August 08, 2003

Coulter, McCarthy, and Hitchens

Geoff Pynn found this charming photo on Ann Coulter's Web site.


Christopher Hitchens, in a debate with her on Hardball, sums up in a single sentence what's wrong with her.

Im appalled to see what kind of model citizen youd make in a banana republic, Ms. Coulter.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 8, 2003 04:45 PM

I saw that "debate." Hitchens looked bored. Coulter looked schizopnhrenic.

Posted by: Roger L. Simon at August 8, 2003 05:00 PM

The photo is appropriate. Coulter and McCarthy are soulmates.

They both took genuine issues, real failures of the left, and squandered the moral capital of the right by demagoging those issues for their own personal ego and benefit. Their effect was/is to discredit their causes, not further them.

Posted by: lewy14 at August 8, 2003 05:21 PM

Trust Hitch to come up with something like that. Gotta file that one away for future use....

Posted by: Joe Katzman at August 8, 2003 07:57 PM

Coulter, shm-oulter. Whatever. I don't think her foolish ideological liberal-baiting rises to the level of valid discourse. She's a jester, and should be treated as such. The tragedy is she's so smart and articulate. But these are too many words on this subject.

On a much more profitable subject, if Christopher Hitchens did not exist, mankind would suffer immensely. I would beg for a tenth of his encyclopedic intellect and razor wit (even if he does say unkind things about Bob Hope).

I loved his attack on our friendships with Saudia Arabia and Pakistan. I'm not sure what's to be done about them, but I'm glad he's pointing them out. Perhaps if Iraq and Afghanistan can be put on their feet in a generation or two, we won't need Saudi Arabia or Pakistan so much any more. A man can hope, anyway.

Posted by: Hovig John Heghinian at August 8, 2003 09:42 PM

I rememebr when Ann Coulter first appeared and she wasn't as partisan or as overwhlemingly right-wing, or maybe she was hiding it. Andrew Sullivan puts in a good essay on her. I find that she has a few good points and then blows them out of proportion.

She seems to be one part PJ O'Rourke, but doesn't seem as humor-oriented, and O'Rourke takes pot shots at Republicans too.

Posted by: Green Baron at August 9, 2003 04:13 AM

Oh, c'mon, Michael, it's not like she had her photo taken at Albert Speer's tomb. It's more like she had her picture taken next to Harry Truman's tomb.

See, this is why I am not one of those people who accuse you of being a conservative now. You still have the liberal spin on things you were raised with.

Imagine if everything you ever heard about Harry Truman revolved around the fact that he was very anti-Semitic and you'll understand why some conservatives feel that McCarthy has long been the victim of leftist historic spin bordering on Orwellian historical revisionism.

We now know that McCarthy was correct that there were Communists in our government who actually communicated with, passed secrets to, and received orders from the Soviet Union.

When you consider that conservatives consider the Communists to be every bit as evil as the Nazis, you will possibly understand why some conservatives feel that McCarthy's excesses, while lamentable, do not render him a monstor like Hitler, but rather a flawed political figure like Truman.

Also, McCarthy was not alone responsible for the excesses of the era named after him. The House Unamerican Services Committee was independent of McCarthy.

This reminds me of a arch-conservative web site blasting a history prof at some university for having a picture on his web site of him at Marx's tomb.

Posted by: Mike Smith at August 9, 2003 06:32 AM

(OK, I was typing too fast and probably messed up the name of that House committee. I can't remember the exact name just now.)

Posted by: Mike Smith at August 9, 2003 06:35 AM

It is difficult to take seriously an argument that would liken the political flaws of Harry Truman to those of Joseph McCarthy. Truman's anti-semitism, if you could call it that, was documented in personal writings, expressing frustration with events of the time. His policies and actions, on the other hand, could be viewed as quite the opposite of anti-semitism. That there were communists in government does not absolve McCarthy from HIS actions. He conducted a witch hunt that ruined the careers and lives of American citizens guilty of no criminal wrong doing. There have always been spys in America. Recourse to the Alien and Sedition Acts, the internment of Japanese Americans, and the witch hunts of Joseph McCarthy remain shameful chapters in American history. Conservatives, one would expect, would be trumpeters of individual liberty and freedom of speech. How bizarre and Orwellian, to today resurrect McCarthy as a champion of Conservatism. Joseph McCarthy could have RUN a banana republic.

