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McCarthy had raised the issue of loyalty risks working for the government - not proven cases of espionage. There are many reasons a person should not be handling classified materials, short of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he was a Soviet spy. McCarthy said he would attach names to the cases only in a closed committee hearing but would not release names to the public because he didn't want to blacken the names of government employees who could be completely innocent. When he presented his case against the State Department on the Senate floor, for example, McCarthy described the loyalty risks anonymously, as case #1, case #2, and so on.
The Democrats subjected him to a barrage of catcalls and interruptions demanding that he name names. Democrat Senate Majority Leader Scott Lucas (D-I11.) said, "I want to remain here until he names them. That is what I am interested in. ... Will the Senator tell us the name of the man for the record? We are entitled to know who he is. I say this in all seriousness."29 That was one of Lucas's sixty-one interruptions that day.30 Another Democrat, Senator Withers of Kentucky, said, "I should like to ask the Senator what reason he has for not calling names. Does not the Senator think it would be a fine thing to let the public know who the guilty are? Is not the Senator privileged?"31 That was one of Senator Withers's twenty-three interruptions of McCarthy.32
Despite McCarthy's repeated insistence that he would provide names to only the senators in closed session, the Democrats voted to compel him to name security risks openly, in front of the press.
Before McCarthy ever named his first name he said, "The Senator from Illinois demanded, loudly, that I furnish all the names. I told him at that time that so far as I was concerned, I thought that would be improper; that I did not have all the information about these individuals ... I have enough to convince me that either they are members of the Communist Party or they have given great aid to the Communists: I may be wrong. That is why I said that unless the Senate demanded that I do so, I would not submit this publicly, but I would submit it to any committee - and would let the committee go over these in executive session. It is possible that some of these persons will get a clean bill of health."33
The sine qua non of "McCarthyism" came about because of the Democrats' own hatefulness.
Even McCarthy's most celebrated "victim," Owen Lattimore, was not named publicly by McCarthy. It was liberal journalist and anti-McCarthy zealot Drew Pearson who leaked Lattimore's name to the public - the better to revile McCarthy for ruining people's reputations. Lattimore became one of the most well-compensated victims of "McCarthyism." Upon being found a "conscious, articulate instrument of the Soviet conspiracy"34 by a unanimous Senate Committee, Lattimore was assured a spot lecturing at Harvard.
It is indignantly reported that McCarthy exaggerated. His claim that Owen Lattimore was a Soviet agent - as opposed to behaved like a Soviet agent - is a hyperbole deserving of a hundred-year condemnation. Liberals' threshold for outrage dropped when it came to McCarthy. In fact, McCarthy's rhetoric was mild by the standards of his time. In President Truman's 1948 campaign, he railed, "If anybody in this country is friendly to the Communists, it is the Republicans." Truman also compared the Republicans to fascists: "In our time we have seen the tragedy of the Italian and German peoples, who lost their freedom to men who made promises of unity and efficiency and sincerity . . . and it could happen here."35 At least Republicans came up with new arguments in the intervening fifty years. This is still the Democrats' best argument.
Moreover, there is no question but that McCarthy's errors were infinitesimal compared to liberals' tearful testimonials to their own victimization. Roosevelt's secretary of the interior, Harold Ickes, summarized the period by sadly observing that "if a man is addicted to vodka he is, ipso facto, a Russian, therefore a Communist."36 The editor of the Sunday New York Times, Lester Markel, described "a black fear in the country brought about by witch hunters."37 University of California librarian Lawrence Clark Powell maniacally claimed, "In this time of inquisitional nationalism, I know that I run a risk in confessing that I possess a French doctor's degree and own an English car. And what dire fate do I court when I say that I prefer English books."38 As is now indisputably proved by Soviet cables, hundreds of Stalin's agents swarmed through government jobs. Gee, it's so outrageous that McCarthy exaggerated.
