The True Story of Senator Joseph McCarthy
Last month I took a group of high school seniors once again to the Boston/New York area for a week. In addition to the historical places we always visit, I decided to add Salem, Massachusetts to the list. I hadn’t included Salem before because I was aware of the political interpretations of what happened in the Salem witch trials in 1692, and felt that it didn’t deserve our valuable time. But I was persuaded this time and so on our way to Lexington and Concord we made a small detour and visited Salem and the Salem Witch Museum. The multi-media presentation was quite impressive and seemed to portray accurately the fateful happenings wherein 20 people lost their lives as a result of the hysteria generated over “witch-hunts” in puritanical New England in the late 1600s.
After the presentation, we were then ushered into another room and I could tell immediately we were in for the “interpretation” for our modern time. The propaganda came by the truck load. It was concluded by strongly suggesting that such investigations conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s and the persecutions of the homosexual community because of AIDS beginning in the 1970s, were motivated by prejudice, hate and fear and were therefore comparable to the witch-hunts of Salem which had no basis in fact.
Many high school students also read The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, written at the time of the McCarthy Hearings. The major publishers of Social Studies and English high school curricula nearly always encourage students to “Compare and contrast the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 to the McCarthy Hearings of the early 1950s.” Most high school Social Studies teachers today have a much skewed view of Senator Joseph McCarthy and have bought into the “McCarthyism” line.
Even after 50 years, the label of “McCarthyism” continues to raise its ugly head from time to time and concerned Americans need to be reminded of what really happened and who Senator McCarthy really was and what he was trying to do. The following is taken from Dr. Skousen’s book The Naked Capitalist, pp. 80-91. It was Dr. Skousen’s assignment in the FBI to study Communism and its tactics. He was very close to the happenings of the time and is one of the most qualified to address the McCarthy issue.
The McCarthy Hearings
For several years [during the 1940s and 50s] the U.S. Congress tried to use its powers under the Constitution to compel the Executive Branch of the Government to clean out the subversives [which had already been identified by the FBI as communists or communist sympathizers]. Under the principle of checks-and-balances, the Congress can have its committees conduct investigations to determine whether or not there is corruption, waste of expenditures, or subversion in the executive branch. Three avenues are open to the House and the Senate:
Upon learning of an allegation of subversion, refer it to the President or to the Department involved and ask for an investigation and a report.
If this doesn't get results, then subpoena those who are supposed to know about the problem and release the facts to the public so there will be sufficient pressure and embarrassment to bring about a prompt improvement.
If neither of the above get results, then subpoena those who are known by other Government employees to be guilty of subversion and ask them under oath whether or not the charges are true. If such persons are innocent, they can say so; but if they plead the Fifth Amendment, then they will be publicly exposed and forced out of Government.
By 1950 the first two approaches had been used repeatedly with no results except contemptuous indifference. This reviewer [Dr. Skousen] has a published copy of a letter to the Secretary of State dated June 10, 1947, from the Senate Appropriations Committee, which states:
"It becomes necessary due to the gravity of the situation to call your attention to a condition that developed and still flourishes in the State Department under the administration of Dean Acheson.
"It is evident that there is a deliberate, calculated program being carried out not only to protect Communist personnel in high places, but to reduce security and intelligence protection to a nullity....
"On file in the Department [of State] is a copy of a preliminary report of the FBI on Soviet espionage activities in the United States, which involves a large number of State Department employees, some in high official positions. This report has been challenged and ignored by those charged with the responsibility of administering the Department with the apparent tacit approval of Mr. Acheson. Should this case break before the State Department acts, it will be a national disgrace."
Nothing happened. Here was a committee in the Senate with a majority of its members being Democrats, pleading with its own Administration to clean house before there was a public scandal.
It can be readily understood why more and more Congressmen and Senators decided by 1950 that it was high time they started naming names and calling persons accused of wartime subversion before an investigating Committee where they could either clear themselves or plead the Fifth Amendment, thereby indicating that they could not answer to the charges without incriminating themselves. This whole procedure was inaugurated by the Founding Fathers to get the facts without subjecting the accused to imprisonment in case he were guilty. In other words, the guilt of the person was revealed by his plea of the Fifth Amendment; but this could not be used against him in any criminal proceedings.
It was February 9, 1950 that a U.S. Senator decided to demand direct interrogation of alleged subversives. His name was Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Joseph McCarthy Launches A One-Man Campaign
At Wheeling, West Virginia, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Reno, Nevada, McCarthy talked about a letter which Secretary of State Byrnes wrote in 1946 to Congressman Adolph Sabath, stating that there were 284 people in the State Department who were "unfit." McCarthy had learned from confidential informants who had come to him from the State Department that as of 1950, 205 of these "unfit" persons were still there. He was told the names of 57 who were either Communists or loyal to the Communist Party and an additional group (making the total 81) who were marginal suspects.
The fact that McCarthy had the actual names of 57 identified subversives sent the State Department and the Establishment Press into a frenzy. McCarthy sent a wire to President Truman offering to furnish him the names of the 57, and suggested that the President require Dean Acheson to explain why these and the remainder of the 205 "unfit" persons were still in the State Department. The President never even acknowledged the wire.
