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The Fulbright Paradox | Foreign Affairs

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It was an act of political bravery heard around Washington, if not around the world. By January 1954, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations had upended lives and destroyed careers, all in an effort to expose a fantastic conspiracy inside American government and society. That month, the committee was up for reauthorization. When senators’ names were called to approve a motion to keep it going, only one nay came from the floor: that of the junior Democratic senator from Arkansas, J. William Fulbright. “I realized that there was just no limit to what he’d say and insinuate,” Fulbright later said of McCarthy. “As the hearings proceeded, it suddenly occurred to me that this fellow would do anything to deceive you to get his way.” Within a year, Fulbright had helped persuade 66 other senators to join him in censuring McCarthy and ending his demagogic run. By the spring of 1957, McCarthy was gone for good, dead of…

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