The Untold Story of McCarthy’s Fall

Days of Shame

by Charles E. Potter
Coward McCann, 304 pp., $5.95

In 1958, four years after his political collapse and one year after his death, I wrote a short book on Senator Joe McCarthy. It was not a formal biography but a character study of sorts, and I felt no obligation to make a record for the historians. There were, however, certain stories I wished to tell either because I thought them interesting in themselves or because they seemed relevant to my limited purposes. One that I very much wanted to tell, more because it was interesting than because it was relevant, was that of a former newspaperman named Thomas McIntyre, who was known to me and to others in Washington to have played an important but largely untold part in bringing McCarthy low. I had often heard him tell bits and pieces of his story, but in those days—1954 and 1955—I had no plan to write a book about McCarthy and so I made no notes. Nor, I found, had the other reporters who had listened to him by the hour at the Press Club bar. When I undertook the book, I wanted to get the story and to get it straight, but when I tried to run him down, I could find no trace of him. This didn’t surprise me much. He had spent much of his life as a drifter—with several Skid Row interludes—and it was quite in character for him to have left no forwarding address when he headed out of Washington. After a while, I gave up and finished the book with no mention of him except in the acknowledgements. One thing I knew for certain was that I owed a large part of whatever understanding I had of McCarthy to those long sessions with Tommy McIntyre.

I don’t have the whole story now, but for reasons that will shortly become apparent, I want to put part of what I recall—and have recently confirmed by talking with others and with McIntyre himself—on the record. As a newspaper type, McIntyre was pure Central Casting. He was a cocky little Irishman with a large gift for wisecracking and drinking. He had worked here and there in the Middle West—between periods of unemployment due to booze. He could discuss American flophouses with the authority of a Baedeker. When I knew him in the Fifties, he was on the wagon—it was always Cokes and Seven-Ups for him at the Press Club Bar—and had been sober long enough to have acquired, in the early Fifties, a solid reputation as a political reporter on the Detroit Times. He was a respected citizen of Detroit as well as a respected journalist. Michigan politicians, labor leaders, and business men wanted his good opinion and often brought their problems to him. Not long after “Engine Charley” Wilson moved in as Secretary of Defense, McIntyre was borrowed from the Times to do some kind of public-relations job for the Department. The work took him to …

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Letters

Only in America December 9, 1965