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JOHNATAN SWIFT - JOSEPH R. McCARTHY AND McCARTHYISM - 1909-1957: Joseph R. McCarthy's Life, 1950-1954: A Man With A 'Cause', 1954-1957: The Bubble Bur

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Joseph R. McCarthy, possibly the greatest demagogue in the history of America, was also the strongest anti-Communist. In the minds of his friends and foes alike, he was an incredible person whose mere presence could be overpowering. He was a master at playing the press; his name was in the headlines frequently. He also perfected the art of playing on people's fears. His portrayal of Communism as the supreme evil allowed his accusations of 'disloyalty' to be incredibly effective.

From his expensive election campaign, to his first speech on Communism, to the Army-McCarthy hearings, to his sudden death, and even to today, Senator McCarthy has been the subject of a long-lasting controversy about morality and politics. Some people feel that he was a counter-productive demagogue who aimlessly attacked innocent people. Others felt that he was bringing to the attention of America the eminent threat of Communism. He was a cold-hearted man who was a disgrace to the United States, whose anti-Communist fervor was not based upon ideology but upon his need for a headline-gaining cause.

1909-l957: Joseph R. McCarthy's Life.

Joseph Raymond McCarthy was born in 1908 on a family farm in Wisconsin. He went to a country school until grade eight, and at the age of nineteen became the manager of a grocery store in Manawa, a town thirty miles away. He was a popular person and the store was very profitable. Then it was suggested by some friends that he go to high school, and in one year he crammed a full high school education, and he was at the top of the class. He enrolled in Marquette University in Milwaukee, where he graduated as a lawyer.

McCarthy then set up a law practice in Waupaca after three years until Joe won the judgeship for the Tenth District of the Wisconsin Circuit Court.

Although he was exempt from the draft because of his public position, in 1942 he entered the Marine Corps. In his two years as a first lieutenant, he went on a number of flying missions broke his leg on a ship during a party (although he later claimed that his leg carried 'ten pounds of shrapnel') and gained a lot of good press along the way.

In 1944 he unsuccessfully ran against Alexander Wiley for a senatorial seat from Wisconsin, and began ning to defeat Robert La Follette Jr., whose seat was up for re-election in two years. La Follette was a Republican, and so was McCarthy, so the real race would be for the primary.

The luck happened to be that his opponent chose to sit on his laurels, and only campaigned for a few weeks. McCarthy just barely won the nomination Interestingly enough, he got the labor vote, which was dominated by Communists. He was very fortunate to sneak by, because La Follette was a popular man.

His Democratic foe was to be Professor Howard McMurray. Joe used his ability to put issues simply, among other things, to beat his opponent by nearly a 2 to 1 ratio. The Senatorial career of Joseph R. McCarthy was on its way.

In his first three years as senator, McCarthy was an everyday senator. He was guided by money from lobbyists, and the most interesting of these are stints with Pepsi-Cola and the real estate-prefab home industry.

At the time, sugar was strictly rationed. According to Richard Rovere in his book Senator Joe McCarthy, the Allied Molasses Company, sugar supplier for Pepsi, somehow got a hold of a million and a half gallons of high-grade sugar-cane syrup, which it refined and sold to Pepsi. For unknown reasons, this sugar slipped past the rations, and the Department of Agriculture demanded that the rations for Allied Molasses be cut back. McCarthy was inspired to help end the sugar rationing six months before originally scheduled, thus nullifying the USDA's demands.

He continued in this way until the end of 1949, when he determined that he needed a new subject to put his name in the headlines and to use as a base for his re-election in 1952. He died in 1957.

1950-l954: A Man With A 'Cause'

He found his next subject at the night of January 7, 1950, at the Colony Restaurant in Washington, D. C. Among his dinner guests was Father Edmund A. Walsh. McCarthy talked with his guests for a while before bringing up the subject of the need for an issue. The group discarded quite a few before choosing Communism, which was suggested by Walsh, who was an ardent anti-Red. 'That's it,' McCarthy said. 'The government is full of Communists. We can hammer away at them.'

