BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Arthur Herman, author of "Joseph McCarthy," why do you think we needed to re-examine the life and legacy of America's most-hated senator?
Professor ARTHUR HERMAN, AUTHOR, "JOSEPH McCARTHY: REEXAMINING THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF AMERICA'S MOST HATED SENATOR": Well, there are a couple of reasons. One is that we now know a lot more about the times and the context in which McCarthy had his political career and built his career of notoriety. We also know a lot more about Joe McCarthy, the man, and about his own life. And what I wanted to do was to really put it together in a book that would give people a broad introduction, both to the period, but also to Joe McCarthy, the man; to understand who he was, why he has the kind of tremendous re--reputation and notoriety that he does and to understand where that came from, what the origins of it were and maybe to sort of rethink just what we really do--h--how we really assess Joe McCarthy now, with almost 50 years of distance between ourselves and him.
LAMB: If you were there at his most visible time, where would you find him?
Prof. HERMAN: There at his most visible time?
LAMB: In history.
Prof. HERMAN: That would be 1950 to 1954. It's a very sharply defined career, meteoric. It starts in February of 1950, when he makes his famous speech at Wheeling, West Virginia, accusing the State Department of harving--harboring Communists and Communist superfized--sympathizers. And then it really comes to a crashing conclusion in December of 1954 when the Senate censures him, and that really is the end of Joe McCarthy as a--as a public figure, although not as a senator. But as a public figure it's over.
LAMB: A couple of basic facts. Where was he from?
Prof. HERMAN: He's from Wisconsin. He grew up in the farming communities that surrounded Appleton, Wisconsin, called the township of Grand Chute. It's now mostly strip malls there now. The farms have receded as the suburbs have expanded outward. But at the time, it was a--a--a--farming communities heavily populated by the children of particularly Dutch immigrants. The Irish McCarthy clan were rare. There weren't a lot of Irish Catholics in Wisconsin at the time, but there were a lot of Catholics. And--and in that sense, the McCarthys were a part of a--formed part of this homogeneous rural community.
LAMB: What's the story about his Marine time?
Prof. HERMAN: The story about his Marine time is a checkered one. He is--he's--in the book, I describe it as a--a series of episodes from the "Sergeant Bilko" show in many ways. He was a wheeler-dealer. He was somebody who was very popular with his fellow officers and with the--the other ranks. He was a Marine observation officer. Basically, he debriefed pilots who came back from bombing runs. And later he would inflate his war experiences, grow it into a major career as a--as a combat veteran, and it would spawn the myth of Tailgunner Joe of the--of the brave Marine fighter--gunner who has, you know, served his country in the Pacific.
He did serve his country in the Pacific. He did have experience flying in missions, including combat missions, but that wasn't his principal role. And he way exaggerated the number of missions he flew for political purposes. You have to remember that in the postwar period, right after World War II, that to have been a combat hero was a ticket into politics; John Kennedy, for example, and PT-109. Many of McCarthy's fellow members of the class of '46, who came to Washington with the 1946 election--Republican takeover of both the House and the Senate--were war veterans, and McCarthy was part of them--part of that group. And so McCarthy saw the political opportunities that came with that war experience, and he cashed in on them.
LAMB: What was his first public job?
Prof. HERMAN: His first public job was working as a judge. He worked as a--a district judge in Shawano County, Wisconsin. And it was an elected post. It's there that he really sort of learned about how successful he could really be as a elected official and in running in popularity contests against other candidates. He really didn't know that much about the law. He had a law degree from Marquette, but he didn't have the kind of lengthy experience that we normally associate with people who sit--who sit on the bench in--in--in county circuit courts.
It's interesting, though, and it's significant because his first public job was really his last one, until he became senator. In other words, he moved directly from his experience as being--you know, serving as county judge to the US Senate. There was no in-between as a state senator, as a legislator or a member of the House of Representatives and the Congress. He never learned--and this is important for understanding why McCarthy created so much friction as a--a--with his colleagues in the Senate and with the political establishment. He never learned the kinds of skills that are required to be a legislator. He went--he was, in a sense, propelled by the election of '46 into the US Senate and into an environment which he was very familiar and about which he developed a kind of great--a great contempt.
LAMB: You say he was a Democrat.
Prof. HERMAN: He originally was a Democrat. He voted for Franklin Roosevelt, as his father had and had most Wisconsin--Wisconsinites of--of sort of a--a working-class background, rural background did. He was--he first ran for offices, in fact, as a Democrat. And he probably made--it's quite possible that he would have continued as a Democrat, but the opportunity came up--the opportunity came up to challenge a--a Republican senator--a popular Republican senator from Wisconsin in the primary, and McCarthy realized that this was his opportunity. By switching parties he could really give his political career a boost, and that's….him do it.
LAMB: Who'd he challenge?
Prof. HERMAN: This--the senator was the--was Alex Wiley, who would later go on to become a major--one of col--McCarthy's colleagues here. The Senate--the senator that McCarthy replaced, the one that got him into the Senate, was his underdog campaign against Robert La Follette Jr.
LAMB: How old was he when he was elected?
Prof. HERMAN: Well, there's two versions to that. Again, McCarthy's skill in playing with the--in playing with the truth--he was, actually, in fact, the youngest senator when he took off--when he took office in--in 1947. He would've been--well, let's see, he was born in 1909. He would've been (makes noise) 38. But just to make sure that people understood that he was, in fact, the youngest senat--senator, in his official biography, he knocked off a year--lopped off a year from his birth date to make himself even younger, to appear as sort of fresh, young blood, the young maverick arriving in the US Senate.
LAMB: Elected first in 1946...
Prof. HERMAN: Yes.