The diversionary tactic used by the press and the defenders of the State Department was to accuse McCarthy of not being consistent with his figures. Was he charging the State Department with having 57 Communists, 81 Communists or 205 Communists? He was accused of being reckless and irresponsible in his charges.
McCarthy next went to the Senate and gave a speech offering to turn these 57 names -- which he already had in his possession over to a Senate Committee. McCarthy said he could furnish the names of witnesses who could positively identify these people as participating in subversive activities. The Senate appointed the Tydings Committee to hear McCarthy's charges.
The Committee ended up investigating McCarthy. McCarthy went to the hearings prepared to present his "facts" and during the first day's session he was allowed barely 8 minutes of direct testimony. The next day he had 9½ minutes. Senator Tydings harangued the press and engaged in polemics which frustrated the entire proceedings. Tydings finally issued a "report" declaring McCarthy's charges a complete fake. McCarthy was beginning to learn what it meant to take on the Establishment.
The storm signals were up and the liberal press, radio and TV immediately prepared to launch an all-out campaign to smash the senator from Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the 57 "identified" people inside the State Department were brought up before a Loyalty Board so the cases against them could be heard. Fifty-four promptly resigned. By November 1954, not only had the original 57 been dismissed or resigned, but the same thing had happened to the 24 marginal cases which McCarthy had named in his figure of 81.
In 1953 McCarthy Becomes Chairman of His Own Committee
As a result of the Republican victory in 1952, Joseph McCarthy became chairman of the Senate's permanent Investigations Subcommittee. The Committee had a statutory mandate to investigate graft, incompetence and disloyalty cases. McCarthy took this assignment seriously. In 1953 he conducted 169 executive and public hearings and interrogated more than five hundred witnesses. (The reader is referred to pages 84-85 of The Naked Capitalist for an enumeration of the incredible findings of this committee as it uncovered and documented numerous cases of subversion in the highest levels of government service and in the military.)
The most notorious charge was that General Ralph W. Zwicker had promoted a known communist agent within the military and then had hurriedly given him an honorable discharge when the facts became known. The strategic mistake McCarthy made was to say that Zwicker, who had become a hostile witness at the committee hearings, did not deserve to wear the uniform of a general officer for such actions and should be removed from command. While the charges proved true, McCarthy’s tactics became the center of focus in the liberal media. He was never allowed to continue his investigation. A whole series of charges were hurled against both McCarthy and the members of his staff. Time and energy were all absorbed in explaining or refuting a continuous avalanche of allegations. He was investigated five times in four years.
The Campaign to Censure McCarthy
Finally the tidal wave of propaganda had reached a crescendo and the whole Establishment press as well as the Establishment hard-core in the Senate began to clamor for a censure. The Communist Daily Worker newspaper in the Unites States published an instruction kit on how to get McCarthy. It was advertised as "Four full pages on Sen. Joe Low-Blow McCarthy, his record and what you can do about him."
Senator McCarthy was a bombastic type of personality and had his faults, but even his faults had to be inflated and exaggerated out of all reasonable dimensions before the heat of resentment could be generated to a level where the Senate would officially censure him. In fact, when the campaign against McCarthy first began, the Senator was confronted by the anomaly of seeing many of those who spoke out against him publicly, later apologizing to him privately and commending him for doing a good job. The Establishment press had created such a climate of "hate McCarthy" that even those who felt he was doing a good job found it politically expedient to denounce him.
When the Senate censure committee was appointed, it contained some questionable members. One member had publicly stated, even before he had heard the facts, that he would vote to censure McCarthy. Altogether, 46 charges were brought against McCarthy. They all dissolved into thin air except two. It was found that Senator McCarthy had "failed to cooperate" with a Senate subcommittee on Privileges and Elections in 1952 and that McCarthy had "intemperately abused" General Ralph W. Zwicker.
On the first count McCarthy offered an explanation which was not accepted, but which a subsequent investigation verified as being true. As for McCarthy's "intemperate" statement to General Zwicker, this was indeed a flimsy excuse for a censure. As researchers have since demonstrated, Senators of both the past and present have been using far more vigorous language against hostile witnesses without anyone raising the slightest objection.
And what about a censure for General Zwicker? What about the promotion of a known Communist and his being given a hasty honorable separation? What about giving commissions to security risks who wrote "Fifth Amendment" on their Loyalty Oath forms? What about the toleration of spy cells in highly secret military operations for several years after the FBI had warned of their existence?
Soon after these events General Zwicker was enjoying a pleasant retirement. It was only Senator Joseph McCarthy who got the censure. And it did accomplish exactly what the Communist-Establishment coalition intended.
From then until now, the people of the United States have been paying in blood and treasure for the historical mistake of letting the "censure of McCarthy" totally discredit the shocking disclosures which the McCarthy hearings had proven. Ever since then any one attempting to tell the truth about subversive activities in America has run the risk of being accused of the most heinous of offenses -- "McCarthyism!"
Propaganda for Our Time
Hundreds of thousands of people, including many young students, visit the Salem Witch Museum each year. They leave the place having been heavily exposed to the kind of neutralizing propaganda which completely destroys the efforts of many of us who are trying to wake up the American people. At least our group of 45 received “the rest of the story” later on.
Earl Taylor, Jr.