INT: Great. How real do you think the danger from subversive sort of elements and spies at that time?
RT: You know, today, we look back at the whole period where Communism and espionage and subversion was pretty important. But the fact of the matter is, we knew very little. You know, since then, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening up of Soviet secret police records and since CIA and the National Security Council have opened up what are called the Venona intercepts, which were the messages from the NKVD, now KGB, from the States to Moscow and we find out that the extent of the infiltration was much greater. You know, I considered myself an expert, I consider myself one of the outstanding experts on this and I did at the time, but we had no idea how deeply it had gone. You had an Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, you had Alger Hiss, you had an adviser to Roosevelt, Harry Hopkins, who was, now we know, was an agent of influence.the infiltration of the State Department, what went on in our Far Eastern policy, all these things where we had just an inkling and just an inkling was enough to create a tremendous stir in the country. We barely knew what was going on, we are now knowing what's going on. This Hiss case was the first case of Communist espionage, of Communist infiltration that really reached the country. There had been other cases, the Amerasia case, where they raided this magazine and found seventeen hundred, just at the time of the raid, seventeen hundred top secret, classified documents. There had been all kinds of cases. There was the case of the leadership of the Communist Party and so on. But the Hiss case suddenly dramatised it and, you know, when you can put something in a dramatic context, it captures the imagination. And suddenly this opened up this whole field, those who in the past had warned about this, had been laughed at or much worse than laughed at, were suddenly being listened to and it opened up the way for the McCarthy investigation. McCarthy has become a bad name and talk about McCarthyism. The fact of the matter is that McCarthy barely scratched the surface of what was going on. And he did it badly and, of course, in the case of McCarthy, I have said over and over and I have written that the real... well I'd better not use the word I was going to use, but the real stinker and the real dishonest person, the real horror in the case was not McCarthy, but his counsel, Roy Cohn, who was a crook, who was the most dishonest man I have ever known, and I covered the whole McCarthy business and I was constantly fighting with Roy Cohn, because he was destroying whatever value the exposure of Communist infiltration had had, because of what he was doing, of the people he went after, and so on. But, of course, the McCarthy, suddenly anti-Communism became very, very, well, shall we say, unkosher in the United States, suddenly it was, you couldn't be an anti-Communist. But up until then, it had been a major issue. I would say - and there are some who would question this - but I would say that Eisenhower and Nixon would not have been elected in 1952 except for the Hiss case. It just destroyed the credibility of people like Truman, of many Democrats, of many liberals and so on and people said to Chambers at the time, except for you the whole political climate would have been different.
INT: Do you think Nixon saw the issue of Communist subversion as an opportunity to attack the Democrats as being sort of soft on Communism and by playing on sort of popular fears of Communism?
RT: You know, people asked if Nixon was playing on public fears and whether he... Nixon was sincerely anti-Communist...
INT: You said Nixon was sincerely anti-Communist, would you say that again and carry on.
RT: Nixon was sincerely anti-Communist, he had studied the issue, he had as a Congressman he had learned a great many things. And it's hard for us today to think that, well he was sincere about everything, 'cos after Watergate and how he acted as President and how he went back on a lot of the things, a lot of his principles and so on as President. But this was something... this was a gut issue with Nixon. Now, it was a gut issue, but of course he was a politician, he was a man in politics and if he could use to not only to advance his career, but to advance the career of his party, he used it, there is no doubt about it. But it was not...
RT: Anti-Communism was a gut issue with Nixon, but of course he was a politician too and...
RT: ... Anti-Communism was a gut issue with Nixon, I mean it was something he believed sincerely and deeply. On the other hand, it was a political issue and he was a politician, he was a man running for office, he was high in the Republican Party and it could be used against the Democrats for being soft on Communism and of course he used it. He would have been a fool not to. But I don't think this...
RT: Communism was a gut issue with Nixon, he came from a background and he was living at a time when it was important.as a Congressman, he was aware of many things. He was completely sincere in this, but of course he was a politician too and he was a Republican politician and the soft on Communism issue was hurting the Democrats and of course he used it. He would have been a fool not to.he used it the way many others who have not been called insincere used it.
INT: Right, and there were huge popular fears, do you think?
RT: The country at the time was learning and, as I said, the Hiss case had been an education. But it wasn't just the Hiss case. We forget that before Chambers testified and Elizabeth Bentley testified and she testified as to a tremendous cells within the government. She was travelling back and forth from New York to Washington, carrying shopping bags full of microfilm and so on. All of this came out. There was increasing worry about it and also, we forget that at that time, the Soviets had gotten the bomb, which they stole from us, completely. I mean the record on the theft of the bomb is we're getting a lot of it now, but they would have been able to get the bomb and except for what they stole. We know with Foulkes and the Rosenbergs and so on. And the Soviet Union was being more and more belligerent, Stalin was being more and more belligerent and the Communists in this country were representatives of this and so there was a great deal of worry, not so much about infiltration and subversion, but about the Soviet Union.after all the Cold War began in '46, '47, and the Hiss case broke in '48.
INT: Do you think the Red Menace issue was a bi-partisan one in that case?
RT: Well, it depends. You see, neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party were monolithic on this thing. They were a great many Democrats, like Hubert Humphrey, who were very cognisant of the Communist issue, who were very cognisant of the threat of the Soviet Union, there people like Scoop Jackson, Senator Jackson, who was also a Democrat who was very strong on the issue. The Republicans were strong on the issue, but not all Republicans were strong on the issue. You know, you had Nelson Rockerfeller, who wasn't strong on the issue at all and who was compromised in certain ways and so on. But it was bi-partisan in the sense that the American people felt this way.
INT: And do you think that in the Presidential election, the Red Menace became... was an issue?
RT: Oh yes, yes. And of course, you see, in the 1952 election, we were fighting in Korea, we were fighting the Communists in Ko. ...
INT: That answer isn't going to be quite usable. Could you just start it again and say it was... the Red Menace was an important issue...
RT: Oh. The Red Menace, I mean the fear of Communism, of the Soviet Union was a very important issue in 1952 and it wasn't an academic issue. We were at war then with North Korea, we were facing threats from Communist China and these were very living issues.
INT: Fine and how important do you think Nixon's reputation was, as a sort of crusader against Communism in his selection as Vice Presidential running mate?
RT: Nixon's importance as an anti-Communist fighter had given him public recognition, had made him an important figure, political figure. On the other hand, his being named to be the Vice President, it would take me half an hour to explain what went on and the control of the Republican Party by the Eastern establishment and the fact that Tom Dooey wanted him and Tom Dooey was a real power and had run for President twice, was a real power and that all figured in, you see, and at that time there was a support for Nixon from the Rockerfeller interest, the Chase Bank. I was at a little meeting in New York at a very exclusive political group, a little dinner, in 1951 and it was there when... among them was the head of the Chase Bank and so on, where I saw at the time that Eisenhower was going to be the Presidential candidate and Nixon was at this little dinner and it was very clear that these people were sounding Nixon out and had him in mind. It was not a sudden thing that, you know, at the convention Eisenhower suddenly said, I want Richard Nixon for my Vice President. This had been going on for a long time.
INT: But the whole issue was very important at that election...
RT: It was important and Nixon was important, because he had a popular following and also he was not Mr. Republican, like Senator Taft, but he represented a very significant portion of the Republican Party.
INT: Fine. Do you think Nixon thought Eisenhower was strong enough on domestic anti-Communism?
RT: Well, maybe I'm telling tales out of school, but Nixon I think did not think that Eisenhower was strong enough. On the other hand, Nixon did have a tremendous hero-worship for Eisenhower. As Vice President, he was treated very badly by Eisenhower and he never retreated from this hero-worship that he had for Eisenhower. I'm sure that in those days, although he would never have said anything, but you get a feeling now and at the time I was seeing Nixon maybe two, three times a week. I think that he did not feel that Eisenhower was strong on this issue, he wasn't strong enough on foreign policy, he thought, and also on domestic issues. On the other hand, Eisenhower was a fantastic personality, a tremendously charismatic personality and he could win anybody over. I remember the first time I met Eisenhower, and I talked to him for about three minutes, and I walked away with stars in my eyes and afterwards I said, well, what did he say? He hadn't said anything, but I had stars in my eyes nevertheless. He was that kind of a person.