America's Retreat from Victory - Joseph McCarthy

What is Senator McCarthy Trying to Do?

This essay, written by John T. Flynn several years after the 'America's Retreat from Victory' was published, discusses the concerted effort then under way to impugn evil motives and destroy McCarthy's reputation'. McCarthy died four years later at age 48. His defamation and death served as a warning to those who would expose 'communist' infiltration of American government.

"What is the average American to think when the New York Times and Herald-Tribune; the Methodist Bishop Oxnam and the Chicago Catholic Bishop Shiel; Gus Hall, National Secretary of the Communist Party; Adlai Stevenson and General Eisenhower are all united in one great cause—the war on Senator McCarthy because he is fighting Communists in Government? This curious collection of allies compels us to re-examine some of our cherished assumptions about America. If we will do that with candor, we will begin to understand why the Communist revolution in America is so terrifying a threat to our civilization." — John T. Flynn

What is Senator Joe McCarthy up to? What is he trying to do? One critic has said he is just an invincible show-off. But now his enemies say he is trying to make himself President. As for running for the Presidency, McCarthy has no illusions. A very wise politician, he knows as well as the next man that the time has not yet arrived when a Catholic can be elected President of the United States. His foes can stop worrying about that.

What, then, is he up to? The implication is that he has some mysterious enterprise on his agenda. But after all, is there anything wrong about being against Communism and Communists in America? Is some profound psychological problem involved in explaining why an American Senator is against Communism?

No, there is no mystery about Joe McCarthy. As a matter of fact, he is about the most obvious person in Washington. He just doesn't like Communists. And above all, he doesn't think they should hold jobs—particularly important jobs—in our Government. What is so peculiar about this point of view that it should call for an explanation? The mystery of Joe McCarthy can be explained in a single sentence: he is opposed to admitting Americans who are the enemies of our American system of government—Communists or Socialists—into the Government of the United States.

It is just as simple as that and, I should like to inquire, what is wrong about it? And I would like to ask one more question. What is the matter with the people who want to know what is the matter with McCarthy?

The truth is that McCarthy has come in for the same dose that has been given to every political leader or writer who has broken a lance against the Commies. McCarthy didn't begin this. The first important attack on the Reds was made by a famed and beloved old labor leader, John Frey, vice-president of the American Federation of Labor. He appeared as one of the first witnesses before the Dies Committee in 1938 and gave the committee a list of more than a hundred Communists who had penetrated the newly formed CIO labor federation. President Roosevelt sent for the chairman of the committee, Martin Dies, and demanded that he put an end to Frey's testimony, which Dies refused to do.

Later Dies became the target of the same groups that have been sniping at McCarthy. A group of congressmen headed by Frank Hook of Michigan hatched a plot to disgrace Dies. They obtained a letter supposedly written to Dies by the discredited and convicted William Dudley Pelley, then a fugitive from justice. Hook was delivering a speech against Dies in the House when Pelley turned up and denounced the letter as a forgery. This was proved when the disreputable stooge who wrote it confessed to the forgery, for which he was paid $105, and was convicted and jailed. Later the Reds and their strange allies in the Democratic Party massed all their forces to defeat Dies in Texas. He is back in the House now, I am glad to say, after a long absence.

Bob Stripling, the chief investigator of the Dies Committee, was drafted into the Army (though he had standard exemptions which excluded others at the time) and sent to a camp as a yardbird, sweeping refuse, along with German prisoners. Parnell Thomas, who succeeded Dies as committee chairman, was shadowed and spied on until they found he had taken a kickback from one of his office employees—not unusual among Congressmen who have campaign expenses to meet. He was indicted and sent to jail. Joseph Starnes, an able member of the committee from Alabama, became the target of the infuriated Reds and their Democratic allies and was defeated in an election in which all the forces of the national administration were mobilized against him.

The toll of the dispossessed is a long one. I could fill this page with the names of writers and journalists who were silenced for their boldness in attacking the Communists in government. Every time a Red was spotted in government and exposed or indicted, all the forces of the administration were mobilized to defend him or her and to persecute his accuser.

