Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy (November 14, 1908 – May 2, 1957) was an American politician who was a U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion. He was noted for making claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and elsewhere. Ultimately, the controversy he generated led him to be censured by the United States Senate.
The term "McCarthyism", coined in 1950 in reference to McCarthy's practices, was soon applied to similar anti-communist activities. Today, the term is used by critics of McCarthy in reference to what they consider demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents.
McCarthy was born in 1908 in the Town of Grand Chute in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, and attended Marquette University, studying different subjects before deciding on law and earning an LL.B. from Marquette University Law School. He practiced law and won election as a circuit court judge, and at age 33 McCarthy volunteered to serve in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. He successfully ran for the United States Senate in 1946, defeating Robert M. La Follette Jr. After three largely undistinguished years in the Senate, McCarthy rose suddenly to national fame in February 1950 when he asserted in a speech that he had a list of "members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring" who were employed in the State Department.
In succeeding years after his 1950 speech, McCarthy made additional accusations of Communist infiltration into the State Department, the administration of President Harry S. Truman, the Voice of America, and the United States Army. He also used various charges of communism, communist sympathies, disloyalty, or sex crimes to attack a number of politicians and other individuals inside and outside of government.
McCarthy made various attempts to investigate, and hold accountable (as the practice was still against the law in many locations), people whom he accused, or threatened to publicly accuse, of homosexuality. Former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson has written, "The so-called 'Red Scare' has been the main focus of most historians of that period of time. A lesser-known element... and one that harmed far more people was the 'Lavender Scare', a witch-hunt McCarthy and others conducted against homosexuals." With the highly publicized Army–McCarthy hearings of 1954, and following the suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester C. Hunt that same year, McCarthy's support and popularity faded. On December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to censure Senator McCarthy by a vote of 67–22, making him one of the few senators ever to be disciplined in this fashion. McCarthy died at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland on May 2, 1957, at the age of 48. The official cause of death was acute hepatitis. Some biographers say this was caused or exacerbated by alcoholism....LESS
In this landmark work, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ted Morgan examines the McCarthyite strain in American politics, from its origins in the period that followed the Bolshevik Revolution to the present. Morgan argues that Senator Joseph McCarthy did not emerge in a vacuum--he was, rather, the most prominent in a long line of men who exploited the issue of Communism for political advantage.
In 1918, America invaded Russia in an attempt at regime change. Meanwhile, on the home front, the first of many congressional investigations of Communism was conducted. Anarchist bombs exploded from coast to coast, leading to the political repression of the Red Scare.
Soviet subversion and espionage in the United States began in 1920, under the cover of a trade mission. Franklin Delano Roosevelt granted the Soviets diplomatic recognition in 1933, which gave them an opportunity to expand their spy networks by using their embassy and consulates as espionage hubs. Simultaneously, the American Communist Party provided a recruitment pool for homegrown spies. Martin Dies, Jr., the first congressman to make his name as a Red hunter, developed solid information on Communist subversion through his Un-American Activities Committee. However, its hearings were marred by partisan attacks on the New Deal, presaging McCarthy.
The most pervasive period of Soviet espionage came during World War II, when Russia, as an ally of the United States, received military equipment financed under the policy of lend-lease. It was then that highly placed spies operated inside the U.S. government and in America's nuclear facilities. Thanks to the Venona transcripts of KGB cable traffic, we now have a detailed account of wartime Soviet espionage, down to the marital problems of Soviet spies and the KGB's abject efforts to capture deserting Soviet seamen on American soil.
During the Truman years, Soviet espionage was in disarray following the defections of Elizabeth Bentley and Igor Gouzenko. The American Communist Party was much diminished by a number of measures, including its expulsion from the labor unions, the prosecution of its leaders under the Smith Act, and the weeding out, under Truman's loyalty program, of subversives in government. As Morgan persuasively establishes, by the time McCarthy exploited the Red issue in 1950, the battle against Communists had been all but won by the Truman administration.
In this bold narrative history, Ted Morgan analyzes the paradoxical culture of fear that seized a nation at the height of its power. Using Joseph McCarthy's previously unavailable private papers and recently released transcripts of closed hearings of McCarthy's investigations subcommittee, Morgan provides many new insights into the notorious Red hunter's methods and motives.
Full of drama and intrigue, finely etched portraits, and political revelations, Reds brings to life a critical period in American history that has profound relevance to our own time.
From the Hardcover edition.