952, Douglas said: "The whispering campaign is what was so vicious.  People were paid to deliberately spread lies----and, of course, the biggest one was that my husband and I were Communists.  [Nixon was] much too wise to have called me a communist in so many words[, but the] pink sheet gave the impression to the reader who was not too well acquainted with the workings of Congress that there was a Marcantonio program presented in the House of Representatives which I supported 354 times."  In her memoir, Douglas discusses Nixon's campaign against Jerry Voorhis for U.S. House, and Gellman states on page 339 that "One of Douglas's campaign workers' daughters, [Douglas'] bizarre tale continued, had spent a day at Nixon headquarters, assigned to a room filled with people using telephones, saying, 'Good morning.  Do you know that Jerry Voorhis is a Communist?'"

I found this to be interesting, for it raised questions in my mind.  First, while Gellman focuses a lot on what Nixon said and did on the surface during his House and Senate campaigns and concludes that a number of accusations against Nixon about his campaign strategy during those times are unfair, could Nixon have supported a smear campaign (or, in Douglas' words, a "whispering campaign") in secret, behind the scenes?  Second, should we be so quick to dismiss Douglas' appeal to the recollection of her campaign worker's daughter about what went on at Nixon headquarters----that people there were calling voters and telling them that Voorhis was a Communist?  These are just questions that I have.  Gellman would probably come back and say that there's no evidence that Nixon conducted an underground smear campaign, and that we can't exactly trust an appeal to the testimony of someone who knew someone who saw something, and Gellman would be well within his rights to make those points.  

3.  Overall, I enjoyed Gellman's book.  I was expecting to find the book informative, but not so much to enjoy it, and so I was pleasantly surprised that my reading of Gellman's book went as well as it did.  I have learned that I enjoy political books that focus on personalities and ideology, not so much the nuts-and-bolts of policy, and Gellman did well on the former, for he gave a biographical background for key players as well as discussed their ideologies.  I loved learning about the left-wing Vito Marcantonio, the conservative William Knowland, the somewhat conservative Richard Nixon, and others.

In terms of Gellman's overall argument, I thought that Gellman did well to highlight that Nixon's opponents lost for reasons other than Nixon conducting a dirty campaign (for Gellman seems to deny that Nixon's campaigns even were dirty).  At the same time, questions persist in my mind.  Why were there people who thought that Nixon played dirty----in his campaigns, in his activity during the 1952 Republican National Convention, etc.?  Gellman talks about the phenomenon of Nixon-hating, and he maintains that Brashear's 1952 article was an example of that, but why were there people who hated Nixon?  Another question concerns whether Gellman accepts the narrative that Nixon engaged in dirty tricks later in his (meaning Nixon's) career----during his Presidency, for example.  If so, then to what would Gellman attribute Nixon's transition from a fairly honest politician and public servant to a crafty, shady political player who did not hesitate to play hardball against those he considered his enemies?  Was it because Nixon became bitter over the years?

There is a chance that I will refer to Gellman's work later in My Year (or More) of Nixon, for I will be reading some of the books that Gellman critiques, and so I'll probably return to Gellman to remind myself of what he thought was wrong with those books' arguments.

What Kind of Jesus?

In my last post on Lee Harmon's John's Gospel: The Way It Happened, I mentioned Lee's view that John was John of Gisclala, who was influential in a Jewish revolt against Rome that led to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.  According to Lee, John still had dreams of a bloody end to evil when he was exiled on Patmos, which was when he wrote the Book of Revelation, but John later had a change of heart, as the Gospel of John reflects.  John stopped expecting a bloody end and embraced a realized eschatology that emphasized love, Jesus' presence with the church, and Jesus' victory over evil on the cross.

One question I have had as I've read this book is this: Was the John who believed in realized eschatology more faithful to the teachings of Jesus?  Lee narrates that John certainly understood some of Jesus' teachings differently when John became committed to realized eschatology.  For example, Matthew 10:23 says that you (presumably the disciples) will not pass through all the tribes of Israel before the Son of Man comes.  According to Lee, John came to interpret Jesus' coming here, not as a cataclysmic event that would bring a bloody end, but rather as Jesus' coming to the church through the Holy Spirit.

