McCarthy: His Enemies and His Friends

For going on sixteen years the calm, courageous common sense of ELMER DAVIS has helped to clear the air in this country. His style is that of a Hoosierpithy, accurate, and penetrating: his new book, But We Were Born Free, published by Bobbs-Merrill, has gone through many printings this spring, and his Sunday broadcasts over the ABC network are listened to by millions. In the paper which follows he has scrutinized the latest and most controversial book about the Junior Senator from Wisconsin.



IN a hysterical introduction to McCarthy and His Enemies: The Record and Its Meaning, by William F. Buckley, Jr., and L. Brent Bozell (Regnery, $5.00), William Schlamm claims that the authors — one of them the famous expert on God and man at Yale — have “liberated a territory which for four years was terrorized by the nervous shriek.” The territory is that of argument about McCarthy; the nervous shriekers who have terrorized it are the people who disagree with McCarthy — “the entrenched and the conformists, the Babbitts and the snobs — utter fools,” all of them. You would think from this that nothing had ever been said on McCarthy’s side of the argument — that the liberals (all of whom by definition think the same thing, so that anything any liberal says must, be the opinion of them all) had had all the argument to themselves.

Well, enough for the prologue, except that it calls General Eisenhower “the gentlest President this republic has ever known.”The book itself is much more temperate, though the authors seem to share some of Schlamm’s more dubious dogmas — notably, that there is a party line to which all liberals must and do adhere. Nevertheless, they have tried to be fair; opinions will differ as to how well they succeeded, but they did try.

Their book, however, is mistitled; it deals with only some of McCarthy’s enemies. Better than hall of it. is devoted to his original attack on the State Department and the subsequent investigation by the Tydings committee. There are a few casual references to others of his exploits, but there is nothing about those that took up most time — the long and futile investigation at Fort Monmouth, the destructive attack on the Information Agency, or the antics of Cohn and Schine; and naturally nothing about McCarthy’s lucrative authorship for Lustron, or his saving the lives of the Malmédy murderers. There is a brief final chapter on General Marshall, which does much to illuminate the bias of the authors; but most of the book is McCarthy versus Tydings.

From this examination neither Senator comes out with too much credit, though in Tydings’s defense it might be noted that where there is a conflict of evidence the authors incline to believe what they want to believe. But so do many other people in this argument — by no means all of them on the same side. The Tydings committee, Buckley and Bozell believe, should have ascertained whether there were reasonable grounds for questioning the loyalty of State Department employees. They should have looked into every possibility. Instead, they investigated McCarthy’s charges — in the course of which Senator Tydings, losing his temper, was sometimes pretty rough on McCarthy. Well, McCarthy’s charges were what had made the noise, but the authors hold that the narrowing of t he investigation to them was arbitrary and unwarranted; further, that “the hearings and report demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the Tydings committee, determined from the first to vindicate the State Department, consciously set out to destroy McCarthy.”

In support of this view are cited a number of items — a story in Newsweek whose truth the authors say Tydings later acknowledged; the failure to go into the nineteen questions asked by Senator Lodge and reported in his “individual views” appended to the committee reports; the omission of a number of other points outside the McCarthy charges; the failure to turn over the Amerasia case to “a body of disinterested legal experts”; the publication of attacks on Louis Budenz’s private life in the appendix to the report of the hearings (this was certainly unjustifiable); allegations unsupported by any known evidence against Alfred Kohlberg; and the failure to explain “a profoundly disturbing revelation” made by McCarthy on the Senate floor—the famous “FBI chart” of 1946 showing the number of Communists, sympathizers, and suspects in the Slate Department. J. Edgar Hoover later said that the FBI had made no such chart, and the authors say that McCarthy merely “relayed information from a report [from a State Department security officer] that he had every reason to regard as authentic.”The committee, say the authors, should have found out all about this, instead they merely got a statement from the State Department that none of those people were left in its service except people who had been investigated and cleared.

A man may be (or may not be), say the authors, both a security risk and a patriot, but hardly in the State Department, where the rules on loyalty and security risks are almost the same. The security standard was based on reasonable doubt; the McCarran rider gave the Secretary absolute discretion to lire anybody he distrusted; yet, in the two and a half years before McCarthy came in to save the nation there were no loyalty-risk dismissals, and only two for security risk.

