Q. What was the gist of the Army-McCarthy Hearings?
A. On March 11, 1954, the Army accused Senator McCarthy and his staff of using improper means in seeking preferential treatment for G. David Schine, a consultant to McCarthy's committee, prior to and after Schine was drafted into the Army in November 1953. McCarthy countercharged that these allegations were made in bad faith and were designed to prevent his committee from continuing its probe of communist subversion at Fort Monmouth and from issuing subpoenas for members of the Army Loyalty and Screening Board. A special committee, under the chairmanship of Senator Karl Mundt, was appointed to adjudicate these conflicting charges, and the hearings opened on April 22, 1954.
The televised hearings lasted for 36 days and were viewed by an estimated 20 million people. After hearing 32 witnesses and two million words of testimony, the committee concluded that McCarthy himself had not exercised any improper influence in behalf of David Schine, but that Roy Cohn, McCarthy's chief counsel, had engaged in some "unduly persistent or aggressive efforts" in behalf of Schine. The committee also concluded that Army Secretary Robert Stevens and Army Counsel John Adams "made efforts to terminate or influence the investigation and hearings at Fort Monmouth," and that Adams "made vigorous and diligent efforts" to block subpoenas for members of the Army Loyalty and Screening Board "by means of personal appeal to certain members of the [McCarthy] committee."
In a separate statement that concurred with the special committee report, Senator Everett Dirksen demonstrated the weakness of the Army case by noting that the Army did not make its charges public until eight months after the first allegedly improper effort was made in behalf of Schine (July 1953), and then not until after Senator McCarthy had made it known (January 1954) that he would subpoena members of the Army Loyalty and Screening Board. Dirksen also called attention to a telephone conversation between Secretary Stevens and Senator Stuart Symington on March 8, 1954, three days before the Army allegations were made public. In that conversation, Stevens said that any charges of improper influence by McCarthy's staff "would prove to be very much exaggerated.... I am the Secretary and I have had some talks with the [McCarthy] committee and the chairman, and so on, and by and large as far as the treatment of me is concerned, I have no personal complaint."
In his 1984 book Who Killed Joe McCarthy?, former Eisenhower White House aide William Bragg Ewald Jr., who had access to many unpublished papers and memos from persons involved in the Army- McCarthy clash, confirms the good relations that existed between McCarthy and Stevens and the lack of pressure from McCarthy in behalf of Schine. In a phone conversation on November 7, 1953, McCarthy told Stevens not to give Schine any special treatment, such as putting him in the service and assigning him back to the committee. McCarthy even said that Roy Cohn had been "completely unreasonable" about Schine, that "he thinks Dave should be a general and work from the penthouse of the Waldorf."
Ewald also reported a phone conversation between Stevens and Assistant Secretary of Defense Fred Seaton on January 8, 1954, in which Stevens admitted that Schine might not have been drafted if he hadn't worked for the McCarthy Committee. "Of course, the kid was taken at the very last minute before he would have been ineligible for age," said Stevens. "He is 26, you know. My guess would be that if he hadn't been working for McCarthy, he probably never would have been drafted."
Another thing confirmed by Ewald was the secret meeting at the Justice Department on January 21, 1954, when a group of anti- McCarthyites came up with a plan to stop McCarthy either by asking the Republican members of his committee to talk him out of subpoenaing members of the Army Loyalty and Screening Board or, if that didn't work, by drawing up a list of alleged efforts on behalf of David Schine and threatening to make the list public unless McCarthy backed off.
Those at the January 21st meeting were Attorney General Herbert Brownell, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Henry Cabot Lodge, Deputy Attorney General William Rogers, White House Chief of Staff Sherman Adams, White House aide Gerald Morgan, and John Adams. After John Adams inadvertently mentioned this meeting during the Army-McCarthy Hearings, and McCarthy wanted to find out more about it, President Eisenhower issued an executive order on May 17, 1954 forbidding any employee of the Defense Department "to testify to any such conversations or communications or to produce any such documents or reproductions."
Q. Did the Army-McCarthy Hearings serve any good purpose?
A. Yes. Despite the inordinate focus on trivia and the clever distractions introduced by Joseph Welch, counsel for the Army, the hearings alerted the American people as never before to the dangers of communism.
Q. How about some examples of clever distractions?
A. Let's consider three tricks pulled by Joe Welch to divert people's attention away from the central issue of communist subversion:
The "Cropped" Photograph. On April 26th, a photo was introduced showing Secretary Stevens posing willingly for a smiling photograph with Private Schine at Fort Dix, New Jersey on November 17, 1953, a time when Stevens was supposed to be mad at Schine for seeking special treatment from the Army. Welch produced another photo the next day showing the base commander in the picture with Stevens and Schine and said that the first one was "a shamefully cut-down version." But the innocent deletion of the base commander from the photograph did not change its meaning - that Stevens was not angry with Schine at a time that the Army said he was.
The "Purloined" Document. On May 4th, Senator McCarthy produced a two and one-quarter-page document with the names of 34 subversives at Fort Monmouth, half of whom were still there. The document, which had been given to McCarthy by an intelligence officer in 1953, was a summary of a 15-page report that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had sent on January 26, 1951 to Major General A.R. Bolling, chief of Army Intelligence. Instead of being concerned that the Army had not acted on the FBI report and had not tried to root out the subversives at Fort Monmouth, Welch kept harping on how McCarthy got the summary and where it came from. McCarthy refused to tell him. Welch ascertained that Hoover had not written the two and one-quarter-page document in McCarthy's possession and termed it "a carbon copy of precisely nothing." In point of fact, however, the document was an accurate summary of Hoover's original report, but Welch made it appear that McCarthy was presenting phony evidence.
The Fred Fisher Episode. On June 9th, the 30th day of the hearings, Welch was engaged in baiting Roy Cohn, challenging him to get 130 communists or subversives out of defense plants "before the sun goes down." The treatment of Cohn angered McCarthy and he said that if Welch were so concerned about persons aiding the Communist Party, he should check on a man in his Boston law office named Fred Fisher, who had once belonged to the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), which Attorney General Brownell had called "the legal mouthpiece of the Communist Party." Welch then delivered the most famous lines from the Army-McCarthy Hearings, accusing McCarthy of "reckless cruelty" and concluding: "Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?"
The fact of the matter was that Fred Fisher's connection with the National Lawyers Guild had been widely publicized two months earlier. Page 12 of the April 16th New York Times had carried a picture of Fisher and a story about his removal from Welch's team because of his past association with the NLG. If Mr. Welch was so worried that McCarthy's remarks might inflict a lifelong "scar" on Fisher's reputation, why did he dramatize the incident in such histrionic fashion? The reason, of course, was that McCarthy had fallen into a trap in raising the Fisher issue, and Welch, superb showman that he was, played the scene for all it was worth. Was Fred Fisher hurt by the incident? Not at all. He became a partner in Welch's Boston law firm, Hale & Dorr, and was elected president of the Massachusetts Bar Association in the mid-1970s.
Q. Didn't the Senate finally censure McCarthy for his conduct during the Army-McCarthy Hearings?
A. No! McCarthy was not censured for his conduct in the Army- McCarthy Hearings or for anything he had ever said or done in any hearings in which he had participated. Here are the facts: After McCarthy emerged unscathed from his bout with the Army, the Left launched a new campaign to discredit and destroy him. The campaign began on July 30, 1954, when Senator Ralph Flanders introduced a resolution accusing McCarthy of conduct "unbecoming a member of the United States Senate." Flanders, who two months earlier had told the Senate that McCarthy's "anti-Communism so completely parallels that of Adolf Hitler as to strike fear into the hearts of any defenseless minority," had gotten his list of charges against McCarthy from a left-wing group called the National Committee for an Effective Congress.
McCarthy's enemies ultimately accused him of 46 different counts of allegedly improper conduct and another special committee was set up, under the chairmanship of Senator Arthur Watkins, to study and evaluate the charges. Thus began the fifth investigation of Joe McCarthy in five years! After two months of hearings and deliberations, the Watkins Committee recommended that McCarthy be censured on only two of the 46 counts.
So when a special session of the Senate convened on November 8, 1954, these were the two charges to be debated and voted on: 1) That Senator McCarthy had "failed to cooperate" in 1952 with the Senate Subcommitee on Privileges and Elections that was looking into certain aspects of his private and political life in connection with a resolution for his expulsion from the Senate; and 2) That in conducting a senatorial inquiry, Senator McCarthy had "intemperately abused" General Ralph Zwicker.
Many senators were uneasy about the Zwicker count, particularly since the Army had shown contempt for committee chairman McCarthy by disregarding his letter of February 1, 1954 and honorably discharging Irving Peress the next day. For this reason, these senators felt that McCarthy's conduct toward Zwicker on February 18th was at least partially justified. So the Zwicker count was dropped at the last minute and was replaced with this substitute charge: 2) That Senator McCarthy, by characterizing the Watkins Committee as the "unwitting handmaiden" of the Communist Party and by describing the special Senate session as a "lynch party" and a "lynch bee," had "acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute, to obstruct the constitutional processes of the Senate, and to impair its dignity."
On December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to "condemn" Senator Joseph McCarthy on both counts by a vote of 67 to 22, with the Democrats unanimously in favor of condemnation and the Republicans split evenly.
Q. Was the Senate justified in condemning McCarthy on these counts?
A. No, it was not. Regarding the first count, failure to cooperate with the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections, the subcommittee never subpoenaed McCarthy, but only "invited" him to testify. One senator and two staff members resigned from the subcommittee because of its dishonesty towards McCarthy, and the subcommittee, in its final report, dated January 2, 1953, said that the matters under consideration "have become moot by reason of the 1952 election." No senator had ever been punished for something that had happened in a previous Congress or for declining an "invitation" to testify.
As for the second count, criticism of the Watkins Committee and the special Senate session, McCarthy was condemned for opinions he had expressed outside the Senate. As David Lawrence pointed out in an editorial in the June 7, 1957 issue of U.S. News & World Report, other senators had accused McCarthy of lying under oath, accepting influence money, engaging in election fraud, making libelous and false statements, practicing blackmail, doing the work of the communists for them, and engaging in a questionable "personal relationship" with Roy Cohn and David Schine, but they were not censured for acting "contrary to senatorial ethics" or for impairing the "dignity" of the Senate.
The chief beneficiary of the Senate destruction of Joe McCarthy was the communist conspiracy. Former communist Louis Budenz, who knew the inner workings of that conspiracy as well as anyone, said that the condemnation of McCarthy left the way open "to intimidate any person of consequence who moves against the conspiracy. The communists made him their chief target because they wanted to make him a symbol to remind political leaders in America not to harm the conspiracy or its world conquest designs." Continue Final Page Five