Below Is a speech my daughter Kathryn gave to her high school. As you will note it contradicts conventional liberal wisdom. None the less it is accurate. The sources used are unimpeachable. Interestingly, a few teachers approached her privately after the speech and expressed how wonderful it was to hear what she said. However, those feelings could never be expressed publicly in an academic environment, lest the speaker risk a career catastrophe. So much for the assembly of differing ideas. That is what academics say..not what they do..
"Like Hitler, [Joseph] McCarthy was a screamer, a political thug, a master of the mob, an exploiter of popular fears… He was a master of the scabrous and scatological; his talk was laced with obscenity. He was a vulgarian by method as well as by instinct. He made little pretense to religiosity or to any species of moral rectitude. He sought to manipulate only the most barbaric symbols of America—the slippery elm club, the knee in the groin, and the brass knuckles. He was a prince of hate".
This statement by Richard Rovere is typical of most descriptions of former Senator Joseph McCarthy, Republican from Wisconsin. Almost everyone you will meet would agree with him. There is only one small problem. Every word is a lie. Statements like these were commonplace and still are. Half of the Congressional leaders and every mainstream media outlet, today and in the past, on front and editorial pages, have made similar statements. Our generation's ideas have been shaped by these falsehoods, and therefore most of you probably share a similar opinion. In telling various people about my assembly topic I was met with raised eyebrows, followed by an incredulous, "you're defending Joe McCarthy?!" My advice for them and everyone is believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.
For some reason most people assume that the printed word is accurate, as if the mere fact that something is published authenticates it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Nothing can be assumed to be impartial or factual simply because it is in print. Historical inaccuracies and lies are as common as the lies we listen to every day. While I could give you a long list of examples, time constraints allow me to focus on only one.
Good morning. My name is Kathryn Sall and I am here to set the story straight about this heroic Senator, Joseph McCarthy, whose very name has become a malediction.
The United States allied itself with the Soviet Union to defeat the fascists in World War II. During that time the communist threat both abroad and domestically grew exponentially, but was largely ignored because of the war. Communists had infiltrated all branches of our government. Imagine if today, Al Qaeda operatives were advising president Bush while taking orders from Bin Laden (Coulter). Communist ambitions were to take over the world, and we, the capitalists, were their main target.
As one example of the level of infiltration, President Franklin Roosevelt had a member of the Communist party and a Communist spy, Alger Hiss, advising him at the peace conference at Yalta. Is it any wonder that the Allies gave away most of Eastern Europe and left the people imprisoned by the Soviet Union for the next fifty years? Throughout the forties a few Senators and Congressmen addressed the growing threat, but little action was taken. At best this was benign neglect by the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.
Joe McCarthy took up the cause of getting the Communists out of the government. For this he was attacked relentlessly by both the media and the opposing party. As historian M. Stanton Evans points out, the oft repeated charge by his opponents that these were "stale, warmed over charges" (he was making) did not make them "false, irrelevant, obsolete, and unimportant," as McCarthy's critics claimed. To the contrary, the communist threat remained very menacing. In fact we now know that most of the charges were true, and most of the suspected spies and sympathizers were exactly what they were thought to be. They were throughout government, working to undermine this great democracy. (Evans)
In the United States it has always been legal to be a communist. But it has always been illegal to be a communist spy. Today it would be legal to philosophically support Al Qaeda, but quite illegal to spy for Al Qaeda. Legal or not, I doubt anyone would want active al Qaeda members working in our government. But many communists in the post war government of the 40s and 50s were working in government, literally hundreds of them.
It is commonly believed that Senator McCarthy was a member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, then charged with investigating the Communist threat. In fact he was never even in the House of Representatives, his only national elected office was to the US Senate. McCarthy's detractors claim he made reckless charges, ruining innocent people's lives with unsubstantiated evidence or no evidence at all. To the contrary, the congressional record shows that during the investigation he fought to not release any names, pointing out these people were not yet guilty of anything and could be unfairly hurt if the were innocent. He chose to speak on the Senate floor using code names like case #1 and case #2 (Coulter). But his opponents seem to have thought it in their best political interests to demand that the names be made public. During one exchange, Democratic senator Scott W. Lucas of Illinois interrupted him 60 times stating, "I want him [McCarthy] to name those communists" (Evans). McCarthy offered instead to go into a closed committee hearing so only the senators would know the names, but his offer was denied, and some innocent people were unfairly tarred. But who used that "knee in the groin?" Who was barbaric, McCarthy or his opponents, those same people for whom history has now been rewritten?
When McCarthy was elected America was in complete denial of this threat. Supposed cold war expert David Caute said, "There is no documentation in the public record of a direct connection between the American Communist Party and espionage during the entire postwar period" (Coulter). Like many of the supposed certainties on this subject, he couldn't have been more wrong.