Posted by: BF at August 9, 2003 07:29 AM

The left has Michael Moore.

The right has Ann Coulter.

Your point?

Posted by: Roark at August 9, 2003 08:29 AM

More interesting, though, was the context of Hitchens' remark, which concerned her willingness to give the President the benefit of the doubt in redacting the 9/11 report. Usually, when people question the President's veracity leading into the war, it's Hitchens who wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. Coulter and Hitchens are soulmates, even if they don't share the same politics.

Posted by: Steve Smith at August 9, 2003 09:00 AM

Hitchens and Truman have two things going for them that Ann Coulter doesn't. They both have a broad range of support that crosses party lines, and they earn the respect of many of their opponents.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 9, 2003 10:00 AM

Truman's anti-semitism, if you could call it that

Harry Truman had a stated policy of never allowing a Jew into his house. Sounds like anti-Semitism to me, but you probably never knew that about Truman.

I'm not trying to bash Truman, just trying to show how our impressions of which American politicians are treated as "beyond redemption" is very subjective and frequently subject to the spin of political enemies.

Posted by: Mike Smith at August 9, 2003 10:36 AM


I find it interesting that you associate the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII with McCarthy. I can't say whether he had no hand in it, but the evidence I've read indicates that FDR's hand was must certainly involved, and was definititely what we would now call a racist.

My point is, McCarthy should not be treated any less fairly then other men of his generation. A knee-jerk sneering at McCarthy while at the same time defending men like Truamn and FDR represents an unfair spin on the truth.

Posted by: Mike Smith at August 9, 2003 10:45 AM

Whose careers and lives were ruined by McCarthy? Do you have any links? I'm just curious.

Posted by: iagofest at August 9, 2003 01:31 PM

"I'm not trying to bash Truman, just trying to show how our impressions of which American politicians are treated as "beyond redemption" is very subjective and frequently subject to the spin of political enemies."

Every politician has flaws. One can spin Roosevelt, Truman, Nixon , Reagon, Clinton, or McCarthy to one's own political liking. Jefferson Davis and Osama bin Laden are heroes to some. Truth can be subjective. History is the polemics of the victor, etc.

This is all obvious. Surely, your point was more than this introduction to freshman political science.

The crux of your post is whether Harry Truman was just as flawed as Truman or Roosevelt - and whether liberal perspectives on McCarthy are knee jerk responses. If this was your spin - and it sure seems so - why don't you just say it? If I am mistaken, and your post was supposed to be a didactic lesson in polemics for naive liberals, well, thank you for your insights.

Posted by: BF at August 9, 2003 05:18 PM

McCarthy's flaws are not subjective, IMHO. Nor were FDR's, for example. It is in comparing them that subjectivity creeps in.

I think McCarthy acted preposterously. He could have accomplished a lot more if he'd been far more focused with his accusations. He was a Senator, for heavens sake, he would have gotten attention without making accusations that he couldn't back up. Coulter does this, too.

But FDR sent 110,000 people to prison camps, and he has a memorial in Washington, D.C.

I haven't read Coulter's book (any of them), but I gather from what's on-line that she is calling into question the standard wisdon that large numbers of people had their "lives ruined" by McCarthy.

I have another question: did McCarthy succeed in actually exposing even one Communist agent with all his noise and bluster? I know we know about them now (from KGB files), but did McCarthy finger any of them? Did his activities, for all the trouble they caused, expose any real culprits. If so, I've never heard about it. I'd hate to have to read Coulter's book to find out.

Posted by: Mike Smith at August 9, 2003 10:18 PM

Anyone discussing Ann Coulter and Joe McCarthy needs to read David Horowitz's article on her latest book. (As a genuine neo-conservative, he knows what he's talking about.)

Also recommended: The Weekly Standard's biting and hilarious item about Ms Coulter.

Posted by: Chris Chittleborough at August 10, 2003 12:41 AM

The real secret about Coulter that no one is willing to discuss is that she is not, in fact, that hot.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 10, 2003 01:03 AM

Forgive a non-american to ask a few questions.

How many people were sent to the firesquad by Mc Carthy's action? How many were sent to reeducation camps? I am not telling that Mc Carthy was a great American (as Ms Coulter does) or even a good one but in my views you need to do a LOT more evil than making a few hollywooders lose their jobs in order to qualify as a monster whose grave is so poisonous it cannot be visited.

