Saturday, December 1, 2007

Blacklisted by history; was Joe McCarthy right?

RECENTLY I WAS LISTENING TO the Glenn Beck radio show and I overheard an interview with M. Stanton Evans, the former CBS news commentator about Evans’ new book, Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy. Having known of Joe McCarthy only through the lens history as an anti-communist zealot who claimed reds were hiding under our beds, I decided to get the book to see if Evans could disabuse me of that notion.

I did, and he did.

First, it must be said that Evans is not without an ax to grind. He is a leading conservative pundit and is contributing editor to the right-of-center Human Events, not a disqualifier, just a statement of fact.

Blacklisted meticulously follows Joe McCarthy’s rise to the prominence, his fall, as well as the controversy about communist influence in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations long before McCarthy’s election to the senate. It must be remembered, however, that during much of that period, the Soviet Union and the United States were allies, it was only after World War II and the beginning of the Cold War that serious concern for communism took root in America. Thus, not surprisingly, Evans reports that communist and communist-leaning members of the government were able to influence war and post-war policies.

In that vein, Blacklisted details scores of policies that were so influenced. Two are of note. The first is the U. S. decision to back the pro-communist Josip Broz (who took the name Tito) over the anti-Nazi and anti-communist General Draja Mihailvoch in Yugoslavia. The second, much like the first, occurred in China where U. S. officials “tilted” the game in favor of the communist Mao Tse-tung and against the embattled anti-communist Chiang Kai-shek.

In a similar manner, Evans presents details about early musings by McCarthy, and documents what the senator actually said against what his critics said he said. He also follows the sometimes convoluted and sometimes well-organized attempt to discredit Joe McCarthy. One fault I found with the book was that Evans’ research and documentation was so detailed that some parts of the book became almost unreadable (read that: put me to sleep).

In the end, McCarthy seeds of destruction were planed by McCarthy himself. He had a style that could be off-putting and a few charges he made went over the top. His worst blunder was a senate speech attacking Truman’s secretary of state, General George Marshall, a man of immense stature in the eyes of the public; that set the time bomb ticking. It was more than an attack by a Republican senator against a Democratic administration. It was an attack on a friend and military colleague of Dwight Eisenhower. The GOP victory in the 1952 senate and presidential elections thus provided no cover for McCarthy; instead it put an angry man (on the McCarthy issue) in the White House with the political strength to stifle the now irritating senator from Wisconsin. McCarthy’s subsequent dispute with the Army and the hearings that resulted helped dig his grave deeper.

In the end, McCarthy was censored by the senate in 1954, where he served without distinction until his death in 1957.

But was Joe McCarthy right? Was there a communist influence in the upper circles of government, and, if so, how did that change the direction of the Cold War? Evans presents 663 pages of documented argument claiming McCarthy was right, while simultaneously condemning McCarthy’s critics. Was he right? The reader will have to decide for himself, but assuredly will never look at Joe McCarthy the same again.

Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies. M. Stanton Evans, Crown Forum, $29.95.

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