Nixon was placed on the House Education and Labor Committee, and was the lowest-ranking Republican . . . the lowest-ranking Democrat on the committee was John F. Kennedy.
During April 1947, Nixon and JFK traveled by rail to locations where they became "debating partners" on issues chosen by the committee. But the two also spent time alone in their berth, where they discussed politics and foreign policy. Nixon discovered that like him, JFK wasn't a "backslapper"; they both hated superficial camaraderie, they were both shy, and both appeared aloof since they each guarded their privacy.
In Western Europe, Nixon saw nightmarish devastation and misery. On his return, Nixon was told by his main backer for his Congressional campaign that he shouldn't be swayed or pressured by the State Department into wasting taxpayer's money on non-US citizens. Nixon's main backer wasn't alone: 75% of the constituents in Nixon's district felt the same way. But Nixon followed his conscience on the matter, even though he was very tuned-in to his district.
Nixon possessed a long-range vision on foreign policy that most of his peers in Congress lacked. Nixon believed that the Republican Party would become irrelevant if it became the party of Isolationism; in other words, Nixon saw his (and his party's) future as an Internationalist . . . he believed in time the rest of the government and public would come around. During December 1947, Nixon voted for the Marshal Plan. Back in his district, Nixon's strategy was to argue that the billions of dollars spent in Western Europe would contain the spread of Communism. Not only was that a very persuasive argument on which to justify his vote, but it was also true.
Alger Hiss was a member of FDR's entourage at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, and a member of the conference that created the United Nations in San Francisco . . . Hiss was on track for a glorious and lengthy diplomatic career. The morning after Chambers testified, Hiss demanded the right to publicly deny the charges in front of HUAC. On 5 August 1948, Hiss
testified in front of HUAC, not only denying that he knew Chambers, but that he had also never heard about Chambers.
Nixon thought that Hiss delivered a virtuoso performance, leaving the impression that in terms of Hiss, Chambers was guilty of mistaken identity. All the members of HUAC wanted to wash their hands of the Hiss matter, folding like the schoolyard bullies they were . . . all except their voice of moderation - Richard Nixon.
Nixon's political ambition plus his patriotism and an almost eerie sense of timing moved Nixon forward investigating Hiss. Nixon was acting alone, but he wasn't "swinging wildly"; Secretary of state John Foster Dulles confirmed that Hiss knew Chambers, and Dulles told Nixon that he would be derelict in his duty if he (and HUAC) didn't press on with Hiss. Dulles saw the "writing on the wall", and due to Nixon's investigation, decided to begin to distance himself from Hiss.
F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover wasn't much help, seeking to limit Nixon's power even then.
At least partially as a result, Nixon played the press, and Nixon arranged exclusive access to Whittaker Chambers for a New York Herald Tribune reporter, Bert Andrews. By the fall of 1948, interest in the press concerning Alger Hiss had mushroomed, leading to the first-ever televised Congressional hearing. Nixon and HUAC questioned Hiss, and slowly, under the hot lights and the TV spotlight, Hiss' veneer of aloofness and haughty innocence peeled away. Afterwards, Nixon saw himself as a fully-committed patriotic political warrior, and it affected him in terms of how he treated those around him, both positively and negatively.
Nixon declared Hiss' crimes to be the greatest treason since Benedict Arnold, which was basically true. Then an expert from Eastman Kodak stated that the film was made in 1945, seven years AFTER Chambers had allegedly photographed the secret documents . . . now Chambers was the liar. Nixon braced himself for the biggest political crow-eating session in recent Washington D.C. history. Then, literally five minutes before Nixon was to make his public mea culpa, the expert from Eastman Kodak called to say the film was made in 1938, not in 1945 . . . he had made a mistake. Nixon now had in his hands credible evidence that Alger Hiss was a spy for the USSR . . . and he knew he was politically a "made-man".
The Hiss Case dragged on in the courts until Hiss was finally convicted of perjury (for lying that he wasn't a spy), since the statute of limitations for committing treason had expired. Years later, with declassified documents from the former Soviet Union, it was conclusively proven that Alger Hiss was a spy for the USSR . . . to his dying day in 1996, Hiss claimed he was innocent.
It was during-and-after the Hiss investigation where, in Nixon's mind at least, it had become Nixon v. the Media. Actually, most of the press coverage was positive for Nixon in the aftermath of the HUAC hearings and the discovery of the "Pumpkin Papers". But as far as Nixon was concerned, after the Hiss Case, he had become a target of the Establishment.
The parallels of Nixon after Hiss and President George H.W. Bush after Desert Storm are striking, in that after significant victories in which they spearheaded, a sense of despondency followed. Their despondency was due, at least in part, to the feeling each had that the landscape had changed in a way that wasn't in their favor. Nixon, now the most famous member of the House of Representatives, seriously considered leaving Congress and government service for good . . . instead, Nixon doubled-down and ran for a seat in the United States Senate in California in 1950 . . .