The Spectre of Senator McCarthy
Using his fearsome weapons of accusation and mob persuasion Joe McCarthy can make even the U. S. Congress tremble. Can President Eisenhower permanently check this Wisconsin lawyer whom many think is damaging the cause of the Western world?
SENATOR JOSEPH RAYMOND McCARTHY, of Wisconsin, who is certainly the most controversial and possibly the most dangerous man in the United States, is personally a letdown.
Millions regard him as a heroic voice crying out against the Red fifth column in our midst. They must be disappointed to find him a bulging and commonplace figure in an ill-fitting suit who speaks in a muffled monotone as if he had a cold in his head.
Millions more think him an unspeakable scoundrel who has made a career out of lies and blighted innocent lives for his own political advancement. These find it disconcerting to meet an affable man with a rather disarming grin, an imperturbable temper and a deceptively mild manner.
All these qualities make it easy to underestimate McCarthy, as Americans did until lately and as most Canadians still do. From north of the border he looks almost a comic figure. It’s hard to understand why his Republican colleagues are afraid of him; why so many deride him in private and so few will let themselves be quoted; why even President Eisenhower, who detests McCarthy, has not yet attacked him publicly.
It’s even harder to understand that McCarthy is dangerous not only to individuals, not only to the United States, but to the Western world. This man aspires to a veto power over American foreign policy, and there is some reason to fear he may achieve it.
Almost singlehanded McCarthy established the legend that U. S. policy under Truman and Dean Acheson was not merely wrong but actual treason, a deliberate “sellout to the Kremlin.” This sellout, according to McCarthy, was accomplished by Communist spies high in the councils of the State Department, with Truman’s various secretaries of state as either their accomplices or their dupes.
Already McCarthy has laid the groundwork for a similar attack on
Eisenhower and on John Foster Dulles, the
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Republican Secretary of State. Knowing Eisenhower’s low opinion of him, knowing he has no hope of advancement through the friendship of the Republican leadership, McCarthy has set about making himself a formidable enemy.
His opening attack was on Charles Bohlen, Eisenhower’s personal choice for U. S. Ambassador to Moscow. It could hardly have been more bitter if Acheson instead of Eisenhower had chosen him.
The day McCarthy made his principal speech on the Bohlen case the crowds in the Senate corridor got so big that the queues ran down off the gallery level and continued on the floor below. Some of the crowd was hostile, ready to applaud anyone who attacked McCarthy. Some was passionately pro-McCarthy, applauding him in reply until the Vice-President threatened to clear the galleries. Most were probably just curious—but they were interested.
And to the curious uninformed, McCarthy usually seems to win. He lost that Bohlen fight on the Senate floor—only twelve of the ninety-six senators voted with him—but to the galleries he sounded quite undaunted. “Don’t get excited,” he would say to opponents who lost their tempers at the violent language he was delivering in that flat quiet unemotional voice. McCarthy never lost his own temper no matter what was said about him.
In a committee hearing the following week I watched his head-on collision with Harold Stassen, Eisenhower’s Mutual Security Director. McCarthy had just concluded a preposterous “treaty” with a group of Greek shipowners and Stassen was rebuking him for this presumptuous intrusion into the field of the executive branch. News reports indicated, correctly, that Stassen was right and McCarthy wrong. They therefore tended to imply, incorrectly, that Stassen won and McCarthy lost.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. McCarthy, skilful and smooth and imperturbable, sounded like a helpful soul who had tried to do a job and was surprised to find anyone displeased. Stassen, by the time McCarthy finished goading him, sounded like a pompous and jealous bureaucrat who resented the credit and publicity McCarthy was getting.
Senators and reporters might know how weak McCarthy’s case really was —but the whole committee hearing was on television. Millions of Americans could see with their own eyes that Joe McCarthy was right.
At that time McCarthy had not yet declared open war upon the Republican Administration, nor they upon him. President Eisenhower was telling his Press conferences, in a tone of voice that could not be adequately reported, that he didn’t want to talk about Senator McCarthy and that he wasn’t unhappy about the junior senator from Wisconsin. McCarthy was elaborately inserting, in his nastiest speeches, lip service to “the new State Department” and to Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles personally. But the same week, Washington columnists quoted McCarthy as saying, “We’re gonna get Dulles’ head.”
