Dared to Speak Out

McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled.
~Joseph R. McCarthy

 

Recently, New York Representative Peter King began a series of hearings looking into “Radical Muslim Activity” in America. In his view, he is simply trying to protect the country by rooting out terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. He feels he is simply being “vigilant”, as any American should. But, for many  Americans, this can’t help but remind them of another “champion of America and freedom”.  Another “servant of the people” protecting us from an internal menace that we were just too blind to see. Throughout the late 40’s and early 50’s, Joseph McCarthy began a one man campaign against Communism. A threat, in his mind, that was greater than any America had faced. Forget that Hitler guy we just finished off. The real enemy has always been Communism.This is the story of McCarthyism and how it crippled mid 20th century America with fear and paranoia, and brought about an anger and mistrust of American government that still holds strong to this day.

 

"I just wanna say that the following are all lies from a Communist socialist."

 

Joseph McCarthy was born in Wisconsin in 1908. He led a largely uneventful mid-western childhood.  At age 14 he dropped out of school to help his family maintain their farm.  At age 20 he entered high school and graduated in one year. McCarthy later attended college at Marquette University and eventually received a law degree after  a little dabbling in engineering in 1935. That same year he passed his bar exam. The following year he launched an unsuccessful campaign for district attorney as a Democrat.  In 1939 he switched Parties to Republican and eventually won the circuit judge position in Wisconsin’s 10th district. Officials were said to have been “shocked” by McCarthy’s dirty campaign tactics. He lied about his opponent openly and was even accused of publishing forged writings attributed to his opponent.  But he won.  Though inexperienced and highly deliberate with his cases, few of his decisions were ever overturned.  He became a very respected judge in the state but still somewhat mistrusted by many

In 1942, with America at war,  McCarthy was commissioned into the Marines even though his judicial status would have exempted him. McCarthy would often brag that he voluntarily enlisted with the Marines as a “buck private” but he was actually promoted to an officer due to his education the very first day.  He often claimed a wound he suffered during his service was received while in action as a tail gunner. It was actually from an accident aboard ship during  a ceremony for soldiers crossing the equator for the first time. Not very manly. Truth is that McCarthy was a desk jockey who rarely flew some training missions here and there. But he needed something he could sell.  In 1944, McCarthy decided to run for Senate as  a Republican in Wisconsin while still enlisted. He lost the Republican primary and after leaving the Marines in 1945, he ran unopposed and took back his old circuit court job.  He then began work on his next campaign for the Senate.

 

"Lemme tell ya 'bout this time I shot down three Nazis while also satisfying 2 movie starlets!"

 

The 1946 Wisconsin Senate campaign was a tough one. McCarthy went dirty early and often, starting in the primaries. His opponent was respected politician Robert La Folette. La Folette was a former Republican who left the Party to help shape the ideas that would eventually become the Progressive movement. He had returned to the Republican Party for this election, most likely to stop McCarthy. McCarthy went after him right away. He first chastised La Folette for not serving during WW2. La Folette was almost 50 when the war began.  He was legally to old to join. But the truth hardly matters in politics. He then accused La Folette of war profiteering. Of  “staying behind to make money” while McCarthy “fought for the country”. He claimed La Folette of making shady investments into companies profiting from the war.  The money was actually invested into a radio station.  McCarthy won by more than 5,000 votes. La Folette was so hurt and damaged by the accusations made against him that he retired from politics and it is claimed he committed suicide after numerous attacks against him following the election. Though established medical reports state he passed away months after the election from health issues. McCarthy was a U.S. Senator. God help us all.

