Before There Were John McCain and Sarah Palin There Was Joe McCarthy


Several times I’ve complained about the McCarthyism practiced by John McCain and Sarah Palin as they falsely accuse Barack Obama of palling around with terrorists and supporting socialism, along with their attacks on the news media. For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with McCarthyism, Daily Kos has posted the above video of Joe McCarthy accusing Edward R. Murrow of defending “traitors” and of associating with a “terrorist organization.” This is what the Repubican Party has once again become.


  1. 1
    Michael Pugliese says:
    Critical review of Clooney film on McCarthyism
    Via an ex-Trotskyist friend,

    TCS Daily
    ‘Romantic Radicals’
    By Lauren Weiner / 17 Nov 2005

    It is the way of the bien pensant intellectual to reason thusly:
    Because Senator Joseph McCarthy was a demagogue, nobody in America was
    rooting for Josef Stalin or helped him. And here’s the logical
    corollary, subscribed to by the bien pensant actor and director George
    Clooney: Because McCarthy was a demagogue, CBS news legend Edward R.
    Murrow’s fiery denunciations of “hysteria” about communism were not
    only plucky and self-righteous but uttered in defense of opinionated
    yet essentially innocent Americans.

    Some of the people Murrow spoke up for were more than just
    opinionated, though.

    Clooney’s picture “Good Night and Good Luck” gives moviegoers some
    idea of the motive behind Murrow’s famous anti-McCarthy television
    report, a half-hour broadcast of “See It Now” that informed a wide
    audience of the Wisconsin Senator’s reckless way of going after people
    who were or were reputed to be members of the Communist Party.
    (McCarthy would be censured by the Senate nine months after it aired.)
    But the film simplifies that motive, leeching from it a whole lot of
    its historical import and personal drama.

    Murrow’s March 9, 1954 “See It Now” salvo was a pre-emptive strike
    against “Tail Gunner Joe,” who was poised to go after the newsman in
    retribution for covering him critically on CBS. The threat of imputing
    Red associations to Murrow was based on his work during the 1930s for
    a New York-based organization called the Institute of International
    Education, which promoted exchange visits for foreign scholars,
    including Soviet scholars.

    The name of this institute is bandied about several times by the
    characters in “Good Night and Good Luck” — to indicate that McCarthy
    was digging into Murrow’s past — but there is no mention of the
    people who ran it. They were Murrow’s mentor, Stephen Duggan, and
    Duggan’s son, the late Laurence Duggan. And therein lies the
    fascinating tale. McCarthy’s bullying of Murrow with the use of
    Duggan-related dirt infuriated him, according to Alexander Kendrick in
    his 1969 Murrow biography. His CBS assistant brought him the details
    of the accusation, and said a creepy member of McCarthy’s Senate staff
    (depicted in the film) was waving around an old newspaper clipping as
    the supposed proof that the newsman had been “on the Soviet payroll.”
    Kendrick quotes Murrow’s reaction: “The question now is when do I go
    against these guys.” He and his producer Fred Friendly then carefully
    prepared, and put on the air, the famous expose of McCarthy.

    Edward R. Murrow wasn’t a communist. He took umbrage on behalf of both
    himself and the Duggans — particularly Laurence, whose death six
    years earlier was a raw wound for the East Coast establishment of
    which Murrow was a part. They had lost one of their own when Duggan
    jumped or fell from the 16th floor of his Manhattan office in 1948 in
    the midst of the legal and political maelstrom of the Alger Hiss spy

    Larry Duggan, former chief of the State Department’s Latin American
    division, a charming, smart, and warm-hearted Ivy Leaguer who strived
    to bring about world peace, had a lot in common with Hiss. Murrow,
    justifiably angry that America’s loudest counter-subversive was trying
    to intimidate him and sully his friend’s memory, did not know that
    that friend was, like Hiss, a dedicated communist who passed sensitive
    information to Stalin’s agents in the United States. The FBI
    interviewed Duggan in connection with the Hiss prosecution in December
    1948. His shocking death days later at the age of 43 preserved his
    secret, for the media and his friends and family made him into a
    martyr — a liberal destroyed by right-wingers who enjoyed impugning
    respectable citizens without due process. For decades afterward, those
    interested in the history of this period generally viewed the Duggan
    affair in the same way as the literary lion Archibald MacLeish, who
    wrote a poem upon Duggan’s death that began:

    “God help that country where informers thrive! Where slander
    flourishes and lies contrive.”

    It was not Senator McCarthy who had pursued Duggan as an underground
    communist but those active in the Hiss case: Representative Richard
    Nixon of California, the ex-communist Whittaker Chambers, and the
    ex-communist Isaac Don Levine. These were the people accused of
    symbolic manslaughter by university presidents, diplomats, newspaper
    columnists, and other worthies when Duggan died. The tragedy received
    front page coverage in the New York Times. Prominent people attended
    Duggan’s memorial service. In Washington, a group of his friends put
    out a statement deploring the congressional panel on which Nixon sat,
    the House Un-American Activities Committee. HUAC’s investigations,
    they charged, dragged the names of good Americans through the mud.
    Some Duggan supporters even suspected foul play.

