Wes Vernon
December 3, 2007
McCarthy Part 8--the censure
By Wes Vernon

(See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11)

If a Drew Pearson radio commentary of the era is to be believed (and credibility of that hate columnist was perpetually in question), Senate Minority (soon to be Majority) Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson laid down the law in a closed-door meeting of his fellow Democrats in the late fall of 1954. Paraphrased, it was this:

"This is a test of party loyalty" (the censure of Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy). If any of you votes against censuring McCarthy, you can just walk right over to the other side of the aisle [and become a Republican] because you won't get anything from us."

Pearson aside, that Johnson made such a threat is entirely believable. After all, this occurred in the final flickering hours of the GOP-controlled 83rd Congress. In about a month, the Democrat 84th would be in power, and LBJ would control all the goodies (i.e. pork and committee assignments) for the Democrat senators.

It is somewhat doubtful, however, that Johnson would have been that explicit had it not been for the death (two months previously) of longtime Democrat powerhouse Nevada Senator Patrick Anthony McCarran.

The McCarran legacy

Senator McCarran was the author of the Internal Security Act of 1950, which required members of the Communist Party to register with the Attorney General. It also set up the Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB), which (recall Part 4 of this series) confirmed McCarthy's evidence sourced by FBI undercover work that Army code clerk Annie Lee Moss was in fact a Communist. The legendary man from Reno also co-authored the McCarran-Walter Immigration Law, which if it had remained on the books and enforced to this day would have spared us the illegal immigration problem that besets the nation today.

On the day before McCarran died, he denounced the findings of the specially formed "Watkins committee" that recommended McCarthy be censured by the U.S. Senate. The Nevada Democrat and Wisconsin Republican had formed an alliance on ferreting out Communists.

Senator McCarran had also avowed that until his dying day, he would regret having voted for America's membership in the United Nations. He saw the ample warning signs then where others saw what they wanted to see. Today's corrupt and nefarious UN certifies the Democrat senator as being way ahead of his time.

Army-McCarthy hearings: Show's over

The Army-McCarthy hearings had ended in something of a stalemate. As recorded by M. Stanton Evans' Blacklisted by History, McCarthy scored on substance, his enemies on theatrics.

Committee members were very displeased with the stonewalling "executive privilege" claims by the Eisenhower administration. Democrats on the committee rendered a tougher judgment on McCarthy committee staffers than did the Republicans. But both reports agreed that Army Secretary Robert Stevens and Army counsel John Adams exerted tremendous arguably unseemly pressure on the McCarthy committee to discontinue its investigation of Communists in the U.S. Army.

The Watkins committee

Yet another committee appointed to consider what disciplinary action should be taken against Senator McCarthy was headed by Senator Arthur Watkins, a Utah Republican also-ran whose demeanor was right out of central casting for the humorless professor.

The committee whittled down the voluminous listing of charges brought by Sen. Ralph Flanders. The mercurial Vermonter blandly acknowledged that though a Republican he was getting much of his ammunition against McCarthy from the National Committee for an Effective Congress whose aim was to elect a Democrat-dominated liberal Congress. The liberals came out of the woodwork to offer Flanders 33 suggestions for censure, which he merrily passed on to Watkins.

Herbert Romerstein longtime intelligence expert notes that at the very time Flanders has pillorying McCarthy for alleged divisiveness, the Vermont lawmaker was sponsoring S.J. Res. 87. That proposed constitutional amendment if endorsed by two-thirds of the Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures would effectively have barred non-Christians from taking the oath of office.

At a Senate hearing in May 1954, there is testimony by a Mrs. P. De Shishmareff, identified as President of the "California League of Christian Parents." She credited members of "the Christian amendment movement" with doing "marvelous work" in that they "helped frame the Christian amendment which Senator Flanders, as you know, introduced."

Arguments about whether this is "a Christian nation" have popped up from time to time, as for example the recent (2007) flap over Congressman Keith Ellison, an avowed Muslim, who announced he would take the oath of office with his hand on the Koran. The debate has generally centered on the question as to whether we could label ourselves "a Christian nation" (a designation once enunciated by President Harry Truman) without at the same time categorizing non-Christian Americans as de facto second class citizens. Arguments of this kind are fair game in the widely-touted "marketplace of ideas."

Here's what's different about the case of Flanders' sponsorship of the "Christian amendment" in 1954. Ms. Shishmareff, who testified and encouraged her acolytes to "work with" Senator Flanders, apparently was not just another California housewife in sneakers.

A 1941 report by the House Committee on Un-American Activities dealt with the German-American Bund a pro-Nazi group on our soil during Hitler's rise to power. The report cited a Bund convention in Los Angeles, wherein one of the participants was a "Mrs. Leslie Fry, alias Paquita Louise De Shishmareff, mysterious figure who has since fled the country."

