From Publishers Weekly
Joseph McCarthy is the political figure most commonly associated with the anti-Communist hysteria of the 1950s, but Patrick McCarran (1876–1954) was equally virulent. The senator from Nevada was nominally a Democrat, but his politics were firmly reactionary, consistently at odds with Roosevelt and Truman. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he wielded enormous power, getting his way by threatening to slash budgets. Ybarra, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal,
meticulously details McCarran's political fights, especially over immigration, which he calls the senator's "white whale, a submerged beast threatening doom." The infamous McCarran-Walter Act had the purported intention to keep subversives out of the country, but its real impact was to keep European refugees (especially Jews) from immigrating. In addition to chronicling McCarran's excesses, though, Ybarra gives equal weight to the evidence that some Communists did manage to infiltrate the federal government, as well as to the "professional ex-Communists" ready to identify real or imagined former comrades. Though this multitrack approach makes the chronology somewhat confusing, the overall result is a chilling testament to one well-placed man's destructive influence over foreign policy and domestic liberty. By favoring careful documentation over demonization, Ybarra's hefty account offers a welcome new perspective on the origins of the Cold War. 32 pages of b&w photos.
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The infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy served as the poster boy for America's anti-Communist crusade of the 1950s, but this long-overdue biography makes clear that the real force behind that crusade was the little-remembered Senator Patrick McCarran. In disturbing detail, Ybarra establishes that while the Wisconsin demagogue was capturing headlines, it was the implacable cold warrior from Nevada who--with much less fanfare--turned anti-Communist paranoia into harsh legislation and draconian public policy, thus chilling debate, abridging civil rights, and destroying careers. McCarran emerges as the man who forged the legislative and procedural weapons for fighting Communism, without which McCarthy could never have even started his legendary witch-hunt. Indeed, by scrutinizing the way postwar politics evolved before McCarthy stepped onto the stage, Ybarra shows readers how McCarran almost single-handedly turned the threat of Communist infiltration into the justification for a monomaniacal campaign, waged with both guile and fury. Though far from sympathetic with McCarran's objectives, Ybarra marvels at his skill in dominating Congress, defying Democratic and Republican presidents, and outmaneuvering senior bureaucrats. And unlike McCarthy, whose influence ended as soon as the Senate censured him in 1954, McCarran inscribed his politics of fear deep in America's public policy, leaving behind dubious laws still in force as late as the 1990s. An eye-opening portrait of a largely forgotten twentieth-century titan. Bryce ChristensenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved