One would think that the winners of America’s top literary prize would know how to evaluate evidence. What Haynes and Klehr show, much to their embarrassment, is that Bird and Sherwin do not. Here is what Haynes and Klehr conclude, after sifting through all of the pertinent material:
Historical judgment is not based on casuistic hairsplitting, mind-reading, or explaining away troublesome evidence. It must be based on a common sense evaluation of the weight of the evidence and documentation. In a sensible test attributed to the poet James Whitcomb Riley, “when I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.” By that test Oppenheimer was a Communist in the last years of the 1930s and into early 1942. It is ironic that from among all the books written about Oppenheimer, the one that won the Pulitzer Prize is so lacking in accuracy and integrity on this critical point.
At least, they write, Bird and Sherwin tried to deal with the evidence by dissembling it. Others, as you will see, do even worse. They simply ignore what is in front of their face. That, as we know, is most common for naïve liberals who want to believe that there never was any kind of Communist threat at all in the United States.
So the bottom line. Should the AEC have taken away Oppie’s security clearance? Haynes and Klehr, again, have the final word:
Knowing what we know now, America’s public interest would have been best served if Oppenheimer had been able to continue in his role as a consultant to the government on various atomic and security projects. The evidence that by the mid-1940s he had left his earlier Communist allegiance behind and sincerely supported America’s role in the Cold War is fully convincing. But, of course, one of the major contributing factors to his loss of security access was his own unwillingness to provide a candid and honest account of his earlier Communist ties and why he had put them aside. The AEC in 1954 did not know what we now know in 2011. Its decision not to renew his security clearance was understandable under the circumstances.
Read their article and the sources they cite, and decide for yourself what is the truth. I don’t think PJM readers will have any problems doing just that.