FEATURE A Stunning Panorama of Evil Tracing the rise of Joseph McCarthy and repeated outbreaks of “ideological terrorism” BY ROBERT SHERRILL Reds: McCarthyism in Twentieth-Century America By Ted Morgan . Simon & Schuster 704 pages, $35. Since the very word “Communist” is rarely heard these days in public discourse, Texas Observer readers who came of political age in the last 20 years may find it hard to believe that the bizarre anti-Communist hysteria that gripped the nation throughout the coldest of the Cold War \(1945 horde of home-grown Reds, probably under orders from Moscow, were diligently seeking to overthrow our government by violence. Many readers will also be amazed to learn that the hysteria actually started just after World War I, and was capped by a wave of arrests and deportations, led by an attorney general who would make Mr. Ashcroft seem like a founding member of the ACLU. Ted Morgan, a distinguished historian, in this hefty volume takes the reader through five decades of McCarthyism, but not all were of the same intensity because, as he says, “McCarthyism was not an epidemic, but a series of outbreaks?’ Morgan’s stunning panorama of evil has important material few books of this era cover, such as an account of the U.S. military and humanitarian invasions of Russia after World War I. But it also has two defects. Morgan gives too little space to the role of J. Edgar Hoover as the creator of McCarthy. Second, he over-emphasizes the danger from home-grown Communists and does not tell enough about the enormous damage the anti-Communist witch-hunt did to thousands of persons whose “crime” was being liberal/radical. If memories of the Cold War are fading, so are, unfortunately, memories of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. He deserves to be remembered because he, not Richard Nixon, was the most debased Republican of national renown in the last half of the 20th century. His reign as the master of ideological terrorism was short-1950 to 1954but oh how glorious! Cabell Philipps of The New York Times was correct when he wrote that “McCarthy dominated the political life of this country as no demagogue had done before him.” President Eisenhower feared him so much that he remained silent as McCarthy raped the State Departmenthis favorite hunting ground. Indeed, McCarthy ruined the careers of so many Far East experts, with wild accusations of their collaboration in the Communist take-over of China, that for decades thereafter our government didn’t know what was going on in that part of the world. Seeking to appease McCarthy, President Eisenhower began playing the numbers game with him, by announcing that 306 State Department officials had been released for security reasons. Later, Congress was quietly informed that only 11 had been dropped for “loyalty” reasons, and no active Communist was among them. Not only did McCarthy terrorize the bureaucracy, he made cowards of all but a handful of his fellow senators. Most members trembled in fear that McCarthy might challenge their patriotism, and only a couple protested at all when he and his runaway committee ruined lives with totally false charges of “Communistic leanings:’ Among the few exceptions was Senator William Benton of Connecticut, who told the Rules Committee in 1951 it should expel McCarthy because he was of “unsound mind?’ Nothing came of it, of course. The mostly servile press seldom challenged him. The New York Times openly stated that it would not try to weed out his lies; that, it said, was up to its readers to do. The giant rightwing propagandistsHearst, McCormick, and Lucenot only published all of McCarthy’s grotesqueries, they sometimes let their reporters secretly help write his speeches. Although the current President Bush seems likely to succeed himand in many ways already resembles himat the present time it is Joseph McCarthy who should be made the official patron saint of the GOP, because he so dramatically reflected the character of the Grand Old Party. My reasons for saying that are obvious: McCarthy successfully constructed his entire career on endless lies. He was, as Ted Morgan says, “a liar of pathological proportions?’ And he was essentially a neo-fascist, a “patriotic” bully who pandered to the most ignorant, superstitious, meanest segment of the population. cCarthy got a law degree from Marquette University in 1935. He was soundly whipped in his first race for circuit judge in 1937, running as a gung-ho liberal Democrat. So he moved to another district and ran for the same office, this time successfully shifting to a dirty tricks campaign. By 1940 he had joined the Republican party and, already laying plans to run for the U.S. Senate, 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1/16/04
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