Flanders apparently was not picky about the people with whom he collaborated at the very same time he was throwing in McCarthy's direction everything but the kitchen sink.

Romerstein, in an interview with this column, branded Flanders as "a crackpot."

The real McCloy

M. Stanton Evans told me as he was writing his book Blacklisted by History and again said on Paul Weyrich's Nov. 24 interview show The Right Hour that McCarthy was on John J. McCloy's case.

John J. McCloy Wall Street lawyer, having held prominent positions in Democrat and Republican administrations, president of the powerful Council on Foreign Relations, and with high positions in the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations came to McCarthy's attention when the senator held hearings on Communist infiltration of the U.S. management of post-war Germany. Several of the people who appeared before the senator's committee and took the Fifth Amendment or gave evasive answers (to very direct questions) had worked in occupation positions while McCloy was the U.S. High Commissioner of Germany (HICOG).

Senator McCarthy at one point cited a "secret order" McCloy had issued in 1944 as Assistant Secretary of War wherein Communists and their sympathizers were not to be discriminated against by the Army unless a "specific finding" of disloyalty could be made.

Writing about this in the 1992 book The Chairman, McCloy's left-wing biographer Kai Bird concedes that "McCarthy had his facts right, and given the current climate [1954], McCloy was aware that he was vulnerable."

Bird shows step-by-step how McCloy buttonholed Ike at every opportunity to take decisive action against McCarthy. The occasions for exerting such influence included but by no means were restricted to the cozy camaraderie of a "stag party" at the White House.

Thus, what was going on behind the scenes was in fact a "strange bedfellow" coalition whereby extremely powerful forces on Wall Street were pushing in the same direction as the Communist Party USA the goal being the destruction of the Wisconsin senator and the termination of his investigations.

While the Communists were using their transmission belt apparatus to get the party line on McCarthy out on the street, Wall Street titans managed the power plays. There was surely no evidence of a knowing alliance between the two or that anyone anywhere was pushing buttons to coordinate it, but the goal was identical once again certifying that as has often been said, "Not everybody who hated McCarthy was a Communist, but every Communist hated McCarthy."

The McCloylike influence at the White House had much to do with Army counsel John Adams' full-speed-ahead effort to halt the senator's investigations, to pressure General Zwicker to refuse to cooperate with the Investigations subcommittee, and ultimately to discredit McCarthy himself.

Get him for something! Anything!

The "deliberations" of the Watkins committee were about as close to the proverbial kangaroo court as one could imagine. The skids were greased. When McCarthy's famed attorney, Edward Bennett Williams, tried to argue legal points or demonstrate how charges against his client could just as easily applied to other senators Senator Watkins gaveled him down, declaring the committee's job was "to investigate McCarthy," period. Anything McCarthy said or did with which any of his colleagues disagreed was fair game for the committee. Other senators' slanderous remarks about McCarthy were off limits where former judge Arthur Watkins was concerned. If that's the way the Utahan had run his courtroom, one could have made a good case for reversing all his verdicts and decisions.

Some of Senator Flanders' more frivolous charges fell to the wayside. Also, the senators agreed not to pursue charges against McCarthy that could set a precedent to infringe on their own magisterial fiefdoms. But since the fix was in (Evans' chapter on this is titled "Sentence First, Verdict Later"), the Watkins committee agreed it needed to come up with a way to censure McCarthy for something.

Zwicker? Let's not go there.

Even the Watkins committee had to deal with the fact that General Ralph Zwicker had provoked McCarthy's outburst at the hearing on Irving Peress (see Part 6 or better yet, Blacklisted by History), so that wouldn't fly.

In the end, by the time the issue went to the Senate floor, McCarthy's colleagues voted 67-22 to censure him for his attitude toward the Gillette committee (which in a previous Congress had investigated the senator's finances) and for his Senate speech in which he labeled the high-handed Watkins committee as "the handmaiden" of the Communist Party. The Democrats voted in lockstep for censure. The Republicans split straight down the middle.

That's a good lapdog. Here's your bone.

Following the censure of Senator McCarthy, Chairman Arthur Watkins met with President Eisenhower, who congratulated him on his role in doing in his senatorial colleague. Upon emerging from the meeting, the Utah Republican proudly announced the president had reconfirmed to him his backing for a water project Watkins had been promoting. Evans remarked drily, "Some cynics [not all of them, necessarily just some of them] thought this looked suspiciously like a quid pro quo." Naw! Really? (To be concluded)

© Wes Vernon

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