"Whether Joe McCarthy was right or wrong".The Real McCarthy Record
by James J. Drummey
A longtime smear campaign has clouded the truth.
James J. Drummey is a former senior editor of THE NEW AMERICAN. This article appeared originally in the May 11, 1987 issue of this magazine.
Nearly 40 years after the death of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, twice-elected United States Senator from Wisconsin, the term "McCarthyism" is still widely used as a convenient epithet for all that is evil and despicable in the world of politics. Hardly a month passes without some reference to "McCarthyism" in the print or electronic media. Despite the frequency with which the term is invoked, however, it is quite clear that not one critic of McCarthy in a hundred has the slightest idea of what he said and did during that controversial period from 1950 to 1954.
Whether Joe McCarthy was right or wrong, it is important that we know the truth about him. If he was wrong, then we can learn some important lessons for the future. If he was right, then we need to be vitally concerned about the issues he raised because virtually nothing has been done to deal effectively with those issues since the mid-1950s.
This article will attempt to answer many of the questions asked about Joe McCarthy and the criticisms directed at him. The responses are based on years of study of McCarthy's speeches and writings, congressional hearings in which he was involved, and more than a score of books about him, most of them highly critical and condemnatory.
I. The Years Before 1950
Q. Was Joseph McCarthy a lax and unethical judge?
A. Joe McCarthy was elected as a circuit judge in Wisconsin in 1939 and took over a district court that had a backlog of more than 200 cases. By eliminating a lot of legal red tape and working long hours (his court remained open past midnight at least a dozen times), Judge McCarthy cleared up the backlog quickly and, in the words of one local newspaper, "administered justice promptly and with a combination of legal knowledge and good sense."
What? If he was wrong and had succeeded in destroying innocent lives and professions, you believe that would have been ok?