M. Stanton Evans, RIP: Peerless McCarthy Scholar, Wit, and Witty Eviscerator of the Witless Pseudo-Academic Ron Radosh

My colleague Diana West has written a series of remembrances (here; here; here; and here) of her late mentor, M. Stanton Evans (d. March 3, 2015), peerless scholar of Senator Joseph McCarthy, champion of Western freedom, keen wit, and consummate, unassuming gentleman. The fourth installment of Diana’s remembrances, is a brief moving tribute she delivered Friday, March 13, 2015, at The Heritage Foundation, which is embedded below. (The text is available here.)

I had the privilege of meeting Stan Evans—sadly, just once—at The 2013 Mightier Pen Award ceremony for Diana West. Stan impressed me as one of the most rarefied combinations of wisdom, humor, relentless scholarship, humility, and intellectual courage I ever encountered. In short, Stan was everything his vicious, and often witless detractors were—and remain—not.

Perhaps the most egregious example of the anti-intellectual thuggery Stan was subjected to is epitomized by the crude behavior, and counterfactual, incoherent fulminations of one Ronald Radosh. Indeed, “Ron,” could not even refrain from venting pejoratively in the comments section of J. Christian Adams memorial blog for Stan, just after Stan’s passing.

Radosh (b. 1937), it must be noted, opined in an 1967 obituary he wrote for American Communist Norman Thomas, that

Thomas’ chief sin, in my view, was to have written that he did not, “regard Vietcong terrorism as virtuous.” He was guilty of attacking the heroic Vietnamese people, instead of the United States, which was the enemy of the world’s people. My final judgment was that Thomas had ‘accepted the Cold War, its ideology and ethics and had decided to enlist in fighting its battles’ on the wrong — the anti-communist — side.

“Ron” remained a ludicrous, morally bereft Communist, heeding (as he wrote in 1972) what “Karl Marx warned,” and desirous of “revolution,” not mere reform—“a substantive fundamental change in the existing social structure, a massive dislocation and revamping of the existing system of production and distribution”—until his ostensible “epiphany” during Reagan’s Presidency.

As a fitting, eternal tribute to Stan, I am reproducing, from the pages of the National Review, Stan’s elegantly written, witty, and scholarly rebuttal eviscerating Radosh’s incompetent, unhinged “review” of Blacklisted By History.

Letters to the Editor

National Review – December 31, 2007 Volume: 59; Page number: 2-6, Record: 11E13201EC46A7E0 Issue: 24

“Though there may be some people qualified by their expertise to read me a condescending lecture in the matter of Joe McCarthy, Ronald Radosh is not among them. As shown throughout his curious essay, his lack of knowledge is extensive, bizarrely so in certain cases, and made the worse by the strange inventions with which the discourse is salted. How someone who knows so little about a topic can set up shop as an Olympian arbiter of it is quite a puzzle.”



Having been around the block a time or two, I guess nothing should surprise me, but I have to admit I was profoundly shocked by Ronald Radosh’s onslaught against my work – and honor – in what professed to be a review of my new book about Senator Joe McCarthy (“The Enemy Within,” Dec. 17, 2007).

Had this Radosh effusion appeared in The New Republic or Washington Post – where it would have been more fitting – I probably wouldn’t have bothered to reply. As it appeared instead in the once-beloved pages of National Review, with which I have been connected since its inception, I can hardly let these poisonous charges against my writing, and my character, go unanswered.

Though there may be some people qualified by their expertise to read me a condescending lecture in the matter of Joe McCarthy, Ronald Radosh is not among them. As shown throughout his curious essay, his lack of knowledge is extensive, bizarrely so in certain cases, and made the worse by the strange inventions with which the discourse is salted. How someone who knows so little about a topic can set up shop as an Olympian arbiter of it is quite a puzzle.

Consider in this respect Radosh’s handling of what was arguably the most famous episode in the whole McCarthy saga – the June 1954 confrontation in the Army-McCarthy hearings between McCarthy and Army counsel Joseph Welch. In discussing my treatment of this encounter, Radosh concedes the point that I am making – that Welch’s “have you no decency” plaint was an act – but then adds the truly incredible statement: “But the hearing’s larger question was about the promotion of Army dentist Irving Peress to a higher rank – and Evans’s claims of the supposed dangers surrounding the dentist’s promotion do not hold up.”

