April 22, 2014

McCarthy

That Jenny with her anti-vaccination, hysterical, junk-science bullpuckey!

Nope -- I mean Tailgunner Joe, the Senator from Wisconsin. If Helen launched a thousand ships, Senator Mac launched a thousand preening Hollywood films.

Jesse Walker lists Four Great Myths of the McCarthy Era. And it is very good.

It may be tempting to put all the madness of the early Cold War on the shoulders of one Wisconsin senator, and then to cheer as Joseph Welch ritually exorcises him on the floor of the Senate and the TV screens of America. The truth, alas, is much messier and uglier than that. When it comes to the Red Scare, there's plenty of shame to go around.

Underappreciated in the discussion is the perfidy of the 17th Amendment (oh, man, here he goes...). In "Master of the Senate," Robert A. Caro details Sen. McCarty's fundraising prowess. He and Johnson pioneered the habit of raising prodigious amounts of money to fund the campaigns of those who would play along. To hear Caro tell it, there were quite a few members of that august body who tired of McCarthy's tactics, but incumbency always comes first, and the difference between his financing your campaign or your competitors -- or his besmirching your name in campaign materials -- kept those in line who may have normally calmed him down a bit.

Government Posted by John Kranz at April 22, 2014 1:24 PM
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