And I would tend to frown upon those who visit the graves of the people who helped Stalin to get the bomb or helped Soviet Union, Red China or the Vietcong and Khmer Rouge: they have shaken hands with bloody regimes and thus they have blood in their hands (eg Jane Fonda).

Posted by: JFM at August 10, 2003 03:07 AM

"McCarthy's flaws are not subjective, IMHO. Nor were FDR's, for example. It is in comparing them that subjectivity creeps in."

I better understand what you are saying. I would not place any American president on a pedestal - but their faults, whether one regards them as subjective or not, should be considered in context of the time.

Getting back to Truman, he was a product of early 20th century, small town midwestern America. He entered the oval office having never been more than a political hack of the corrupt Kansas City Democratic machine, and came with all the provincial small-mindedness of his surroundings. Stalin regarded him as minor shop keeper, and there was truth to this assessment. However, Truman grew into the Presidency and became a greater person than the individual who came out of Missouri. He initiated the ultimately successful containment of the Soviets, and approved the Marshall plan - an audacious undertaking which took courage to support. If he had anti-semitic feelings, I don't excuse it, but I also can recognize that this was rather normal for midwesterners of the time. Roosevelt, a New Yorker, regarded Jews as residing in America at the "sufferance" of Protestants, which was not an uncommon feeling for those of his patrician roots. Still, circumstances of his presidency were extraordinary, and the way he dealt with the events of the depression and a world war put him in the pantheon of great leaders. He nonetheless remained hated by his fellow patricians for having betrayed his "class".

By contrast, the small minded, mean spirited Joe McCarthy remained so until the end - and I share the impression that he had little to do with the gains realized against Soviet spies. This is why I would not wish draw comparisons with Truman or Roosevelt.

Posted by: BF at August 10, 2003 10:06 AM

Steve Smith: Did you hear the debate? The whole reason he slammed Coulter was her steadfast defense of the President and his decision to redact the 28 pages of the 9/11 report.

General Point: McCarthy didn't just point out that there were "some" communists in our government. He trotted around the country, waving a list in his hand which he claimed included the names of all of the communists in our government. His entire claim to fame was based on a lie. Other than witch hunting, the only things McCarthy is known for was lying about being a tailgunner in order to win his Senate seat in 1946, being an early ally of John F Kennedy, and for literally drinking himself to death (according to A&E's "Biography", his drinking problem gave him an ulcer so severe he had to eat a cube of butter to line his stomach so he could continue drinking).

Posted by: Sean at August 10, 2003 12:15 PM

Mr. Smith,

You seem quite comfortable discussing Truman's anti-semitism, but fail to mention that he had a Jewish partner in his clothing business.

Posted by: ttam at August 11, 2003 07:49 AM

Smith: Before you respond to my earlier post, please note that, upon reflection, I must confess it was a bit snippy in tone. I'm not trying to start a flame war.

Posted by: Sean at August 11, 2003 09:23 AM

"You seem quite comfortable discussing Truman's anti-semitism, but fail to mention that he had a Jewish partner in his clothing business."

Hi ttam - I would add that he publicly spoke will of this man, whose name escapes me.

Further reading on Mike's point about the Truman home suggested that it was the policy of his wife and mother-in-law to not allow Jews inside - this is apparently what was told to David Susskind as he was forced to wait outside on the porch. The house, I believe, was owned by his wife's mother. Whether this is the full story will not be known, but this is consistent with the brow beating of Truman by his mother in law, and the shoddy treatment he received from his wife during his tenure in office (at least IMHO). I wonder whether Harry would or could have said "I'm the President of the United States and I'll let anyone I goddam please into my home". History suggests otherwise.

Posted by: BF at August 11, 2003 12:34 PM

Truman was the first example that came to my mind. After the thread continued, you might notice that I settled on FDR's authorization of the internment of Japanese-Americans as a better example of something that could have been used to turn a politician into someone whose grave you cannot even visit without sneers.

The difference, actually, is that FDR is known for so much more. McCarthy doesn't appear to have had much of a Senate career outside his famous crusade to rid government of Communists, a crusade which he carried out in a manner suggesting he didn't have as much proof as he claimed.

