When The Nation Watched And A Demagogue Went Down

This spring saw another key anniversary from 1954, seventy years ago that could have some ramifications for the present time. Wisconsin’s Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy was perhaps the most powerful man in Washington DC and at one time had a veto power over presidential appointments. But in a Senate hearing in June 1954, he was brought down by an old lawyer from Boston.

Joseph McCarthy was a little known first term Senator from Wisconsin when in February 1950 at a gathering in West Virginia where he was invited to speak, he revealed that he had a list of communists who were actively working in the government including the State Department. The numbers of alleged communists varied from thirty to over 200 communists. The media jumped on this, and this became a national sensation.

At that time, people in the United States were uneasy. In 1949, the Chinese communists under the leadership of Mao Zedong had taken over mainland China and forced the Chinese Nationalist government under leader Chaing Kai Shek fled to the island of Taiwan. China had been a key ally of the United States in the Pacific during the Second World War. This communist takeover of China came on the heels of the Soviet Union taking over the governments of eastern Europe and establishing “puppet governments” loyal to Moscow. Also, in September 1949, the nation learned that the Soviet Union had successfully detonated an atomic bomb.

Now Senator McCarthy gave the American people something to blame, and the witch hunt was on for communists in the government. Even the election of Republican Dwight Eisenhower as President wasn’t enough to quell this suspicion of communist infiltration in our government. A few actual communists were discovered and prosecuted, and this fed the suspicion that there were more undermining the country.

This all came to a head in the Army – McCarthy hearings in the spring of 1954 when Senator McCarthy was probing communist infiltration in the army. When asked to produce actual names of people to match the number of communists that he had McCarthy only went on the attack. McCarthy went on the attack on a young associate of the law firm of the Senate’s chief attorney but he was not involved in these hearings because of his membership in an organization when he was in college that may have had communist leanings.

In a climactic moment the Senate’s chief attorney asked Senator Joseph McCarthy, “have you no sense of decency? You are attacking a young man who has a bright future with our firm, and until this moment, Senator, I think that I never really gauged your cruelty or recklessness.” It was at that moment that the public saw Joseph McCarthy as the uncouth bully that he had been all along.

The conclusion of those hearings found that Senator McCarthy had found nothing about communist infiltration in the Army and the public was repulsed with Joseph McCarthy’s tactics. On December 2, 1954, the Senate censured Joseph McCarthy by a vote of 67 to 22. Senator Joseph McCarthy had been discredited. He became a pariah in the Senate as few listened to his harangues about communists. He died from the effects of alcoholism in May 1957 at the age of 48.

One of the key members of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s team during those Army – McCarthy hearings in 1954 was a young 27-year-old attorney named Roy Cohn. He was McCarthy’s lead henchman who emulated McCarthy’s aggressive method of attacking opponents. After the fall of Joseph McCarthy, Roy Cohn went to New York city where he engaged in the practice of law. He gained a reputation as a “fixer” and his clients included mob figures like John Gotti and a retired Harvard law school professor, Alan Dershowitz.

He also worked on Nixon’s 1972 campaign and was instrumental in leaking the medical records of McGovern’s Vice-Presidential candidate Senator Thomas Eagleton to the press. Those confidential records revealed that Senator Eagleton had been treated for depression. The furor resulted in McGovern dropping Eagleton from the ticket and replacing him with Kennedy-in-law Sargent Shriver.

Two other clients of Roy Cohn were Rupert Murdoch, who later would start Fox News and a young Donald Trump. Roy Cohn’s style as an attorney was modeled after Senator Joseph McCarthy’s method of attacking and never backing down or admitting a mistake. Roy Cohn was involved in the construction of Trump Tower in Manhattan. In 1984, Roy Cohn, who was gay, was diagnosed with AIDS. In 1986, a five-judge panel of the New York Supreme Court disbarred Roy Cohn for unethical and unprofessional conduct that included misappropriation of client funds. Roy Cohn died from the effects of AIDS on August 2, 1986, at the age of 59.

This comes as no surprise to me that there is a direct line from Senator Joseph McCarthy and his tactics as well as lack of any real proof of communist infiltration in government and Roy Cohn’s dishonest style as an attorney to Donald Trump and how he has operated for most of his life. Apparently, Donald Trump had a good mentor and teacher. But like Senator Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn; Donald Trump will eventually be brought down by his own faults and failings.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 16, Issue 7, Posted 7:28 AM, 07.01.2024