analyze synthesize and compare and contrast McCarhyism and patriotism, and the cold war quest for internal security
McCarthyism, Patriotism, and the Cold War Quest for Internal Security
“Enemies from Within”: Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s Accusations of Disloyalty
Wisconsin Republican Joseph R. McCarthy first won election to the Senate in 1946 during a campaign marked by much anticommunist Redbaiting, or stoking the fear of Communists in our midst. Democratic President Harry S. Truman tried to demonstrate his own concern about the threat of Communism by setting up a loyalty program for federal employees. As the midterm election year got underway, McCarthy, in a speech at Wheeling, West Virginia, mounted a new attack on Truman’s Administration by charging that the State Department harbored “traitorous” Communists. Senator McCarthy provided no proof for this accusation but the sensational headlines that followed propelled him to the forefront of the Republican war on Communism. Almost overnight, McCarthy’s name became synonymous with the Republican strategy to expose Communists in high places while furthering their own political careers and the fortunes of their party in the process.
Excerpts from the Speech of Joseph McCarthy, Wheeling, West Virginia, February 9, 1950
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight as we celebrate the one hundred forty-first birthday of one of the greatest men in American history, I would like to be able to talk about what a glorious day today is in the history of the world. As we celebrate the birth of this man who with his whole heart and soul hated war, I would like to be able to speak of peace in our time—of war being outlawed—and of world-wide disarmament. These would be truly appropriate things to be able to mention as we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.
Five years after a world war has been won, men’s hearts should anticipate a long peace—and men’s minds should be free from the heavy weight that comes with war. But this is not such a period—for this is not a period of peace. This is a time of “the cold war.” This is a time when all the world is split into two vast, increasingly hostile armed camps—a time of a great armament race….
The one encouraging thing is that the “mad moment” has not yet arrived for the firing of the gun or the exploding of the bomb which will set civilization about the final task of destroying itself. There is still a hope for peace if we finally decide that no longer can we safely blind our eyes and close our ears to those facts which are shaping up more and more clearly . . . and that is that we are now engaged in a show-down fight . . . not the usual war between nations for land areas or other material gains, but a war between two diametrically opposed ideologies.
The great difference between our western Christian world and the atheistic Communist world is not political, gentlemen, it is moral. For instance, the Marxian idea of confiscating the land and factories and running the entire economy as a single enterprise is momentous. Likewise, Lenin’s invention of the one-party police state as a way to make Marx’s idea work is hardly less momentous.
Stalin’s resolute putting across of these two ideas, of course, did much to divide the world. With only these differences, however, the east and the west could most certainly still live in peace.
The real, basic difference, however, lies in the religion of immoralism . . . invented by Marx, preached feverishly by Lenin, and carried to unimaginable extremes by Stalin. This religion of immoralism, if the Red half of the world triumphs—and well it may, gentlemen—this religion of immoralism will more deeply wound and damage mankind than any conceivable economic or political system….
Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity. The modern champions of communism have selected this as the time, and ladies and gentlemen, the chips are down—they are truly down….
Six years ago . . . there was within the Soviet orbit, 180,000,000 people. Lined up on the antitotalitarian side there were in the world at that time, roughly 1,625,000,000 people. Today, only six years later, there are 800,000,000 people under the absolute domination of Soviet Russia—an increase of over 400 percent. On our side, the figure has shrunk to around 500,000,000. In other words, in less than six years, the odds have changed from 9 to 1 in our favor to 8 to 5 against us.
This indicates the swiftness of the tempo of Communist victories and American defeats in the cold war. As one of our outstanding historical figures once said, “When a great democracy is destroyed, it will not be from enemies from without, but rather because of enemies from within.”
The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because our only powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores . . . but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this Nation. It has not been the less fortunate, or members of minority groups who have been traitorous to this Nation, but rather those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest Nation on earth has had to offer . . . the finest homes, the finest college education and the finest jobs in government we can give.
This is glaringly true in the State Department. There the bright young men who are born with silver spoons in their mouths are the ones who have been most traitorous….
I have here in my hand a list of 205 . . . a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department….
