Why do they keep digging up the corpse of Joe McCarthy for a ritual flogging? The Wisconsin senator died in 1957. He never killed anyone. He never sent anyone to prison.
Harry Truman dropped atomic bombs on two defenseless cities of a prostrate nation and sent 2 million Russian prisoners back to Stalin to be murdered in Operation Keelhaul. Yet Truman remains a hero to those who despise McCarthy with an undying hatred.
Why? Even if what is alleged is true – that McCarthy bullied witnesses and accused men of disloyalty who only made mistakes – that still does not explain why the left cannot let go of him.
The answer: As no other man, Tailgunner Joe stripped the old establishment of its reputation, credibility and moral authority in the eyes of the people. McCarthy convinced Middle America that FDR and Truman had been duped by “Uncle Joe,” had tolerated treason, and had blundered and lost in five years all the fruits of the victory won by the blood and sacrifice of the Greatest Generation in World War II.
The establishment has never recovered from that beating.
In the latest document dump by the Senate, we learn – horror of horror! – that McCarthy questioned witnesses in private before selecting those he put on the stand. But so, too, did the Watergate committee of the sainted Sam Ervin. This is a common practice of senators who don’t want to be surprised before TV cameras.
The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes that those few historians shown the latest documents claim they “do not support McCarthy’s theories that, in the 1950s, communist spies were operating in the highest levels of government.”
Perhaps not, Ms. Stohlberg. But if so, that is only because, by the 1950s, the spies had been rooted out, though their collaborators remained. But they had been there, selling out their country.
Indeed, the espionage and treason, proven again by the Venona transcripts – the intercepted coded messages from Soviet agents to Moscow – were far more extensive than even McCarthy imagined. In the 1940s, the U.S. government was honeycombed with traitors and spies. Even today, not all the names have been revealed. Call the roll:
- Alger Hiss and Lawrence Duggan, two of the highest ranking diplomats at State, were communist traitors and spies. Hiss stood behind FDR at Yalta when Eastern Europe was signed away to Stalin and helped shape the United Nations for Harry Truman.
- Harry Dexter White, father of the International Monetary Fund and the “Morgenthau Plan” to smash all German industry after the war – a plan embraced, then disowned, by FDR – was a Soviet agent. Truman knew it by 1946 and covered it up.
- Lauchlin Currie was a Soviet spy on the White House staff.
- William Remington was the Soviet spy at Commerce.
- Judith Coplon headed up a spy ring at Justice with access to the FBI secrets and files she transferred to Soviet agents.
- The Rosenbergs were communist traitors who gave their Russian handlers secrets of the atom bomb. The brother of Robert Oppenheimer, father of the A-bomb, was a communist, as was his wife, who was a lifelong friend of Steve Nelson, a key figure in the Communist Party underground apparatus.
On and on the list goes. For an unbiased account of McCarthy’s life, Arthur Herman’s “Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America’s Most Hated Senator” is indispensable.
McCarthy’s career as an anti-communist began in February 1950 with his Wheeling speech and was effectively ended with his censure in December 1954. Why was Harry Truman chased out of Washington in 1952 with an approval rating of 23 percent? Why did Joe McCarthy enjoy a 50-29 favorable rating as late as January 1954?
Because McCarthy, almost alone, was exposing the treason and folly of those who had ceded half of Europe to Stalin and all of China to the murderous hordes of Mao Zedong. And with 200 American boys dying every week in Truman’s “no-win war” in Korea, Americans were demanding explanations.
The 1950s were good years. No one was terrified then, except the fools who had joined a Communist Party that turned out to be a lickspittle of the Comintern. Gallup polls of the era show not even 1 percent of Americans were concerned about “witch-hunting” or “anti-communist hysteria” or “McCarthyism.” That is pure myth.
In 1954, when some snot at the 15th reunion of his class got up to toast Harvard College for never having produced an Alger Hiss or a Joe McCarthy, John F. Kennedy stood up and walked out, roaring, “How dare you couple the name of a great American patriot with that of a traitor.” Yes, indeed, that was when the right was right.