Mccarthy’s Abuse Of Power Essay, Research Paper

McCarthy’s Abuse of Power

In 1954 a young junior Senator from the state of Wisconsin held the entire Senate in the palm of his hand. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy used an aggressive strategy of lies, personal attacks, and propaganda in an aggressive attempt to gain power. Was Senator McCarthy a crusader for the common good of the people or was he the ringleader of a witch-hunt seeking only political power? What tactics did McCarthy use to gain his power? What brought about his demise? Joseph McCarthy was a complex man and in order to understand his thinking you must first look at his history, tactics, and supporters. Joseph McCarthy wasn?t always the brash and aggressive man that history has made him out to be. McCarthy was born to a good Irish Catholic family. Neighbors remember Joseph as being a shy lad, seen-but-not-heard. At nineteen McCarthy left home to fill a position as a store manager. At about this time the once shy and timid boy began to change into a sharp and aggressive man. McCarthy went back to school where he graduated from Marquette University with the title class president and a law degree. McCarthy began practicing law in a small town and was soon offered a position with a well-respected law firm, which he snatched up. McCarthy soon became disenchanted working for someone else and wanted some power of his own. McCarthy began hobnobbing with the local clubs and organizations McCarthy was so well liked that he was elected president of the Young Democratic Clubs of Wisconsin?s Seventh District. With a political backing McCarthy decided to run for district attorney of Shawano County under the Democratic ticket. McCarthy came in second losing to a Progressive candidate but beat out the Republican candidate by about a thousand votes. McCarthy polled in seven times as many votes as he should have which gave the fresh faced lawyer good hopes for the future. McCarthy, in his high spirits, than decided to go after the position of tenth circuit judge. McCarthy faced a tough challenge because in front of his ambitions was a seasoned Judge of 35 years who most people predicted would be a sure win. One farmer describes McCarthy, ? He had barely turned thirty; he was probably the least experienced lawyer in the district, and he lacked the dignity a judge should have.? McCarthy would not let opinions get in his way and he ran a furious campaign. Judge Werner was 66 and McCarthy referred to him as ?my 73-year-old Opponent,? because of this McCarthy was able to exploit an age issue, which he used it in his campaign. McCarthy also ran an aggressive mailing campaign sending out thousands of letters. All of these factors lead Joseph R. McCarthy to the courthouse and granted him his first taste of political power. ?Judge McCarthy Breezed into the courtroom full of vim and vitality, like a strong west wind blowing through the moldering halls of justice.? McCarthy came to the courtroom with energy, which quickly dealt away a backlog of nearly 250 cases. McCarthy was not as judicial as he was quick and was known to grant ?quickie divorces? to his political supporters. At one point the Wisconsin Supreme Court labeled his actions as ?highly improper.? While a judge McCarthy began networking and developed a list of names and numbers of key political players and media connections, which he could count on if he ever need support. In 1942 McCarthy waived his judicial deferment and joined the Marine Corps. The reason for this is shaky at least but his actions in the Corps give evidence that he needed a good military background if he were to be successful in politics. ?He quickly won a reputation among fellow officers as an ?operator? and a ?promoter. On one occasion he sat in the rear of a grounded dive bomber and fired off 4,700 rounds of ammunition, a publicity stunt which made the Associated Press wire.? In another instance McCarthy spread around a rumor that he had been wounded in action, which also made the papers back home. McCarthy with the rank of Captain went on active leave and upon return to Wisconsin decided to change his party affiliation to Republican and divert all his political energies towards running for Senator. Two things conflicted with this action, one is that servicemen are forbidden to speak on political issues, and two that he was still a judge and was not allowed to hold any other office until his term ran out. McCarthy confronted these issues the same way he confronts all his issues, he ignores them. With the dirt, which he had acquired while working as a judge, McCarthy outmaneuvered and out hustled all other opponents to win the Republican nomination. McCarthy?s next major political challenge was against Democratic nominee Howard McMurray. This is the first incidence that McCarthy uses the issue of communism. ?He told one audience that McMurray was ?communistically inclined,? and another that he was a megaphone being used by the Communist-controlled P.A.C.? McCarthy did not press to hard on the communist issue, and when he did use it he was in line with the rest of his party who were criticizing liberals all over the country. McCarthy won the Senate race against McMurray, but not by a well ran campaign. The fact that McCarthy was a Republican in a Republican year made all the difference and McCarthy rode in on his party?s shoulders. While in the Senate McCarthy begins to show his real qualities which history has given him. He uses slander, liable, and all out fabrication of the truth to his credit. His first year in congress was uneventful and people have labeled him as a substandard Senator if it were not for his discovery of the communist issue and speech at Wheeling, West Virginia. McCarthy more than once trampled over the unwritten rules of seniority, courtesy, and reciprocity which or legislative body enforces in order to pass legislation. ?He had no respect for the spirit of senatorial courtesy or for the rules of seniority, and he was perfectly willing to make personal attacks on fellow senators.? McCarthy was an opportunist and one Senator was quoted as saying of McCarthy that, ? he will run the knife into you ? particularly if the public is going to see it ? and he will do it for no particular reason.? McCarthy when questioned and confronted turned the table around and attacked the person rather than the idea that was being debated. ?If one was ever approached by another person in a not completely friendly fashion, one should start kicking at the other person as fast as possible below the belt until the other person was rendered helpless.? ?McCarthy. McCarthy?s strategy was to go on the offense at all times. Above all McCarthy?s major contribution to