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September 2017

When history repeats itself

Condensed from "A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS" by Jennet Conant:

 New fears about the nation's security had gripped the public. The tone of political debate in Congress grew sharply partisan and bitter, with the Republicans making the most of charges of Communist infiltration of the Truman administration. ... Even more troubling than the hardening of ideology was the vicious Red-baiting of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. ... McCarthy's Red scare became a real cause of concern, alarm even, to State Department Personnel. He had made the overseas information agency one of his targets and had vowed to root out "security risks." Hoping to appease McCarthy, President Dwight D. Eisenhower's new Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, had dismissed a number of high-level diplomats and had warned that anything less than "positive loyalty" from Foreign Service officers was "not tolerable at this time." 

Paul had seen only trouble ahead. Rumors about where McCarthy's tactics of intimidation - the book burning and finger-pointing -- might lead had spread like wildfire through the diplomatic community. Paul was unnerved by McCarthyism and considered the senator to be "a desperately dangerous, power-hungry, fascist-operating bastard. Eisenhower appears to be trying to save the Republican Party at the expense of the country," he wrote to his family in March 1945.

Julia and Paul had watched with sinking hearts as one after another of the career of Foreign Service Officers they had served with in China, among them some of their closest friends, had been forced out while still others quit in disgust. Anyone who had departed from the official line in the Far East, or had the temerity to write a critical report, was being labeled un-American. ... "Quite a number of people were just ruined," recalled Julia. ... Writing to her sister, Julia confided her misgivings: "After the events of hte last few years, I have entirely lost the nobility and esprit de corps. I feel, actually, that any moment we might be accused of being Communists and traitors."

Paul was informed that he was the subject of a State Department Special Inquiry, an official investigation into his character, reputation, and loyalty. Friends, relations, employers, and associates -- from the distant past to the present -- had been tracked down and interviewed." 

As soon as he received a copy of his clearance, Paul wired Julia: Investigation Concluded Successfully for Me. ... No apology was forthcoming, nor did he expect one."