Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Joseph McCarthy (1950)

From 1950 to 1953, Eugene Joseph McCarthy was notorious for his methods of dealing with Communism and suspects of the belief. On February 9, 1950, he delivered a speech in which he claimed he held a list of “205” cases of individual communists that raised an uproar regarding the dangers of communism and the consequences of being “discovered”, and he went on from there to use the hysteria in order to gain political power. His methods of dealing with the potential communists were unorthodox, at best. McCarthy employed the use of “executive sessions” to question witnesses personally, though they were not really “closed” as McCarthy’s favored reporters and cronies were often allowed in. Because oft his, names of witnesses, suspects, and McCarthy’s personal interpretations were all often printed in the newspaper. McCarthy also ignored the Senate rule stating that a vote of subcommittee members must take place in order to call in witnesses, and instead issued blank subpoenas that his staff could issue at will. Additionally, witnesses were generally given little warning as to when their trial would be, trials were often far away from Washington, and therefore these sessions were chaired by McCarthy alone. He coined the term “Fifth-Amendment Communists” after informing witnesses of their right to not answer certain questions, and then would later contact their employers and have them fired if they chose to do so. His investigations also extended to other “socially unacceptable” groups such as homosexuals. As McCarthy continued his extensive and irregular investigations, the press began to become more hostile. President Eisenhower himself instructed Vice President Nixon to indirectly attack McCarthy in his vice presidential speech. As the investigations regarding Communism came to a close, investigations regarding McCarthy began. He was cleared of nearly all the accusations, however, a Senate measure to censure him for being “uncooperative” passed 67 votes to 22, essentially ending McCarthy’s political career.

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