government was his extreme views towards communism and subsequent branding of people as traitors or communists in order to gain the spotlight. McCarthy was famous for bringing up the ?the communist issue.? It was the 1950?s and the U.S. was looking at a cold war with communist Russia. It was in this atmosphere that McCarthy was able to flourish. He constantly attacked his opponents and accused them of being ?communists? and having ?a direct line to the Kremlin.? McCarthy was very critical of liberals and Democrats in general labeling them as having a ?communist inclination.? When performing cross-examinations of witnesses he would attack the prosecuting attorneys with information his clerks dug up if he were ever antagonized. McCarthy used slander to his advantage at every opportune time and other Senators who got in his way were eliminated from the picture, which was the case with Senators Benton and Tobey, which McCarthy trampled on early in his career. Democrats were afraid to confront McCarthy because of his strong support by other Republicans, and even Republican President Eisenhower was quoted as saying, ? I refuse to step into a gutter fight with that man.? McCarthy also used all out lies and arm pulling of the truth to gain power. After McCarthy gave his first famous speech in Wheeling, West Virginia. In this speech he claimed the he had a list of 205 members of the Communist Party who were working in the State Department. The List, which he had received, was over ten years old and the FBI cleared most of the people on the list of all charges. In actuality the list was only 57 names long and McCarthy drastically fabricated the actual content of the Lee List. Take for example Lee case no. 40 and McCarthy case no. 36 that were later discovered to be the same case. ?Lee case no. 36: This employee is with the Office of Information and Educational Exchange in New York City. His application is very sketchy. There has been no investigation. (C-8) is a reference. Though he is 43 years of age, his file reflects no history prior to June 1941 McCarthy case no. 36 This individual is 43 years of age. He is with the Office of Information and Education. According to the file, he is a known Communist. I might say that when I refer to someone as being a known Communist, I am not evaluating the information myself. I am merely giving what is in the file. This individual also found his way into the Voice of America broadcast. Apparently the easiest way to get in is to be a Communist.? McCarthy?s cases were all out fraudulent. The Democrats under the Tydings Committee tried to investigate McCarthy?s charges but partisan politics got in the way and McCarthy was able to worm his way out of confrontation by the help of a strong Republican Congress and a fear of McCarthy. McCarthy continued to look for communists in government till the end of his power and ultimate censure. McCarthy would follow up on the slightest hint of left wing involvement in government. McCarthy?s strategy became known throughout the world as McCarthyism, which is short for ?communism in-government.? McCarthy said this about his ideology, ?it means fighting communism; it means getting tough with the subversives in Government and outside, and with those who for any reason seek to protect them to escape the consequences of their own negligence or worse. That?s what ?McCarthyism means.? McCarthy would sometimes charge more than one issue at a time so that his democratic opponents still dazed from his previous accusations would be caught off their feet when he accused another organization of ?harboring communists.? ?From the very outset McCarthy had the backing of a small but strategically located group of conservative Republicans to whom the Communist issue had long been important. The one thing that made McCarthy so powerful was his strong support from other conservatives. Fear of a conservative backlash kept Democrats hiding in the shadows and allowed McCarthy to run wild through the Senate. The only way people thought that McCarthy would be stopped is if he destroyed himself. McCarthy would sooner or later attack something to big, or the people would just get tired of him. Both of these eventually happened. McCarthy?s opponents most often than not were destroyed verbally or at the election booths across the country. ?This man, terribly dangerous in the eyes of sophisticated observers of American politics, had obtained the backing of millions of American people.? But in early 1954 the opinion of what McCarthy was doing began to change. People were becoming tired of the same old thing so McCarthy would push harder and make more audacious attacks which would offend more and more people. In 1954 McCarthy went after the largest military branch at the time in our nation, the army, looking for communists. McCarthy attacked the army with trumped up charges and used circumstantial evidence to support his findings. The Republicans were under increasing pressure to withdraw support for McCarthy by the president and they were also losing votes at home. Republicans urged McCarthy to stop and on May 26, 1954 a motion was passed to end the hearings and drop all charges. This was the last straw for many moderate supporters of McCarthy and the tide was turning against him. On July 30, 1954 with the help of Ex-senator Benton, The Watkins Committee, and the Clearing-House Organization, McCarthy was finally censured by a vote of 67-22. ?They?re shooting at me from the other end of the Avenue? was McCarthy?s reply to the censure. Afterwards McCarthy was given the silent treatment and was simply ignored for the rest of his term. McCarthy?s quest for power ultimately destroyed him. McCarthy is a good example of what can go wrong if people put aside the rules and seek only publicity and power. The censure ultimately destroyed McCarthy because not soon afterward he died in obscurity. McCarthy was full of self-contempt, insecurity, and self-doubt, which eventually created the person history recognized. His tactics of slander, lying, and liable lead to a witch-hunt which lasted for five years. With strong backing from a Republican President and Congress, Joseph R. McCarthy was able hold the Senate hostage as he madly grasped for power. James Rorty & Moshe Decter, McCarthy and the Communists, The Beacon Press, Boston, 1954 Robert Griffith, The Polotics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 1970 Anderson & May, McCarthy the Man the Senator the “ism”, The Beacon Press, Boston, 1952 Michael Paul Rogin, The Intellectuals and McCarthy the Radical Specter, The MIT Press, Boston, 1967 Buckley Jr. & Bozell, McCarthy and His Enemies, Arlington House, New Rochelle, 1970

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