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Columnist wrong about Joseph McCarthy


To the Editor:

Diana West laments the “recurring and gratuitous slander of the late, great (Joseph) McCarthy” and claims we “owe” the man for his “unflagging courage” in her column printed in the Daily Globe May 3. Minimal apolitical historical research shows a much different person.

Joseph McCarthy was an unsuccessful lawyer, a gambler, a liar and an alcoholic. When, as a Democrat, his party refused to slate him as a candidate for district attorney in the late 1930s, he switched political parties. He did join the Marines late in World War II, but only had desk jobs and rode airplanes only on training missions.

After the way, he campaigned against Bob LaFollette in the primary for the U.S. Senate with posters of himself in aviators’ combat gear and draped with a bandoleer of ammunition even though he never saw combat. He accused LaFollette of dodging the draft even though LaFollette, 46 years of age at the time of Pearl Harbor, was too old to serve.

After an unimpressive first term in the Senate, a political advisor urged McCarthy to take advantage of the public hysterical phobia of “communists everywhere,” most notably in the U.S. Army, the State Department and Hollywood. He claimed a list of 205 communist party members in the State Department, but never accused them by name. He later amended the number to 57 and waved a piece of paper at the camera during his famous Lincoln Day speech in 1950, but still never released any names.

McCarthy’s fecklessness caught up with him when, from his chair on the Government Committee on Operations, he claimed communist infiltration of the U.S. Army in October 1953. That was too much for President Eisenhower, a real war hero, who fought back during the Army-McCarthy hearings.

McCarthy could prove nothing. His anti-communist demagoguery backfired when his abuses of congressional power were brought to light by investigative reporters Drew Pearson and Edward R. Murrow.

By a vote of 67 to 22 (there were 96 senators at this time), the Senate stripped him of his committee chairmanship and censured him for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” McCarthy died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 48.

Please, West, spare us your political spin and deal with historical fact.

Sam Filippo

Saxon, Wis.


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