McCarthy did less than FDR overall, both good and bad. An argument could be made that he did less bad (e.i., jailing 110,000 innocents for four years could be said to outweigh wildly accusing people of being Communists).

I agree that the comparison of Coulter with McCarthy is apt. I still think making a bid deal about the picture is being snide. Better to focus on Coulter's logic, or lack thereof.

Posted by: Mike Smith at August 11, 2003 02:25 PM

Actually, McCarthy's anti-communist crusade was full of "proof". Ninety to one hundred proof, if I'm not mistaken.

Posted by: Sean at August 11, 2003 02:42 PM

Mr. Baron's comparison of Ann Coulter to P.J. O'Rourke is an insult to one of the most brilliant, original, and thought-provoking consveratives of our time (by which I refer to O'Rourke, not that freak-show Coulter).

Whatever happened to P.J. anyway? Anything new coming from him?

Posted by: Oberon at August 11, 2003 06:31 PM

Ann Coulter has gone beyond "defensible".By the way, McCarthy was never able to have an accused Red be found guilty. Coulter and McCarthy are very similar they both became "known" by playing to the public's fears and they both had no regard for the truth.

Posted by: Frank G at August 17, 2003 12:52 PM

Hitchen's vendetta against Henry Kissinger is more than a little fascinating. He even managed to slip a totally irrelevant little slap into this interview. I'm not sure that a man who too this day is a partisan for North Vietnam ought to be accusing other people of supporting war criminals. But, then again, Hitch is an erudite drunken British Trotskyite, so we've got to give him the benefit of the doubt, now don't we?

Posted by: ben at August 19, 2003 12:41 PM

Oberon> I didn't mean it like that. I am a major fan of O'Rourke, and I was more referring to when O'Rourke created an Enemies List for shits and grins. I more see her as trying to imitate O'Rourke and meant to insult to PJ.

Granted I am not too quick to be too critical of Ann Coulter as well I am a heterosexual 26 year old unmarried male, but that shouldn't excuse her for jumping to extremes.

Posted by: Green Baron at August 21, 2003 06:03 PM

Roark: Moore and that skinny bint Coutler are not comparable. Moore is closer to being a satirist-cum-verbal stonethrower. Skinnybint relentlessly spews dogmatic vicious vitriol. I don't know about her being schizophrenic but she is so out of touch I have genuinely wondered if she is psychotic.
More here.

As for casualties of McCarthyism I would include Arthur Miller. He was talking about The Crucible in a programme on the BBC World Service the other night. In fact it may still be available online. He said that on it's first night people he knew in the audience wouldn't talk to him on the way out of the auditorium because they were too scared to be associated with him.
When things get that bad in any country something has gone terribly wrong. It's a hair's breadth from the extremism that occurred in the Chinese Cultural Revolution and in Stalinist Russia.

Posted by: irritant at September 1, 2003 11:07 AM

"As for casualties of McCarthyism I would include Arthur Miller."

Lunacy like this deserves a response:

This kind of broadbrush outburst show historical ignorance. It ties McCarthy to activities he had nothing to do with, and it relies on a discredited version of history that paints McCarthy as one who hunted for Communists and spies that didnt exist. That view has been dramatically disproven by the release of KGB files and the opening of spy documents (such as the Venona transcripts) that shows that American Communists actively assisted Soviet intelligence efforts in the United States and elsewhere. Senator Joe McCarthy confronted government officials engaging in a concealment of communist involvement, and uncovered an excessively lax security posture with regards to Communists in sensitive U.S. Government posts. We now know that Alger Hiss, a high level State Department official in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, was indeed a Communist and a Soviet spy, and that the Venona files reveal several hundred Soviet agents in the US Govt, so the fears of anti-Communists like McCarthy were well-founded.