There is more to this than personal spite, though spite is present too. McCarthy is evidently gambling his future on the slim but not hopeless chance that he may become The Man Who Was Right, like Winston Churchill. He presents himself as the lone voice against “appeasement,” stretch-
ing that term to cover any tendency, in any party, to any accommodation with any Communist cause or country.
This role of one-man opposition gives McCarthy some hope of eventual triumph if things go badly. The hope is strengthened by the fact that McCarthy can also do a good deal to make sure things do go badly.
The only conceivable escape from the present international stalemate (other than world war) is negotiation with the Soviet bloc. McCarthy has already begun to make negotiation appear as treason. He has thus acquired to an alarming degree the power to make negotiation impossible.
But how? Why? That is hardest of all to understand. How has this mediocre figure been able to climb to such sinister eminence?
You’ll find no clarification, only further bewilderment, in the writings of McCarthy’s enemies. The liberal Press in the United States portrays McCarthy as a quite incredible Beast in Human Form, a villain who might exist but who certainly could not have reached the age of forty-three without at least one term in jail.
Young Joe McCarthy, far from being a juvenile delinquent, was a model boy after Horatio Alger’s own heart. He was born on a farm and is still remembered in the neighborhood as an extraordinarily hard worker. He quit school after the eighth grade to take a job, rose to be a chain-store manager before he realized he couldn’t go far without education. So he went back to school at twenty and completed the four-year high-school course (wdth the help of sympathetic and perhaps lenient teachers) in one year.
The Buck Private was “Sir”
At Marquette University he started in engineering, soon found the mathematics he had crammed in that one year of high school wouldn’t stand the strain. He switched to law and did well. Four years after graduation he was elected, at twenty-nine, the “youngest judge in the United States.”
As a judge he was exempt from the draft, but he waived the privilege and joined the Marines when war broke out. Back after two and a half years in the Pacific he tried and failed to get the Republican nomination away from Senator Alexander Wiley in 1944. Two years later, having meanwhile been re-elected circuit judge, he tried again for the Senate and this time he made it.
McCarthy’s foes make much of the fact that he ran for senator while still a judge, which is forbidden by the Wisconsin constitution. His friends say it’s always been common practice in Wisconsin. The State Supreme Court seems to bear them out, for it refused to unseat him though it did declare the constitution had been violated.
Another fuss is raised about his war record. McCarthy campaigned as “Tail-Gunner Joe” who had joined the Marines “as a buck private.” In fact he applied for and got a commission before leaving the Bench. He served in the Pacific as an intelligence officer and occasionally went on reconnaissance flights in the tail-gunner’s seat.
This seems to indicate that McCarthy glamorized a creditable but commonplace war record for campaign purposes—hardly an unusual sin among politicians.
But if McCarthy fails to measure down to the satanic character his enemies depict, he is even less suited to his chosen role of Knight in Shining Armor.
Two years ago a Senate resolution ordered an enquiry to determine whether or not McCarthy should be expelled
from the Senate for a long list of alleged misdeeds. The enquiry was carried out by a subcommittee of two Democrats and one Republican, who presented a unanimous report last January.
“The subcommittee itself is not making any recommendation (on McCarthy’s expulsion),” said the report. “The record should speak for itself. The issue raised is one for the entire Senate.
“This report and the subcommittee files, of course, will be available to the Department of Justice and the Bureau
of Internal Revenue (which prosecutes income-tax evasion) for any action deemed appropriate by such agencies.” So far, no action at all has been deemed appropriate, but the report itself makes rather startling reading.
It recalls, for example, that McCarthy approached the now-defunct Lustron Corporation and asked ten thousand dollars for an article he had written on housing which had been rejected by national magazines. Lustron Corporation was engaged in making prefabricated housing with thirty-seven and a half millions of
the taxpayers’ money obtained from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. It finally went bankrupt at a net loss to the Government of about thirty million dollars; a subsequent enquiry showed that “Lustron had been mismanaged; that frauds had been practiced upon it; and that excessive salaries were paid officials such as K. Merl Young because of alleged influence.” Lustron bought McCarthy’s article.
