The Army-McCarthy Hearings on May 12, 1954. Army Counselor John G. Adams is in the witness chair, extreme right. Roy Cohn, Senator McCarthy, and Francis
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EI SE NHOW E R and McCARTHY How the President Toppled a Reckless Senator By David A. Nichols Ageneration ago, William Bragg Ewald, Jr., wrote a book, ﬁWho Killed Joe McCarthy?ﬂŠa title worthy of an Agatha Christie whodunit. ˜at question has reverberated for six decades. The Army-McCarthy Hearings on May 12, 1954. Army Counselor John G. Adams is in the witness chair, extreme right. Roy Cohn, Senator McCarthy, and Francis Carr are at the far end of the table (left to right). McCarthy™s devastating and unsubstantiated accusations, particularly against the military, prompted President Eisenhower™s behind-the-scenes efforts to thwart McCarthy.
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18 Prologue Beginning in 1950, Wisconsin™s junior U.S. senator, Joseph R. McCarthy, threw the nation™s capital into turmoil with his reckless, unsubstantiated charges. In a cam paign to rid America of an alleged com munist conspiracy, the senator charged respected citizens, especially government employees, with being Soviet agents. McCarthy™s lack of respect for the truth, his insatiable appetite for headlines, and his willingness to damage reputations turned ﬁMcCarthyismﬂ into an enduring epitaph in our political language. Yet, by mid-1954, McCarthy™s political in˙uence had been essentially destroyed. How did that happen? ˜e answer is Dwight D. Eisenhower. ﬁIke is Don Corleone, the godfather,ﬂ says Daun van Ee, an editor of the Eisenhower published papers. ﬁHe knows how to take somebody out without leaving any ˛ngerprints.ﬂ ˜e standard explanations for McCarthy™s political demise are well known. Joe, an al coholic, supposedly did himself in. He was damaged by Edward R. Murrow™s legendary See It Now television program. His reputa tion was tarnished by the Army-McCarthy hearings, by the unsympathetic glare of the television cameras, and by his confrontation with the wily Joseph Welch (the attorney the White House recruited to represent the Army). In the traditional story, the ˛nal nail in McCarthy™s political coˆn was the cen sure vote by the United States Senate on December 2, 1954. An ﬁEyes Onlyﬂ File Sheds Light On Eisenhower and McCarthy In recent years, pro-McCarthy authors have attempted to repair the senator™s rep utation by arguing his political enemies destroyed him in order to cover up Soviet espionage in the United States government. However, Eisenhower cannot be justi˛ably Above: McCarthy seized on anticommunism as an issue, recklessly charging respected citizens, especially gov ˛ernment employees, with being Soviet agents. Below: Fred A. Seaton, assistant secretary of defense, collected and preserved thousands of pages of letters, telephone transcripts, memoranda, and other materials docu ˛menting the administration™s con˚ict with McCarthy and the President™s steps to weaken the senator.
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Prologue 19 Eisenhower and McCarthy charged with such negligence. Eisenhower took the possibility of subversion seriously, but ˛rmly believed his methods would be ef fective whereas McCarthy™s demagogic tac tics would fail. William Ewald was the ˛rst to tap an im mense cache of documents re˙ecting the con˙ict with McCarthy that Fred Seaton, assistant secretary of defense, collected on President Eisenhower™s orders during the Army-McCarthy hearings. Seaton impound ed thousands of pages of letters, telephone transcripts, memoranda, and documents. He locked them up, took them with him when he became secretary of the interior, andŠwhen he left the governmentŠhauled them home to Nebraska. Ewald, who later worked for Seaton at the Interior Department, recalled the sec retary pointing to a locked ˛le and saying: ﬁI™ll never open that until you-know-who tells me to.ﬂ When Seaton died, his ﬁEyes Onlyﬂ ˛le was donated to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas. ˜ose papers, along with other declassi˛ed documents, paint a tale of strate gic deception, a realm in which Dwight Eisenhower was expert. In 1944, with the help of allies, the general had successfully hoodwinked the German leadership about when and where the largest military expedi tionary force in human history would land in Europe. ﬁOperation Fortitudeﬂ involved fake armies, dummy landing craft and air ˛elds, fraudulent radio transmissions, and misleading leaks through diplomatic chan nels and double agents. Eisenhower understood that carefully planned, rigorously implemented decep tion can confuse an enemy until he makes a mistake; then he can be ambushed. ˜at, politically, is what Eisenhower did to Joe McCarthy. Only a half dozen trusted aides knew what was happening. OthersŠinclud ing most of the era™s great reportersŠmissed the real story. Ike Helps Create Myth of Himself As Disengaged and Grandfather y Much of the residual diˆculty lies in the en during myth about Eisenhower™s leadershipŠ that he was a disengaged, grandfatherly President more interested in playing golf than in the e˚ective exercise of leadership. ˜at legendŠdiscredited by a growing body of research the past three decadesŠwas per petuated initially by politically biased his torians who never forgave the general for denying the presidency to Adlai Stevenson in 1952. In part, Eisenhower was the author of his own myth. He was obsessive about protect ing the Oval Oˆce from controversy. In particular, critics grumble that Eisenhower was cowardly in his response to McCarthy, refusing to ﬁspeak outﬂ about the red-baiting senator™s excesses. In 1954, columnist Joseph Alsop, after listening to Eisenhower™s restrained news conference statement targeting McCarthy™s methods (without mentioning his name), sneered to a colleague, ﬁWhy, the yellow son of a bitch!ﬂ Contributing to this theory was Eisenhower™s response during the 1952 cam paign to McCarthy™s attack on Gen. George C. Marshall, Army chief of sta˚ during World War II. Marshall, more than anyone, was responsible for Eisenhower™s swift ascent in the Army, leaping over dozens of gener als to become supreme allied commander in Europe, the architect of D-day, and the hero of the drive to defeat the Nazis. In the 1952 presidential campaign, Eisenhower had included in a speech pre pared for delivery in Wisconsin a para graph defending Marshall, hoping to de liver it with McCarthy on stage. However, Eisenhower, an inexperienced politician, was pressured that afternoon by Wisconsin Republican leaders (not McCarthy) to delete the 74 words of praise because they feared losing Wisconsin™s electoral votes. Unfortunately, campaign press aide Fred Seaton had already hinted to New York Times reporter William Lawrence that there would be praise for Marshall in the speech. Joe McCarthy misled Lawrence about how the deletion took place. ˜e press made much of the candidate™s decision to omit his de fense of Marshall. However, in an August 22 news conference, Eisenhower had already defended Marshall as ﬁa perfect example of patriotism.ﬂ Ike ﬁIgnoresﬂ McCarthy; ﬁThis he cannot standﬂ ˜ere is a shred of truth in the allegation. Eisenhower did not believe presidential rhetoric would take down McCarthy, and he was right about that. Recent research shows that presidential oratory rarely results in historic change; that happens when Presidents exploit a crisis to exercise transformative leadership. Consider Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War or Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression. However, modern pundits per sist in rating Presidents by their use of the ﬁbully pulpit.ﬂ Eisenhower understood demagogues like McCarthy. In April 1953, he wrote in his diary: ﬁNothing will be so e˚ective in com bating his particular kind of trouble-making as to ignore him. ˜is he cannot stand.ﬂ Eisenhower refused to use the senator™s name in public. His repudiation of pleas to denounce McCarthy perplexed friends and supporters. Ike™s persistent response was that ﬁgetting in the gutterﬂ with the senator would only elevate McCarthy™s status. Years later, Robert Donovan, a sup portive journalist, clung to the belief that Eisenhower could have destroyed McCarthy if he had delivered ﬁone great speech on the immorality and illegality of McCarthyism.ﬂ Eisenhower knew better; such rhetoric would only play to the sena tor™s strengths.
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20 Prologue GOP Takes Congress as Ike Wins; McCarthy Gets a New Weapon Ironically, in 1953, due to Eisenhower™s election, McCarthy acquired a new plat form for his crusade. ˜e Republican one- vote majority in the Senate resulted in McCarthy™s appointment as chair of the Government Operations Committee and its permanent investigative subcommittee. In the latter capacity, the senator subpoenaed witnesses, conducted one-senator hearings, accused witnesses of guilt-by-association, and labeled as ﬁobviously communistﬂ any one who dared to invoke constitutional pro tections against self-incrimination. In 1953, Eisenhower had priorities that took precedence over dealing with Joe McCarthy. ˜e nation was still at war in Korea, and recovering from the traumas of depression and World War II. ˜e Cold War with the Soviet Union sustained a climate of fear that was the life blood of McCarthyism, including the fear of subversion. Given Eisenhower™s priorities, revolving around his commitment to ﬁwag ing peaceﬂ (a favorite phrase), virtually ev erything McCarthy said or did was diamet rically opposed to the agenda of his party™s new President. Eisenhower™s achievements abroad dur ing 1953Œ1954 were historic. He ended the Korean War, prosecuted the Cold War on multiple fronts, o˚ered ﬁa chance for peaceﬂ to the new Soviet leadership after Josef Stalin died, crafted a ﬁnew lookﬂ defense policy rooted in nuclear deterrence, and delivered a historic ﬁAtoms for Peaceﬂ proposal at the United Nations. In 1954, when the French were routed at Dien Bien Phu, Eisenhower rejected French pleas to intervene, risking the possibility that McCarthy might accuse him of ﬁlosing Indochina.ﬂ At home, the President skillfully man aged his narrow majorities in the Congress. Eisenhower pioneered advances in civil rightsŠdesegregating the District of Columbia, completing desegregation of the military, and appointing Earl Warren to the Supreme Court. In 1953, he put together a sweeping legislative program that preserved and en hanced New Deal programs and submit ted it to Congress in January 1954. He also made controversial decisions to permit the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for spying and to accept the Atomic Energy Commission™s denial of security clearance to scientist Robert Oppenheimer, the ﬁfather of the atom bomb.ﬂ McCarthy Uses Committee To Investigate ﬁIke™s Ar myﬂ Eisenhower refused to permit McCarthy to distract him from these priorities. Still, he was not as passive in 1953 as historians have assumed. Like the military commander he was, Ike acted strategically. He instituted an internal security program designed to both steal McCarthy™s thunder and root out genuine security risks. He crushed McCarthy™s attempt to derail Charles Bohlen™s nomination as ambassador to the Soviet Union, denounced McCar inspired book burnings in America™s over seas libraries, and e˚ectively countered McCarthy when the senator called for a blockade of allied ships delivering goods to China. Complaints that Eisenhower took too long to act against McCarthy are misguid ed. Eisenhower was a master of timing, as the D-day invasion demonstrated. If the President had tried to destroy McCarthy in 1953, he probably would have failed. One must select the right time, as well as the most e˚ective method, to take on an enemy. Former President Harry S. Truman open ly denounced McCarthy for three years, but his rhetorical attacks only enhanced the senator™s prestige; Ike ruined him in less than half that time. After Pvt. G. David Schine was denied a special com ˛mission and military privileges, McCarthy™s chief counsel Roy Cohn pressured the senator to inves ˛ tigate the Army. ˜en, on August 31, 1953, McCarthy launched hearings into communist in˛ltration into the United States ArmyŠ Ike™s Army . While Eisenhower did not respond in public, it was only a matter of time. Joe McCarthy had signed his own political death warrant by assaulting the service to which the general had devoted his adult life. The Turning Point in 1954: A Scandal Involving McCarthy By January 1954, Joe McCarthy™s prestige was at its zenith; 50 percent of Gallup Poll respondents approved of the senator, with 29 percent unfavorable. Eisenhower had concluded that McCarthy was more than a nuisance; he was a threat to the country™s sta bility, to the President™s foreign policy goals, to his legislative program, and to his party™s and his own electoral prospects. In January 1954, Eisenhower did some thing breathtaking and dangerous; he launched a clandestine operation designed to wrap a scandal around the neck of a prestigious United States senator in the President™s own party
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Prologue 21 Eisenhower and McCarthy Seated at a McCarthy hearing into communists in the Army, left to right, are Secretary of the Army Robert Stevens, Gen. Robert Young, Roy Cohn, and McCarthy. Stevens secretly attempted to secure a pledge that of˜cers would not be further abused. ˜˚˛˝ Ł Eisenhower, McCarthy, and the ﬁRed Menace,ﬂ go to www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2001/fall /. Ł ˜e fear of conspiracies in the McCarthy era, go to www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2002/spring /. Ł Eisenhower™s plan for aerial reconnaissance during the Cold War, go to www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2099/winter /.
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Prologue 23Eisenhower and McCarthy Above: Army Counsel John Adams provided documents to the White House, including those above, outlining the privileges sought for David Schine. They were edited into a report released on March 11, 1954, that created negative press for McCarthy. Below: Joseph Welch, the Army™s attorney, cleverly exposed McCarthy™s duplicity on national television, asking ﬁHave you left no sense of decency?ﬂ Right: The marked-up resolution censuring Joseph McCarthy for various instances of conduct ﬁunbecoming a Member of the United States Sen ˛ ate.ﬂ It passed on December 2, 1954, by a 67 to 22 vote.
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G. Adams, the Army counsel, to write up a report summarizing Cohn™s harassment of the Army. Lodge later called this meeting Eisenhower™s ﬁ˛rst moveﬂ against McCarthy. McCarthy further antagonized Eisenhower when, in a February 18 hearing, the senator charged that Gen. Ralph Zwicker, a hero in the war in Europe and then commandant at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, was ﬁnot ˛t to wear the uniformﬂ of the United States Army. On February 24, unknown to Eisenhower, Army Secretary Stevens attempted to secure a pledge from McCarthy that Army oˆcers would not be further abused. Stevens met se cretly with McCarthy and the other Republican senators on the subcommittee at the so-called ﬁchicken lunchﬂ; the senators talked Stevens into signing an agreement that the newspapers im mediately branded a ﬁsurrenderﬂ to McCarthy. ˜at day, Eisenhower returned home from gol˛ng in California. He was dis mayed to learn that commentators mis takenly assumed the President had ordered Stevens to capitulate. ˜e next day, a furious Eisenhower convened key sta˚ members, including Stevens, at the White House and personally oversaw the writing of a statement repudiating the ﬁsurrenderﬂ document. From that moment on, preparations in tensi˛ed in the Pentagon for the release of the ﬁSchine report.ﬂ Assistant Secretary Seaton, with the assistance of Defense Department general counsel Hensel, was ed iting the document for publication. On February 23, Lodge wrote Eisenhower about Maj. Irving Peress, a Camp Kilmer dentist McCarthy had accused of being a communist. Lodge suggested their anti- McCarthy operation might gain momentum with help from ﬁa friendly senatorﬂ and ﬁa lit tle luck.ﬂ On March 9, 1954, the administra tion got both. Sherman Adams™s good friend, Vermont™s Republican Senator Ralph W. Flanders, ridiculed McCarthy in a speech on the Senate ˙oor. Flanders words dripped with sarcasm: ﬁHe dons his war paint. He goes into his war dance. He emits his war whoops. He goes forth to battle and proudly returns with the scalp of a pink Army dentist.ﬂ ˜at night, Edward R. Murrow™s See It Now television program quoted Flanders as part of an eloquent condemnation of the senator. Report on Schine Released; Senate Censures McCarthy ˜ose events set the stage for March 11, 1954. ˜at day, on Eisenhower™s secret orders, Seaton released a 34-page, carefully edited account of the privileges sought for David Schine to key senators, representatives, and the press. ˜e document ignited such a ˛re – storm of negative publicity that, on March 16, the McCarthy subcommittee agreed to hold televised hearings. McCarthy would temporarily step down as chair, to be replaced by South Dakota Senator Karl Mundt. ˜e hearings began April 22 and con tinued until June 17. McCarthy™s reputa tion had already been damaged prior to the hearings; the senator™s abusive demeanor on television repulsed viewers, and the Army™s attorney, Joe Welch, cleverly exposed McCarthy™s duplicity. On June 9, Welch cli maxed his baiting of McCarthy, exclaiming: ﬁHave you left no sense of decency?ﬂ Once the hearings ended, there was a move ment for censure that reached fruition on December 2, 1954, by a vote of 67 to 22; all of the negative votes were cast by Republicans. ˜ere can no longer be any doubt that Dwight Eisenhower and his trusted subordi nates engineered this devastating assault on McCarthy. Following condemnation by his colleagues, McCarthy was still around, but his in˙uence was a shell of what it had been. In a June 1955 meeting of Republican congressional leaders, Eisenhower repeated a saying that was making the rounds in Washington; ﬁIt™s no longer McCarthyism,ﬂ the President said. ﬁIt™s McCarthywasm.ﬂ On May 2, 1957, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy died; he was 48 years of age. © 2015 by David A. Nichols P ˜is article is extracted, with permission from Simon and Schuster, from the full-length volume to be published in 2016, and it is not possible to cite all of the key sources here. ˜e massive Fred A. Seaton ﬁEyes Onlyﬂ collec tion at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library is critical, and the other resources at that library have been thoroughly investigat ed. ˜e Eisenhower published papers (Louis Galambos and Daun van Ee, eds., ˜e Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, [1984Œ2001]) are drawn from materials at the Eisenhower Library and always an important source. So too are the memoirs and oral histories from the period, especially Sherman Adams, First- Hand Report: ˜e Inside Story of the Eisenhower Administration (London: Hutchinson, 1961) and John G. Adams, Without Precedent: ˜e Story of the Death of McCarthyism (New York: Norton, 1983). William Ewald™s book, Who Killed Joe McCarthy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984) is thoroughly researched but also based on his personal experiences as a White House sta˚ member and collaborator on the former President™s memoirs. ˜ere are numerous studies of the McCarthy side of the story, but the two most frequently cited are ˜omas C. Reeves, ˜e Life and Times of Joe McCarthy (New York: Stein & Day, 1982) and David M. Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense: ˜e World of Joe McCarthy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983, 2005). Author David A. Nichols is former vice president for academic a˚airs and dean of faculty at Southwestern College in Kansas. ˜is article is a preview of his forthcoming book on Eisenhower and Joseph McCarthy, to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2016. Nichols holds a doctorate from the College of William and Mary. He is the author of A Matter of Justice: Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution and Eisenhower 1956: ˜e President™s Year of CrisisŠSuez and the Brink of War (Simon & Schuster, 2007, 2011). Nichols is also the author of Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics (˛rst published in 1978 by the University of Missouri Press and repub lished by the Minnesota Historical Society in 2012). 24 Prologue
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