LAMB: ...took his seat in 1947. Who controlled the Senate? Which party?
Prof. HERMAN: Then, it was the Republicans. It was a stunning coup that had really taken place in the sense of a change from Democratic dominance of all the branches of government since Ro--since Roosevelt's New Deal. The Republicans got control of both the House and the Senate in a landslide victory. And McCarthy, when he comes in, although he is a junior senator, he comes in as a member of the party in power.
LAMB: Who's running the White House apparatus? Who are some of the players, besides the president?
Prof. HERMAN: Well, Harry Truman's entourage of advisers and aides were a group of--probably the most distinguished group, I have to say--the most distinguished group of Americans to enter into public service in this century. These were the ones that historians like to call `the wise men,' men like Dean Acheson, who served as Truman's secretary of State.
LAMB: In here on the left?
Prof. HERMAN: Yeah. That's Acheson that you see on the left. That, in the middle, is Acheson's special ambassador at large, Philip Jessup. And there in the background on the right is Dean Rusk, who would, in a sense, inherit the mantle of the legacy of `the wise men' of this American liberal political establishment and the responsibilities for running the Cold War and for America as a superpower.
LAMB: So in 1947, he's a freshman senator. What committee does he go on?
Prof. HERMAN: He goes on a couple of small committees. He goes on, for example, the committee for--he goes on the Post Office Committee, as I recall, the committee for the District of Columbia. These are very small posts. But the other position that he gets is on a committee which had been very active during the war period, the Committee for the Investigation of Government Expenditures.
And it was this committee that, ironically, Harry Truman had used to build his political career in investigating corruption and overspending and cooking of the books by various government departments, including the US Army, and it was a--now in the hands of Republicans. It was going to become an instrument for examining what Republicans were convinced had been, really, 12 years of Democratic corruption and of wheeling and dealing and of allowing America's large government agencies to become centers of political patronage here.
The committee, in the hands of the Republicans, very quickly, and particularly its subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Investigations, very quickly becomes a key instrument in conducting investigative probes: `What have the Democrats been doing in those 12 years of power? What kinds of abuses are we looking for? What kinds of problems have been lurking there in the corners that we now are able, as Republicans, to bring to light?' And it's in that background, you see, that McCarthy gets the--gets the--the impetus for this idea of using investigations, using probes as a wa--into Democratic malfeasance and misfeasance in government departments as a way of, first of all, straightening out the problems, but then also, of course, to building your political career.
LAMB: You've been to his grave in Appleton, Wisconsin?
Prof. HERMAN: Yes.
Prof. HERMAN: I went there because I wanted to do two things. One was I was visiting my parents, who live in Wisconsin, and I wanted, first of all, to see McCarthy's grave. Why not? It's a short drive away from home. But I also went for another reason, and that was because I wanted to get a sense, which was important for the book and for the writing of the book--the sense of the kind of place that McCarthy came from and the kinds of people and the sort of community that rallied around Joe McCarthy all the way down to his death, all the way after his disgrace and censure and so on. Appletonians never lost their--the majority of Appletonians never lost their sense of loyalty and--and admiration for Joe McCarthy. And I wanted to get, at least in a kind of firsthand way, a taste of what that--of what that was about by going to the grave and--and--and seeing the--and seeing what--what Appleton--that part of that Appleton was like.
LAMB: Born in 1908. What year did he die?
Prof. HERMAN: He dies in 1957.
LAMB: Of what?
Prof. HERMAN: He died--well, the death certificate says hepatic liveral--liver failure, and it does seem to be had that hepatitis was the immediate cause of death. But there's no doubt that the liver damage that he suffered was the result of his--of his chronic drinking...
LAMB: How much did he...
Prof. HERMAN: ...which had been going on for years--had been going on for years. You know, there's a--there's a--the legend is is that McCarthy's disgrace and his censure drove him to the bottle and that he killed himself in the process. Actually, in fact, what I discovered was--is that his drinking had really begun long before that. It had really begun during the period of time in which he was at the height of his popularity and the height of his--of his notoriety here. And the tremendous quantities of alcohol that he did consume as he responded to the tensions and the pressures of his, you know, national celebrity that had been thrust on him simply did physical damage that--that was irr--irr--irreparable. And after the censure, he doesn't seem to have drunk quite as much as he did before. A lot of people who met him and--during that period of time describe him as being a moderate drinker, and perhaps so. But the truth is is that the physical damage had already been done by the time--by the time of his--by that time of his censure, and he goes into a--goes into a physical and mental tailspin after that.
LAMB: So he's, like, 48 years old when he dies.
Prof. HERMAN: Yeah, he's only 48 years old when he dies. That's right.
LAMB: Are there any McCarthy descendants?
Prof. HERMAN: There is. There is a s--there is a--a daughter, a stepdaughter. He and Jean adopted a child only months before his death, as a matter of fact. It was an adoption that was arranged with the help of Cardinal Francis Spellman.
LAMB: She's in the--his wife's in this picture right here.
Prof. HERMAN: That's right. That's right. And that daughter is still alive. I didn't contact her at all because, for one thing, the McCarthy personal papers, such as they are, are basically sealed. The family doesn't want anybody to--to see it, and I respected her privacy. But also because, again, she would no--have had almost no memory of her father since he died when she was still really an infant.
LAMB: When did you get interested in this? What were you doing and why?
