The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

December 16, 2017

FEATURE ARTICLES
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Unamerican Activities
Daniel J. Flynn - 04/24/08

Evans dubs the proceedings “a breathtaking venture in deception,” a verdict confirmed by the author’s juxtaposition of the committee’s final report with State Department press releases and internal documents. Large swaths of the former were taken verbatim from the latter. Rare in the annals of congressional oversight, the subject of the investigation actually got to author, without attribution of course, the final report on itself.

Compounding the initial corruption of congressional oversight, the report then served as the basis for much of the subsequent anti-McCarthy oeuvre. Evans writes, “With no conspicuous exceptions, mainstream bios and histories of the era have taken their cues from Tydings and/or the orations of [Rep. Frank] Karsten and his colleagues, repeating as supposed fact their statements on the Wheeling numbers, the Lee list, and other alleged proofs of McCarthy’s lying. Readers of these works have no way of knowing—and the authors themselves didn’t seem to know—that the whole thing was concocted by the State Department.” But now they know, with Evans’s scholarship removing any excuse future historians have for relying on a State Department-produced document to exonerate the State Department.

McCarthy skyrocketed in influence after the Wheeling speech. The 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings ensured as rapid a fall.

When Republicans had been the beneficiaries of McCarthy’s crusade—proof of which came in the defeats of Senate antagonists Millard Tydings, William Benton, Scott Lucas, and Ernest McFarland—they rejoiced. When Republicans became the targets of McCarthy’s crusade, in the form of the Army-McCarthy hearings during Eisenhower’s second year in office, they recoiled. What drove Democrats and Republicans was the mistaken assumption that McCarthy’s was a partisan crusade instead of a crusade against Communists in government. When GOP stalwarts recognized that McCarthy’s tenacity could just as easily harm their party as it had harmed the Democrats, their support for the balding and burly lawmaker eroded.

A second cause of McCarthy’s downfall was his impolitic choice of targets, the United States Army. Though the Army had figured prominently in the Rosenberg case, whose coda had come in the execution of the two principle defendants the year prior to Army-McCarthy, its standing as a beloved American institution granted it immunity from criticism. McCarthy took the side of Army officers seeking to rid their own ranks of Reds. But this was easily spun as an attack on the U.S. Army by Pentagon and White House officials who, bizarrely and repeatedly, blocked the dismissal of security and loyalty risks.

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