McCarthy’s first day in the Senate set the tone for the rest of his career. One of the big issues of the day was  a coal miner’s strike in Pennsylvania. McCarthy suggested a solution. All the cola miners should be drafted into the Army. If they then still refused to mine coal, they should be court-martialed and shot. Few people were impressed. In fact, his whole first year was terribly unimpressive. As were the next two.  He had no legislation with his name on it, people were figuring out he lied about his war record, and he was being questioned for bribes and tax dodging. After he actually called for a stay of execution against former SS Nazi guards who had murdered dozens of American POWs in the Malmedy massacre, he was voted “the worst U.S. Senator”. It was looking like he would be one term and done. He pulled his closest advisers together and asked for suggestions on how he can keep his seat. One idea in particular stuck with him. Edmond Walsh, A roman Catholic priest and McCarthy’s closest confidant, suggested that McCarthy begin a campaign against communism. Specifically rooting out communist activity in the Democratic Party.

 

And So It Begins

 

 

First let’s go down a side street here. McCarthy was originally a Democrat. Raised by Democrats. But Democrats were different when he was young.  The Democrats were the Party of segregation, war,  overbearing government, and all the things we associate with current Republicans. But FDR changed it all with the New Deal. The New Deal  began a mass exodus of people from the Democratic Party that lasted on into the mid 6o’s. McCarthy’s loss in the Democratic Primary early in his political career and his  deep mistrust of Communism made him an easy target for Republican manipulation. They convinced him the New Deal was destroying America. It was a socialist agenda with roots in Communism and the Democrats are using it to turn us into Russia. This was really all the motivation McCarthy needed to take America down a dark path. He was already a well known anti-communist activist having many clashes with President’s Truman and Eisenhower. Now back to the main road.

McCarthy needed some people he could work with. People who enjoyed “favors”. Reporter Jack Anderson was  a friend of McCarthy and he called him up to offer a deal. McCarthy would allow him to listen in on private conversations with other lawmakers and people of interest, if Anderson would provide him with names and info on people he suspected of “communist” activity. Anderson later said that he went along because he feared McCarthy and wanted to be on his good side but he seemed awful enthusiastic about spying on Americans. One of the first names Anderson gave McCarthy was Truman aide, David Demarest Lloyd.

The genesis of McCarthyism seems to be a speech given on February 9, 1950 to the Republican Women’s Club in Wheeling, West Virginia. In an earlier Salt Lake City speech he had attacked the Secretary of  State for being, among other things, a”pompous diplomat in striped pants” and made accusations of Communist sympathizing.  Here he would go much much further.    The details of the speech are debated  as, apparently, no audio recording of the speech was saved. The key moment goes like this, McCarthy pulls out  a sheet of paper he claims has the names of 205 people working in the State Department who are all Communists. He tells the audience that these names have all been brought to the attention of the Secretary of State and he knowingly refuses to do anything to address Communist activity in our own State Department.  Claiming they are all known members of the American Communist Party. The 205 number was later shortened to 57. McCarthy  seems to be basing his claim on a 1946 letter written by former SoS James Byrnes in which he recommends the State Department disqualify  284 people for permanent employment and that 79 of them had already been removed. But McCathy latched on to those 205 still remaining and ran with it. But by the time this speech was given, only 65 of the people in that letter still worked at the State Department and they had all undergone extended security checks. McCarthy got his “media buzz”, America got  a fresh helping of paranoia. About a month after the speech, the term McCarthyism was first used by cartoonist Herbert Block in the Washington Post.  McCarthy loved it.

Communism was a lingering fear in America already. The First Red Scare contributed to a rise in membership for the Communist Party of America thanks in large part to their pro-union stance and early opposition to fascism, the primary target of the First Red Scare. But not long after WW2, feelings on Communism began to split.  Russia’s aggressive posture and China’s fall to Mao and the Communist Party left many wondering if another war was around the corner.  Russia had just detonated an atomic bomb that we soon found out was built with stolen Allied intelligence by a Russian spy. Americans were on edge whenever talk turned to Communism. McCarthy was more than ready to exploit it. Communism was the Republican go to card. Much the way Islam is now for many Republican politicians. Conservative politicians held a deep seeded hatred of the New Deal policies and any progressive legislation that spawned from it. They argued against Child Labor laws and women’s suffrage. Calling them “Communist plots” to take over America.  That’s right. The Communists were trying to take our child workers away.   And the Republicans would have none of it!