As far as what Jesus himself taught, Lee refers to scholarship that holds that Jesus' message was not particularly apocalyptic, but there were Christians who later added an apocalyptic layer.  In light of that, Lee appears to be arguing that Jesus himself had a realized eschatology, which was reflected in the sources behind the Gospel of John.  And yet, in one of his narrations of the life of Jesus in this book, Lee presents Jesus as one who proclaims a sort of Jubilee, which entails the healing of the oppressed and sharing with the poor (page 228).  How would that fit within a realized eschatology?  Or would it fit better within a futurist (and yet imminent) eschatology, in which Jesus is seeking to overthrow the present world system?  Perhaps it could fit a realized eschatology, as Christians continue to heal and show love to the poor in the here-and-now, and hopefully that would lead to a widespread Jubilee.  (UPDATE: On page 344, Lee associates the Jubilee with Christians forgiving and people being forgiven.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years 15

I have two items for my write-up today on Irwin Gellman's The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years, 1946-1952.

1.  One narrative that Gellman seeks to refute says that, in 1952, Nixon was waffling in whom he was supporting to be the Republican nominee for President because he was trying to position himself to be selected as the running mate.  Did Nixon support California Governor Earl Warren, only to stab him in the back and support Dwight Eisenhower?  Gellman contends that Nixon continued to support Warren in the face of conservatives who felt that Warren was as much of a spendthrift as the Democrats!  Gellman also disputes Stephen Ambrose's claim that Nixon "worked for Eisenhower within the California delegation by weakening Warren's hold on its members" (Gellman's words on page 457), for Gellman states that "Warren had absolute control over how the delegation would vote; Nixon had no ability to change that" (page 457).  (Overall, though, Gellman believes that Ambrose's biography of Nixon is one of the fairer treatments of the man.)  Gellman also states that Nixon was not angling himself to get the VP slot but rather was selected on account of his youth, his effectiveness as a speaker for the Republican cause, and his record (i.e., his role in exposing Alger Hiss).

The thing is, on page 433, Gellman says that Warren himself felt that Nixon was betraying him and was working for Eisenhower, something that Eisenhower denied.  This seems to be a pattern in Gellman's book: Although Gellman says that there is no proof that Nixon did many of the shady things that Nixon has been accused of doing during his Congress years, and Gellman is probably correct on that, some of the players at the time felt that Nixon actually was doing shady things!  Helen Gahagan Douglas anticipated that Nixon would run a dirty campaign against her for Senate, based on his campaign against Voorhis in 1946, and now Warren thought that Nixon was helping Eisenhower after committing to support him (meaning Warren).  I wonder how, if Nixon was so innocent, there were people who apparently thought otherwise.  I wish that Gellman addressed that more in his book.

2. Gellman acknowledges that there were a couple of times when Nixon did not act prudently.  One time was during the Republican primary for the U.S. House seat in the 22nd congressional district, when Nixon supported Joe Holt against Jack Tenney.  Tenney was a state senator who promoted Nixon when Nixon ran for the U.S. Senate, but Holt "was a twenty-eight-year-old marine, who  had recently returned from Korea with a Purple Heart and had been Nixon's field organizer in 1950" (Gellman's words on pages 407-408).  Murray Chotiner, who served on Nixon's campaigns in the past and was Holt's campaign manager, requested from Nixon Jack Tenney's HUAC file, for Tenney once was a Communist sympathizer but later repudiated his Communist sympathies.  Nixon realized that HUAC files were only to be for congressional use (even though leaks often occurred), and Nixon's aide Bill Arnold told Chotiner not to say where he got the file and warned Chotiner that using the material might backfire, since Tenney had reformed.  Gellman states that Nixon felt he owed Holt and Chotiner on account of the help that they provided to him in the past, yet his action "smacked of a violation of ethics and wrongdoing" (page 408).  Fortunately, Holt won the nomination without using the file.

According to wikipedia, Holt went on to win the congressional seat, as well.  Regarding Tenney, Tenney had a solid anti-Communist record in the California State Senate (see here), so I can see Bill Arnold's point that using Tenney's HUAC file would have backfired.  The wikipedia article also mentions other things about Tenney, such as Tenney's association with anti-Semites and anti-Semitism.  Whether or not that played a role in Nixon's support for Holt rather than Tenney, I don't know (even from Gellman's book and the wikipedia articles).  We know from the Watergate tapes that Nixon himself made anti-Semitic comments.  Yet, Gellman states on page 454 that Nixon was quite critical of HUAC members who lambasted Jews, Italians, and African-Americans, for Nixon wondered "whether those who professed to patriotism realized how effectively they were furthering the Communist cause when they excited bitterness among Americans by aggravating natural differences between people like those of race and religion" (Nixon's words).

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