Arthur Herman, in his is new book, "Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator,", goes some way in restoring balance to our views on McCarthy from the familar broad-brush phony treatment of him as a bogeyman. He says that the accuracy of McCarthy's charges "was no longer a matter of debate," that they are "now accepted as fact." And The New York Post’s Eric Fettmann has noted: “growing historical evidence underscores that, whatever his rhetorical and investigative excesses — and they were substantial — McCarthy was a lot closer to the truth about Communism than were his foes.”(1)

(1) (source:

Here is a more detailed examination of these points:

1. Were Communists in Government a real security threat? Was Soviet spying and influence a danger? Yes and Yes!
The Venona transcripts prove that many (perhaps in the hundreds) of Communists in the US Government were spies for Stalin's USSR. Alger Hiss, Klaus Fuchs, the Rosenbergs, which in the 1950s the Left claimed were being falsely accused, were indeed spies for the USSR and gave the atomic bomb and other deadly secrets to the USSR. Alger Hiss was the most senior traitor in the US Government since Benedict Arnold, yet the left defended him and defamed his accusers, for 50 years. The Venona transcripts identified over 300 spies for the USSR that infiltrated the US Government, over 100 of them named. In many cases, the Soviet spies were commited Communists.

Some examples: " The 1940s Democrat Congressman Sam Dickstein (D-NY) it has been discovered was a Soviet agent (codename was crook). ... Harold Glasser, a US Treasury Department official (code-named Ruble) who passed scores of key State Department and Treasury policy documents to Soviet intelligence."
"The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America's Traitors," (Regnery, 608 pp, $29.95).

2. But did McCarthy help to uncover real security risks to the US? The claims that the targets of McCarthy were innocents or the wrong ones is false.

"Any list of identified communists uncovered by McCarthy would have to include Lauchlin Currie, Gustavo Duran, Theodore Geiger, Mary Jane Keeney, Edward Posniak, Haldore Hanson, John Carter Vincent, Owen Lattimore, Edward Rothschild, Irving Peress, and Annie Lee Moss.
... McCarthy also exposed scores of others who were causing harm to national security from their posts in the State Department, the Pentagon. The McCarthy probe resulted in the removal or further investigation by the FBI of 77 employees and a complete revamping of the security system at the GPO. Of the 110 names that McCarthy gave the Tydings Committee to be investigated, 62 of them were employed by the State Department at the time of the hearings. The committee cleared everyone on McCarthy's list, but within a year the State Department started proceedings against 49 of the 62. By the end of 1954, 81 of those on McCarthy's list had left the government either by dismissal or resignation."

Take the case of Owen Lattimore: "Lattimore had been Roosevelt's key advisor on China policy. Yet Evans showed evidence from 5,000 pages of FBI files on him -- files released only a few years ago to the public, although the White House had access to them. However, evidence before the committee showed that Lattimore had supported Soviet policy at every turn, even declaring that the Stalin purge trials in Russia, "sound like democracy to me." With then-Vice President Henry Wallace in Russia, Lattimore compared concentration camps to the Tennessee Valley Authority, and later urged Washington to abandon China to communism and to withdraw from Japan and Korea."

Owen Lattimore was rightly accused of "losing China" for his actions. The loss of China led to the loss of over 50,000 Americans defending the Korean peninsula against the million-strong Red Chinese Army fighting with the North Koreans, so to say his actions were did not unmine America and had benign consequences would be very foolish.

"It was also during the mid-to-late 1940s that communist sympathizers in the State Department played a key role in the subjugation of mainland China by the Reds. "It is my judgment, and I was in the State Department at the time," said former Ambassador William D. Pawley, "that this whole fiasco, the loss of China and the subsequent difficulties with which the United States has been faced, was the result of mistaken policy of Dean Acheson, Phil Jessup, [Owen] Lattimore, John Carter Vincent, John Service, John Davies, [O.E.] Clubb, and others." Asked if he thought the mistaken policy was the result of "sincere mistakes of judgment," Pawley replied: "No, I don't."

3. The US State Department had been compromised by Communist infiltration in the 1940s, and McCarthy brought that serious problem to light:

"Communist infiltration of the State Department began in the 1930s. On September 2, 1939, former communist Whittaker Chambers provided Assistant Secretary of State Adolph Berle with the names and communist connections of two dozen spies in the government, including Alger Hiss. Berle took the information to President Roosevelt, but FDR laughed it off. Hiss moved rapidly up the State Department ladder and served as an adviser to Roosevelt at the disastrous 1945 Yalta Conference that paved the way for the Soviet conquest of Central and Eastern Europe. Hiss also functioned as secretary-general of the founding meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco, helped to draft the UN Charter, and later filled dozens of positions at the UN with American communists before he was publicly exposed as a Soviet spy by Whittaker Chambers in 1948.