McCarthy, then a freshman senator, had lately been vice-chairman of a subcommittee on housing and had filed
J a report strongly favoring prefabricated dwellings. He was still a member of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee, on which the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (and therefore Lustron) depended. “How,” asked the subcommittee, I “can Senator McCarthy justify acceptance of a ten-thousand-dollar fee from Lustron, which in effect was a fee paid out of public funds, at a time when Lustron’s continued operations and financing depended entirely upon the RFC? . . .” McCarthy’s article was appropriately titled “Wanted: A dollar’s worth of housing for every dollar spent.” The subcommittee was also interested in the fact that McCarthy sought and obtained this fee from Lustron at a time when his own financial situation was “desperate” because of overextended loans from the Appleton, Wisconsin, State Bank. He owed the bank $72,943.96 at the time (the amount later rose to $169,540.70, though the bank was legally forbidden to lend more than $100,000 to any one borrower) and the bank president had been writing urgent demands for payment. However, the subcommittee noted that McCarthy did not use the ten thousand to reduce his bank loan. Instead he invested it in shares of a railroad which had been in a receiver’s hands since 1930, and which was also financed by the RFC. McCarthy paid twenty-two dollars a share. Three years later, after RFC had disposed of its holdings in the railroad, McCarthy was able to sell out at a net profit of $35,614.75 on his $10,000 investment. “Was there any relationship between Senator McCarthy’s position as a member of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee and his receipt of confidential information relating to the stock of the Seaboard Airlines Railroad, which was indebted to the RFC for sums in excess of fifteen million dollars?” asked the subcommittee. Another transaction noted by the subcommittee was a bank note for twenty thousand dollars on which McCarthy “sought and accepted” the endorsement of Russell M. Arundel, Washington representative of the Pepsi-Cola Company. At the time McCarthy was member of a Senate subcommittee on sugar. Pepsi-Cola was trying hard to have controls removed from sugar, while the U. S. Agriculture Department was trying to keep them on. Said the subcommittee: “Did Senator McCarthy’s overextended debt position . . . influence Senator McCarthy’s position on the sugar decontrol issue to such an extent that he followed the Pepsi-Cola line?” The subcommittee’s reference to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the action it might “deem appropriate,” was occasioned by some curious features of McCarthy’s income-tax returns in Wisconsin. For several years after the war he appeared to have no income at all—he reported security losses exceeding his total earnings. Since he continued to live well in Washington, the subcommittee was puzzled. It wondered “whether funds supplied to Senator McCarthy to fight Communism were diverted to his own use.” It also wondered why he had to keep his personal accounts in such an extraordinary tangle, all mixed up with those of his relatives and his administrative assistant. One bank account was opened in the name of McCarthy's sister - in - law, Julia Connolly. His brother William McCarthy, a Chicago truck driver, told the subcommittee this had been done “with the idea of concealing the account in the event of an investigation of Senator McCarthy’s affairs.”