 

Das vitanya, comrades.

 

McCarthy was countered on all sides by Democratic politicians. They pushed back against McCarthy’s narrative by pointing out that McCarthy’s list was deceitful as only a handful of those on it were still employed at the State Department.Even  President’s Truman and Eisenhower  initiated broad “loyalty programs”to weed out Communist subversives. But none of this pleased McCarthy. And none of it got through to the majority of American people who were concerned with the deteriorating war in Korea and the permanent  placement of Communist rule in China.  With the East seemingly aligned against them, many Americans saw infiltration and indoctrination as a very serious thing. The Communists were invading from within.

McCarthy found a kindred spirit in FBI Director,  J. Edgar Hoover. If McCarthy was the king of anti-Communists, Hoover was the GOD he received his divine authority from. Many agree that without the FBI,  McCarthy’s crusade would have failed before it ever began. A Washington reporter, no matter how many connections he has, could only get you so far. The FBI could give you almost anything you wanted. And Hoover needed no prodding. He was a fervent anti – Communist and had been conducting “probes” into Communist activity in America for years. Even before he had gained the title of Director. He was leading his own witch hunt that had already cost hundreds of federal employees their jobs. Never knowing who their accuser was or what the charges actually were. Hoover was more than happy to supply McCarthy with all the “information” he needed to carry out his upcoming Senate hearings.

At this point McCarthy had gone from political dead weight to, possibly, the most powerful man on Capital Hill.  Many political opponents from earlier in his career dared not cross him now. Once McCarthy won re-election he was made chair of the Senate’s Committee on Government Operations. Many on the Republican side were starting to tire of his methods so they put him here instead of the Interior Security Subcommittee, which dealt more directly with anti-Communist activities, so he would “be out of the way”. But this panel also contained a subcommittee(think Russian nesting dolls) with rules flexible enough for McCarthy to continue his witch hunt. His first target was Voice of America. The official radio station of the United States Federal Government.

For several days McCarthy badgered VOA employees on camera with blatant lies and veiled threats. Another man is claimed to have committed suicide following McCarthy’s public humiliation of him. VOA survived but it would be crushed for some time to come.  Next, McCarthy decided it was time to burn some books. McCarthy sent his lackey, Roy Cohn,  overseas to Europe to go through various State Department libraries and log all books with a Communist leaning or by a supposedly Communist author. Cohn returned with the list and McCarthy immediately went public with it. The State Department caved and ordered all overseas libraries to pull the books from their shelves. Some libraries decided hat wasn’t enough and burned the “forbidden books”. On a personal note here, I can watch a pile of  dolphins burn and not shed a  tear. Show me a pile of burning books wand I’ll cry you a river.  Where was this country going?

 

This is what the death of society looks like

McCarthy brought in J.B. Matthews from the House Un-American Activities Committee early on to be his  staff director. The move quickly became controversial when it was learned that Matthews had written a recent article entitled, “Reds and Our Churches” , in which he smears the entire Protestant religion with accusations of Communism in their upper ranks. Catholics attacking Protestants.  Who would have guessed? Anyways, pressure mounted to a degree that McCarthy eventually cut ties with him. His opponents took this as a sign of weakness or failing on McCarthy’s part and he lost his air of invincibility.