Whittaker Chambers was a disillusioned former Soviet Spy who admitted his guilt, and named Alger Hiss, an assistant Secretary of State under FDR, as a co-conspirator, a spy with whom he had worked. This caused a heated debate, and as you might expect, the complete trashing of Chambers and his reputation. Although there was a wealth of evidence pointing to Hiss's guilt, the government only convicted him of perjury for lying about his relationship with Chambers. Little did anyone know at the time, incontrovertible proof of his treason did exist. and would come to light in the form of the Venona papers.
Venona was a project undertaken in the 1940s to try to decipher a code used in secret transmissions by the Soviet Union. The code was cracked, but for fear of leaks the FBI did not share the information with other branches of government. The transcripts were finally released after the fall of the Soviet Union. They showed that the White House, the State Department, the War Department (today's Department of Defense), the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA), and the Treasury Department, were completely infiltrated by communists taking direct orders from the Kremlin (Coulter). We know for certain there were over 300 soviet spies that were in government. If anything, the Venona Papers prove that McCarthy underestimated the communist problem, rather than the common belief today that he had vastly overstated it.
It has become fashionable in certain circles to argue the innocence of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, spies executed for transferring nuclear secrets to the Soviets. Two cohorts from their inner circle fled the country when they were arrested. Ethel Rosenberg's brother in law testified to their guilt, there were other eyewitness accounts, and there was the jury's verdict, but nothing is enough to convince some people. As Ann Coulter, leading political writer puts it, they had "spied on their own country and turned over atomic secrets to a grisly totalitarian regime that would threaten American citizens for the next 50 years." Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs that the Rosenbergs gave "very significant help in accelerating the production of [The USSR's] atomic bomb." The Venona papers combined with several Soviet archives that were also released after the fall of the Soviet Union, proved that not only were Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs spies, but Harry Dexter White, assistant secretary of the treasury under FDR, Lauchlin Currie, administrative assistant to FDR, Duncan Lee, the equivalent today's CIA chief of staff under FDR, Harry Hopkins, FDR adviser, Owen Lattimore, senior State Department official, and Joseph Davies, US ambassador to the USSR were also Soviet spies. (Evans) Davies once declared that "Russia… [had] every moral right to seek atomic bomb information through military espionage" (Evans). Think about that. That came from a man with vast powers as a representative of the United States government. He was saying that our sworn enemy had the right to steal our plans and develop weapons meant for our destruction.
Everything uncovered in the last 50 years is consistent with most of what McCarthy said. In addition to Chambers, ex-communist spies Elizabeth Bentley and Louis Budenz came forward to confirm what the Venona papers recorded.. One Soviet spy, Judith Coplon, a Foreign Agents Registration government worker with regular access to counter-intelligence information, was apprehended in the act of handing a US counter-intelligence file over to a KGB officer (Coulter). The list goes on and on.
One of the most famous quotes from McCarthy's hearings was that of the army special counsel Joseph Welch, who ended a heated exchange with McCarthy by saying, "Have you left no sense of decency?" (Schulz). He was attacking McCarthy for exposing communist front organization member Frederick Fisher, with Welch claiming Fisher was simply a young family man and lawyer trying build a career. However, what is conveniently left out of textbooks today, is that Welch himself fired Fisher from his law firm six weeks earlier because Fisher was a member of the very Communist front organization McCarthy had referred to. (Schulz). Obviously, his attack on McCarthy was pure theatrics. Unfortunately, this same play is oft repeated today as if it were factual.
There was a real threat facing America, and Joe McCarthy came forth to fight it, at the expense of his good name and career. Although he proved right in almost every instance, if you listen to any account given today, you would understandably believe that he was some depraved individual trying to advance his career by attacking innocent, law abiding citizens. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most books about McCarthy repeat the same story of his villainous, rabid rampages. But in all these books the sources are key. Look at them. The footnotes all cite academics, who cite other academics, which all trace back to anti-McCarthy press who positively loathed him (Coulter). Few actually cite primary sources like the congressional record, eyewitness testimony, or even contemporaneous notes. That is until now. For the past 8 years historian M. Stanton Evans has been rifling through "hundreds of thousands of pages of records, reports, transcripts, and other documents" (Schulz) and has finally released the first accurate account of this period, Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his Fight Against America's Enemies. I have not even scratched the surface of the falsehoods accepted as fact in this matter. For the whole truth I encourage you to read this book and see for yourselves. Evans cites primary sources and footnotes everything. You be the judge. He concludes with, "In the end, [McCarthy] perished, politically and otherwise, in the rubble he pulled down around him. Yet when the final chapter in the conflict with Moscow was written, amid yet another pile of rubble, he was not without his triumph" (Evans).
It is important to give McCarthy the credit he deserves in his defense of America and the treason he exposed. But the most important point I have tried to make is that history can be and is re-written with relative ease. McCarthy had a great deal of support at the time, certainly within his own party, but also a majority of the public. Still, after his generation passed and the witnesses had died, people were free to rewrite history as they chose. If someone were not born at the time, and was told one version, any version repeatedly, it would become their truth.. The next time you hear the word McCarthyism, or are told of this dark period of persecution and denial of individual rights by our government, think about what I told you today…We will all be better for it..