This amazing report was formally presented last January, as one of the last acts of the lame-duck Democratic Congress. Nothing has been done about it—in fact, it hasn’t even been reprinted and the original run of twenty-five hundred copies has long since been exhausted. The report is fast becoming the most sought-after rare book in Washington. Meanwhile, McCarthy continues to grow in importance on the Washington scene. He has survived the harsh words of committees before. In 1950, soon after McCarthy made his first attack on “Communism in Government” in a speech at Wheeling, W. Va., Senator Millard Tydings, of Maryland, undertook to put McCarthy in his place. Tydings was a figure of almost legendary power in American politics. In 1938 Franklin Roosevelt, in the full flush and prime of his strength, decided to “purge” Tydings for his failure to support certain Roosevelt measures. Tydings trounced the Roosevelt man who opposed him in the Democratic primary, and thereafter was regarded as unbeatable. He was also highly respected on both sides of the Senate for his personal integrity and ability. After McCarthy had proclaimed that there were Communists in the State Department, in numbers that he stated in various places and various contexts as 205 and 57 and 81, Tydings held an investigation as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hearings were held for four months and all McCarthy’s charges were declared false. They were, said the Tydings report, “a fraud and a hoax perpetrated on the Senate of the United States and on the American people. They represent the most nefarious campaign of half-truths and untruth in the history of this Republic. For the first time in our history we have seen the totalitarian technique of the ‘big lie’ employed on a sustained basis.” That devastating report was published in late July 1950. That autumn McCarthy moved into Maryland to help the Republican candidate, a relatively obscure politician named Butler. After McCarthy and Butler got through with him, in a campaign which started loud cries for investigation and disbarment, the great Millard Tydings had been defeated. Senators’ fear of McCarthy dates from Tydings’ defeat. They suddenly realized that he was a more formidable man than anyone had believed. But within a few months McCarthy did something which reduced his stock with the Senate below zero again, and led to many confident predictions that he was through. What he did was to attack General George Catlett Marshall, then Secretary of Defense and previously Secretary of State in the Truman cabinet. Marshall was admired by all and revered by many Americans, and especially by his most outstanding disciple and protégé, Dwight D. Eisenhower. McCarthy rose in the Senate on June 14, 1951, to deliver a speech that ran seventy-two thousand words denouncing Marshall as part and parcel of an infamous conspiracy to sell out American interests to international Communism. The speech was later published as a book and McCarthy was invited to a television show called The Author Meets the Critics. One critic, Leo Cherne, of New York, produced evidence that half a dozen statements in the book were utter falsehoods. McCarthy was unable to produce any proof in support of any of the challenged passages. Nevertheless, McCarthy is a more powerful figure now than then; it is
Marshall who seems to have suffered. In Washington this spring I talked with a veteran newspaperman who has studied McCarthy with horrified fascination ever since he emerged. “I’m afraid there is now a substantial fraction of Americans who have doubts about General Marshall,” he said. “Not that they believe all McCarthy said about him, but they have doubts.” One American with no such doubts is, of course, Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose admiration for Marshall is unbounded. He had a paragraph to that effect in the speech he would have delivered on a campaign visit to Wisconsin last fall. McCarthy saw the draft and asked to have that paragraph taken out. Eisenhower took it out. That was the first but not the last attempt by the Republican leadership to conciliate and appease McCarthy. John Foster Dulles went so far as to appoint a McCarthy man as chief security officer in the State Department. The man’s name is Scott McLeod; he used to be administrative assistant to Senator H Styles Bridges, of New Hampshire, one of McCarthy’s Senate supporters. McCarthy’s staff now openly boasts that Scott McLeod shows them the contents of State Department security files. This is well for McCarthy, whose material had been getting a bit thin. In all his early speeches McCarthy hinted that he had copies or “photostats”—a favorite word with him of material from FBI files or from State Department files sent on by “loyal” men inside the department. The Tydings investigation reported this to be false: “Senator McCarthy had received no undercover information from ‘loyal’ or ‘disturbed’ State Department employees, as he led the Senate to believe. His information was beyond all reasonable doubt but a “dressed-up’ version of material developed by the Eightieth (Republican) Congress.” Tydings was referring to a report by Robert Lee, investigator for the House Appropriations Committee, in 1947. Lee had listed one hundred and eight cases from State Department security files which seemed to him ineptly handled. They were investigated at the time and no action was deemed necessary by a Republican Congress. The cases McCarthy submitted to the Tydings enquiry appeared also on Lee’s list, and McCarthy seemed to have no new facts on any of them. As for the FBI files, it has never been made clear why the FBI should make a confidant of McCarthy. McCarthy’s chief investigator is Donald Surine, who was fired by the FBI in February 1950 for “disregard of bureau rules and regulations.” Herbert Philbrick, who worked for the FBI for years inside the Communist Party, has stated publicly that “real Communists” are delighted by McCarthy’s activities because they create doubt and confusion among Americans Nevertheless intelligent people, in Ottawa as well as in Washington, are still saying “I don’t like McCarthy’s methods, but maybe you have to be tough and nasty to do the job McCarthy is doing.”
