McCarthy Condemned

Have you no sense of decency, sir?

In the early 1950s the Red Scare was in full swing. China had fallen to communism, South Korea was overrun by the communist regime of Kim Il Sun and the Soviets had detonated its first atomic bomb. The junior senator from Wisconsin Joseph R. McCarthy stepped into the public spotlight to accuse an unspecific number of State Department officials of being communist. McCarthy was able to use the new medium of television to full effect as his victims testified before the Senate Committee on Government Relations. However it was the same television coverage that led to his downfall as millions of Americans recoiled at his bullying and scare tactics. In 1954, the U.S. Senate voted to condemn Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”  McCarthy’s story, his rise and downfall, is a tragic American story in politics.

Discussion Questions:

1. What was original intent of the framers in creating the Senate?

2. Explain how McCarthy’s tactics illustrated a fear of the framers?

3. How did television change the otherwise conventional committee process?