His timing was perfect. The Alger Hiss case was in full swing when he began his campaign, and the convictions and executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg took place during his witch-hunting career. Joe's first speech against Communism took place before the Republican Women's Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, on February 9. His speech started as follows: 'I have in my hand a list of 205 cases of individuals who appear to be either card-carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party.'

The next number he came up with was 81, on the senate floor, on the 20th of February. He took six hours, from the late afternoon to just before midnight, explaining in detail a number of cases of supposed Communists in the State Department.

He was a master manipulator of the press. His name was constantly in the headlines under such articles as 'NEW MCCARTHY INVESTIGATIONS BEGIN' or 'MCCARTHY OUTLINES NEW REDHUNTING PLAN.' Although reporters followed him everywhere and his hearings were constantly televised, he was voted 'worst senator' in a poll of the press. There was a very strong controversy about him, but he was always in the headlines.

Once he was known from coast to coast as an enemy to Communism, money started pouring in. Some people sent him ones and fives, and some sent as much as $7,000 or even $10,000. To every donor, he sent a letter thanking the person for the donation and asking for more money to keep up 'the hard and costly struggle against Communism.' As it turns out, the ht against Communism was quite inexpensive, and most of the money went into his bank account and then into soybean futures or horse race bets. If anyone had dared to investigate this fishy situation, Joe's national prominence might have been ended. However, at that time, you were as good as Red if you attacked his reputation.

Today, most of us look at McCarthyism in a negative way, but in a nationwide poll, a full fifty percent approved of McCarthy and his methods, with twenty-one percent undecided. It is quite scary that half the American population approved of his tactics, when it was obvious that there were serious flaws in his methods. This poll shows that either a large portion of people in the 50's were quite gullible, that Joe was an excellent demagogue. Both are probably true.

1954-l957: The Bubble Bursts

From 1950 to 1954, Joseph McCarthy was on the top. A simple sentence of his could be enough to ruin a man's career; a few kind words to the voters helped many fellow Republicans into office.

In May 1954, he got into a confrontation with the United States Army and its secretary, Robert Stevens, and the famous Army-McCarthy hearings started soon after. With a television audience of twenty million Americans, the flamboyant senator randomly fired accusations of Communism toward certain Army officers. With the assistance of his faithful aide Roy Cohn, he was able to put together enough evidence to give him at least slight credibility.

But McCarthy went too far. President Eisenhower helped the Army, his former employer, mount an impressive counter-attack. They recounted how McCarthy's former assistant and Cohn's sidekick, David Schine, had the senator gain him soft military assignments after being drafted. The press revolted as well, with Edward Murrow of early television fame showing plain, unedited clips from the hearings to show the fraud in McCarthy.

Joe kept up his attacks, which gradually weakened. On December 2, 1954, the senate voted 67-22 to condemn him for 'conduct contrary to Senatorial traditions.' The condemnation-only the third one in 165 years-noted the abuse of his Senatorial powers. He had lost his honor, and rightly so.

As a result of his lower status, he began drinking heavily. He died on May 2, 1957, at the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Joseph McCarthy was a sleazy bully. He ruined the careers of hundreds of innocent men and women to advance his own. Yet for all of the suffering he directly caused, not to mention the pervasive fear in liberal circles of being unfairly associated with Communism which he indirectly gave birth to, throughout his entire senatorial career, he never once was able to directly convict a single suspected Communist of a crime.

He was probably the most talked about senator of his time. A great many arguments have been had over this man from Wisconsin. Even today, he is still potent in the minds of America; when Alger Hiss died at age 92 on Friday, November 15, 1996, the next day the San Francisco Chronicle used an entire paragraph to describe how McCarthy used the anti-Red atmosphere created by the Hiss case to begin his infamous run.

Wrongdoings aside, he had an amazing but swift career. He went from everyday senator, to national prominence, to humiliation, and to death, all in seven years.

McCarthy played on people's fears. 'The ht For America' was nothing more than a cleverly thought-out that took advantage of America's hysteria about Communism during the Cold War; which was a long not declared war between USSR and USA from the end of World War II to the collapse of Berlin's Wall (1989).


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