Just what is the job McCarthy is doing?
So far he has not revealed a single communist in the employ of the United States Government. Most of the men he has accused were previously attacked by some other agency of Congress or Government, and one or two have since been convicted of perjury. McCarthy’s staff was able to recall for me only two names of men accused by McCarthy who had not been on that original list of Robert
Lee’s—and against those two no proof seems to have been presented except McCarthy’s accusation. It was enough to get at least one of them fired, though.
McCarthy can also take principal credit for ruining the public career of Dr. Philip Jessup, whom one Canadian described as “the most distinguished man ever to head an American delegation to United Nations.” Even McCarthy has never accused Jessup of being a Communist, but he indicts him for association with the “Communist-controlled” Institute of PacificRelations and other “front” groups. In one case Jessup’s “association” consisted of the fact that his wife had belonged to the group, years before it was cited as a Communist front.
Another McCarthy target was Owen Lattimore, of Johns Hopkins University, whom McCarthy called “No. 1 Soviet agent” in the State Department and “chief architect” of American policy in the Far East. Lattimore was a recognized authority on Far Eastern affairs and had many friends among American officials, but he never worked for the State Department except as an occasional consultant.
McCarthy himself has produced no evidence that Lattimore is or ever was a Communist; other evidence on this point appears to be mainly hearsay recollections of Louis Budenz and Alexander Barmine, two ex-Communist, informers. Some documents have come to light showing that Lattimore was more sympathetic to Soviet Russia than he had indicated in his own testimony and he is now awaiting trial on perjury charges arising out of these discrepancies. But McCarthy has never come within miles of proving Lattimore a “No. 1 Soviet agent.”
Since McCarthy’s campaign of clamor began, the United States Gov-
ernment has dropped a number of people who had previously been cleared of all loyalty and security charges. One of the most recent was Charles Thayer, who resigned rather than go through another “loyalty hearing.” A Canadian diplomat described Thayer to me as “one of the few men they have left who knows anything at all about Russia.” Others were Far Eastern experts like John Carter Vincent and John Stewart Service, whose reports from China earned the hostility of Chiang Kai-shek’s “China Lobby.”
Two views can be, and are, taken of this aspect of McCarthy’s campaign. Some argue that it is to McCarthy’s credit, that the State Department was too lax with people of suspect loyalty and that only a “tough customer” like McCarthy could blast it into vigilance. There is some evidence to show that State Department security had some soft spots. No one has yet explained, for example, why books by Earl Browder and William Z. Foster, ranking leaders of the U. S. Communist Party, should have appeared in State Department libraries overseas which were supposedly designed as propaganda for the “American Way of Life.”
On the other hand, there is all too little doubt that McCarthy has let loose a plague of informers in the U. S. government service, and that the atmosphere in that service now borders on panic.
I heard Louis Budenz, the ex-Communist informer, tell a McCarthy subcommittee wbat was in his view “the test of a sincere ex-Communist”: “He has to prove it by his actions, by co-operating with the FBI and with the agencies of Congress, to make amends for past misdeeds.”
In other words, only the stool pigeon deserves credence or sympathy. McCarthy nodded. Nobody protested.
The owner of a house today
Must be a perfect know-all:
A fixer, plumber, furnaceman,
A digger, mower, grow-all (Economist, financial wiz —
Or else the house would not be his).
FREDERICK G. HARTNELL
Rut whether the charge of softness against State Department security has any foundation or not, the unhappy fact is that Republican campaign speakers took advantage of the suspicion McCarthy had implanted. Thus the Eisenhower regime is more or less committed to the proposition that McCarthy was right, in some measure. That is one source of his power today.
Another is the fact that American foreign policy in the Far East has never been clearly defined.
Foreign-service officers such as John Carter Vincent and John Stewart Service reported consistently that Chiang Kai-shek had forfeited popular support in China, that the Communists were winning and would win, that there was no way of reversing this trend short of a major war on the mainland of Asia. Vincent and Service were commended for reporting their honest judgment—but was that judgment accepted?
