If George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck is the best shot the left can unload on Joe McCarthy these days, the famous Red hunter is well on his way to a thorough rehabilitation. Ann Coulter has already begun the process in Treason and Stan Evans’ much anticipated book—due out next year—is likely to boost the late Wisconsin senator’s stock even further.
The movie is really about CBS’s star journalist, Edward R. Murrow (played by David Strathairn), and how he went after McCarthy, who is featured only in film footage from the archives. As Clooney (and most historians) would have it, the senator was a vicious, unscrupulous bully who ruined the lives of scores of innocent people by labeling them Reds. So where are the bloody corpses in Clooney’s movie? They’re totally missing. In fact, Clooney—who directed and helped write the movie—doesn’t show a single person who was done in by the senator’s supposedly reckless charges. Not one!
Nor is it even clear from the movie that McCarthy ever seriously accused anyone unjustly. He might have, but Clooney certainly doesn’t prove it. There are hints that McCarthy may have been wrong in charging Annie Lee Moss, the Pentagon code clerk, with having been a Communist Party member. But the Clooney picture is actually opaque on that point and the truth is McCarthy was absolutely right in charging her with party membership (see more on Moss below).
The Murrow character, who uses the journalist’s real words, does suggest that McCarthy was engaged in smear-mongering when he laid the wood to the American Civil Liberties Union, insisting it had been labeled a “front” for the Communists. Murrow’s retort was that the ACLU was not on any subversive list of the federal government. In Murrow’s view (and clearly in Clooney’s), that rebuttal clinched the case that the Wisconsin lawmaker was an irresponsible demagogue. But, as we shall note shortly, the ACLU was rightly considered a subversive organization during the early 1930s, the period the senator was referring to.
What’s stranger still is that Clooney dwells at some length on the case of Lt. Milo Radulovich, on the verge of being ousted as a security risk from the Air Force Reserve because two of his relatives were radicals, possibly Communists.
The movie shows Murrow, the star of CBS’s “See It Now,” publicizing Radulovich’s plight. Weeks later, we find that he’s been reinstated and the charges dropped. Cheers all around at CBS.
A major anti-McCarthy victory for Murrow? Well, only in the eyes of CBS and Murrow and other anti-McCarthy zealots. For Radulovich was never a McCarthy case.
Indeed, the Clooney film—but just barely—acknowledges this far from insignificant fact, yet it suggests that the “ambience” of McCarthy’s Red hunting was somehow responsible. Clooney, it seems, couldn’t discover a single bona fide McCarthy victim, so the closest he gets to it is a “victim” McCarthy had nothing to do with!
That should strike some people as rather odd in a film accusing the Wisconsin senator of smears and innuendo.
Clooney, as noted, does include a lengthy segment on the Annie Lee Moss case. Murrow made much of this case as well, persuading masses of liberal intellectuals that McCarthy had badly overreached and that he may have accused the wrong Moss. Human Events has discussed the Moss hearing on numerous occasions, most extensively by Evans on May 23, 2003. But it should be reprised in light of Clooney’s latest effort to make it seem as if McCarthy smeared her. The film never quite says she’s innocent, but leads one to believe she probably is and is certainly not being treated fairly by the senator.
The March 11, 1954, McCarthy hearing, in truth, was a devastating indictment of Army security procedures—and Moss herself. McCarthy’s chief purpose was to find out how Moss, with her Red background, had been promoted from a cafeteria worker to a Pentagon code clerk with access to classified information.
During the hearings, Moss denied she was a Red, but admitted receiving the Daily Worker, the official organ of the Communist Party, at various addresses she had inhabited over the years. She conceded, after some prodding, the paper “might have been addressed to me” (instead of her husband). She acknowledged that Robert Hall, one of three top Washington, D.C., Communists, had visited her home and that she had lived, for a short while, with Hattie Griffin, an active party member who hosted Communist meetings at her house. Standing alone, this information should have been enough to raise questions as to why she had access to classified material.
More damning evidence was produced. Moss, as the hearings revealed, had been identified as a dues-paying member of the Northeast club of the D.C. Communist Party by FBI undercover informant Mary Markward, and the committee’s majority counsel, Roy Cohn, stressed that Markward’s testimony had been “corroborated” in “a sworn statement” by another witness in executive session.
The clincher on Moss came four years later. The Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB), an agency of the federal government, held a hearing on Markward, partly to determine if she had told the truth about Moss. The SACB’s Sept. 19, 1958, verdict, based on board members’ viewing D.C. Communist Party records, such as dues rosters and members’ living residences, was that the exhibits “corroborate Markward’s testimony in the Moss security hearings.” The SACB, in short, found that McCarthy had bagged the right Annie Lee Moss, Murrow to the contrary.
There are other aspects of the film that don’t stand up to scrutiny. The movie shows Murrow savaging McCarthy for asking the State Department’s Reed Harris in 1954 about Harris’s getting help from the ACLU in the early ’30s after having been expelled from Columbia University. Harris acknowledged he had been supplied an ACLU attorney, and McCarthy then wondered if he knew it had been “listed as a ‘front for, and doing the work of’ the Communist Party.” Harris said he didn’t know it had been so listed.
Murrow tore into the Wisconsin senator for even suggesting that the ACLU was anything but patriotic. “The attorney general’s list,” Murrow intoned, “does not and has never listed the ACLU as subversive, nor does the FBI or any other federal government agency.”
Murrow’s response was accurate as to how the U.S. government viewed the ACLU in 1954, 14 years after the group had barred Communists from executive positions. But various government agencies, with cause, viewed the ACLU as subversive in the early 1930s—the period McCarthy was interested in.
The House of Representative’s “special committee to investigate communist activities in the United States,” a bipartisan panel, issued a report on Jan. 17, 1931. The chairman was Hamilton Fish, Jr., a New York Republican. Here’s what the report said about the ACLU: “The American Civil Liberties Union is closely affiliated with the Communist movement in the United States, and fully 90% of its efforts are on behalf of Communists who have come into conflict with the law.”
In testimony before the Fish panel, reproduced in the report, Roger Baldwin, the ACLU’s guiding light, said he favored the right of any citizen or alien to advocate “murder,” “assassination” and “the overthrow of the U.S. government by force and violence.”
The Fish panel also said: “The American Civil Liberties Union has received large sums from the Garland Fund, of which Roger N. Baldwin is one of its directors. During the trial of the Communists in Gastonia, not for freedom of speech, of the press or assembly, but for a conspiracy to kill the chief of police, of which seven defendants were convicted, the ACLU provided bail for five of the defendants, amounting to $28,500, which it secured from the Garland Fund. All of the defendants convicted jumped their bail and are reported to be in Russia.”
A committee of the New York Legislature, back in 1928, reached the following conclusion: “The American Civil Liberties Union, in the last analysis, is a supporter of all subversive movements; its propaganda is detrimental to the interests of the State.”
Even Liberals Pan Film
The film is littered with “facts” and “arguments” and “opinions” that never really add up when closely scrutinized. What’s especially interesting is that even honest liberals are not enthralled with the film’s message. Washington Post movie reviewer Stephen Hunter appears to dislike McCarthy, but he believes Clooney has left a lot out of his film, including Murrow’s own naïvetÃ© about Communists.
“In December 1948,” Hunter began his review, “the renowned broadcaster Edward R. Murrow went on the air to denounce the Red hunters of the U.S. government who had hounded his friend and mentor Laurence Duggan, a former State Department employee, to suicide.
“One can almost imagine the drama: The distinguished newsman, once the voice of blitzed London, hair slicked back, a nub of cigarette in his hand radiating vapors, face as rigid as an Old Testament elder, using that deep voice and crooning rhetoric to lambaste the puny minds of the House Un-American Activities Committee that had so besmirched Larry’s good name that the man had leapt in despair from a 16th-Street floor window.
“But you won’t find it in Good Night, and Good Luck, George Clooney’s mounting of the dramatic confrontation between the estimable Murrow and the abrasive junior senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy.
“One can readily see why. Duggan, as it turned out, was a Soviet spy, code-named…‘Frank’ and finally ‘Prince.’ He was, moreover, one of many Soviet spies embedded in the U.S. government at the time.
“That’s not all Clooney leaves out in his account of the Murrow-McCarthy fight: He leaves out the Cold War, the hot war in Korea, the Venona decrypts that proved how sophisticated and exhaustive the Russian intelligence initiative against the American target was.”
That’s not bad coming from a McCarthy foe. Now we need the Evans book to show us just how wrong the country has been about the Wisconsin senator.