McCarthy’s next target the American Army. Quite a big target. McCarthy immediately began on a bad note. He charged that there was an active spy ring in a research laboratory at Fort Monmouth. After weeks of “investigations”, McCarthy gave up on the spy ring theory and moved on to someone else. Specifically New York dentist, Irving Peress. Peress was drafted in 1952 and received the rank of major in 1953(this will be relevant later). The source of the controversy is that Peress,  a member of the left wing American Labor Party,  had declined to state his political affiliation on a “loyalty review” form. This meant he had to be discharged within the next 90 days. McCarthy thought he had found his straw man and he subpoenaed Major Peress to appear at his hearings. McCarthy carried out his usual one sided interrogation but Peress cited the 5th Amendment and refused to answer any of McCarthy’s questions. McCarthy was, of course, furious and sent amessage to Secretary of the Army, Robert Stevens insisting that Peress be court-martialed. That same day Peress asked his commanding officer that his discharge be moved up. As a major, Peress was given an honorable discharge from the Army. A rallying cry sprung up, at McCarthy’s encouragement, among his supporters and other anti-Communists:  “Who promoted Peress?”  McCarthy, of course, knew exactly who. It was him. Peress was promoted through the Doctor Draft Law that McCarthy himself had voted for.  But McCarthy just wanted the drum beat to get his next target in his crosshairs. The man who had discharged Major Peress, Brigadier General Ralph W. Zwicker. Zwicker refused to answer many of McCarthy’s questions and reportedly changed his story at least 3 times regarding his knowledge of Peress’ loyalty test before his discharge. McCarthy verbally berated him and calle dhim “unfit to wear that uniform”.

This was a mistake. A huge mistake. Zwicker was a  highly decorated hero of WW2. This brought the anger of the military, newspapers,  politicians on both sides, and, most importantly, President Eisenhower. Eisenhower was no fan of McCarthy but he had kept a  distance thus far from his activities. This blatant insult to a war hero and personal friend could not be ignored. With Eisenhower’s encouragement, the Army began a counter campaign against Senator McCarthy. The Army decided to fight fire with fire. They accused McCarthy and his flunky Roy Cohn  of pressuring the army to give favorable treatment to an enlisted friend of theirs.  McCarthy denied the charges and said it was merely payback for his earlier questioning of Zwicker. Regardless, McCarthy ws pulled in front of his own committee to answer these charges. Poetic justice, I’m sure. After weeks of debate McCarthy was exonerated but Cohn got a slap on the wrist. But McCarthy had taken a huge hit. The American public had 6 straight weeks of his nonsense shoved in their faces and they were not impressed. His popularity waned, even among his supporters. The Republican party began to see him as a serious liability.

A particularly damning piece on Senator McCarthy was aired later that year on Edward R. Murrow’s See It Now documentary series. Followed by an equally destructive piece the following week. Murrow laid out for all to see, McCarthy’s bullying and fear mongering. The cap to it all was when McCarthy later appeared on See It Now and made allegations that Murrow was linked to a known Communist propaganda group, VOKS.  Murrow was a popular journalist with people of all political stripes and his viewership quickly turned on McCarthy and his popularity plummeted further.

It was over. McCarthy had ruined himself. His inability to control his anger and  paranoia had driven him to the fringe of the fringe. No one wanted anything to do with him on either side. The Republican Party had abandoned him as one Repub. Senator compared him to Adolph Hitler in a speech on the Senate floor. In August of 1954, hearings were held to censure Senator McCarthy. A list of 46 “breaches of Senate etiquette” were attached to the resolution. After 2 months of debate, two charges were filed:

  • That McCarthy had “failed to cooperate with the Subcommittee on Rules and Administration,” and “repeatedly abused the members who were trying to carry out assigned duties…”
  • That McCarthy had charged “three members of the [Watkins] Select Committee with ‘deliberate deception’ and ‘fraud’…that the special Senate session…was a ‘lynch party,'” and had characterized the committee “as the ‘unwitting handmaiden,’ ‘involuntary agent’ and ‘attorneys in fact’ of the Communist Party,” and had “acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute, to obstruct the constitutional processes of the Senate, and to impair its dignity.”

McCarthy was censured by a vote of 67 to 22. His political career was over. He no longer chaired any committees, the press ignored him, and he gave speeches to empty chambers. He left politics 2 years later but continued to rail against Communism.

And so ends a dark period in American politics when paranoia and fear were the rule, and common sense and decency was shouted down by raving lunatics. But McCarthy’s legacy is ongoing. Many conservatives still think McCarthy was right. You still see this unfounded fear of Communism and Socialism in their media. Hear it from their politicians. Rep. King’s hearings being the closest we have gotten to McCarthy in quite some time. McCarthy, and his shill Roy Cohn, basically wrote the playbook on fear and intimidation for modern politicians. One they still use today.