Nobody ever admitted it. Democrats outdid Republicans in pledging their devotion and support to Chiang Kaishek. If Dean Acheson’s advisers really believed this was sound policy then McCarthy and his friends have some reason to complain that the help Chiang actually got was too little and too late. If they thought it was suicidal nonsense they might better have said so.
As it was, the Truman-Acheson Administration accepted the values of its critics. The critics “charged” that Truman and Acheson were insufficiently loyal to Chiang and the Nationalist cause; the Administration denied the “charge.” Nobody ever took up the challenge and really put t he case for the alternative policy, the policy which Britain has followed and Canada would prefer to have followed. 'That policy is to accept the Communist victory in China as irrevocable, and to wait and hope and work for the split between Moscow and Peking which is thought to be certain in the end—if the Western nations give China any alternative.
Now the Republicans are in office, grappling with reality for the first time in twenty years, but as firmly tied by their own charges as the Democrats had been by their denials. Whatever they may think, whatever they may come to think is the right course in China, they cannot lightly disavow those campaign speeches.
Not with Joe McCarthy there to remind them of what they have said. Not with Joe to cry “traitor” at every departure from the China Lobby’s line. And this Republican dilemma is the second major source of McCarthy’s power.
The third is McCarthy’s own skill at the verbal equivalent of barroom fighting. He is more adept than any opponent at veri al gouging, biting, kneeing and kicking.
“I’m sitting this one out,” said a Democratic senator when some of his friends tried to suppress McCarthy a
few years ago. “You know what the proverb says about getting into a match with a skunk.”
A Republican congressman, who won’t let his name be used, said, “The guy is like a scorpion. No matter where you touch him, he hurts you.”
There are signs, though, that McCarthy this time has set enough force in motion against him to put him out of action. Senator Robert Taft, Republican leader in the Senate, has repudiated his attack on Bohlen and shown that some of McCarthy’s charges were false. At least one of the twelve senators who voted with McCarthy has dropped him now—he told a friend of mine, “I’m through with that guy, he lied to us about Bohlen.”
At the end of McCarthy’s main speech in the Bohlen debate some question arose about whether or not Bohlen’s appointment had been approved by ex-Ambassador Hugh Gibson. Senator William Knowland, of California, Taft’s lieutenant as majority leader, produced a letter recommending a large group of diplomatic appointments including Bohlen’s, and bearing Gibson’s signature.
Senat or Knowland is one of the most devoted friends of Nationalist China in the United States, and therefore a frequent ally of McCarthy in the past. But when he produced the letter signed by Gibson, McCarthy coolly asked to have the signature examined.
Knowland jumped up, white with rage.
“When a letter comes to the Senate from the Department of State I do not want to have to call in a handwriting expert to determine whether a forgery has been committed,” he said. “If we have so destroyed confidence in men who have been selected to hold high places in the government of the United States, then God help us. God help us if that is the basis on which we have to operate.”
An Appeal to the Mob
The packed galleries burst into applause. Two minutes later McCart hy made a comeback which won applause in its turn from the other half of the audience, but the net impression was that he had suffered a setback.
At any rate, the incident did illustrate the most encouraging new element in McCarthy’s situation. For the first time since he emerged into international notoriety, no organized party or group can derive any advantage from supporting or even tolerating him.
Democrats may enjoy the spectacle of Republican embarrassment, but they are in no mood to profit by it. For the moment they are wisely keeping silent, so as not to close Republican ranks around the enfant terrible, but Democrats’ hatred of McCarthy is too deep for petty partisanship. They will do what they can to help Republicans bring him down.
McCarthy’s strength lies with the people, or rather with the mob.
He understands and uses the new techniques of television as few politicians have yet learned to do. He has the support of the isolationist Press —even though the Hearst papers did desert him on the Bohlen issue—and a great appeal to the illiterate and a semi-literate vote. He has the shrewdness, the brashness and the courage to take advantage not only of Republican mistakes but of every Republican departure from the fatuities of the Republican campaign.
No doubt such a great popular leader as Dwight Eisenhower can defeat McCarthy, once he makes up his mind that it has to be done. But meanwhile McCarthy is a man to make your flesh creep, ic