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Cleared With Sidney

When Franklin Roosevelt decided at the end of his third term to dump Henry Wallace as vice president, he of course had to choose someone else to run with him in 1944. He had more or less decided on Harry Truman but felt he needed his choice to be okayed by someone else. He told his aides, “Clear it with Sidney.” And clear it they did.

That Sidney was Sidney Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, who was a confidante of FDR. Along with David Dubinsky, the president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, he labored to keep the New York (and Jewish) labor movement out of the hands of the Communists. The dismissal of Wallace was a part of Roosevelt’s own struggle against Communism, just at a higher level.
(And here’s a confession: Wallace, a rather goofy man who ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket in 1948 along with guitar-strumming Senator Glen Taylor of Idaho, was editor of The New Republic for a year, chosen by Michael Straight, the high-born owner of the mag who was also a Soviet spy. But here I’m off on another tangent...)

Anyway, all of this is a prelude to the news that Jonathan Cohn, an editor at TNR for many years and author of “The Treatment,” the long-running and indispensable blog on the health care debate, has won one of the 2010 Hillman Prizes, an especially distinguished honor. I know that I couldn’t have kept up with the controversy without Jon’s help. I know medical care experts who say the same. But the fact is—as the White House apparently recognizes, too—that Jon was an intrinsic part of the victory. He kept “his eyes on the prize,” as they used to sing in the old labor movement.

Dear Jon,

Congratulations on your prize. Many very deserved congratulations. I hope you will guide us through the successes and the surprises and also the inevitable mistakes that will be discovered along the way. In the meantime, you know that your work was cleared with Sidney, which is a very high accolade, indeed.