Well, hope you enjoyed the story and maybe learned something you didn’t know.

Ya’ll come back now! Ya hear!

"I recommend this article be removed before I have you imprisoned."

Short link:  http://planetpov.com/?p=22990

 

 

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PatsyT
Member

Funny how Reince Priebus is also from Wisconsin.
Khirad posted this last October.. Thanks Khirad!
and who is the head of the GOP today?

http://planetpov.com/2010/10/06/exclusive-republican-tea-party-pledge-secret-draft/

Slip?
Reince Priebus Slips and Says Execute Obama instead of Osama three times
httpsh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dumZ5bw2WUs&feature=player_embedded

http://democurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2010/10/wisconsin-gop-chairman-priebus-calls.html

*edit Don Knotts should have been left out of this.

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Truth
Member

And the lesson is…. people like that should be stopped as soon as their destructivity becomes evident.
But then, fear mongering, drama and hysteria seem to sell well. How else could a Palin, a Bachmann, a Beck, a Limbaugh etc. be around for so long AND earn moreover so much money?
And how else could a certain quite idealess party base their election strategy on that alone and even win?

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KQµårk 死神
Member

AD you have to recognize how both the political climate and media are different today.

We have MacCarthy in a similar way today in the form of Palin. She was totally rebuked by the mainstream. She lost her bid to be VP, was found to abuse here power as gov where she quit half way in and yet the media instead of ignoring her covered her world tour like she was a rock star.

I doubt people would respond to Morrow the same way either. They would just call him part of the liberal media and Faux News would try to discredit him as much as possible.

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Buddy McCue
Member

KQ – Palin’s star may have faded. “Good riddance,” I say, if it’s true.

Unfortunately, Palin seems to have been replaced by Michelle Bachmann, who is saying these days that social conservativism IS fiscal conservatism, whatever THAT means.

Bad ideas just don’t go away, even if the people who speak them sometimes do.

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Truth
Member

Hello again – it’s really me. I created a new account for the project to facilitate things (or so I hoped).

***EDIT: Buddy, it’s not working. I thought you could go and see in the drafts how the title looks like. Nada! Therefore please email me, I’d like the title with your picture to come out as well as possible.

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TheEmeraldProject
Member

Hi Buddy – this is Truth. I’m working on the title for the Emerald series now. Could you have a look in Dashboard/drafts if I’m getting anywhere with those? If yes, which one is better? If no, how to go about? I’ll go back to work on the type, I planned to put your picture on the left and a very small title bar on the right, but it didn’t work, so I had to make it bigger, now I need to adjust the original. Please let me know what you think. You can also email me, which may be easier: [email protected] You can quickly put up an email for purposes like that (as I did) so you don’t need to take your private one.

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kesmarn
Admin

KQ, I’m glad to see that we’re in agreement on Palin. (See my comment below.) My hope is that, as with McCarthy, people are now sensing that she has really overplayed her hand. It’s past time someone called her bluff.

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Khirad
Member

Okay, I’m half through and my eyes are straining.

But before I return, did anyone see Reza Aslan talk about Peter King on Colbert?

That’s why I like Aslan.

And, half way through, it’s striking how many similarities Ahmadinejad has with McCarthy. Not just the tactics, but his roots, his ascent, his religious adviser, etc.

McCarthyism never died. It moved to Iran. That’s where if it weren’t for confessional differences, King and Bachmann would fit right in with the establishment there.

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bito
Member
Khirad
Member

That’s the one!

I also loved the part where, HELLOOO, I wrote my dissertation on this… just sayin’… no invite.

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KillgoreTrout
Member

HAHA! This is a good example of why so many morons on the right think SC is one of them. They just don’t get subtlety.