Source: U.S. Senate, State Department Loyalty Investigation Committee on Foreign Relations, 81st Congress from History Matters http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6456
“National Suicide:” Margaret Chase Smith and Six Republican Senators Speak Out
In the months after his Wheeling, West Virginia speech, Senator McCarthy continued to make accusations, without proof, naming names and destroying reputations and careers. McCarthy targets included intellectuals, civil rights activists, free speech advocates, labor leaders, and other liberals in universities, publishing companies, government agencies, and even the military. While Democrats protested Senator McCarthy’s tactics, many Republicans were happy to sanction, and even support, them, realizing that McCarthy’s efforts could pay dividends in the upcoming elections. But one Republican Senator, Margaret Chase Smith, refused to play along and composed the following “Declaration of Conscience,” condemning the atmosphere of suspicion and blaming leaders of both parties for their “lack of effective leadership.” Smith convinced 6 other Republican Senators to join her in the Declaration.
Excerpts from Senator Smith’s Declaration of Conscience Speech, June 1, 1950
Mr. President, I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the legislative branch or the executive branch of our Government….
I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.
The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.
I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its Members to do some soul searching—for us to weigh our consciences—on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America; on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.
I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech, but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.
Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.
Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism—
The right to criticize;
The right to hold unpopular beliefs;
The right to protest;
The right of independent thought.
The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.
The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as “Communists” or “Fascists” by their opponents….
As a Republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican Party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge that it faced back in Lincoln’s day. The Republican Party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a
united nation—in addition to being a party that unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.
Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of “know nothing, suspect everything” attitudes. Today we have a Democratic administration that has developed a mania for loose spending and loose programs. History is repeating itself—and the Republican Party again has the opportunity to emerge as the champion of unity and prudence.
The record of the present Democratic administration has provided us with sufficient campaign issues without the necessity of resorting to political smears. America is rapidly losing its position as leader of the world simply because the Democratic administration has pitifully failed to provide effective leadership….
Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic administration.
Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this Nation. The Nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny—fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear….
I don’t want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one-party system.
As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle…
I don’t like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the floor of the Senate.
As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide and conquer.” As an American, I don’t want a Democratic administration “whitewash” or “cover-up” any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt. . .
It is with these thoughts I have drafted what I call a Declaration of Conscience. I am gratified that Senator Tobey, Senator Aiken, Senator Morse, Senator Ives, Senator Thye and Senator Hendrickson, have concurred in that declaration and have authorized me to announce their concurrence.
A Declaration of Conscience
1. We are Republicans. But we are Americans first. It is as Americans that we express our concern with the growing confusion that threatens the security and stability of our country. Democrats and Republicans alike have contributed to that confusion.
2. The Democratic administration has initially created the confusion by its lack of effective leadership, by its contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances, by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home, by its oversensitiveness to rightful criticism, by its petty bitterness against its critics.
3. Certain elements of the Republican Party have materially added to this confusion in the hopes of riding the Republican Party to victory through the selfish political exploitation of fear, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance. There are enough mistakes of the Democrats for Republicans to criticize constructively without resorting to political smears.
4. To this extent, Democrats and Republicans alike have unwittingly, but undeniably, played directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide and conquer.”
5. It is high time that we stopped thinking politically as Republicans and Democrats about elections and started thinking patriotically as Americans about national security based on individual freedom. It is high time that we all stopped being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques—techniques that, if continued here unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life.
Source: “Declaration of Conscience” by Senator Margaret Chase Smith and Statement of Seven Senators, June 1, 1950, Congressional Record, 82nd Congress. 1st Session from History Matters http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6459
“Not Only Ridiculous, but Dangerous”: Collier’s Objects to Joseph McCarthy’s Attacks on the Press
The principled position taken by Senator Chase and her six colleagues garnered little vocal support from other Republicans hesitant to challenge Senator McCarthy. His “cause” was too popular with voters and with the deep-pocketed anti-Communist and anti-labor union big business and industry. Meanwhile, by 1952, McCarthy was attacking the press that dared question the way he was conducting his crusade. The following editorial, from the popular magazine Collier’s, is critical of McCarthy and his irresponsible tactics.
McCarthy Cries Again
A couple of years ago Senator Joe McCarthy buckled on his armor and, like a twentieth-century Don Quixote, set out to slay the dragon of American Communism singlehanded. His intentions seemed noble as those of the good knight. But also like the good knight, who attacked a procession of monks and a flock of sheep under the impression that they were brigands and ogres, he got a little confused about the targets of his sallies.
Thus it has come to pass, as his crusade continues, that anyone who takes issue with him assumes the look of the Red dragon itself. Disagreement becomes lies or crookedness. An adverse editorial comment is automatically a “left-wing smear.” And the senator charges treason against a countryman as recklessly as Don Quixote charged the windmill.
