Essay, Research Paper: Czech Republic


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Senator Joseph McCarthy’s political career was in danger when he walked into
the Colony Restaurant in Washington, DC for dinner with three of his friends.
The date was January 7, 1950. A month earlier, he had been voted worst U.S.
Senator in a poll of Senate correspondents. In his earlier years as Senator, he
had been known for taking loans and funds from businesses totaling $30,000. This
included the Pepsi-Cola company, which earned him the nickname “Pepsi-Cola
Joe”1, and the Lustron Corporation, which dealt in prefabricated houses. About
this time McCarthy was also deemed responsible for the resignation of Senate
subcommittee chairman Raymond E. Baldwin, who left politics citing McCarthy’s
abuse towards him during the Malmedy WWII hearings the “last straw” 2. Not
only was his political career in danger, but McCarthy was also suffering from
financial troubles. He had squandered all the money from his political funds
into soybean investments and horse racing, which left him nearly broke3. With
these things in mind, McCarthy and his three associates- William Roberts, a
Washington lawyer; Charles Kraus, a political science professor at Georgetown;
and Father Edmund Walsh, a dean also at George University set out to discover
that fateful night what could possibly rejuvenate the political career of Joseph
McCarthy before the upcoming election of ‘52. The trio of Roberts, Kraus, and
Walsh recommended that McCarthy should try taking up a cause, and to do so
seriously and passionately. But what should it be? Ideas and issues were tossed
about the group concerning old age pension to the St. Lawrence Seaway. McCarthy
dismissed them all. But then Walsh suggested communism, and McCarthy’s ears
realized that they had just struck gold. “That’s it!” exclaimed an excited
McCarthy. “The government is full of Communists. We can hammer away at them.
4” And with that statement, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witchhunt against
communism had begun. 33 days later in Wheeling, West Virginia, Senator Joseph
McCarthy stood on a podium before the Ohio Valley Women’s Republican Club.
“I have in my hand,” he began, “a list of 205 card-carrying Communists who
are now employed in the State Department and whose identities are well known to
the State Department as being members of the Communist party. 5” On that night
his life, as well as the lives of many other Americans, would forever change.
McCarthy would begin a brief but astounding crusade against the so-called
Communist infiltration of the U.S. government. During a span of about 4 years,
McCarthy accused hundreds of government and former government workers of being
Communist with little or no concrete evidence. Even so, McCarthy was able to win
many convictions and ‘victories’ without much protest and opposition. Why
did McCarthy go relatively unscathed throughout his witchhunt until he was
finally censured by the Senate in 1954? According to a nationwide poll taken
during the era of McCarthyism, 50% of those polled said they approved of his
methods, with 21% undecided6. What allowed him to do this for so long with the
approval rather than the condemnation of the people? The key to the success and
tolerance of McCarthy was due to a combination of several things. First, there
was the recent espionage cases of Hiss and the Rosenbergs. McCarthy also greatly
benefited from the pro-McCarthy media, which took up and glamorized his cause.
There was also the fact that communism was in many cases a viable scapegoat for
a frightened and restless people. McCarthyism was also Americanism; it
represented the duty of the patriotic American. McCarthyism became an offensive
tool against the threat of the spread of communism. At the time of McCarthy’s
infamous Wheeling speech, the nation had just learned that the threat of
Communists in high level positions in Washington was in fact real. Alger Hiss, a
former State Department official and at the time President of the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace, had been convicted of perjury just one month
prior to McCarthy’s speech7. Whittaker Chambers, a former Communist himself,
had charged Hiss with supplying classified information to the Soviet Union. The
guilty verdict in this case rose many eyebrows and gave many people cause for
alarm. A couple of months later, McCarthy’s cause was helped along even more
by the arrests of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg8. Julius Rosenberg, an army
electrical engineer, and his wife, Ethel, were both arrested in the spring of
1950. The two had given sketch blueprints of the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union
back in 1945, which had accelerated Soviet development of the atomic bomb. The
Soviets managed to detonate an atomic bomb by September of 19499, which created
a new atmosphere of tension in America. These two specific cases of espionage
and treason were the main catalysts in the people’s fear of Communist
infiltration within the government. The Alger Hiss case easily set the stage for
Joe McCarthy’s crusade against communism. The Rosenberg case worked even
better for McCarthy in gaining the favor and concern of the people. Extra
concern grew out of the fact that not only had the Rosenbergs gained access to
high security documents, but that they were also American-born citizens, not
immigrants. The fear that possibly more spies ‘disguised’ as American
citizens existed was what McCarthy successfully preyed on. The people also
welcomed communism as a scapegoat to all the post WWII peace problems around the
world. The Iron Curtain, Berlin Blockade, trouble in Eastern Europe, formation