Fortunately, the authors say “an evaluation of a security program must not be based on the number of scalps offered up to the public every fiscal year.”Fortunately, for we have now had a year of Republican administration of State Department security under that iron man, Scott McLeod; and he had to admit that there had been only eleven cases in that time, in seven of which action had been previously started under the Democrats. What this book calls “the criminal nonchalance of State Department security practises" doesn’t seem to have been so nonchalant as you might suppose (though of course oven one loyalty risk is too many). More to the point is the observation that during the two years after McCarthy’s attacks began, fourteen more people were fired. How many of these McCarthy had named is unknown, but the authors plausibly argue that thanks to him the Department was prodded to act on evidence it had had around all along. The Loyally Board occasionally overruled State Department exculpations — but not often, for its chairman, Hiram Bingham, “was after all a Truman appointee”; so Mr. Buckley and Mr. Bozoll evidently don’t trust even that stern Republican.

Yet the authors add that “McCarthy’s own behavior during the Tydings episode was far from exemplary. He showed himself to be inexperienced, or, worse still, misinformed. Some of his specific charges were exaggerated; a few had no apparent foundation whatever.” For example, “he never redeemed his unredeemable pledge to reveal the names of 57 card-carrying Communists” in the State Department. Since McCarthy s peculiar arithmetic — 205-57-81 — is one of the things that most people know about, him, the authors have gone into that in some detail. There is no conclusive evidence, the authors hold, whether at Wheeling (his first speech) he said 57 or 205. Later, the figure was 57 “card-carrying Communists" whom he could name, though he never did.

Actually, the authors observe, there were no card-carrying Communists anywhere in 1950; the cards had been recalled some years before. McCarthy told them afterward that it was merely a figure of speech, meaning Communists under party discipline. Perhaps, they meditate, “the complexities of the Communist problem were lost on him in the early days; or perhaps he deliberately sensationalized the evidence he possessed in order to draw attention to the gravity of the situation.”

If that was what he was doing, he was following the distinguished example of Nikolai Lenin. Put on trial in the party for slander, Lenin coolly said:

“I purposely chose the tone calculated to evoke in the hearer hatred, disgust, and contempt. That formulation is not designed to convince but to break the ranks; not to correct a mistake of the opponent Dill to annihilate him, to wipe him of! the face of the earth.” McCarthy’s language and Lenin’s about their opponents are so similar that, one cannot help suspecting some similarity in their characters.

Whatever the explanation of McCarthy’s language may be, it casts some doubt on his qualifications as Grand Inquisitor — except, of course, in the Dosloevskian sense.


NINE cases of the 81 “Communists” that McCarthy mentioned to the Senate were examined in detail before the Tydings committee; and Buckley and Bozell do not give McCarthy too much credit. They think that “on balance, Dorothy Kenyon is and has been a loyal American”; but they believe that her joining of Communist fronts made her a security risk and disqualified her for government service.

In the case of Haldore Hanson, Louis Budenz said he was a Communist, so “the committee and the Department were both obliged to find against Hanson.” They were if they believe every word uttered by Budenz; some do not.

The available evidence against Philip Jessup, the authors say, “does not substantiate McCarthy’s statement that he pioneered the smear campaign against Chiang Kai-shek"; but wittingly or unwittingly he gave it valuable assistance — that is, if you believe all the charges that the McCarran Committee later leveled at the Institute of Pacific Relations. The authors accept the fact that a Senate committee refused to approve Jessup as a UN delegate; they ignore the fact that the swing man on that committee, Senator Alexander Smith, expressly declared his disbelief in all the charges against Jessup, but voted against him because he was “controversial" — that is, because charges had been made.

