IN THIS SWEEPING, monumental work of American history, journalist Michael J. Ybarra tells the story of Senator Pat McCarran’s extraordinary career for the first time, and he vividly re-creates a passionate era of politics that reshaped America and ...
ca and echoes to this day. Brilliantly researched and energetically written, Washington Gone Crazy makes a significant new contribution to our understanding of the United States in the twentieth century. McCarran was one of the most shrewd and powerful — and vindictive — lawmakers ever to sit in Congress. Joe McCarthy gave his name to the cause of zealous anti-Communism, but it was McCarran, a lifelong Democrat, who actually wrote the laws, held the hearings, and bullied the State and Justice Departments into doing his bidding. McCarran was consumed with looking for Communists in Washington and his obsession almost consumed the country. The son of illiterate Irish immigrants, McCarran was born in 1876 in Nevada, where he grew up to be a sheepherder who taught himself the law around the campfire, becoming a legendary defense attorney and judge. After struggling for years against the local Democratic political machine, McCarran rode Franklin Roosevelt’s landslide into the U.S. Senate in 1932 — and broke ranks with Roosevelt during the New Deal’s first week. But it was President Harry Truman who would become McCarran’s real nemesis. A master of parliamentary procedure, McCarran turned his Senate Judiciary Committee into a virtual government within the government. McCarran worked with J. Edgar Hoover to undermine the Truman Administration before McCarthy even got to Washington. He created the most far-reaching anti-sedition law ever enacted in America (the McCarran Internal Security Act), which filled Ellis Island with immigrants alleged to be subversives and set up concentration camps to hold suspected traitors in the case of a national emergency. McCarran’s Senate Internal Security Subcommittee cowed the State Department into sacrificing the careers of diplomats accused of helping the Communists take over China. McCarran virtually blackmailed more than one attorney general into carrying out his policies. From Capitol Hill to the United Nations, from union halls to Hollywood, McCarran’s wrath broke careers and lives and ultimately, in a self-destructive fit of pique, cost his party control of the Senate. Ybarra’s even-handed narrative shows that McCarran was ultimately half right: There really were Communists in Washington — but it was the hunt for them that did the real damage.
Number of pages: 818
Date of publication: 28/09/2004
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