of NATO, Soviet possession of the atomic bomb, the crisis in Korea, and other
things were able to be successfully blamed on Communism. Communism and its
followers were quickly rallied against in America, much to the benefit of people
such as Joe McCarthy. McCarthy was also able to take full advantage of the press
and media. He became a favorite of the press, being given nicknames such as
“the tough new kid on the block10” and being compared to Huey Long. McCarthy
became the man of the headlines. Front page headlines would often begin with
or “MCCARTHY OUTLIN4ES NEW REDHUNTING PLAN11”. Rarely would a newspaper
refute or dispute a McCarthy charge or accusation. If it did, it would never be
on the front page, however. In the early 1950s, a person often resorted to the
newspaper as the first source of news and information. What they learned and
thought was greatly affected by the writer of the news articles. A great deal of
people trusted the word of the paper a little too much when it came to the
subject of McCarthy. McCarthy had manipulated the press into painting a portrait
too worthy of himself. To many people, McCarthy was a hero. He was the good guy
in the struggle between the good, democratic American and the evil Communists.
McCarthyism therefore began to be take up its cause in the name of Americanism.
Americanism became an attractive lure to the restless people of the early 1950s,
who were seeking stability and what they thought was a way to peace. Many people
began to personally take up McCarthy’s cause, whether from high ranking State
Department officials to the poor rural farmer. Perhaps inspired by the reckless
ambition of McCarthy, many people believed that it was the duty of the American
to help and promote McCarthy’s cause. McCarthy received donations from all
over the nation, from amounts of $1 to $10,000; all from average American
citizens12. In the face of the Cold War and the spread of communism, McCarthyism
also became part of America’s containment policy. The fear of the spread of
communism was not limited to just uneducated citizens; it went all the way up to
the highest positions of government. By holding this fear, McCarthyism held the
full support of the Republican party and many members of the State Department.
In the minds of the people, the threat of communism someday controlling the
lives of Americans loomed too large to ignore. Those members of the government
in support of McCarthyism also found it to be a matter of national security. It
had already been proven that Communists and Communist spies had already
infiltrated the federal government. The smuggling out of the atomic bomb
blueprints had already demonstrated the severe consequences which could occur if
a security breach occurs again. Even if some of the good went down with the bad,
they felt it was unfortunate but necessary in the long run. Among the most
brilliant of the victims of the McCarthy witchhunt was Dr. Robert J.
Oppenheimer13, also known as the father of the atomic bomb. The peak of
McCarthyism was achieved in 1953, which included the famous burning of the
‘Communist books14’ in State Department libraries overseas as ordered by the
State Department. McCarthy had previously enjoyed a relatively unmolested time
during his years leading the ‘witchhunt’. But that suddenly changed when the
Army decided to challenge McCarthy once and for all. Before a set of nationally
televised hearings, McCarthy’s true character was revealed to the public.
After witnessing more than enough of his bullying and condescending behavior, he
quickly lost his followers. The final nail in the coffin came in the form of a
Senate censure, which effectively ended his political career. McCarthy would
officially die of peripheral neuritis just three years later, but rumors exist
that he actually died of liver cirrhosis due to his heavy drinking15. While
McCarthy lived a short and pathetic life after he was censured in 1954, he is
still perhaps the most famous and most intriguing Senator in U.S. history. Never
before and since has one U.S. Senator commanded so much power and control at one
time. McCarthy was able to do this because his entrance into the national
spotlight was timed perfectly. It was during a time of fear and restlessness,
when a fear of communism had penetrated the lives of restless and impatient
Americans. It was during a time of wars- the Cold War and the Korean War, which
brought the threat of Communist infiltration closer than ever before. It was
during a time of a national media growing in size, power, and technology, with
widespread use of the television right around the corner. It was during a time
where America recognized it was the largest power in the world, but with the
power came a great deal of responsibility. It became of time of McCarthyism-a
time of fear, a time of injustice, and a time of captivation. All this proceeded
without argument and began and ended with just one man from the town of
Appleton, Wisconsin- Senator Joseph McCarthy.

1. Adams, John G., Without Precedent (1983) Toronto, Canada: George J. Mcleod
Limited, p. 18 2. Adams, p. 20 3. Adams, p.21 4. Rovere, Richard H. Senator Joe
McCarthy (1959) Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Company, pp. 122-123 5.
McCarthy, Joseph R. McCarthyism, the Fight for America (1952) New York: Arno
Press 6. Rovere, p.23 7. Matusow, Allen J. Joseph R. McCarthy (1970) Englewoods
Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., p.6 8. Matusow, p.9 9. Blum, John M.
The National Experience (1993) Fort Worth, Texas: Harcourt Brace Jovanich, p.
800 10. Adams, p. 27 11. Adams, p. 27 12. Adams, p. 28 13. Blum, p. 823 14.
Blum, p. 823 15. Rovere, p. 241-250

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