When Whittaker Chambers revealed the Hiss treason to Adolf Berle, a loyal and left-wing Democrat then an Assistant Secretary of State, and Berle carried that news to the State Department and the President, nothing was done about Hiss; but Berle was later literally transported out of the State Department to a post in South America. It was years before Hiss was brought to book. It is one of the strangest stories in our history. McCarthy is simply getting the standard treatment prepared to intimidate lesser and weaker men.

McCarthy's special objective now is quite obvious and of the first importance. America faces many grave and almost frightening problems. These call for the devoted attention of men and women dedicated to our own country and its interests. The United States Government simply cannot afford the presence in its counsels and among its officers of a camarilla of officials who are part of a conspiracy to advance the interests of any other country at the expense of our own—any country, but above all, Soviet Russia and her Communist allies. McCarthy's objective is to rid our government of that conspiracy. For the life of me, I cannot understand why any loyal American should not approve this.

Actually, McCarthy came into the struggle somewhat late. He had been in the Marines during World War II. He entered the Senate in 1946. The revelations of the shocking betrayal of China by American Reds in official posts shocked him. He began to study that dreadful story, but it was not until 1950 that in the course of a speech he charged that 57 members of the Communist Party were in the State Department. He did not name any, but in a long speech a little later expanded the charges and in the course of that speech said there was a top Communist espionage agent in the State Department, and he demanded an investigation. A widely-known columnist reported that the man McCarthy was aiming at was Owen Lattimore.

All this led to an investigation of the charges by the Tydings Committee. But the investigation turned into an investigation of McCarthy, not of the State Department. It ended with a denunciation of McCarthy and a complete acquittal of all those he had named, including Lattimore.

But, fortunately, this did not really end it. Senator Tydings, running for election in Maryland, was defeated. Later Senator William Benton, the active prosecutor of McCarthy in the Senate, was also soundly beaten when he tried for re-election in Connecticut. On the other hand, McCarthy, running for the second time in Wisconsin, was re-elected by a tremendous majority.

Meantime, the Internal Security Sub-Committee of the Senate investigated the Lattimore charges. The members—three Democrats and two Republicans—declared that Lattimore was a conscious, articulate instrument of the Soviet conspiracy" and that he had lied to them under oath. He is now under indictment for perjury and awaiting trial. However, the record of evidence in those hearings leaves no doubt whatever that McCarthy's charges against the State Department were well-founded.

As for the pro-Red Department officials he named and who were acquitted by the Tydings Committee, most of them and a great many more have been driven out of the government. It is not necessary to name them here. They make up only a small part of the strange horde of faithless Americans who not only dedicated their lives to the fortunes of a foreign country but chose our deadliest enemy—Russia—as the object of their affections. McCarthy's vigorous exposure of these troublemakers ultimately stimulated the alertness of various departments.

Even before Mr. Truman left office, the exodus began. And since the new administration took over, some 1,456 security risks have been let out of the government. It is safe to say that this never would have happened but for the vigorous activities of Senator McCarthy, Representative Velde of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Senator McCarran of the Senate Internal Security Sub-Committee and, more recently, Senator Jenner, who succeeded Senator McCarran.

However, we must never lose sight of Senator McCarthy's objective from the beginning. He has never denied the right of an American to be a Communist or to join the Communist Party, even though that party be a defender of the political ideas of Communist Russia. He has insisted that Communists and their sympathizers have no place in our government councils.

The problems facing our leaders are the most difficult, and even baffling, in our history. Normal Americans—Republicans and Democrats—will differ on these problems and the method of dealing with them. We cannot afford to complicate the task of meeting them by having in these councils a secret conspiratorial clique dedicated to the interests of any other country, even a friendly one. Above all, we cannot tolerate in these councils the agents of a country which has declared war upon our way of life and maintains in our midst a highly organized conspiracy to destroy our institutions and, in our struggle against the enemy, to represent the cause of that enemy. The differences between normal and loyal Americans are sufficiently disturbing without subjecting the study and discussion of them to the intrusion of a numerous, trained, and resolute conspiracy representing the enemy.

This, and nothing more, is what Senator McCarthy is trying to do—create a condition in our government where our policies will be made by Americans devoted whole-heartedly to America. Why should he not have, in this, the whole-hearted support of every loyal American?