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Former Boston Globe reporter Larry Tye discusses his detailed profile of Sen. Joe McCarthy’s Cold War investigations, and similarities with Donald Trump.Tye returns to the podcast to talk about Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy. In his last book, about Robert F. Kennedy, Tye revealed that RFK, fresh out of law school, worked as an investigator for McCarthy.
Tye’s new book is a fascinating look at a complex man who took Cold War anti-communism to the extreme, and destroyed many careers and some lives in his reckless investigations into Americans he accused of being Soviet operatives or “card carrying communists”.
We open the interview by noting that much of what we think we know about McCarthy is from Hollywood movies and a few ancient video clips. Tye takes us deep into the real history of McCarthy, from his early days in Wisconsin to his quick rise and fall as the grand inquisitor in 1950’s America.
Tye’s book isn’t about Donald Trump, but he connects the ruthless demagogue McCarthy to Donald Trump, connected by Roy Cohn–who worked for McCarthy and later was a mentor to Trump. Like McCarthy, Trump is a bully who lies with impunity.
Tye describes the climate of fear and intimidation that enabled McCarthy to use unfounded accusations and innuendo in accusing many Americans of pro-communist leanings that were often false. He describes how Eisenhower and McCarthy’s Senate colleague, John F. Kennedy, avoided confrontation with McCarthy and tacitly supported his aims, but not his methods. It’s a fascinating look at a dark American era.