Mr. McCarthy has had a busy time of it, because there are a great many people who approve the purpose of his crusade, but object strongly to his methods. There are many publications which feel the same way. One of them is Collier’s. Another is Time. And we at Collier’s feel just a little discriminated against because, so far, the senator has ignored us while singling out Time and accusing it of “twisting and distorting the facts about my (McCarthy’s) fight to expose and remove Communists from government.”
This charge apparently grew out of a Time cover story on Senator McCarthy. The senator had earlier attacked it as a “vicious and malicious lie.” But recently he employed a new tactic which was definitely not cricket.
Backed by the prestige of his office, he sent a letter to “practically all Time advertisers,” according to his own statement, which, while it did not come right out and ask them to take their business elsewhere, suggested that they were doing their country a disservice by their continued support of the magazine.
Since some of these advertisers were “not aware of the facts,” the letter stated, they were “unknowingly helping to pollute and poison the waterholes of information.”
Senator McCarthy has set himself up as the final authority on loyalty and Americanism. He insists that his accusations are not to be doubted, and his judgment is not to be questioned. Yet, a few weeks after he wrote his letter to Time’s advertisers, he testified in Syracuse, New York that the Washington Post and the New York (Communist) Daily Worker “parallel each other quite closely in editorials.”
Those are the statements of a man who is either woefully unperceptive or wholly irresponsible. And when such a man asks that his wild-swinging attacks be accepted without question, he is, to borrow his own words, not only ridiculous but dangerous.
We are not concerned that, on the basis of this editorial, the senator may now add us to his company of “left-wing smearers,” or that he may also warn our advertisers of the danger of supporting another publication which pollutes the waterholes of information. What does concern us is the real danger of Communist infiltration in government, and the fact that this danger is too serious to be obscured and clouded by Senator McCarthy’s eccentricities, exaggerations, and absurdities.
Source: “McCarthy Cries Again,” Collier’s, August 2, 1952, 70 from History Matters http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6453
Edward R. Murrow: See it Now (CBS-TV, March 9, 1954)
McCarthyism was good for the Republican Party in that it discredited Democrats and helped the Republicans to election victories in 1950 and 1952. In the latter, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President. With Republicans now in charge at the federal level, the assumption was that Senator McCarthy would curtail his investigation into Communists in government. His crusade had served its purpose. But McCarthy had no intention of withdrawing from the spotlight. His attacks continued, even as they appeared increasingly more implausible. The fact was that, though he had bullied and forced individuals from their jobs and had scandalized and defamed countless others, McCarthy had never proven a single one of his allegations. Yet, they continued. In 1953, the Senator attacked the United States military for having allegedly “promoted and coddled Communists.” He also held Senate hearing to “expose” an obscure U.S. information services official that he branded a Communist, primarily on the strength of the man’s activities while a student at Columbia University 22 years earlier. The civil servant in question, Reed Harris, was then the editor of the student newspaper at Columbia University and the newspaper was often critical of the university president. Suspended for one of his inflammatory articles, Harris also published a book titled King Football: The Vulgarization of the American College in which he accused institutions like Columbia of recruiting and awarding degrees to academically unqualified students for the sake of winning on the field. In this same book, he also defended academic freedom for college faculty to address unpopular ideas such as Communism.
In 1954, CBS News director and anchor Edward R. Murrow devoted an episode of his primetime show, See it Now, to a rebuke of Senator McCarthy. This took courage on Murrow’s part, and on the part of the network, because of uncertainty as to how it might impact the ratings and because one of the network’s primary sponsors, Alcoa Aluminum, was a big supporter of McCarthyism. Murrow’s report is credited with helping shift public opinion against McCarthy and bringing McCarthyism to an end.
Excerpts from See It Now: “A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy”
Edward R. Murrow: Good evening. Tonight See it Now devotes its entire half hour to a report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy told mainly in his own words and pictures…
Our working thesis tonight is this question:
If this fight against Communism is made a fight against America’s two great political parties, the American people know that one of those parties will be destroyed and the Republic cannot endure very long as a one party system.
We applaud that statement and we think Senator McCarthy ought to. He said it, seventeen months ago in Milwaukee.