Finally there was Owen Lattimore. McCarthy “got off on the wrong foot” by calling him the top Russian spy in this country; but “McCarthy did give the committee enough leads to enable it to blow sky-high Baltimore’s pretensions to being a disinterested and sedentary expert on the Far East.”Also Louis Budenz had said he was a Communist. Hence, the authors conclude, “McCarthy exposed one of the most important political operators of our time.” Lattimore, the authors remind us, was indicted by a grand jury; they do not note that in this country guilt is determined by a petit jury, and that the action of the grand jury might have been stimulated by the repeated demands made on the Attorney General by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

They think “McCarthy cannot be called a smearer because he chooses to rely on the integrity of Budenz"; but even in dealing with the wicked Lattimore he indulged in “censurable exaggeration”; “he accomplished that rather improbable feat — he smeared Drew Pearson”; in his attack on James Wechsler he was “asking for a special form of penance” from ex-Communists; some of his attacks on other newspapers were “uncouth rather than vicious,” but the attempts to scare away advertisers from Time and the Milwaukee Journal were worse than that.

Also, the authors hold that McCarthy is wrong in supposing that all people who oppose him are pro-Communist; there are people who believe “that while his activities hurt Communism some, they hurt American institutions more”; that even those who distort facts about him may be “guilty of imponderable crimes against justice,” but it does not follow that one of these crimes is pro-Communism; even opposition to a tough loyalty program “raises interesting questions about the wisdom and the vision of the Liberals, but not about their loyalty.” People get in McCarthy’s way every time he tries to advance the goal they have in common, but they may very well do it because they are “dolts rather than traitors.”

“it is certainly not characteristic of McCarthy,” the authors admit, “to come forward with dispassionate recitations of the facts”; he is a prosecutor, who tries to make things look good for his side. But it might be doubted from the admissions made by the authors that he is a very reliable prosecutor. “It is clear that he has been guilty of a number of exaggerations, some of them reckless; and perhaps some of them have unjustly damaged the persons concerned beyond the mere question of their loyalty. I hey have indeed: yet the authors say that “his record, given his metier, is extremely good.”Certainly plenty of prosecutors have been unfair to defendants; but if there are two possible explanations for a man’s behavior “McCarthy insists that we cannot afford to act on any but the hypothesis that favors our national security.” It is a method, the authors admit, “in many respects as revolutionary as the Communist movement itself" (it certainly makes accusation equivalent to conviction); “we live in an unbrave new world, in which certain cherished habits of mind are not only inappropriate but suicidal.”


WELL, what is this unbrave new world? “The 1 nited States is at war against international Communism, and McCarthyism is a program of action against those in our land who help the enemy.” Here is that blend of truth and exaggeration which is characteristic of McCarthyism. We are certainly not at peace with imperialistic Communism (if it stayed at home in Russia it would give us little trouble); and we never shall be until Communist leaders cease to believe in Communism, and dare to admit it. But we are not dropping hydrogen bombs on Moscow, nor is Moscow dropping them on us; precisely what action is useful in this situation, at any particular time, is not easy to determine. Indeed, the damage McCarthy has done to the State Department and the army has helped the enemy far more than anybody he has attacked has helped the enemy. And when he is wrong, as he so often is, it is not clear why he should be allowed to hit the innocent.

Here is one of a number of points which make the reader wonder just how Buckley and Bozell collaborated. The book often reads like the work of a man (I have no idea which one) with reasonable ideas, who wants to be fair, revised and stiffened by somebody of a much sterner sort. On pages 299-301 there is a convincing analysis of why McCarthy is wrong in holding that people who disagree with him are Communists or pro-Communists; yet only a few pages earlier the authors (or one author) were apparently very happy over “McCarthy’s blows to the soft underbelly of American Liberals.” They point out that McCarthy’s speech attacking Archibald MacLeish, Arthur Schlesinger, .Jr., “Richard” DeVoto, and other advisers of Adlai Stevenson did not call these men Communists. (Naturally not; McCarthy was not on the Senate floor or before a committee, and had no immunity against a libel suit.) The men he was attacking, according to Buckley and Bozell, were only “atheistic, soft-headed, anti-anti-Communisl ADA Liberals.”

And such men had better look out. “Some day, the patience of Americans may at last be exhausted, and we will strike out against Liberals. Not because they are treacherous like Communists; but because, with James Burnham, we will conclude that they are mistaken in their predictions, false in their analyses, wrong in their advice, and injurious to the interests of the nation,”

For what it comes down to is that it doesn’t much mailer whet her a man is a Communist or not. “We intend to eliminate traitors not so much because treason is wicked but because it gets in the way of American interests. . . . When we speak of personnel who frustrate the advancement of American interests we speak of a group which includes some men who are not trailers, men whose only fault may be that they are incompetent political analysts, men of bad judgment. The merely incompetent men must go out with the traitor.”There couldn’t be much argument against that except the question, what is the national interest at a particular time? The authors pour scorn on the liberals who ask that; but a little earlier they had expressed more exactly what they mean and what, if it comes to that, we all usually mean “the national interest as we see it.“ And under our system, they correctly observe, that decision is made “by the people acting through their elected representatives.”

