Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Sen. Joseph McCarthy's crusade against communism briefly made him an American hero -- until he showed himself to be an unscrupulous zealot whose baseless accusations destroyed lives. His reputation was already in tatters when the Senate condemned him in 1954 for "contemptuous" conduct toward a subcommittee that had investigated his finances, and for his abuse of a committee that recommended he be censured. Though he remained in the Senate, McCarthy died in disgrace less than three years later. An excerpt from The Post of Dec. 3, 1954:
The Senate last night passed judgment on Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy's conduct by voting, 67 to 22, for a two-count resolution which "condemned" him for obstructing the Senate and impairing its dignity.
With that vote the Senate made the Wisconsin Republican the first Senator in a quarter century and the fourth in its history to incur its strongest rebuke short of expulsion.
The Senate's extraordinary censure session ended at 7:10 p.m., two hours after voting the reprimand against its most controversial member. A new Congress will convene January 5.
McCarthy was "condemned" on charges of "abuse" and failure to cooperate with a 1951-52 subcommittee which investigated him, and for recent attacks on the Watkins censure study committee which "tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute." ...
The final roll-call to "condemn" McCarthy on two counts drew the solid support of 44 Democrats and Independent Wayne Morse (Oreg.) and an even split of the Republican votes -- 22. The 22 votes in opposition all were cast by Republicans.
The word "censure" was dropped from the resolution, in what Senator Watkins said was a desire to be consistent with the last censure action, against Sen. Hiram W. Bingham (R-Conn.) in 1928. There the actual word "censure" was not employed. Used instead was the word "condemn." ...
After the final vote yesterday, Sen. Styles Bridges (R-N.H.), a censure opponent, asked, with a broad grin, if the deletion of the word meant McCarthy had not yet been censured. There were guffaws and chuckles from the anti-censure ranks -- including McCarthy. ...
Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.), who filed some of the censure charges, produced a dictionary and read definitions of "censure" and "condemn."
"If there is any difference at all," said Fulbright, he regarded "condemn" as "a more severe term" than "censure."
Asked if he felt he had been "censured," McCarthy told newsmen, with a laugh: "I wouldn't say it was a vote of confidence."
With no outward sign of any change, he told reporters: "I feel no different tonight than last night. I'm very happy to have this circus over with and get back to the work of digging out Communists, corruption, treason in Government and I'll start up again Monday after 10 months of enforced inaction."
This series is in a book that can be purchased online at www.washingtonpost.com/
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