The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies
Reviewed by Henry E. Mattox, Contributing Editor
Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies. By M. Stanton Evans (Crown Forum, 2007, 660 pages, $19.77)
This study illustrates well the concept of revisionism in history. Political commentators in McCarthy’s day, as well as the general public and the academic world, largely came to denounce and deride the Senator from Wisconsin for what appeared to be his loose regard for truth and his reckless willingness to categorize organizations and individuals as tools of Moscow, as enemies of American freedom. Joe McCarthy, with his dark, glowering mien and deep, growling voice, came to have a following among archconservatives; he did uncover some few security risks in the U. S. government and other segments of the American scene. It has long been accepted that those few advances in security were occasioned over time largely as a result of unsubstantiated accusations, bluster and browbeating, unproven rumors, and diminished civil liberties, the sum total of which was called “McCarthyism.”
Senator McCarthy (R. Wis.) began his rise to power and notoriety in early 1950. He flamed out four years later, his fall from any grace whatever as a result of the Army-McCarthy hearings. (The author presents in Blacklisted a detailed account thereof, an account that is wholly sympathetic to the Senator’s position and performance.) This was soon followed by his censure by the Senate. His political star and reputation went into eclipse and he died three years later, still only in his late forties. By that time, 1957, most of the politically aware American public either reviled McCarthy or had largely forgotten him. As his few remaining supporters would have put it, the Red Menace thus was enabled to march on behind the scenes in America.
Now, a half-century later, the journalist, author, and Cold War scholar, M. Stanton Evans has brought forth the result of what is described as six years of delving into long-forgotten or never-before uncovered government files, evidence that he holds proves that McCarthy was right after all, that he understood the international Red Menace far better than his detractors. The author sets forth at considerable length and with the presentation of a great deal of detail the proposition that the Senator from Wisconsin, unlike his critics, clearly understood and appreciated the dangers of world communism.
The author’s command of the mass of material is, indeed, noteworthy. His scholarly organization of archival sources impresses the reader. Facts, materials, citations, sources, quotations, contemporary interpretations, McCarthy’s initiatives — all are marshaled and presented efficiently. Missing most significantly, it seems to this reviewer, is a realistic assessment of McCarthy the man — his well-known abrasive, domineering personality and overweening thirst for power — and his movement, McCarthyism. His disregard for truth, or to put it more mildly, his willingness to exaggerate if need be, is slighted. Further, the author rarely if ever alludes to the Senator’s notorious inclination to browbeat those with whom he came into contact; McCarthy’s performances on radio and less frequently in those days, television, provided indisputable evidence of that trait, evidence that this reviewer remembers well. Finally in that regard, this rather long volume includes no useful discussion of the phenomenon of McCarthyism.
Thus Evans in the study under consideration frequently presents an informative, detailed account of a campaign or a clash or a confrontation in McCarthy’s brief career, an account of lasting utility to future historians of the man and the period. Then the author almost invariably draws a conclusion or comparison that favors McCarthy in his supposed crusade against what he identifies as communist infiltration of the Department of State and other U. S. government organizations, notably the U. S. Army. In that regard, the index of Blacklisted By History cites scores of references to the State Department, practically all directly or indirectly concerning supposed loyalty questions. Curiously, references to the Foreign Service appear in the index only twice, one a citation to a footnote and the other to an innocuous question regarding filing procedures in that organization.
This reviewer had the good fortune to enter the Foreign Service after McCarthy and McCarthyism had gone into eclipse. The Senator’s negative impact on that Service, a body of dedicated, loyal, patriotic men and women, had been significant, however. McCarthyism delayed the holding of exams over a few important years and associated bureaucratic apprehensions delayed the appointment of qualified junior officers for some time — all of this because of the McCarthy scare present in Washington from 1950 through 1955. By 1957 McCarthyism thankfully was well gone from the scene.
Henry E. Mattox, a retired Foreign Service officer, earned a Ph.D. in American history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He held a Fulbright appointment in Nigeria during the 1990-91 academic year. He was a co-founder of American Diplomacy, serving as editor from 1996 to 2007.