November 14th


McCarthy (right), beside his chief counsel, Roy Cohn. Both McCarthy and Cohn were humiliated when President Eisenhower organised the leaking of a 1953 report which revealed that the pair had attempted to arrange favours in the army for their colleague and friend David Schine.

On this day in 1909, Joseph McCarthy was born. Elected to the US Senate in 1946, McCarthy’s part in creating the uncontrollable popular paranoia of communist espionage and subversion within the government inspired the term McCarthyism and plays a significant role in the broader Red Scare of the 1950s.

In Senator Joe McCarthy (1959), Richard Rovere addresses McCarthy’s early life:

In his speeches, in his interminable testimony, in interviews and in the handful of things he wrote for publication, McCarthy often spoke of himself and of the meaning of his own life. He found himself endlessly interesting, and he would always summon his fanciest, gamiest rhetoric when his subject was McCarthy. (He favored the third person and often referred to himself as “McCarthy.”) In the opening pages of McCarthyism: The Fight for America, he recalls in seeming tranquility what he says were his thoughts when, a month after his Wheeling speech, he made his way to the first session of the Tydings Committee…

What seems revealing about this passage and all the reminiscent ones in his speeches is that McCarthy’s mind never went back to childhood and youth. In McCarthyism, the only reference to his early life and to his family is the non-committal and absurd contention that “I came to know the Pacific and the coast of Asia almost as well as I knew Dad’s farm when I was a boy.” As a rule, the American politician who wishes to construct myths about himself dwells extensively on his childhood – especially if it was, as in McCarthy’s case, a childhood on the farm, with the days spent in walking to a one-room country school and returning home for long hours behind the plow… McCarthy mentions his Arizona friend’s mother and father, but he never… said or wrote anything about his own. Nor did he ever say… how much fun it was and how splendid for the development of character to have been brought up in a family of nine children, a family that had, indeed, started in a log cabin…

[R. Rovere, Senator Joe McCarthy, (1959), pp.75-78]


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