So it is; but it seems doubtful whether the authors often agreed with the decision during the Truman and Roosevelt administrations. They had a perfect right to disagree with it, of course; but the nation’s record would indicate that the judgment of the men in office was on the whole better than that of their critics.


THE right approach in sensitive agencies, the authors think, is the McCarran rider the head man can fire any body he wants to fire. Loyally and security boards should not insist on quasi-judicial procedures which are inappropriate in such cases; the presumption of innocence will remain the major barrier “so long as these adjudications resemble criminal trials"; justice is not the major objective, the national interest is the major objective.

The board which hears cases in the State Department (whether in any department is not clear) should consist of security officers; the decision to fire a man on security or loyalty grounds should be made by the chief security officer because the chances are overw helmingly against the Secretary’s knowing enough about Communist infiltration techniques; but on “policy risks" (that is, people who might not go along with the Secretary’s decisions) the Secretary should do the firing.

With this last point everybody would agree; you can’t have a man in any department who won’t go along with his boss’s policies. But just exactly where to draw the line again leaves the way open to argument. The authors of this book would take a very stiff line; they think George Kennan belonged out because his name stood for the policy of containment; John Stewart Service and John Carter Vincent were damned because they stood for a China policy that didn’t work (the authors are sure they know why it didn’t work); and it is strongly hinted that Charles Bohlen might well have gone out too, because he wouldn’t condemn the Yalta agreement.

“This is not by any means,” the authors assure us, “to suggest that the State Department should embark on a wholesale purge of its personnel after each national election.” But we are far, they hold, from the British position of having a completely nonpartisan and indeed “indifferent” civil service. That “it works in England,” they say, is no answer at all. Well, many things work in England that wouldn’t work here; but perhaps the most remarkable thing about this book is that nowhere do the authors mention Canada. Now Canada is, with the possible exception of Australia, the country most like the United States; it is a rich country, a large country, a powerful country for its population; and it was attacked by the same Communist, methods that hit us. Yet there is no McCarthyism in Canada; and attempts to filler it over the border immediately rouse almost as much and as heated resistance as ever met the invasions of William Henry Harrison or Jacob Brown.

Canada is not shot through with Communist infiltration, nor is it feeble in resisting it. But it does not conduct its investigations through parliamentary committees, headed by men who are looking for the power they can get from publicity. It puts the work in the hands of responsible men and, as William H. Hessler has said, does not allow it to become a “political circus”; so far as we can see, it gets at least as good results in dealing with real subversives, and does not allow smearing of people whose subversion is open to grave doubt.

The authors make one suggestion that could be a very good one: that there should be a joint standing committee of House and Senate “patterned on the Committee on Atomic Energy,” whose members should be permitted to receive copies of all security information in executive files (except the names of confidential informants and so on) and would be told by Congress to keep it confidential. The substitution of one committee for three competing for publicity (and working over, very often, the same people) would certainly be an improvement; especially if it were like the Atomic Energy Committee, which almost alone of Congressional committees knows how to keep its mouth shut. But people in this business have no desire to keep their mouths shut: set up such a committee of both houses, and who would be on it ? McCarthy, McCarran, Jenner, Velde, Clardy — the same old crew, leaking everything they hear.

And the authors are sure that we need McCarthy and McCarthyism — which existed while he was still signing pamphlets for Lustron, and indeed while he was a judge in Wisconsin, notable chiefly for the ease with which you could get a divorce in his court. “For nearly three decades a handful of prophets — an American Resistance — tried to alert the nation to the Communist threat.” It is conceivable that if they failed to alert us as much as they hoped, it was because the Fascist threat — which this book never mentions— was more immediate and more dangerous. The defeat of that threat undoubtedly made many people realize that there was still another threat behind it, but this is concealed from the authors; they ascribe the growing realization only to the fact that “one spy scandal after another rocked the nation” — which is purt of the truth but far from all. “By 1950 a genuine mobilization was under way, and Senator McCarthy — having been fairly recently mobilized himself— became one of its leaders.” And now, if he should be discredited, “the mobilization will lose momentum, and perhaps grind to a dead halt.”

