Malacandra.me

Not your grandfather’s McCarthyism

Not your grandfather's McCarthyism

by digby



Think Progress caught one of Trump's big supporters, Steven Milloy,a Fox News columnist and coal executive who served on President Donald Trump’s EPA transition team, defending McCarthy and Nixon:

Milloy, a well known climate science denier and former tobacco lobbyist, thinks air pollution and cigarette smoking have gotten a bum rap, too, and that Pope Francis is a commie (“the Red Pope“).

This story began Thursday when former FBI director James Comey defended on Twitter the FBI’s pushback against the infamous Nunes memo, which tried and failed to show malfeasance by the FBI.

In his usual sanctimonious fashion, Comey wrote, "in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy," which is true but whatever. Anyway:
The right wing sprang to the defense of the McCarthy on Twitter, lead by Milloy, who first tweeted, “There is no greater Left-wing invented slur than ‘McCarthyism.'” 
By Friday night, Milloy apparently concluded that Comey’s phrase “weasels and liars” was also referring to Richard Nixon, so he further tweeted: “Democrat dirty tricks were able to drive the heroic Joe McCarthy to an early grave. Democrat dirty tricks forced Nixon to resign.”
History, of course, takes a very different view. 
Even the Republican-controlled Senate, in its online history, slams McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn (who would go on to be Donald Trump’s mentor). “In the spring of 1954, McCarthy picked a fight with the U.S. Army,” the U.S. Senate history explains, and the Army hired lawyer Joseph Welch to defend it. At a televised session on June 9, 1954, McCarthy asserted that one of Welch’s attorneys was linked to a Communist group.
(This is a reminder that Republicans have a history of going after their own sacred cows for political purposes, just FYI.)

The Republicans are confused. Very confused. They are now claiming that the Democrats are McCarthyites because they are concerned about Russian interference in the election and the campaign of Donald Trump. That would track with the original McCarthy charges if we believed that the Democrats were doing this based upon no credible evidence that Trump and his entourage had participated in what was clearly a campaign to affect the 2016 election. (The extent to which the Russian government was actually responsible for Trump's victory is unknowable.) But the analogy breaks down at that point and shows that it only works as far as the fact that in both cases Russia was involved.

The analogy works better when you look at it from the other angle. McCarthy's tactic was to darkly smear employees of the US Government, from the army to the State Department, and members of the media as communist sympathizers. He destroyed lives and reputations of political opponents and government bureaucrats alike for political gain.

It wasn't really about the "Soviet threat" it was a right wing authoritarian move to shut down dissent and non-conformity. So, if you want to draw imperfect analogies to that time Nunes/Trump/Fox as the McCarthy figures fits a little bit better. This is also an authoritarian move on the part of Trump and his henchmen to subvert the rule of law and intimidate opposition.

However, the current assault on norms is unique to this time and place and where we are as a party. If Joseph Welch were to utter his words "at long last sir, have you no decency" today, there would be millions of twitter posters calling him a "libtard cuck" and the president would probably accuse him of being corrupt and that would be that. We live in a very different world in which a commonly held concept of "decency" is no longer operative.

If you want to understand who is the true avatar for our current cultural and political moment, it's not McCarthy, it's this person: (although to be fair, she actually wrote the book on defending McCarthy --- it was called "Treason", so they aren't entirely unrelated.)