"I was beginning to feel scared and a little sick. We were being hounded, pushed into a blind alley . . . For a few brief moments I felt that the best thing would be to pack my bags and get away from Washington and its intrigues. But then a contrary emotion took over. When some people feel trapped, they have the instinct to turn on their foes and fight to a finish. The role of underdog, I discovered, can give one courage."
~ Roy Cohn; McCARTHY, chapter 9.
ROY COHN, chief counsel for the Senate Investigating Committee under Senator Joseph McCarthy, opened his book, McCARTHY, with the following statements in his Prologue:
The full portrait of Joe McCarthy and the era in which he rose to such remarkable prominence and power must await the historian's special training, insight, and distance from the events ... Emerson said, "Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves, but deal in our privacy with the last honesty and truth." To the best of my ability it is this I try to do in the pages that follow.
Roy Cohn's honesty in recounting the good, the bad, and the ugly about the anti-Communist "McCarthy" years makes his book a truly compelling and essential account for anybody who wants to gain a clearer understanding of that monumental American epoch.
The full historical perspective that Cohn anticipated in 1968 is nearly upon us: M. Stanton Evans, the historian considered by many to be the preeminent authority on Joseph McCarthy is due to release his magnum opus, Blacklisted By History: The Real Story Of Joseph McCarthy And His Fight Against America's Enemies in late March of this year. I preordered the book 15 months ago, but the release date has been pushed back several times, and I'm now salivating on myself and champing vigorously at the bit. (My greatest fear has been that Evans will go to his grave with the book unfinished. I swear, if he dies before it's done I'll k!ll him!) But I'm so eager now to get Evans' definitive account into my hands that I recently decided to revisit my old copy of McCARTHY by Roy Cohn, and to post a review of it. (Quite frankly, I'm embarrassed that I've waited this long to review this important book while having previously posted junk for some silly stuff on this website. All I can say is - for the gazillionth time - "Uhp! I'm an idiot!")
McCARTHY is the book that cemented Senator Joseph McCarthy in my mind as one of America's greatest unsung heroes, and inspired me to adopt his last name as part of my pen name well before I began contributing to Ammyland. Certainly it's the ultimate "insider" view of this chapter in our history - it doesn't get any more intimate and behind-the-scenes than McCarthy's friend and confidant throughout the Army-McCarthy hearings and the Senatorial censure.
While one might assume that Cohn's relationship to McCarthy and his involvement in the war against Communism and our government's cover-up would make him incapable of delivering an objective account, one would be surprised, however, by the degree of honesty presented here. The 14 years between the censure of McCarthy and the writing of Cohn's book undoubtedly gave the author the distance necessary for the emotional impact to subside and make possible a limpid assessment. Cohn doesn't flinch and shy away from calling attention to his and McCarthy's shortcomings. For instance, of his first appearance in the Army-McCarthy hearing witness stand, Cohn calls his testimony "rambling, garrulous, repetitious, brash, smug, smart-alecky, pompous, and petulant."
He says of McCarthy, "His statements were frequently hasty and ill-prepared ... He played rough politics, occasionally took unfair advantage of people, and said harsh things in public ... I quarreled with him frequently [about his broad-brush approach] and stressed that by using this technique he sometimes placed himself in an indefensible position. But," Cohn adds, "I never disagreed with the substance of his thesis. ... He had more real personal courage than almost any man I ever knew. ... When he became convinced that Communism was an evil, he took up the battle against its inroads into American life and fought the tough way he had learned how to fight early in life." McCarthy comes across in Cohn's book as fully human, with all of his strengths and weaknesses on display, and if you can read it in its entirety and feel no sympathy for the Senator, then it is you, I fear, who is not fully human.
Through this book you'll come to know the "man" behind the myth, and you'll see "the devil in the details" of his great political cause. I tend to think of McCarthy as a Western (Civilization) hero - kind of a "John Wayne Goes To Washington" character. There's a great line in the Wayne Western, THE UNDEFEATED, where The Duke shoots a villain after an argument erupts during a discussion. He rides back over to the group of people he's protecting, and a properly "civilized" woman berates him, "You went out there to talk! Why did you have to shoot the man?" And John Wayne responds in that famous drawl, "Conversation kind of dried up, ma'am." Joseph McCarthy felt that the time for "nice" talk was over; it was time to take action against Communist infiltration in our government - action against communists determined to wreck our Constitutional Republic, to put the people of this nation in great peril, and to overturn the American way of life.
Senator William Jenner - one of the 22 Republicans who voted against censure - told McCarthy, "Joe, you're the kid who came to the party and pee'd in the lemonade." In other words, McCarthy wouldn't shut up and go along to get along; he raised a ruckus when everyone just wanted to "socialize."
I urge EVERY American to read McCARTHY, no matter what you may think you already know about the Senator and "McCarthyism." If all of your information has come from mainstream publications and movies, then trust me, you've seen only one side of a two-sided coin. You've examined the "Tales" side, now let's also look at "Heads." Roy Cohn's McCARTHY is a great book. (While Cohn's chapter titled "Why They Hated" is an interesting look at the philosophy espoused by the forces that opposed McCarthy, to get a better understanding of the macro view, let me also recommend the books, THE CREATURE FROM JEKYLL ISLAND by Griffin, and THE NAKED CAPITALIST by Skousen.)
"It has been a bitter lesson to come to Washington and see a reputation, gained at some effort, torn to shreds merely because I was associated with Senator McCarthy, who has become the symbol of hatred for all who fear the exposure of Communism."
~ Roy Cohn; McCARTHY, chapter 16.
Senator McCarthy, wherever you are, I just want to say, "GOOD NIGHT, AND THANK YOU!"