Prof. HERMAN: Well, I'll tell you it--McCarthy--since I grew up in Wisconsin, McCarthy was always a kind of shadowy figure in the history of Wisconsin politics. Wisconsin is a very progressive state. It's the place where Bill Proxmire and Gaylord Nelson were senators, and has a--you know, has a long history and proud history of progressivism in its politics. And Joe McCarthy was always kind of Bankwell's ghost at the feasts. No one really wanted to talk about how he became a senator and re-elected as a senator from the state. And it was a very murky part of this whole sort of political heritage of--of--of--of being in Wisconsin. And that had always intrigued me about it, about him and about his links to Wisconsin.
But the other issue, too, that got me interested in this was the whole question about American communism and the so-called Red Scare, and about the 1950s probes into anti-communism. And the first book that really got me interested in it, oddly enough, was Victor Navasky's "Naming Names." I read that in graduate school. It made enormous impact on me.
LAMB: The man who used to run The Nation magazine.
Prof. HERMAN: That's right. Exactly. He was publisher of The Nation. And it was--what it--most impressed me about it was the human side of the story that he was capturing, the human tragedies of these figures who had become caught up in--in the Communist Party and in--in the accusations about their membership and their links to the party in the 1950s. And it was a very--and is a very powerful book. Although my own view about the role of domestic communism is radically different now from Navasky's, it's still a very powerful book because it captures that human tragedy element.
And although my own professional interests as a historian moved in a different direction, I always kept an interest in the period and in the subject. And it struck me a number of years ago that if I wanted to write something on this--you know, people write books very often because it's--they want to read the book that they're going to write, and this was my case, too. I wanted to read a book about Joe McCarthy, that McCarthy was a way in which all of these kinds of issues about the 1950s, about what America was about, what domestic communism and its role and place in American life in this period and the Cold War, that McCarthy was a way to re-examine all of those issues in the--in a--in a--in a single way and in a single--in a single form. And that--from the point of view of--of human tragedy, that the story of Joe McCarthy is a tragedy. It really is. I mean, it is a tragedy which in many ways he brought upon himself, but it's a--it's a tragedy all the same.
LAMB: What do you do full-time?
Prof. HERMAN: What I do full-time is I teach at George Mason University. I'm visiting associate professor there. And at the same time, I also lecture at the Smithsonian Institution at their Campus on The Mall. And I am--organized their Western heritage program there, bringing on teachers and setting up courses and so on for--for the large audiences that we get--that we get over at the Smithsonian's Ripley Center.
LAMB: How would you describe your own political views?
Prof. HERMAN: I guess I would describe my own political views as conservative of a--of a sort that is someone who grew up as a progressive, who in graduate school had been of the left, but then became disillusioned with it as a result of what had happened in Vietnam and in Cambodia after the American withdrawal there. And--and of really kind of reassessing your own deeply held beliefs and beginning to think that perhaps there's a different way to sort of see, a different perspective on all these other kinds of things. It's been a slow, long march for me to the kinds of views and issues that--that--that I've come to realize here.
But insofar as--insofar as the--the view that I used to have about Joe McCarthy and about the kinds of people who supported him and about the Red Scare and all of these other issues of domestic subversion, that is a view which is, I think, the m--the--the main weight of historical evidence simply runs against it. And you--it's just not a--it's just not a feasible position anymore to hold about these kinds of--these kinds of issues. That the weight of historical evidence has to compel us to re-examine and--and--and to really reappraise how we understand all these things.
LAMB: Where did you get your undergraduate degree and...
Prof. HERMAN: I got it University of Minnesota.
LAMB: In what year?
Prof. HERMAN: In 1978 with--in history. A BA in history and then a master's degree at Johns Hopkins in 1980. And then I did my PhD at Johns Hopkins in--in '85.
LAMB: And how long--excuse me--how long have you been associated with the Smithsonian?
Prof. HERMAN: I started teaching there about 1990--1990 or 1991. The number escapes me right now. And I've been teaching for them on a more or less regular basis ever since.
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LAMB: Go back to the Wheeling, West Virginia, speech. What day, what year was it given?
Prof. HERMAN: This was February 9th, 1950. It was a speech for the Lincoln Day celebrations that were being organized by the ladies' Republican club of Wheeling, West Virginia. Lincoln's birthday was traditionally a opportunity for Republican officeholders to give a speech about Republican principles, about the--the great traditions and the heritage of the Republican Party and its--then, al--of course, also to associate themselves with the figure of Abraham Lincoln and about how--and--and about sort of current political views. McCarthy was invited to give the speech. He was, at that time, still a very obscure senator. And it is true, he was somebody who was struggling for a way to which--make a name for himself.
LAMB: Two years into his Senate term?
Prof. HERMAN: That's right. That's right. He had--he had great difficulty convincing his colleagues that he was really up to the job of being a competent--What shall we say?--a--a competent supporter, a competent com--colleague in pushing Republican policies here. He'd been relegated to these minor committees and didn't seem to be a--a way to get out of it in any sort of way. So he was looking around for some kind of issue in which to make a name for himself...
Prof. HERMAN: ...since he didn't seem to be able to get along with his colleagues very well.
LAMB: February, 1950, where was Alger Hiss?
Prof. HERMAN: Alger Hiss had just been convicted of perjury and was in prison, just two weeks earlier.
LAMB: Where was Richard Nixon?
Prof. HERMAN: Richard Nixon was, at that time, of course--he had--he was about to launch his run for the US Senate. He was going to use his--the name that he had made for himself, the fame that he had gained by prosecuting the Hiss case and carrying it forward and proving his guilty, to translate that into, you know, political success to the next level, moving from the House to the Senate here.
LAMB: What was Joseph McCarthy's relationship with Joseph Kennedy, the father of Jack Kennedy, in 1950?
