Key Personality: Joe McCarthy

Leaving Cert > The United States and the World > Key Personalities

McCarthy is a Key Personality for:
Domestic Factors on US Foreign Policy, 1945 - 1972

  • Early Career:
    Where was McCarthy from? What did he do during World War II? What did he achieve in 1946?
  • McCarthy in the Senate:
    What was McCarthy's record and reputation in the Senate? What were his prospects in the next congressional election? What did he need to do to ensure he was re-elected?
  • McCarthy and the "Reds":
    Why did McCarthy choose to go after suspected Communists? What governement department did he claim was full of Communists? How did his growing fame influence the "Red Scare"? How was McCarthy able to stir up peoples' fears about Communism? What other groups did he target? Why?
  • McCarthy and the Eastern Establishment:
    What did McCarthy refer to as the "Eastern Establishment"? Why was he opposed to them? How did he link them with Communism? Why did the Republican Party support him? What was his relationship with President Eisenhower? How did he influence Eisenhower?
  • McCarthy's Hearings:
    What committee did McCarthy become chairman of? What US institution did he target? His hearings were televised - what impact did this have? How did it contribute to his downfall? How did his career end?

McCarthy on the cover of Time magazine in 1954.

President Eisenhower (left) shakes McCarthy's hand after making his speech in which he had to leave out a section defending George Marshall, the Secretary of State and Eisenhower's friend, who McCarthy had been attacking. Time magazine wrote: "Standing so far from Joe that they looked like two men reaching toward each other across a trout stream, Ike (Eisenhower) grabbed the Wisconsin senator's hand, pumped it once and abruptly let it go."
McCarthy is still remembered in US politics today, but not in a good way. This cartoon from the 2012 presidential election shows Michele Bachmann, who wanted to become the Republican presidential candidate against Barack Obama. She called some of her opponents anti-American. What comparison is the cartoon making between Bachmann and Joe McCarthy?

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