The task of evaluating the record of a man like Joe McCarthy is difficult, especially before the dust of quieter years has settled over the controversy. With the confict between liberal and red-hunter still raging, William Buckley and L. Brent Bozell have undertaken what they would call an impartial and sober survey of the man and his beliefs. But the authors, because of their preconceptions, soon find themselves battling on the side of the Senator and reading into the record of the last four years the best of all possible meanings.
As a defense of McCarthyism, the material presented in McCarthy and his Enemies might be described by a phrase which the authors are fond of using. On the surface, the facts seem to make a "good prima facie case." The evidence which they present, however, is limited mostly to McCarthy's earlier bouts with the Tydings Committee. An examination of other investigations and charges could have placed the Senator's record in more accurate perspective.
From the documents Buckley and Bozell present, they conclude that McCarthy's accusations have usually been justified, even when exaggerated or distorted. Interwoven between their facts, however, are assumptions which must be accepted by the reader before he could agree with this final verdict. The authors argue the danger of subversives in government is an over-riding threat to the nation's security, and that the drastic actions of McCarthy were necessary to awaken a slumbering country. They further argue that the analogy between security investigations and regular judicial proceeding is false. The government should be given the benefit of the doubt in all loyalty cases, they say, because employment in the Civil Service is a privilege, not a right. For this reason, the burden of proof must rest, not with the government, but with the accused.
Security investigations, from this point of view, operate very nearly on the level of discharging a clerk from a dime store. Since all doubts are accounted in favor of the government, Senator McCarthy's evidence need not be either conclusive, adequate, or true. His charges must only cause doubts sufficient to warrant further investigation or the firing of the accused.
To the liberal, an argument along these lines will seem both unconvincing and dangerous. Civil rights are involved in Congressional and civil service hearings, especially because of the wide publicity given loyalty cases. When an employee is publically accused of being a Communist, he is incriminated in the eyes of society, if not specifically by its laws. Once it is granted that fair play, responsibility, and procedure are necessary in these investigations, McCarthy stands accused by his own defenders.
Recognizing the need for some kind of protection for accused officials, Buckley and Bozell have invented a method of loyalty checks which is remarkable for the number of new dangers it creates. Review and appeal boards would be abolished and one or two men in each government department would be responsible for deciding loyalty and security cases. All officials discharged would be lumped together under one category such as "Reduction in Force." Finally the criteria of "loyalty" and "security" would be abolished for the less incriminating term, "government interest." The secrecy involved in this type of method is no substitute, however, for a correct observance of the rights of men under investigation. With no recourse to appeal, arbitrary discharge could result, while judging an employee on the question of whether he conforms to the ambiguous term, "government interest," could easily lead to thought control in the Civil Service. And firing the man who is late to work for ostensibly the same reason as firing the subversive might end in the incrimination of all those discharged.
Along with suggestions for improving the government's security program, authors Buckley and Bozell attempt to outline the broader significance of McCarthyism. They visualize the Senator leading a movement toward a "new conormity" which would exclude communism from the marketplace of ideas. In arguing for this movement, the authors seem unaware that the real danger of excluding any area of thought from society, is the likelihood that conformity will be extended. Unconsciously, Buckley and Bozell reveal this threat, when they admit that extreme liberals may fall outside the pale of respectability. The most disquieting quote from their book catches the dangers of McCarthyism in dramatic form: "Someday the patience of America may at last be exhausted and we will strike out against the Liberals. Not because they are treacherous like Communists, but because, with James Burnham, we will conclude 'they are mistaken in their predictions wrong in their advice, and through the results of their actions injurious to the interests of the nation'."