The security problem at the State Department had worsened considerably in 1945 when a merger brought into State thousands of employees from such war agencies as the Office of Strategic Services, the Office of War Information, and the Foreign Economic Administration - all of which were riddled with members of the communist underground. J. Anthony Panuch, the State Department official charged with supervising the 1945 merger, told a Senate committee in 1953 that "the biggest single thing that contributed to the infiltration of the State Department was the merger of 1945. The effects of that are still being felt." In 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall and Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson engineered the firing of Panuch and the removal of every key member of his security staff.

In June 1947, a Senate Appropriations subcommittee addressed a secret memorandum to Marshall, calling to his attentiom 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 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.

The memorandum listed the names of nine of these State Department officials and said that they were "only a few of the hundreds now employed in varying capacities who are protected and allowed to remain despite the fact that their presence is an obvious hazard to national security." On June 24, 1947, Assistant Secretary of State John Peurifoy notified the chairman of the Senate subcommittee that ten persons had been dismissed from the department, five of whom had been listed in the memorandum. But from June 1947 until McCarthy's Wheeling speech in February 1950, the State Department did not fire one person as a loyalty or security risk. In other branches of the government, however, more than 300 persons were discharged for loyalty reasons alone during the period from 1947 to 1951."

4. What about the abuses of "McCarthyism"? Communists in Government posed real security risks, and as Sen McCarthy pointed out: "There is no reason why men who chum with communists, who refuse to turn their backs on traitors, and who are consistently found at the time and place where disaster strikes America and success comes to international communism, should be given positions of power in government."

Here is what some Government workers who were faced with :


Mr. Cohn. Mr. Fast, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?
Mr. Fast. I must refuse to answer that question, claiming my rights and protection under the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.\9\

Is this an unfair question to ask a US Government employee? Was it an unfair question to ask during the Korean war, when American
soldiers were fighting and dying in a war against a Communist military from China, North Korea and the USSR? Well, some Communists seemed to think so, this is why Owen Lattimore invented the term "McCarthyism", to discredit and mischaracterize the demand for loyalty among US Government officials as an assualt on free speech. It was not. McCarthy was not concerned we any citizen's views, he was concerned with the views of those who could betray secrets or influence American foreign policy.

4. Didnt McCarthy go too far in attacking the Army? No! McCarthy was investigating real security lapses at Monmouth bases, that were not properly attended to by the Army. The US Government knew Soviet spy Julius Rosenberg had recruited friends to work for the Soviets, many of whom were apparentely at the Monmouth Army base, and so were the targets of questioning and investigation. But the Army was covering up rather than cleaning up this situtation. McCarthy's investigation into it went up against powers larger than he was in Eisenhower and the Defense Dept, and in alliance with Democrats, they used it to destroy him.

But after McCarthy was destroyed politically, even his enemies did know that security at Monmouth had been compromised:

"The Army Signal Corps installation at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey was one of the nation's most vital security posts, since the three research centers housed there were engaged in developing defensive devices designed to protect America from an atomic attack. Julius Rosenberg, who was executed in 1953 for selling U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, worked as an inspector at Fort Monmouth from 1940 to 1945 and maintained his Signal Corps contacts for at least another two years after that. From 1949 to 1953, the FBI had been warning the Army about security risks at Fort Monmouth, but the Army paid little attention to the reports of subversion until the McCarthy investigation began in 1953.

During 1953 and 1954, the McCarthy Committee, acting on reports of communist infiltration from civilian employees, Army officers, and enlisted personnel, heard 71 witnesses at executive sessions and 41 at open hearings. The Army responded by suspending or discharging 35 persons as security risks, but when these cases reached the Army Loyalty and Screening Board at the Pentagon, all but two of the suspected security risks were reinstated and given back pay. McCarthy demanded the names of the 20 civilians on the review board and, when he threatened to subpoena them, the Eisenhower Administration, at a meeting in Attorney General Herbert Brownell's office on January 21, 1954, began plotting to stop McCarthy's investigations once and for all.