When questioned by the FBI in 1947, suspected spy Helen Silver-master lamented that "anyone with liberal views seemed to be called a communist now-a-days."39 Soviet cables now prove absolutely Silver-master was a Soviet spy, her husband, Gregory, was a Soviet spy, and her son was a courier for their spy ring.40 Her husband was literally on the payroll of Moscow and the United States government at the same time. He worked for the Board of Economic Warfare and later, the War Assets Division of the Treasury Department. Among his services for the Soviet Union, Silvermaster smuggled out "huge quantities of war production Board data on weapons aircraft, tank, artillery, and shipping production."41 While working for the Roosevelt administration, Silvermaster was given a medal for his service to the USSR.42
He got his job at the Treasury from another Soviet agent, Harry Dexter White. When Mr. Silvermaster's loyalty was questioned by the Office of Naval Intelligence and War Department counterintelligence, Harry Dexter White (Soviet spy) and Lauchlin Currie (Soviet spy) enthusiastically vouched for his patriotism. Roosevelt's undersecretary of agriculture, Paul Appleby, wrote a righteous letter saying Silver-master had been questioned simply because he happened to have been born in Russia.43
Denouncing McCarthy is the establishment's loyalty oath. A professor who puts in a kind word for McCarthy would end his career - or spend the rest of it explaining himself. Even Haynes and Klehr, the authors of Venona, utter the ritualistic malediction before cheerfully returning to identifying another hundred liberals who were Soviet spies. U.N. weapons inspectors got more honest answers from Iraqis living under Saddam Hussein than one can expect from American professors about McCarthy.
In one of the milder summaries of McCarthy's failings, historian Douglas Brinkley argues that McCarthy had frightened off "responsible" anti-Communists. Brinkley cites "the vast difference between responsible anti-communists of the early years of the Cold War - Walter Reuther, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr and Hubert Humphrey come to mind - and an unprincipled, opportunistic bully like McCarthy."44
Had Joe McCarthy offended Arthur Schlesinger's delicate sense of dignity in the government? If so, his standards of dignity must have changed by 1998. Schlesinger attacked the impeachment of President Clinton as a "strictly partisan" operation based on a "revolutionary theory of impeachment" with "ominous implications" for the country.45 To refresh the memory, Clinton had procured the services of an intern for oral sex in the Oval Office, lied, perjured himself, suborned the perjury of others, and obstructed justice to cover it up. He blamed Rush Limbaugh for the Oklahoma City bombing, described the Republicans' Contract with America as a hit man's assignment, allowed his henchmen to look into the private lives of Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey, Henry Hyde, Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, Ken Starr, and Starr's associates. That didn't bother Schlesinger. But
Joe McCarthy calls a raving fellow senator an "alleged man" and Schlesinger was nearly lost to the cause of anti-Communism forever!
Right up until the Venona decrypts positively proved Laurence Duggan was a spy, Schlesinger bitterly denounced anyone who said Duggan was a spy.46 If McCarthy had ever made a mistake of that magnitude, the McCarthy mythmakers would finally have had one cold hard fact McCarthy got wrong. It's nice that a few liberals eventually found the strength to formulate carefully worded objections to Communism, but the importance of Jackie Kennedy's poodle to the anti-Communist crusade may be somewhat overrated.
The Thomas Pynchon of his day, Reinhold Niebuhr was the subject of much platitudinous, worshipful characterization, but no one ever read him. Niebuhr spent decades writing about the bright side of Marxism. His eventual "responsible anti-communism" led him to oppose the Vietnam War because - as he pompously and incorrectly said - "we are in fact dealing with the nationalism of a small nation in Asia." America's attempt to save Vietnam from Communist totalitarianism led Niebuhr to proclaim himself "ashamed of our beloved nation."47 Fortunately, Niebuhr's influence was limited by the fact that he was a big, sonorous bore.
Walter Reuther and Hubert Humphrey are interesting additions to Douglas Brinkley's list of "responsible anti-communists" inasmuch as they were far rougher with Communists than McCarthy ever was. In a wild overreaction common to liberals, in 1954 Senator Humphrey introduced a bill that would have outlawed the Communist Party.48 Outlawed it. That was the year the Senate voted to censure McCarthy, who had been engaged in the far more reasonable task of exposing inept government bureaucracies that were ignoring serious loyalty risks on the government payroll.
Reuther presided over a brutal factional campaign in the CIO with lots of red-baiting.49 A few years later, the sanctimonious fraud signed a letter urging that McCarthy be censured. Adopting the hatreds and prejudices of the ruling class evidently buys you exemptions. (Interestingly, the United Mine Workers and the Teamsters - the crotchety old Republican unions - were the only unions to reject loyalty oaths for their members.)