Prof. HERMAN: Well, before I answer that, let me just come back briefly to the Nixon issue and the Hiss issue. They're important to understand McCarthy and to understand the Wheeling speech for this reason, and that is is that Richard Nixon was always the ex--example, the role model for McCarthy, of how taking on the issue of domestic communism and pointing fingers at the members of the Truman administration or past members of the Truman and--and Roosevelt administrations, pointing fingers at them as being Communists or Communist sympathizers, how you could make a political career out of that. And Nixon's success in doing so and becoming a national figure through the Hiss case, and then winning in a landslide victory in November and being elected to the US Senate were powerful incentives for McCarthy to try the same thing. He thought to himself, `Here's the way. Here's the way in which you raise yourself from--from relative obscurity into national fame and become a pillar of your party.'
And so it was--is--in the end, it was a misleading example because the people that McCarthy pointed his fingers at were not Alger Hisses. He got himself out--out of his depth in the accusations he made. But it was pointing the direction to his--it was the direction he saw himself moving indirectly.
As for Joe Kennedy, the relationship between the Kennedys and the McCarthys is a very interesting one. And it really is rooted in a kind of shared Irish Catholic heritage and a similar outlook on issues such as communism, such as the Cold War and in a mutual liking. McCarthy, as I say--point out in the book, McCarthy for a period of time became a part of that Hyannis Port entourage, playing softball with the Kennedys here. Joe Kennedy, in particular, seems to have had a strong liking for--for Joe McCarthy and always sort of hoped that McCarthy would marry one of his daughters. They had other ideas about the subject.
LAMB: How old was Bobby Kennedy back in those years?
Prof. HERMAN: I'm not sure how old he wa--he was, but he'll only be in his mid-20s when he comes on as--as legal counsel for McCarthy's Committee on Investigations when he becomes--when McCarthy becomes chairman in 1953. He'll put Bobby Kennedy in--into that sl--very important slot.
LAMB: Wheeling, West Virginia, the speech February, 1950, the numbers 205 vs. 57.
Prof. HERMAN: A very confusing story, very murky, and made murkier by McCarthy himself. Here's what happened. There was a list which had been prepared by a House committee back in 1946 of people whose personnel files--people working in the State Department--whose personnel files that committee members had gone through and had found various things that they found disturbing about many of these people who were on the State Department payroll. That some of them were members of the Communist Party, that others were as--associated with Communist Party members. And you have to remember, this is a period of time in which the conflict with the Soviet Union is just starting to heat up, and the question of: `Where are these people's loyalties, with us, the United States, or with our air--erstwhile ally during the war, the Soviet Union?' The list was put together and presented to the State Department for--with a nasty note, in effect, saying, `Why are these people still on the payroll here if we're, in fact, gonna be in--you know, in--if we find ourselves in the midst of a conflict with the Soviet Union?'
The State Department wrote back a reassuring letter saying, `Well, in fact, a lot of these people have, in fact, been removed from the State Department. And--but there are still some who are left, whose cases are still pending for investigation. We'll get to them as soon as we can.' The number that were left was 57. This was in 1948, the number 57. And this was how the number 57 gets to McCarthy, is that McCarthy's--in the Wheeling speech--s--stated that number, the number 57, as the number of people that he claimed were either Communists or Communist sympathizers still on the State Department payroll.
Now mind you, there's a gap here. He's speaking in 1950. The State Department spokesman in 1948's giving a number 19--given the number 57. McCarthy has no way of knowing which is accurate--whether that number is still accurate. But the point was--as I make in the book--is that no one did because the--because the personnel files had been sealed. All of this stuff, by--by Truman's order, had been shut out. The s--the Congress had no way of knowing whether these people were still on the payroll or not unless the State Department decided to tell them so.
Now in the preparation for the speech that he makes--and he got a speech writer, a journalist by the name of Ed Neller to do the speech for him. In fact, it seems to have been Neller who suggested the idea of doing a sp--a speech on Communists in government, in the State Department. In drafting the speech, at--at various points where the speech would mention specific numbers as, for example, listing the number of people living under communism in 1945, the number of people living under communism in 1950, that the--that McCarthy's speech writer, whether it was Neller or a typist, would insert a number for--and then later on when--the course of composing the speech, and then later on would plug in the exact numbers in preparation for the speech. And what seems to have happened is is that the number 205 was simply inserted into the slot for the number where 57 would eventually go. And in fact, when the speech was handed out to reporters, the number 205 was, in fact, crossed out and the number 57 substituted for it.
Now what seems to have happened--and we don't really know because there's no recording. This is one of the most famous speeches--notorious speeches in the 20th century and we have no recording of it, only the memory of those who heard it. That what seems to have happened is that McCarthy, in the course of reading the speech--and he was never somebody who followed the script very closely. He was always ad-libbing--is that what seems to have happened is that he read the number 205 the first time around instead of the number 57.
LAMB: Why does that matter?
Prof. HERMAN: Well, it matters for a couple of reasons, and that is, is that later on, McCarthy would always insist--in fact, at the time he would always insist that the number 57 was the number which he had cited, because there was some--although flimsy--documentary evidence to support that number, and under oath he would deny to Senate committees the fact that he had ever said `205.' So later on, when Democrats in the Senate are looking for ways to get McCarthy out of the Senate, either expel him or censure him, the possibility that Joe McCarthy had committed perjury, perjury by telling a Senate committee that, `I never said 205, but rather 57,' would become, you see, a leverage as a way of--a way of proving that McCarthy was, in fact--was, in fact, a liar, and Democrats scrambled for years to try and find a copy of it, in the hopes that perhaps someone, somewhere, had recorded this at the radio station or during the course of it, so that they can prove that McCarthy had, in fact, said--sa--used the number 205.
