- Category : 1908-births
- Type : PSP
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Split - Small (16)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Explanation 4
American politician who, as a Senator representing Wisconsin in 1946, was the chairman of various investigating committees commonly known as "The Red Witch Hunts." As an inflammatory speaker and insidious interrogator, he ruined many lives and was censured by the Senate in 1954.
A Wisconsin farm-boy who became a country judge and Marine office, he was elected to the Senate in the Republican landslide of 1946 where he was known mainly for being a genial drinking companion and a soft touch for the real estate lobby. McCarthy's rise from obscurity to become a power to fear came almost overnight. Still an unknown at the start of 1950, he burst into prominence on 2/09/1950 in Wheeling, W. VA, when he uttered those now famous words: "I have here in my hand a list of 205, a list of names made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party, who are nevertheless still working and shaping policy in the State Department." The numbers began the change in a matter of days to "207 bad risks", "57 card-carrying Communists," and "81 loyalty risks." Not one was a "card-carrying Communist" in the State Department and all those listed were from outdated files on government employees who had been investigated for offenses ranging from alleged communist and fascist sympathies to drinking problems and homosexuality. The bluff worked and the polls showed that half of the American public applauded while only 29 percent disapproved.
In the spring of 1950 McCarthy announced he'd uncovered "the top Soviet espionage agent," a man who was "Alger Hiss' boss in the espionage ring in the State Department." The "spy" turned out to be Owen Lattimore, a bespectacled John Hopkins University professor and East Asia expert whose only "crime" was predicting the fall of the Chinese Nationalist government and urging the U.S. to deal rationally with Mao Tse Tung. Even politicians who opposed McCarthy were not immune. One such politician was Millard Tydings, a veteran Senator from Maryland who said McCarthy's charges were "a fraud and a hoax." An irate McCarthy campaigned for Tydings' opponent who had accused the Tydings of "protecting Communists. McCarthy's staff combined two photos, one of Tydings and one of communist leader Earl Browder, to make it appear as though the two were buddies. The ploy worked and Tydings lost the race. From then on, few politicians dared to raise McCarthy's ire. TV was still in its infancy in the 1950's. On 04/22/1954 the Army-McCarthy hearings began with 36 days of live TV exposure that had the whole nation intensely watching. McCarthy's fatal moment came on June 9 when Roy Cohn, the chief attorney for McCarthy's sub-committee, was being questioned by the Army's special counsel, Joseph Welch of Boston. McCarthy interrupted, as was his irritating habit, and announced that a young lawyer from Welch's firm, Fred Fisher, had once belonged to a leftist lawyer's group. A stunned Welch responded slowly and emotionally, "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you no sense of decency?" Welch received a standing ovation and the subsequent polls showed McCarthy's popularity plummeting. Two days later, Sen. Ralph Flanders, R-VT, introduced a motion for censure for conduct "contrary to senatorial traditions." McCarthy's strange and stormy career was ended on 12/02/1954 when he was censured in a 67-22 vote by the Senate. The last vote of this kind had been held 25 years earlier and the only one since then was the 1967 censure of Sen. Thomas Dodd of CT.
After the censure his heart was no longer in it. McCarthy's health was failing; he was drinking more and holding it less well. On 5/02/1957 he died of acute hepatitis as a result from alcohol abuse at the age of 48, Bethesda, MD.