This comment is so astounding I re-read it a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t missing something, but there it is: The larger question of the Welch-McCarthy confrontation was the Peress case. But as everyone knows who knows anything about the matter, this is absurdly false. The colloquy in question and the hearing of which it was a part had nothing to do with the Peress case, but were focused on the issue of Fort Monmouth – an entirely separate topic. Welch was baiting McCarthy staffer Roy Cohn about an intelligence report relating to alleged subversion at Monmouth, and why Cohn hadn’t delivered this by the fastest possible method to the Secretary of the Army. It was in the course of this harangue that McCarthy brought up the matter of Welch aide Frederick Fisher and his former membership in the National Lawyers Guild, prompting Welch’s famous challenge.

None of this had the slightest connection to Peress, who wasn’t involved with Monmouth, had been stationed elsewhere, and was the subject of other, separate proceedings. Different person, different Army base, different hearings. From all of which it’s apparent that Ronald Radosh is clueless on the topic – doesn’t know the first thing about it and apparently can’t be troubled to find out, which he might easily have done by reading the relevant sets of hearings. This bespeaks not only ignorance of the issues but a reckless indifference to the claims of fact that is remarkable in any context – the more so considering his lofty pose as an authority on McCarthyana.

(Radosh’s comment about my “claims” concerning the Peress case also happens to be false, but there are so many errors of this nature in his review that I can’t possibly answer them all in a single letter.)

A similar indifference to facts of record appears in the Radosh treatment of other cases. Notable among these is yet another famous episode, the testimony of Annie Lee Moss, a black woman working as a code clerk for the Army who got called before the McCarthy panel. Mrs. Moss having been named as a member of the Communist Party by FBI undercover operative Mary Markward, McCarthy wondered how someone so identified could get a position as an Army code clerk. Mrs. Moss’s answer was that they had nailed the wrong person, that some other Annie Lee Moss was really the culprit they were after. The case was immortalized by Edward R. Murrow in his TV show back in the 1950s and by actor-filmmaker George Clooney in a Murrow-worshipping movie of 2005.

I devote a chapter to the Moss case, with references to official records, including long-classified archives of the FBI. According to Radosh, however, a great failing of my book is that I am simply repeating things long known to experts such as himself – “well-trod ground” as he puts it – and my treatment of the Moss case is allegedly of this nature. What I have to say about the case, per the yawning Radosh, practically nodding off from boredom, was already said in 1983 by liberal anti-McCarthy biographer David Oshinsky – “so this, too, is not new.” This comment further shows Radosh knows nothing of the matters he’s discussing, obviously hasn’t studied the case, and doesn’t even seem to have read my chapter on it. My treatment is nothing like Oshinsky’s – whose discussion would lead the reader to believe that the FBI confirmation of Moss’s CP membership was based on the say-so of Markward.

My version is quite different, showing that the FBI had in its possession the records of the Communist Party, and wasn’t simply relying on the word of Markward. The Bureau records, part of which I photographically reproduce, reveal that Mrs. Moss was indeed a member of the Communist Party, that Army officials themselves had been trying to have her ousted as a security risk only to be overruled at higher levels, and that the FBI had clearly explained the facts about the case to the Democratic contingent on the McCarthy panel a good two weeks before the Democrats and the sainted Murrow floated the bogus story of multiple Annie Lee Mosses. All this may be found in the records of the FBI, but none of it in the pages of Oshinsky, or the musings of Ronald Radosh.

As important as such factual bloopers, in some ways even more so, is the manner in which Radosh fills gaps in his knowledge with reversals of the empirical record in which he represents me as saying the exact opposite of what I have actually written. This happens so frequently as to suggest a deliberate tactic – apparently on the premise that, if I didn’t say something or other in defense of Joe McCarthy, I should have, so that’s how Radosh describes it. Following are a few examples:

Radosh says: “In a similar fashion, Evans supports McCarthy’s outrageous assertion about Gen. George C. Marshall.” I in fact wrote the opposite, in several places, to wit: “McCarthy was quite right that an immense conspiracy was afoot – especially with regard to China – though erring as to the role of Marshall. … Without trying to rehash the long career of Marshall, a few examples may be cited to suggest the factual errors in McCarthy’s thesis. … McCarthy made his share of errors … [among them] the Marshall speech . …”

(The “immense conspiracy” involved in all of this, by the way, included a high-level U.S. scheme during World War II to murder our anti-Communist ally Chiang Kai-shek, repeated aid cut-offs to injure Chiang in his struggle with the Chinese Reds, and a State Department plot to overthrow him through a military coup d’‚tat when he sought refuge on Formosa-Taiwan. All of this is documented in my book, but apparently qualifies as more old-hat material well-known and boring to experts such as Radosh, which is perhaps why he doesn’t mention any of it.)