It seems like a minor point, but you have to understand that in that explosive environment, the bitter partisanship that surrounded these kinds of issues--was the Democratic administration, the Truman administration, and the Roosevelt administration, had they been harboring Communists, had they been harboring Communist sympathizers here? Those accusations that had been hurled at their heads, their counter-accusations that their opponents were really just out to destroy the New Deal, and to--and to--and to revoke Social Security, and to destroy all that Americans had gained, and to plunge back into the darkest years of the Depression. And in that kind of partisan debate, these numbers mattered, you know. It's rather as if the questions about--again, about--about Monica and Linda Tripp, about, you know, where she bought the dress--these kinds of details mattered, because these were hot political issues, whereas today, of course, in retrospect, they seem kind of small.
LAMB: Where are the Joe McCarthy papers?
Prof. HERMAN: The family seems to have retained some of those papers. A previous historian--a previous--previous biographer who tried to get access to them--they seem to be kept at Marquette University. I guess that's--that's where they are, under seal, not in the family's possession, but at Marquette University--tried to get access to them, failed to do so, but was told by a family friend--he mentions this in the preface--was told by a family friend that there was really nothing of great interest there, that most of it was just simply junk mail from McCarthy's Senate office, which is not difficult to believe. Joe McCarthy never wrote down anything. He was an oral man. He was not a liter--he was not someone who wrote down things. He never kept a diary. He was probably the most--least introspective person that you could possibly find. Personal papers would not be very revealing at all, even if they did, in fact--no matter what kinds of materials you would find there. Joe McCarthy was what he was, what he appeared to be in public. And it's in the public record, on the public man, that the book is really--is really focused on.
LAMB: Your photographs in here often come from Oliver Atkins collection at George Mason University. If I remember right, Oliver Atkins was the Nixon photographer.
Prof. HERMAN: That's right, and he also worked for the Saturday Evening Post, and he donated large sections of his photo archives to George Mason University, and they're up there in the special collections, and a lot of the photographs--I think the vast majority of them, in fact--have never actually been seen before. A lot of these are outtakes from articles that he--that Atkins was doing for Saturday Evening Post, from the Army-McCarthy hearings, an article that was done about Joe McCarthy shortly after he'd made the Wheeling speech, sort of, `What's all this fuss about the State Department and who's this--who's this Joe McCarthy, anyway?' So they're photographs that have not been seen before.
LAMB: I want to go through a bunch of names, because it--we're going to run out of time before you know it, and this gets the sense of who was involved in all this. Just let me--I--just give me some brief descriptions of how they played in this whole thing. William F. Buckley.
Prof. HERMAN: William F. Buckley was--became attached to the McCarthy cause through a young lawyer by the name of Brent Bozell. The two of them penned a book called "McCarthy and His Enemies," which was basically a defense of McCarthy's charges against the State Department and against the Truman administration here. There seems to have been some talk about him working as a spr--speechwriter for Joe McCarthy. Later on, Joe's wife, Jean Kerr, wanted Bill to come on board, it--it seems, but McCarthy's important later on, because it is Buckley who will single-handedly, in a sense, resurrect the conservative movement with his founding of the National Review.
LAMB: Brent Bozell was married to...
Prof. HERMAN: Brent Bozell was married to Patricia Buckley.
LAMB: The sister of Bill Buckley?
Prof. HERMAN: Bill's sister, yeah.
LAMB: And is the father of the L. Brent Bozell who runs this Media Research Center here...
Prof. HERMAN: That's right.
LAMB: ...in Washington today?
Prof. HERMAN: That's right. That's correct.
LAMB: Drew Pearson.
Prof. HERMAN: Drew Pearson was the--the Matt Drudge of the--of the--of the--of the '40s, a radio commentator and newspaper columnist, a kind of glorified gossip columnist, really, and he and McCarthy crossed swords a number of times on--on issues. Pearson was, like a lot of liberal anti-Communists, outraged by McCarthy's charges against the Truman administration and against the Democratic Party, saw them as wildly reckless--which a lot of them were, of course--and they became bitter, bitter personal enemies, and...
LAMB: Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson were...
Prof. HERMAN: That's right, were...
LAMB: ...were teammates …..
Prof. HERMAN: ...were teammates, were teammates, and Anderson worked for Pearson, really sort of learned his--learned the trade.
LAMB: What's the slap story?
Prof. HERMAN: The slap story is that they went to a dinner hosted by a leading Washington hostess, who decided that it would be--I guess--decided it would be fun to put these two bitter personal enemies side by side at the same table, and after a series of bitter exchanges at the--at the table in which, almost certainly, McCarthy, you know, was drinking more and more bourbon, they met again in the cloakroom on their way out, and McCarthy's impulse was to grab at him and to slap him across the face, and then it seems--according to McCarthy's later versions--but again, you could never really trust McCarthy; he was always happy to embellish the truth--also kneed him in the groin, pushed him down into the--into the cloakroom, you know, the back where the coats are and so on. It was Richard Nixon, who was at the same dinner, who had to really pull McCarthy off of Pearson and keep him from really pummeling the man.
LAMB: Roy Cohn.
Prof. HERMAN: Roy Cohn worked as McCarthy's chief legal counsel when he became chairman of the subcommittee on investigations in 1953. He was a brash, precocious, street-smart kid who actually did know his way around the anti-communism and--and the investigation of domestic subversion, but he is, more than any other person, responsible, I think, for McCarthy's fall--that is, every other person except Joe McCarthy--in that McCarthy became absolutely mesmerized by Cohn's brilliance, his--his audacity, his seeming grasp of what was essential and how to get things done, and Cohn gave him consistently disastrous advice and really pushed McCarthy off into a series of investigations which would cost McCarthy both--first of--first of all, cost him his public support, but then also cost him his career. His investigations of the Voice of America, for example; his investigations of the US Army, which led to--directly to the confrontation with--with the Eisenhower White House. All of these things were done at the--at the behest and at the urging of--of Roy Cohn.
