"Digging out a skunk is a dirty, smelly business.
No one wants to be near you when you're done --
but someone's got to do it."
~ Joe McCarthy

Pittsburg Tribune, May 18, 2003

WASHINGTON - Former U.S. Sen. Joseph Raymond McCarthy died in May 1957 at age 47 and was buried in an unpretentious grave in St. Mary's Cemetery in Appleton, Wis.

This month, 50-year-old executive hearings of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations -- the subcommittee that Joe McCarthy chaired -- were released by Sens. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, and Maine Republican Susan Collins, who are the ranking minority member and chair, respectively, of that committee.

The two senators, assisted by Donald Ritchie, an associate Senate historian, joined with Communists in an attempt to further vilify a man dead some 46 years. The three of them shoveled together a new heap of canards that was eagerly reprinted by media around the nation.


Skimming the 4,000 pages of these hearings yielded some interesting details never mentioned by the senators or the media. All Washington reporters know that the chair of a committee or subcommittee is an important figurehead with considerable power -- a fact as important 50 years ago as it is now. However, the chair does not operate alone. On every committee, there is a ranking minority member from the other party and other senators who can advise and, in severe cases, discipline the chairman.

In the three years that McCarthy controlled the Investigations Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations, there were several senators on his committee who were later recognized as having great experience and leadership qualities. Among them, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

There were also political giants including Sens. Henry Jackson, Everett Dirksen, John McClellan, Stuart Symington, Karl Mundt and that highly vocal liberal Hubert H. Humphrey. Any one of them could have stopped the man denigrated as "Tail Gunner Joe" but did not because public opinion was on McCarthy's side.

John Kennedy called McCarthy a "great American patriot"; kid brother Bobby Kennedy joined McCarthy's staff as assistant counsel and Tail Gunner Joe became godfather to his first child.


Sens. Susan Collins and Carl Levin ignored McCarthy's support from these political giants from both parties and instead preferred to bolster the myth voiced by Jimmy Carter that Joe McCarthy added to "America's inordinate fear of Communism." Collins sought refuge in the historical value of the released documents, perhaps not realizing how the liberal left will use them as mortar to cement the travesty of oppression they have tried to create.

Carl Levin was even more predictable. He seized on the term "witch-hunt," indicating that none of the people McCarthy's subcommittee questioned were enemies of the United States and, like any good Democrat, he linked this mythical "persecution of the innocent" to the crackdowns on terrorism initiated by Attorney General John Ashcroft after 9/11.

The Collins/Levin/Ritchie attack on anti-communism made no mention of the decrypted documents made public in 1995 known as the "Venona papers."

These documents from Russian intelligence officers to their bases in Moscow provided snapshot views of Russian espionage in the United States in the early 1940s. They showed that literally hundreds of Americans may have been working for Russian intelligence, and scores of them in government.

Nor was there mention of statements made by Russian KGB and government officials on the same subject when their archives were opened. These documents provide us with facts: McCarthy glimpsed the vicious truth.


Any objective reader of the McCarthy material will realize that in death, as in the latter years of his life, McCarthy was treated with less than American justice.

The hysterical terms "witch-hunt," "star chamber" and "secret sessions," all attributed to McCarthy's investigations of Communists in our government and public life, were once again heard. And today, just as it was back then, such labeling is absolute nonsense.

The documents released were the normal "executive sessions" of a Senate committee, several of which took place -- and continue to take place -- most days in Washington. Their purpose is to determine whether the evidence given is sufficient to warrant a public hearing. Any witness at an executive session can be represented by his or her attorney.

Should the questions be so pointed as to bring out something criminal, then the witness customarily takes the protection of the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. There is nothing of a star chamber about the process.

As to "witch-hunts," McCarthy knew that there were well- organized Communist "witches" seeking to destroy the U.S. republic. He also knew he had taken an oath to protect the Constitution and this is exactly what he proceeded to do.

Much has been made in today's media of the 1953 appearance of composer Aaron Copeland before McCarthy's committee. Copeland repeatedly denied on oath any involvement with Communism. Later that year, based on a sworn passport application Copeland made, the FBI began a perjury and fraud investigation.

This inquiry produced overwhelming evidence of his Communist Party connections but, by prosecution time, Democrats and Republicans had censured McCarthy in the Senate and anti-Communism had become a cause to be held in contempt. And there was no further thought given to a prosecution of Copeland.


McCarthy was wildly popular; American voters believed in him and were hostile toward Communism and Russian dictator Joseph Stalin. He was also the target of great hatred for a variety of reasons.

McCarthy was well aware of these enemies and of their canards. He had a wonderful catchphrase, "Digging out a skunk is a dirty, smelly business. No one wants to be near you when you're done -- but someone's got to do it."

If we look back in the files on international Communist subversion, we will see the successes the KGB achieved. In Britain, the legendary Kim Philby was not only a senior member of MI6 and an advisor to the fledging CIA, but a KGB general as well; in France, Charles Pathe, another KGB spy, had his very own cabinet ministers; and in Italy, where the Communists nearly achieved political power through the Moscow-trained Palmiro Togiliatti, America spent millions to reverse early defeats of democracy.

In Germany, their second chancellor after World War II, Social Democrat Willie Brandt, had been recruited by Moscow while still in exile during the Nazi years and did his best for the East. Willie was cute -- he also sold himself to the CIA.

And yet, these same files show no hideous Russian success in the United States. This tells us the KGB was afraid of Joe McCarthy. Sure, there were spies, but Moscow realized that to use the Communist Party for espionage with McCarthy in the Senate would spell disaster. And that, in turn, tells us his objective to protect the United States Constitution - and the people it was written for -- was successful.

Dateline D.C. is written by a Washington-based British journalist and political observer.

Reader is looking for information to defend Joseph McCarthy



Physicist helped build first Atomic-bomb (admitted involved in Communist Party). Telegraph, Apr 29, 2005. Go to 13.Weapons & 6.Superstates & 35.Brotherhood & ATOMIC-BOMB SCIENTIST COMMUNIST

SPYING FOR STALIN WAS BAD (but Whittaker Chambers was villified for exposing communist Hiss). National Post, Jul 4, 2003


SOVIET DEFECTOR IGOR GOUZENKO (told of communist agents in high levels of gov't). Globe & Mail, May 31, 2003. Go to 35.The Brotherhood



Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~