Another Tribute to Joe McCarthy

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

I’ll do better than that. I will post your response, unedited, under your byline. I will do sort of a response on top of that, but focused not on you, but on McCarthy. This I do not view as a chore: I love writing about him, although there are more seasoned journalists who have spent more time researching him than I. Unfortunately, the best book on the Senator has yet to be released. All the others quote each other, and they are overwhelmingly inaccurate. I have spent a fair amount of time in the FBI reading room looking at the files of those whom McCarthy investigated, also in the Library of Congress reading the actual hearings, speeches and congressional debates. My mentor, M. Stanton Evans, interviewed the last surviving attendee at the Wheeling, WV dinner McCarthy spoke at in 1950, when the senator essentially took the field in the Cold War, or burst into the headlines—whichever interpretation you would prefer.

I mention all of the above, not because I want to impress you or take ou on a trip down memory lane through federal agencies, but to set up some points that just about every McCarthy chronicler misses. Moreover as we hit the half century mark on the McCarthy hearings and relevant files of the various federal agencies and see them declassified, we learn more and more about what really happened in the McCarthy years.

One thing that has always nagged at me is that, although the FBI files on McCarthy investigative subjects, such as Owen Lattimore, show chapter and verse their Soviet connections, as you say, some innocents may have been injured in the process. That is why the declassified executive sessions of the McCarthy hearings released in 2003 were so startling. They show McCarthy, and Roy Cohn, working to clear people wrongly accused of communist sympathies-bending over backwards even. I make you he same offer that you made me: Don’t take my word for it, read the hearings. But if you start with the widely-publicized comments of the librarian of Congress who wrote the wrap-around text, he didn’t read those hearings when he wrote his narrative but based his conclusions on what he had read in books on McCarthy. Those would be the same tomes I referred to earlier.

By the way, contrary to the widely held view that McCarthy was hell-bent on naming names of communists in the federal government, the debates show that he was reluctant to do so in open session but, rather, wanted to examine the subjects in closed hearings, which would have the opposite effect—i.e, helping preserve the innocent until proven guilty standard.

Also, McCarthy did not keep switching the numbers on communist suspects, a charge repeated ad nauseum. That was my point in bringing in the nice lady I mentioned before. You can actually trace this one through the
original talks and debates.

I only took issue with the comments on McCarthy, as I do with all who make them, because the era, and especially the investigation, is so inaccurately covered.

Although I haven’t seen you do this: McCarthy never chaired the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, as a growing body of historians who should understand Congress better, are reporting. That one drives me right up the wall. I would love to read the rest of your writings.