LAMB: You say he was only 26 years old when he went...
Prof. HERMAN: Yes.
LAMB: ...to work for him?
Prof. HERMAN: That's right.
LAMB: And Bobby Kennedy was 27 at that time?
Prof. HERMAN: It was a young, brash, youthful, fresh-faced team. This was--this was the image that was being presented here about them. Kennedy and Cohn hated each other. They came to--they came--they came--almost came to blows, in fact, later on, and Kennedy resigned--reluctantly resigned from the committee because he realized that there wasn't room for both of them on the--on--on McCarthy's staff.
LAMB: And a young man named David Schine who was 25.
Prof. HERMAN: That's right.
LAMB: And I want you to tell us who he was--but why is there no picture of him in here that I could find?
Prof. HERMAN: There's only so many pictures you can get in. That's one reason why.
LAMB: But is there a picture of David Schine around?
Prof. HERMAN: Oh, yeah. He's--you can--you can find him in--in--in a number of books, Roy Cohn's book, for example, but he was a kind of--he was engagingly handsome, not very bright, came from a millionaire family from Florida, and Roy Cohn seems to have been quite enthralled by him. Roy Cohn was, as we now know, a homosexual, and although there is nothing that suggests that there was any kind of physical relationship between Cohn and Schine, there--there was a strong emotional intimacy, an emotional dependency between Cohn and Schine, which is really quite striking. A lot of people who knew--family members, Cohn's family members, who knew him as being this incredibly outgoing and forceful personality, a person with--you know, kind of the embodiment of chutzpah, and here he was sort of mooning after this--this--as I say, not terribly bright, not very cerebral younger--younger man. That relationship between them and Cohn's desire to keep David Schine from going into the Army when he's drafted, to keep him on the staff, is what ultimately leads to McCarthy's downfall, because it is Cohn's efforts, his desperate efforts to get special treatment for Private David Schine that gives...
LAMB: What year?
Prof. HERMAN: This would be in 1953-54.
LAMB: General Eisenhower is the president.
Prof. HERMAN: Yes. Eisenhower is president at this point. The Army is in--i--is--the Defense Department is in Republican hands, but it is that effort by Cohn that gives the Defense Department, then, leverage to try and end McCarthy's investigations and--and probes into--into their security program, that leads to the final...
LAMB: I want to come...
Prof. HERMAN: ...to the final confrontation.
LAMB: I want to come back to a couple of other names--Lauchlin Currie.
Prof. HERMAN: Lauchlin Currie is one of the shadowiest figures of the whole maze of Soviet espionage and Soviet agents at work in the highest reaches of the--of the federal government. He was an aide to President Roosevelt. He was almost certainly--and we know this from the Venona decrypts, which have recently been made--been made public.
LAMB: What's that mean--Venona?
Prof. HERMAN: Venona was the project--the--the project name for the decoding and decipher--deciphering of intercepted KGB cables that had passed between Washington and New York and other KBB--KGB stations to Moscow.
LAMB: This just happened in the last couple of years?
Prof. HERMAN: Well, the--the release of these documents...
LAMB: That's what I mean.
Prof. HERMAN: Yeah--came--comes in 1995, is when these had been made public, and what was known to security office for a long--officers for a long time is now known to historians and to--and to the general public, and that is is that Currie was among the most active of these recruited Soviet agents here.
LAMB: What about John Service?
Prof. HERMAN: John Service...
LAMB: John Stewart Service.
Prof. HERMAN: ...was one of the brightest of the so-called `China hands.' He was a principle target of McCarthy's accusations about members of the Truman administration in the State Department being, if not actually Communists, then being sympathetic and secretly sympathetic to the Communist cause and giving, for that reason, bad advice that would guarantee the victory for Mao's Communists as opposed to--a--and the defeat of the Chiang Kai-shek's nationalists--and he became a principle target in a real hot spot of contention between Republicans and Democrats about the--about the fundamental integrity of the kind of policy advice America was getting during the Chinese civil war, in fact, for the whole Cold War in Asia.
LAMB: Owen Lattimore.
Prof. HERMAN: Owen Lattimore was another figure, the kind of spiritual godfather for the--for the China hands.
LAMB: Which one is he in this photograph?
Prof. HERMAN: He's the one on the left, with the--with the glasses.
LAMB: In the front or in the back?
Prof. HERMAN: I'm sorry--in the--the one with the glasses in the front.
Prof. HERMAN: And that picture shows him on his--leaving the Tydings committee hearing room after he had testified against--against McCarthy, and you can see McCarthy, if you look at the four figures there, that quartet in the foreground, McCarthy's the one on the upper right.
LAMB: You mentioned Tydings. Who was he?
Prof. HERMAN: Jo--Miller Tydings--not Joe Tydings--Miller Tydings was a senator from Maryland, and he headed the special Senate committee that was set up to investigate McCarthy's charges against the State Department, and they came out with a report that basically exonerated all of the figures who McCarthy had named as being either Communists or Communist sympathizers, including Owen Lattimore, including John Stewart Service. McCarthy accused Tydings and the Democrats who controlled the committee of conducting a whitewash, of using it for partisan purposes, and I think that any kind of objective look at the--actually, any kind of objective look at the Tydings report and the way in which they did systematically ignore the evidence that was presented, not just by McCarthy but by their own investigators, you have to say that in this case, at least, McCarthy had something of a point.
LAMB: Wh--what would Joe McCarthy, in your opinion, have been like to know?
