McCarthy the Man; McCarthyism Triumphant
When we left the introduction to chapter three, it will be recalled, the Truman administration was on a roll in the year or so following its astonishing return to office. The cold War was going its way. The Soviet Union and its European allies were safely contained. So were Truman's Republican critics. Communists and popular front liberals were completely marginalized.
This idyll abruptly ended in the early fall of 1949. To an incredulous public the president announced that the Soviets had just exploded an atomic bomb. Thus was undone America's military advantage over the Soviets' larger army. Could the Soviets have accomplished this feat by themselves? Or did spies, Americans among them, provide the secrets? The questions answered themselves. A few weeks after this trauma came another: China officially fell to Mao Zedong's Communist forces. The Nationalist government, to which the United States had given billions, was expected to lose the civil war, but the end, when it came in October, was extremely painful nonetheless. Apart from America's sentimental ties with China, there was the terrifying geopolitical fact that almost the whole of Asia, the "world island," was now colored red. And China was the most populous country on earth. However accurately a State Department white paper explained the defeat, blaming it on the Chinese government, its magnitude could not be gainsaid. The Republicans certainly had an issue.
The administration itself made their task easier. Within months of