    Foul play there had actually been, but not what MacLeish, Nicholas
    Murray Butler, Sumner Welles, Harry Emerson Fosdick, and the other
    grieving friends of Duggan might have thought. According to the
    account of Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood
    (1999), when in 1937 a man named Ignatz Reiss broke from Stalin’s
    secret service, a pair of KGB assassins hunted down the defector in
    Switzerland and killed him to stop him from blowing the cover of
    Laurence Duggan and another American official who secretly assisted
    the KGB out of devotion to world communism and the Soviet Union, Noel

    In 1948, the furor over Duggan knocked the counter-subversives back on
    their heels. Nixon dove for political cover. Pressed for comment by
    reporters, his fellow anticommunists awkwardly tried to say nice
    things about the deceased, a sensitive family man and pillar of the
    community, even as they stuck by their conclusion that he was in
    league with Moscow’s agents. Chambers, cornered by a New York Times
    reporter in the corridor of the federal court house where the Hiss
    grand jury was meeting, said that he’d testified to Duggan’s being one
    of the covert communists he’d heard about, but he was not personally
    acquainted with the man nor had he used him as a source in the pre-war
    spy ring that he, Chambers, managed for Soviet military intelligence.

    Chambers sounded defensive, but his testimony was borne out later,
    when archival documents and decrypted cable traffic between Moscow,
    New York, and Washington came to light after the collapse of the
    Soviet Union. The Soviet cables and documents showed that Duggan’s
    deliveries to the KGB (known in those years by other acronyms)
    included a confidential cable from the U.S. ambassador in Moscow back
    to the State Department, U.S. diplomatic dispatches from Europe
    offering U.S. perspectives on the civil war going on in Spain, and a
    State Department personnel list. Two of his code names were “Frank”
    and “Prince.” His handler was Norman Borodin, whose boss was KGB
    station chief Izhak Akhmerov.

    Murrow and the rest had been unable or unwilling, in the heat of the
    communist controversy, to distinguish between McCarthy’s theatrics and
    the more considered charges leveled by people who actually knew a lot
    about communism. Murrow, according to his biographer, wanted to follow
    up his television broadcast on McCarthy with one on the untimely
    demise of Laurence Duggan. This, he believed, would drive home the
    moral point about the evils of anticommunism. He never got to make
    that show.

    What if he had? Or better yet, what if he knew then what we know
    today? Would it have affected his airy indifference — well conveyed
    by actor David Straithairn as the movie’s Edward R. Murrow — to
    whether a targeted individual was a communist or not?

    “Good Night and Good Luck” is a missed chance in this regard. For
    Laurence Duggan was one of several “romantic radicals” in the federal
    government in the 1930s and 1940s, to borrow a phrase from The Haunted
    Wood’s chapter on Duggan. He is described there as an idealist in the
    cause of revolution who would not deign to take money from the
    Russians for risking his career to give them intelligence. The double
    life of the spy apparently took a severe toll. Judging from the Soviet
    records plumbed by Weinstein and Vassiliev, Duggan was one skittery
    pigeon. First there was his anxiety to protect his job, his family,
    and his reputation as a loyal American. Then — and more interestingly
    — there was his stricken conscience as he took in news of the bloody
    political purges in Moscow during the late 1930s. It bewildered and
    embarrassed him, his Soviet handlers wrote to headquarters, that
    famous Bolshevik heroes of the October Revolution were being tried and
    executed, one after another, as “Trotsky-fascist spies.” Some of the
    Soviet diplomats he knew were getting recalled home and liquidated, to
    his horror.

    Like guidance counselors fussing over a fragile high school student,
    Duggan’s handlers conferred with Moscow repeatedly on strategies to
    reassure Duggan so he would not lose faith in the revolution or lose
    the nerve to keep serving it clandestinely. He was worth their
    trouble. Unlike some of the other sources in government positions in
    Washington, Duggan gave Moscow information it valued highly, including
    the U.S. Navy’s data on war materiel that foreign governments were
    ordering from manufacturing firms in the United States. He did beg off
    for certain periods, but Borodin would coax him into resuming, into
    the mid-1940s, his pilfering of official information.

    After years of betraying the people he worked with at the State
    Department, Duggan finally had to leave government, amid suspicions
    that he was a security risk. He returned to New York, first to a
    United Nations job and then to take the helm of the Institute of
    International Education. Then, the Hiss case broke; the FBI knocked on
    the door of the Duggan home in Scarsdale; and the fear and even
    perhaps the shame may have welled up in Laurence Duggan past all

    George Clooney walked up to this human drama, brushed lightly against
    its edge and passed right around it. Given his politics, one can see
    why. But any self-respecting cinematic storyteller ought to kick
    himself for failing to find room for the psychic tension, the tragedy,
    the surprise, and the supreme irony of the fact that the crusading
    journalist Edward R. Murrow, believing he was vindicating the dignity
    and rights of the loyal opposition, took his potent shot at
    “McCarthyism” partly in defense of a Soviet spy.

    The author works on Capitol Hill for a Republican member of Congress.

  2. 2
    Fritz says:

    Of course, Barack Obama supports socialism. So does John McCain.  There is no other reasonable way to categorize the bail-out plans both candidates have endorsed.  This has nothing to do with McCarthyism.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:


    While there could be disagreement as to whether the bail-out package represents socialism, at least you are consistent in your definition and applying it to both parties. Therefore your use of the word does have nothing to do with McCarthyism

    It is a different matter when McCain and Republicans accuse Obama of socialism (along with associating with terrorists). Their use of socialism is similar to Joe McCarthy’s use of Communism.

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