Prof. HERMAN: I think he was--from the people that I have interviewed who did know him, he was someone who was a warm, engaging, intensely physical man. He was the kind of person who corners you and buttonholes you at a party, takes hold of your lapel, has his arm around you from the other side here, who--who is charming and engaging, has the ability to--you know, this--this sort of gruff and rather vulgar sense of humor here. He is the kind of person who's, you know, very, very popular in male locker rooms and in--and in barrooms here. And most people found him--even his--even his political opponents--found him to be a very likable--likable individual here.
The one problem he had was this ferocious temper, which could flare up at unexpected and unpredictable points, and it's one of the things--this intensely physical man suddenly losing his temper, blowing up at imagined slights and insults, and firing back at people with really harsh and nasty personal--personal attacks, was one of the things that made him as--as a senator very, very difficult to deal with, why people didn't want to touch him, didn't want deal with him.
LAMB: Now the other names that are still around and familiar--Anthony Lewis, Tony Lewis, the liberal columnist for The New York Times...
Prof. HERMAN: That's right. He...
LAMB: ...you say was a friend of Roy Cohn's
Prof. HERMAN: He was a friend of Roy Cohn and he was the one who dropped off the newspaper to Roy Cohn, telling him that, `You are now the target of an investigation and accusations by the US Army,' ….
LAMB: Where's their friendship from?
Prof. HERMAN: That goes back to New York days, and in fact, Anthony Lewis was one of the people who was always surprised by Roy Cohn's embrace of the Communist issue, and turning to--to McCarthy as a kind of mentor figure. You know Roy Cohn's family were Democrats. They were Tammany Hall Democrats. His father was a political appointee judge. But again, we have to understand that Cohn had this unerring eye for the main chance. What is it that's going to give me--you know, guarantee me political success and notoriety the fastest possible way? What's the fast track to power? And for him, Joe McCarthy was it.
LAMB: Former publisher of the National Review, Bill Rusher, was a--a staff person on the committee?
Prof. HERMAN: No, he wasn't a staff person on that committee. He comes to Washington after McCarthy's fall to work for the--the successor chairman, for--the man who takes over the committee afterwards, as--as--as Republican chairman, William Jenner, for the committee of sub--this permanent subcommittee on investigations, McCarthy's own committee here. And he met McCarthy as a result of his--of his dealings with Jenner and John McClellan, and the other members of the committee.
LAMB: `Have you no sense of decency?' Who said that?
Prof. HERMAN: That's a famous phrase. That is an immortal phrase. It's one that appears in film clips, in documentaries about the period. It's Joseph Welch, the Army's counsel, legal counsel.
LAMB: It's hard to see in this photograph here, but he is which one in this picture?
Prof. HERMAN: He's the one on the right, with his hand to his chin.
LAMB: And he was the counsel for...
Prof. HERMAN: The Army, in their...
LAMB: The United States Army.
Prof. HERMAN: United States Army.
LAMB: What year?
Prof. HERMAN: This is 1954, during the famous Army-McCarthy hearings. A lot of people have a misunderstanding--misconception about the Army-McCarthy hearings. They assume that it was McCarthy investigating the Army that was being televised here for the nation to see. In fact, it was McCarthy who was in the hot seat. It was McCarthy who was the accused, of allowing his staff members, including Roy Cohn, to blackmail the Army by threatening investigations in order to get David Schine his special treatment as--as a new draftee into the Army.
LAMB: You say there was tears by Joe Welch, Joseph Welch, after the hearing was over, and you're--you're suspicious.
Prof. HERMAN: Well, it's an interesting story. It's--it's told by a eyewitness to the events, who...
LAMB: Somebody you talked to?
Prof. HERMAN: Not someone I talked to, someone another historian talked to, and--and gives the account in one of the footnotes to his book. He doesn't mention the--he doesn't mention who the person is. I think I have an idea as to who it is, but I'm not going to say, who worked for Joe Mc--worked for Welch, and that after this dramatic scene and the--and--and the stinging speech that--that Welch gave to m--posted, he gave to McCarthy for bringing up Fred Fisher's name in the midst of this--these--these hearings.
LAMB: Who is Fred Fisher?
Prof. HERMAN: Fred Fisher was a lawyer who worked on Welch's staff who had, in student days, been a member of the National Lawyers' Guild, which was a Communist front organization, and the information appeared in The New York Times a couple of weeks before. Welch had decided that it was--not make sense to have Fred a member of the staff, because he knew that McCarthy and Cohn would probably make an issue out of it, and he and Roy Cohn struck a deal, secretly, before the--before the hearings opened, that if McCarthy and Cohn would not mention Fred Fisher and his Communist affiliation as a way of discrediting Joe Welch and the Army's case, that they would not bring up Roy Cohn's rather suspicious draft deferment that had gotten him out of the Korean War. It was a mutual agreement: You don't bring up an embarrassing episode, and I won't mention this one in exchange for that, and Coin presented the terms to McCarthy; McCarthy said, `Fine.'
Then later on, when--when Welch was running--was needling and--Cohn, and giving him a very hard time in the course of the give and take and asking him, `Give us some names of Communists. You people are the experts on Communists, bring--give us some names now. You know, I don't want to have a single Communist. Name--I want to know who it is on my staff, or anywhere, who--in the US government, who's, you know, a Communist, and I want those names before sundown.' In the midst of all of that, watching Cohn being, in a sense, teased and needled in this way, McCarthy lost his temper, and blurted out the example of Fred Fisher.