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bito
Member

“There is a rumor that Peter King is a dick- I haven’t any proof…
~~~~
So let’s have a congressional investigation to find out if Peter King is a dick.

😆

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kesmarn
Admin

Maybe the investigation would discover that he is really King Peter.

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KillgoreTrout
Member

I loved it bito. Can you imagine such an investigation. It wouldn’t take long I am guessing.

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Kalima
Admin

Bito, the rumour I heard was that he didn’t have one, or the bits and pieces that come with one.

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Khirad
Member

Yes, that’s why I love Reza Aslan. That was quite the line.

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oldpol2
Member
oldpol2

Thank you for a well presented and well thought out post. I am posting to FB in the hopes that some will recognize the dangerous and sad parallels that exist in our country today. A major distinction will be the economic stress of our country and the world. Most families were contented based on the economic expansion of the post war era. The economic policies of the last 35 years has created a growing medium particularly suited to a near mass hysteria and a search for a person, party or ideology, to blame.
One can only hope that the turnaround comes sooner rather than later.

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KQµårk 死神
Member

AD excellent piece.

The right is creating a new Red Scare just because the president is half African American pure and simple. They really think Muslims with the aid of their biggest active sleeper agent, Obama are trying to institute Sharia law not just in the US but around the world.

http://www.impeachobamacampaign.com/obama-administration-pushing-sharia-law-in-kenya/#idc-container

People really need to understand how batshitcrazy this new GOP is before saying bother sides are the same.

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kesmarn
Admin

ADONAI, I think this era is one of the most interesting (and also scary) periods of American history. People who only have an “I Love Lucy/Andy Griffith/Mayberry” impression of the 1950s, should know that there was this dark, paranoid, mean side of that decade as well.

To me the person who has a personality closest to McCarthy’s in the modern age is Sarah Palin. They both practice(d) what has been dubbed the “Politics of Outrage.” They consciously link themselves with notions of what it is to be a “Real American,” or a “True Patriot,” so that when you oppose them, the opposition can be framed as “Opposing the Troops,” or “Treason against the Country,” or some other unforgivable sin.

The one thing many hate/fear mongers seem to have in common, though, is that — like McCarthy — they always over play their hand.

And they’re always amazed when they go down in flames. Because no matter how much they wanna make history, somehow they can never be bothered to read it.

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bettybp
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bettybp

Adoni, very well done article, and kesmarn, very true about the dark side of the decade.
My favorite part of the McCarthy saga,I remember from my father’s excitement when he watched the McCarthy hearings on TV. He was overjoyed when Joseph N. Welch squelched McCarthy with:
“You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you No sense of decency?” Dad and I watched the room erupt in loud cheers for Welch – and it was considered the coup de grace.

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kesmarn
Admin

Thank you, bettybp! For including the quote of the whole McCarthy era! No discussion of the period is complete without that one.

The was the watershed moment.

The fear-balloon lost all its hot air and collapsed in a little heap on the floor.

When that happens with Palin, Breitbart and Bachmann it will be a day to celebrate.

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KillgoreTrout
Member

This is a potrayal of Roy Cohn, by Al Pacino in a scene from Angels In America. What a perfect insight to the viciousness of the man, and the utter hypocrisy;

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escribacat
Member

“Citizen Coen” is another great movie.

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KillgoreTrout
Member

Yes, e’cat. James Woods plays Roy Cohn. He plays the part well. I thought Pacino’s portrayal of him was superb. Pacino is great at portraying nasty characters.

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oldpol2
Member
oldpol2

Wow, I have never seen that. Amazing clip. Now I will need to see this in it’s entirety. thanks.

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KillgoreTrout
Member

oldpol2, Angels In America is a two part HBO mini-series. It is extremely well written, with excellent dialogue. It stars Meryl Streep, Pacino, Mary Louise Parker, Jeffery Wright, Emma Thompson, Justin Kirk…..et al. Superbly directed by Mike Nichols.

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oldpol2
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oldpol2

DOH, don’t get HBO. Bummer!

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KillgoreTrout
Member

oldpol2, it’s out on DVD now. I am sure you can rent it from your favorite video store or Netflix.
I rented it from a video store, several years ago.

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KillgoreTrout
Member