Joseph McCarthy: The American people realize this cannot be made a fight between America’s two great political parties. If this fight against Communism is made a fight between America’s two great political parties the American people know that one of those parties will be destroyed and the Republic cannot endure very long as a one party system.
Murrow: Thus on February 4th, 1954, Senator McCarthy spoke of one party’s treason. This was at Charleston, West Virginia where there were no cameras running. It was recorded on tape.
McCarthy: The issue between the Republicans and Democrats is clearly drawn. It has been deliberately drawn by those who have been in charge of twenty years of treason. The hard fact is — the hard fact is that those who wear the label, those who wear the label Democrat wear it with the stain of a historic betrayal.
Murrow: On one thing the Senator has been consistent… Often operating as a one-man committee, he has traveled far, interviewed many, terrorized some, accused civilian and military leaders of the past administration of a great conspiracy to turn the country over to Communism, investigated and substantially demoralized the present State Department, made varying charges of espionage at Fort Manmouth. (The Army says it has been unable to find anything relating to espionage there.)
Another interesting thing was said about the Zwicker [Fort Manmouth] case, and it was said by Senator McCarthy.
McCarthy: Well, may I say that I was extremely shocked when I heard that [Army] Secretary Stevens told two Army officers that they had to take part in the cover-up of those who promoted and coddled Communists. As I read his statement, I thought of that quotation “On what meat doth this, our Caesar, feed?”
Murrow: And upon what meat doth Senator McCarthy feed? Two of the staples of his diet are the investigation (protected by immunity) and the half-truth.
Now — a sample investigation. The witness was Reed Harris, for many years a civil servant in the State Department, directing the information service. Harris was accused of helping the Communistic cause by curtailing some broadcasts to Israel. Senator McCarthy summoned him and questioned him about a book he had written in 1932.
McCarthy: Now we’ll come to order. Mr. Reed Harris? Your name is Reed Harris?
Harris: That’s correct.
McCarthy: You wrote a book in ’32, is that correct?
Harris: Yes, I wrote a book. As I testified in executive session….
McCarthy: At the time you wrote the book — pardon me; go ahead. I’m sorry. Proceed.
Harris: At the time I wrote the book the atmosphere in the universities of the United States was greatly affected by the great depression then in existence. The attitudes of students, the attitudes of the general public were considerably different than they are at this moment and for one thing there was generally no awareness, to the degree that there is today, of the way the Communist Party works.
McCarthy: You attended Columbia University in the early thirties. Is that right?
Harris: I did, Mr. Chairman.
McCarthy: Will you speak a little louder, sir?
Harris: I did, Mr. Chairman.
McCarthy: And were you expelled from Columbia?
Harris: I was suspended from classes on April 1st, 1932. I was later reinstated and I resigned from the University.
McCarthy: And you resigned from the University? Did the Civil — Civil Liberties Union provide you with an attorney at that time?
Harris: I had many offers of attorneys, and one of those was from the American Civil Liberties Union, yes.
McCarthy: The question is did the Civil Liberties Union supply you with an attorney?
Harris: They did supply an attorney.
McCarthy: The answer is yes?
Harris: The answer is yes.
McCarthy: You know the Civil Liberties Union has been listed as “a front for, and doing the work of,” the Communist Party?
Harris: Mr. Chairman this was 1932.
McCarthy: Yeah, I know it was 1932. Do you know that they since have been listed as “a front for, and doing the work of” the Communist Party?
Harris: I do not know that they have been listed so, sir.
Murrow: Senator McCarthy succeeded in proving that Reed Harris had once written a bad book, which the American people had proved twenty-two years ago by not buying it, which what they eventually do with all bad ideas. As for Reed Harris, his resignation [from his State Department job] was accepted a month later with a letter of commendation. McCarthy claimed it as a victory.
The Reed Harris hearing demonstrates one of the Senator’s techniques. Twice he said the American Civil Liberties Union was listed as a subversive front. The Attorney General’s list does not and has never listed the ACLU as subversive, nor does the FBI or any other federal government agency. And the American Civil Liberties Union holds in its files letters of commendation from President Truman, President Eisenhower, and General MacArthur.
Earlier, the Senator asked, “Upon what meat does this, our Caesar, feed?” Had he looked three lines earlier in Shakespeare’s Caesar, he would have found this line, which is not altogether inappropriate: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.
This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve…. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
Good night, and good luck.
Source: “See in Now: A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy,” CBS transcript posted at http://www.plosin.com/beatbegins/archive/Murrow540309.htm