Joseph Welch gave this long, as I say, and--and quite dramatic and emotionally powerful reply to it, about having no sense of decency left, and then had a tearful press conference afterwards here, in which--again he--you know, how could McCarthy have done this to this young man, and his lack of decency and all the rest of it. And then, after the reporters had gone, when he and his other staff members were leaving, he turned to one of them afterwards, the tears still streaming down his face, and, according to this staffer, then Welch said, `Well, how did it go?' That in other words, he had prepared himself in case McCarthy or Cohn had--had broken their word. He had prepared this little--this little soliloquy as a way of getting the most--the motion--the most emotional impact out of the--out of the incident. He didn't trust them, and as it turned out, he was correct.
LAMB: In the end you say that Joseph McCarthy was censured 67 to 22, but that--up till that point, there'd only been three in history--senators censured?
Prof. HERMAN: That's right.
LAMB: But in the end he also had a state--or Senate funeral.
Prof. HERMAN: Yeah, which was an extraordinary thing, and it was, in many ways, a kind of--well, it was a couple of things. One was, I think, there were a lot of senators who voted for censure who had their doubts about the grounds for doing so. There had to be a way to stop Joe McCarthy. He had simply gotten out of control, had really sort of stretched the envelope of the institution by his excesses and by his reckless accusations. There had to be a way to stop him; censure seemed to be the way to do it. But the effect that it had on McCarthy, the--the tremendous physical and mental decline that McCarthy suffered as a result of it, I think came as a shock to everybody, and his death coming so quickly after the censure, there was a feeling that--on the part of the Senate to--that--in a--in a part of the Senate to kind of make amends for this by giving him this kind of--this kind of funeral, which would ordinarily only be reserved for Supreme Court justices or for--or for presidents.
LAMB: How often, from your point of view, was the press or the Democrats--were they hypocritical back in those times?
Prof. HERMAN: Well, what I point out in the book is, is that one of the accusations that they had constantly made about Joe McCarthy was that he played fast and loose with the facts, that his accusations really lacked substance and were, in a sense, exaggerated by a kind of hysterical rhetoric about the threat, about Reds under the bed and Soviet spies in the White House and control from the Kremlin, etc., etc. And what I do point out--and I'm not the first one to point this out--is, is that much of that playing fast and loose with the facts and much of that hysterical rhetoric was employed by his political opponents as well.
And one of the things that I want to point out here in the book, and to make clear to people who--who don't remember the time, is the degree to which we have to realize that this was a bitterly partisan era. There were--emotions ran very, very high about how to conduct the Cold War, about how to deal with the threat of Stalinism, both abroad but also at home. You had American soldiers dying in Korea. The Korean War forms--is the--is really the--the--the vivid backdrop for all of McCarthy's career here. There was a bitter, bitter partisan battle here, in which people were prepared to say almost anything to blacken the reputations and to smear their political opponent. McCarthy did it, Republicans, his Republican allies did it. You also have to remember that the Democrats were quite prepared to do the same thing, and often did against McCarthy, calling him a Nazi sympathizer, talking about his--his investigations as posing a threat to American democracy and so on, charges which really don't--in--in the light of--light of historical evidence and historical perspective don't hold any kind of water.
LAMB: Not much time. David Greenberg, one of the many people who have regurgi--reviewed your book--he's a Richard Hofstadter Fellow in American history at Columbia University--he says, `Arthur Herman's ten--tendentious Joseph McCarthy represents what one can only hope will be the nadir of this trend'--he's talking about a trend of--of describing that period--`a model of muddy thinking, the book contends that just because some US officials spied for the Soviet Union, as we now know definitively, McCarthy's campaign against Communists in government was, ipso facto, a force for good.'
Later he says, `Herman forges beyond balance to exonerate the senator whenever possible. He even employs the contradictory arguments in the senator's defense.' Is this a normal kind of a review that you've gotten?
Prof. HERMAN: Yeah. Well, you know, it's very interesting. The--the professional reviewers who have read the book--including the professional historians--really don't know what to make of it. They have never really read a book quite like this, because it doesn't take the sort of obvious sides in the case. It doesn't repeat the kinds of conventional pieties about either Joe McCarthy or about the 1950s and the Red Scare. And because they haven't really read a book that's like this, that approaches it in this way, it--it's necessary for reviewers, I think, in many ways to try and find a way to sort of bring it down to the sort of recognizable category.
So it's assumed that because I'm not overtly anti-McCarthy--and I actually sort of try to correct some of the myths and legends that have grown up about McCarthy as being this--you know, this--this icon of evil, this tremendous anti-democratic demagogue, etc., etc.--that because I don't--because I'm not anti-McCarthy, therefore I must be pro-McCarthy, which I'm not, and therefore, it's also assumed that because I say McCarthy is not the sort of villain that he's been cast to be that I, therefore, must be making the Democrats and liberals as the villains, which is false.
It's a book that's--tries to examine this in as cool and detached and dispassionate a way as you can--the man, the times, the--the--the issue, the perplexing issue of--of domestic communism, and the--how to conduct the Cold War, and for a lot of reviewers, this is--this is an approach that they just can't quite--can't quite grasp.
LAMB: Do you know where this picture was taken?
Prof. HERMAN: That picture was taken during the Army-McCarthy hearings. It's McCarthy giving a lecture at the--at the front of the committee table about Communist cells around the United States and their links to Soviet--to--to American Army and Air Force bases. On the other side of it, it has--in that sense it's a cropped photograph, because also in the larger picture is a picture of Joseph Welch on the left, sitting and listening to all of this with a--with a expression of--of--of disgusted skepticism on his face.
LAMB: Our guest has been Arthur Herman, and again, this is what the book looks like: "Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining His Life and Lesen--Legend of American's Most Hated Senator." Thank you very much for joining us.
Prof. HERMAN: Thank you very much.
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