On the related case of Owen Lattimore, Radosh says: “Evans seeks to justify McCarthy … by bending evidence to imply, without proof, that perhaps Lattimore was a spy.” Bending evidence? I in fact wrote – contra the statements of leftward McCarthy antagonist Millard Tydings that the FBI file on Lattimore contained no charges of espionage – that the files show such charges did exist in fair profusion and were being avidly followed up by the Bureau. To which I added: “As the investigation was ongoing, and the redacted fragments are hard to judge, this doesn’t mean the charges were true, or that if they had once been true that they remained so in 1950. … As to whether such charges were valid when McCarthy made his later retracted ‘espionage’ allegation, given the condition of the files, it’s hard to judge, but the probabilities are against it (and even if the charges were true it’s hard to see how McCarthy could have proved them).”

In defending Lattimore from such charges, Radosh devotes a fair amount of space to bashing ex-Communist Louis Budenz, who repeatedly and quite credibly testified that Lattimore had been named to him by Communist leaders as a propagandist for the party (and, incidentally, it’s sad to see the long-playing left-wing smear campaign against Budenz being parroted in the pages of NR). But Budenz didn’t testify that Lattimore was engaged in Soviet intelligence operations or spying. That testimony came from former Soviet official Alexander Barmine, who told the FBI and the McCarran committee that Lattimore and his sidekick, Joseph Barnes, had been identified to him in the 1930s as Soviet intelligence agents. Radosh, accusing me of “bending evidence,” somehow neglects to note this.

On yet another front, Radosh writes: “He [Evans] does not emphasize, although his own data make it clear, that most of the knowledge about these people came before McCarthy was on the scene.” This is in some ways the most remarkable statement of all, as I repeatedly say the reverse, almost to the point of monotony, e.g.: “As the records clearly show, his [McCarthy’s] lists of cases and much of his information about subversion in the Federal government were derived from rosters previously put together by the FBI, State Department security screeners, and some of his congressional colleagues. … In the typical instance, McCarthy’s charges broke no new ground” – and many other comments of like nature.

This is going pretty heavy on the quotations, but they are offered to suggest what degree of trust may be placed in the assertions and paraphrases of Radosh as to the contents of my book. As these instances suggest, that degree of trust is roughly speaking zero. All of which is very bad, but from my standpoint by no means the worst of it. Far more disturbing is a recurring ad hominem element in Radosh’s comments – revealing a nasty penchant for turning a debate about substantive issues into a species of personal slander.

At one point, discussing the Amerasia case of 1945 in which official documents were funneled to a pro-Red publication and the facts about this hidden from the public, Radosh writes, “Evans tries hard to make it appear the cover-up was something he discovered.” (No evidence is presented for this snide assertion, nor could it be, for none exists.) Even worse, in referring to a book he and Prof. Harvey Klehr published on the Amerasia case in 1996, Radosh parenthetically says this was “a book from which Evans takes virtually all of his material and which he does not acknowledge.” This vicious statement is an astounding, and outrageous, lie. My documentation of the Amerasia fix, cover-up, grand-jury rigging, wiretapping, and so on is derived from the files of the FBI here in Washington, several thousand pages of which I have in my possession, accumulated over a span of years. It owes nothing to the Klehr-Radosh book, as may readily be seen by scanning my end-notes and comparing these to their annotations, which are based on an entirely different indexing system, so that one isn’t transposable to the other.

On the merits of the Klehr-Radosh book itself, I should add that I have the utmost respect for Harvey Klehr, an eminent scholar of these matters, and gave the book a favorable review when it appeared a decade ago – even though I am personally criticized in it (a rare experience, I should think, in book-reviewing circles). But I derived none of my FBI documentation from it, provide material that isn’t featured in it, and conversely don’t cover matters that it covers because my materials differed in form and content from those collected at Emory University, which has its own archive of FBI files pertaining to Amerasia, a main source of the Klehr-Radosh data.

(A single overlapping item from this source, unrelated to the fix or the FBI, is a photo of Lattimore et al., obtained by my publisher from Emory with full and proper acknowledgment given.)

I have now been a journalist for upward of 50 years, most of them with some connection or other to National Review. In all that span, many things have been said about me and my work, not all of them positive in nature. But at no point in my career has anyone to my knowledge ever accused me of plagiarism, one of the most serious charges that can be leveled at a professional writer. Nor do I recall even my most determined left-liberal foes, however much they might disagree with me, accusing me of being in any way dishonest. It remained for these sinister charges to be made in the year 2007 by Ronald Radosh – in the pages of National Review. What all that says about Radosh, National Review, and me, I leave to the judgment of the reader.

—M. Stanton Evans, Washington, D.C.

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