To be sure, there were a few genuine anti-Communists among the ponderers, and they are to be commended. But the country was not in vital need of soporific academics at windbag conferences put on by the Congress for Cultural Freedom. It did not need tepid rebukes of Stalinism in Encounter magazine or cherished little homilies warning that "quite noble attempts to defeat evil may, in sufficiently perverse circumstances, be mistaken for evil."50
What the country needed was Joe McCarthy. His appeal was directed to a sturdier set - the mass of ordinary Americans. It's interesting that Democrats keep claiming to speak for the working man, but somehow it's always right-wing Republicans who make a direct connection to workers. (What liberals mean by "working families" is "non-families in which no one works.") From McCarthy to Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan, it is conservatives who appeal to workers. When Republicans ignite the explosive energy of the hardhats, liberals had better run for cover. When that force is squandered, Republicans fall back. Nixon clearly recognized this, saying, "When you have to call on the nation to be strong - on such things as drugs, crime, defense, our basic national position - the educated people and the leader class no longer have any character, and you can't count on them." In times of crisis, he said, business and corporate elites "painted their asses white and ran like antelopes." Not the "two-fisted" workers, as Nixon called them admiringly. "They are men, not softies."51
McCarthy was beloved by workers. He had a gift for appealing to the great common sense of the American people. He made broad points that captured headlines and rallied Americans. Normal Americans could not believe their fellow countrymen could be so dastardly as not to love their country. For them, McCarthy was a poet. Liberals may have written the history books, but at the time, the instinctual response of the American people prevailed over the left's theatrics. No matter how much the elites ridiculed McCarthy, lots of Americans seemed to like him.
In the summer of 1951, the Truman administration planned an all-out attack on McCarthy, going directly to his base - the Veterans of Foreign Wars.52 At the dedication of the new American Legion building, both Truman and his not-coincidentally Catholic labor secretary, Maurice Tobin, gave speeches attacking McCarthy. Truman spoke darkly of "hysteria" and "fear" about Communism. Tobin denounced "slanderers" in Congress undermining the public's trust in government. Though neither had mentioned McCarthy by name, the point was clear.53
When Tobin mentioned "slanderers," one of the VFW organizers had had enough. He leapt from his chair, grabbed the mike out of Tobin's hand, and announced to the crowd that maybe the VFW should let McCarthy speak for himself. The audience roared its approval. McCarthy flew in the next day to address an enthusiastic VFW crowd. For more than an hour, he laid into Truman, Acheson, and "the whole motley crew."54 His reception was noticeably more positive than Truman and Tobin's had been. A cheering audience chanted, "Give 'em hell, Joe!" and "McCarthy for President!"55
The year of McCarthy's censure, Senator Saltonstall described campaigning through Massachusetts just before the vote: "One day I'd campaign in Pittsfield and the factory workers would plead with me to support McCarthy. The next day I'd drive down to Smith College and the audience would boo every mention of his name."56 The Communists may have had patricians like Franklin Roosevelt. They may have had the diplomats, the Supreme Court justices, the scribblers, the ponderers, and the Smith College girls. But McCarthy had the hearts of the American workers.
The rote smirking at McCarthy by conservatives is linked to their own psychological compulsion to snobbery. McCarthy was a popularizer, a brawler. Republican elitists abhor demagogic appeals to working-class Democrats. Fighting like a Democrat is a breach of etiquette worse than using the wrong fork. McCarthy is sniffed at for not playing by Marquis of Queensberry Rules - rules of engagement demanded only of Republicans. Well, without McCarthy, Republicans might be congratulating themselves on their excellent behavior from the gulag right now. He may have been tut-tutted on the golf course, but McCarthy made the American workers' blood boil.
Lost amid all the mandatory condemnations of Joe McCarthy's name - he gave anti-Communism a bad name, did a disservice to the cause, was an unnecessary distraction - the little detail about his being right always seems to get lost. McCarthy's fundamental thesis was absolutely correct: The Democratic Party had fallen to the allures of totalitarianism. It was as if Republicans had been caught in bed with Hitler. Liberals would have you believe that Republicans are infinitely susceptible to fascism's lures, but there is no evidence that any American ever connived with Hitler (though FDR was infatuated with Mussolini and had even sent advisors to Italy to take notes on Mussolini's brand of fascism as a model for the National Recovery Act). Even the great aviator Charles Lindbergh, who had once been a Nazi sympathizer, flew combat missions in the Pacific in World War II at an age well beyond expected service years. Conservatives have Charles Lindbergh. Liberals have themselves.
Despite the left's creation of a myth to defeat legitimate charges of treason, McCarthy had so badly stigmatized Communism, his victory survived him. In his brief fiery ride across the landscape, Joe McCarthy bought America another thirty years. For this, he sacrificed his life, his reputation, his name. The left cut down a brave man, but not before the American people heard the truth.
VICTIMS OF McCARTHYISM - THE LIBERALS' MAYFLOWER
For liberals, "McCarthyism" was the most significant period in human history, darker than the days of the Plague. To hear them tell it, in the forties and fifties, anyone who read the Village Voice was liable to be hauled before a congressional Star Chamber and forced to "name names" - presumably of other Village Voice subscribers. There are stark images of McCarthy pounding his gavel and angry thugs on HUAC denouncing Communism and driving innocent people to suicide.
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