This seems doubtful, in view of the authors’ insistence that McCarthy has merely “hardened an existing conformity" in American opinion — conformity which excludes only Communist ideas. In spite of that, MeCarthyism has aroused “the resolute and impassioned opposition of the intelligentsia” (apparently meaning the liberals — which is a surprising and in my opinion unwarranted implication that there is no conservative intelligentsia). But the intelligentsia, say Buckley and Bozell, “are confused, they have misread history, they fail to understand social processes”; also, they don’t really feel the faith they express in democracy. If they did, presumably they would go along with the opinion of an entirely hypothetical majority without ever trying to change it.

Communism, say the nuthors, has had a fair hearing in this country (as it has); we have rejected it, (as we have); now we are at war with it, and there are many courses of action open to us. “McCarthyism is a weapon in the American arsenal; to the extent that out of ignorance or impetuosity or malice it urges the imposition of sanctions on persons who are not pro-Communists or security risks, we should certainly oppose it"; we should “go to the rescue of well meaning Liberals.”Hut so long as “it fixes its goal with its present precision, it is a movement around which men of good will and stern morality can close ranks.”

Which again raises the question, how precise is the present precision of McCarthyism? Some light on the authors’ point of view is thrown by their final appendix on what they call “the George Marshall episode.”

This was McCarthy’s speech on the Senate floor, and of course under senatorial immunity, in June, 1951, accusing General Marshall of participation if not leadership in “a great conspiracy, a conspiracy of infamy so black that when it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men.” And so on, for sixty thousand words. It is true, as the authors point out, that McCarthy did not call Marshall a traitor in plain language; but “it is unreasonable to conclude that he was charging Marshall with anything less than pro-Communism,” on the contention that “on those issues on which the interests of the Western powers and those of Russia conflicted, Marshall consistently sided with the policy urged by Russia.” And they do not exculpate McCarthy, as they might plausibly have done, by saying that he was merely the mouthpiece for an attack written and designed by somebody else.

Nevertheless, Buckley and Bozell point out that McCarthy’s conclusions were “based on a dangerous and unusual brand of reasoning” which, logically carried out, “would also brand Roosevelt and Truman as disloyal” (and, it might be remarked, President Eisenhower too). The authors, so far as can be gathered from their somewhat obscure language, do not charge any of the three Presidents with treason; and they assure us that “Marshall’s loyally is not doubted in any reasonable quarter.”

Buckley and Bozell stand up for the loyalty of George Marshall. This is the greatest lift to American prestige since Cohn and Schine, after two or three hours in London, announced that Ambassador Winthrop Aldrich was doing a pretty good job for a man who had been there only two or three months.

Further, for imputing treason to Marshall “McCarthy deserves to be criticized; Ivis judgment was bad.” But those who think that something else was bad and not his judgment are answered by the argument lhat he was quite right in “cutting Marshall down to size; he probably merits the title of America’s most disastrous general.”

Well, he commanded the United States Army in the biggest war we ever fought, and we won it. The books published by Mr. Regnery usually argue, if not that we should not have won it, at least that we should not have fought it; that we should have left Hitler the master of Europe and the Japanese the masters of Asia. We could hardly have helped lighting that war when the Japanese had attacked us and Hitler had declared war on us; but the argument is that we provoked them by our earlier measures Lend-Lease and soon. Those measures were taken, however, by what Buckley and Bozell call “the people acting through their elected representatives” — the President and Congress; if it is wicked for the liberals to argue against what is so far a purely conjectural majority, it is difficult to see why Buckley and Bozell argue against measures adopted by an actual majority, manifested in repeated votes of Congress. If such measures, or the reaction to them, bring on a war, it is the business of the army to fight it, and if possible to win it. Marshall won it.

What shall we say, then, of men who call him “America’s most disastrous general”? Well, it might be charitable to emulate their own charity to the liberals and conclude that they are “dolts rather than traitors.”