Virtually all of those suspended were eventually restored to duty at Fort Monmouth and anti-McCarthyites have cited this as proof that McCarthy had failed once again to substantiate his allegations. But vindication of McCarthy came later, when the Army's top-secret operations at Fort Monmouth were quietly moved to Arizona. In his 1979 book With No Apologies, Senator Barry Goldwater explained the reason for the move:

Carl Hayden, who in January 1955 became chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee of the United States Senate, told me privately Monmouth had been moved because he and other members of the majority Democratic Party were convinced security at Monmouth had been penetrated. They didn't want to admit that McCarthy was right in his accusations. Their only alternative was to move the installation from New Jersey to a new location in Arizona.""

It is foolish indeed to pretend that the Army is immune to having spies in its ranks, even today.
Muslim Army Chaplain Yee, has just been charged with espionage in connection with his counseling of Gitmo Al Quaeda suspects:

5. Given the prevalence of hundreds of Commnist spies in Government, and the record of administration officials failing to maintain security, why the destructive attitude towards a man like Senator McCarthy who wanted to stop it? Joe McCarthy was hated and denounced not because he smeared innocent people, but because he identified guilty people, and because he exposed lapses in the security procedures in the US Government, embarrassing Government officials. McCarthy's own faults and excesses gave McCarthy's enemies in the executive branch the ammunition to bring him down.

"Professor Arthur Herman. His new book, "Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator," ... shows the vindication of most of McCarthy's charges. Herman, who is also coordinator of the Smithsonian's Western Heritage Program, said that the accuracy of McCarthy's charges "was no longer a matter of debate," that they are "now accepted as fact." However, the term "McCarthyism" still remains in the language."
Asked whether McCarthy had understood all the forces arrayed against him, Herman said no, that McCarthy hadn't realized he'd be fighting against much of the Washington establishment. President Truman was fearful that exposures would reflect on key Democrat officials, he said, and big media and the academic world were very leftist, a heritage of the Depression and World War II. High government officials also feared investigations of their past appointments and associations with people who turned out to be communists or sympathizers."

See also Arthur Herman's book and the various reviews:

6. The real relevance of McCarthy to today: McCarthyism was a serious attempt to remove from positions of influence the advocates of communism, the willing supporters of communism and communists, and persons who would prevent the removal of those who give aid and comfort to the enemies of America. It's a serious question, because just as we faced it with Communism in the Cold War 1950s, we face it with Jihadism today.
An analogous situation would be if an al-Qaeda or Hezbollah sympathizers were working in the State Department or another sensitive agency of government today and keeping such affiliation secret. Joe McCarthy demonstrated the fact that Communists had no more of a right work in our government than Nazis or a Klansmen or affiliates to terrorist organizations. Do Jihadists? If today, someone 'plead the fifth' on whether they were a member of Al Quaeda, or Hamas, or an islamic Jihadist organization, would we let them remain in sensitive positions in the Government? No, we'd remove them and rightly so.

7. The real more balanced story on McCarthy is now out there, raised by Conservatives who are challenging Liberals to own up to "McCarthyism is evil" as a fable:

Ann Coulter's new book "Treaton" is based partly on the theme of rehabiliting McCarthy after 50 years of demonization:
"McCarthy was not tilting at windmills. Soviet spies in the government were not a figment of right-wing imaginations. He was tilting at an authentic Communist conspiracy that had been laughed off by the Democratic Party." -Ann Coulter, Treason.

Medford Evans said: "The restoration of McCarthy … is a necessary part of the restoration of America, for if we have not the national character to repent of the injustice we did him, nor in high places the intelligence to see that he was right, then it seems unlikely that we can or ought to survive."

In summary:
The strawman view of McCarthy and McCarthyism as 100% wrong and a dangerous force in American politics is 100% wrong. Describing McCarthyism as a "witchhunt" is also false - there really was a serious problem of Communist infiltration into the US Government, in particular the State Department, at that time. It posed real security risks and real spies (many of whom were never caught) operated for years in sensitive posts. The demonization of McCarthyism for 50 years has served mainly as a useful rhetorical cudgel by Liberals against Conservative attempts to point out connections between Liberals and far Leftists and to descredit anti-Communism itself. But that demonization is a fraud, as anyone who honestly looks at the real historical record can discover.

Posted by: Patrick at September 21, 2003 12:01 PM

McCarthy's attacks made many peoples' lives miserable and damaged their professional careers beyond repair, even after McCarthy was unmasked.

Those who defend them are as ignorant and dangerous as they are foolish.

Posted by: Grandson at January 4, 2004 09:10 PM


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"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere

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Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn