Monday Books : Politician Who Began a Witch-Hunt Hysteria; Joseph McCarthy by Arthur Herman. Published in Hardback by Free Press, United States. Pounds 18
Kennedy, Billy, The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
McCARTHYISM was a hysteria which dominated public life in the United States during the immediate post-war era and its main purveyor was a Democrat-turned-Republican from a traditional Irish-American Roman Catholic background.
This biography of Senator Joe McCarthy cuts through many cliches and misconceptions surrounding the communist scare in the States in the early 1950s.
It re-examines McCarthy's life and legacy in the light of newly de-classified archival sources from the FBI, National Security Agency, US Congress, the Pentegon and the former Soviet Union.
Joe McCarthy is remembered by many as an unscrupulous, self-serving and hyprocritical man who recklessly destroyed people's reputations and lives through hysterical anti-communist witchhunts.
Author Arthur Herman reassesses this legacy and, in the book, claims, that in retrospect, his disgrace came at a certain price to historical truth.
Herman maintains that the more is uncovered about communism in America during this period, the more McCarthy is proven to be accurate in his charges. Many people in the State Department were risks; there were individual cases of spies and traitors; and there were many ''Red'' sympathisers with influence over American foreign policy.
''We all know that the communist spying McCarthy fought against was amazingly extensive, reaching the highest levels of the White House,'' writes Hermon, a Washington academic.
However, in describing the human side of McCarthy, he says Joe was ''a troubled and self-destructive man'' who was often more right than wrong, and yet in the end did more harm than good.
.The book explains how this farm boy from Wisconsin sprang up from a newly confident post-war America, and how he embodied the hopes of many in the United States caught up in the Cold War mindset.
Half of the population in the state of Wisconsin was Roman Catholic, but largely Polish, Italian and Dutch.
Irishmen were rare in eastern Wisconsin where McCarthy grew up, but there was a strong bond which drew them together as fellow Catholics in a Protestant country that viewed them with fear and suspicion.
The determination to succeed in a hostile environment was one of the bonds that drew Joseph McCarthy and another Irish Roman Catholic family in the Fifties, the Kennedys. Bobby Kennedy joined McCarthy's staff in 1953 at the behest of his father, Joe, a keen admirer of the Senator.
Like McCarthy, Joseph Kennedy was a former Roosevelt Democrat and a fervent anti-communist. …