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McCarthyism – Everything Old Is New Again

Everything old is new again. That sounds like a nice thing until you get to the Republican Party and its desire to resurrect McCarthyism. Sen. Joe McCarthy was not the one who started the witch hunts now bear his name, but he was the one that took it to such lengths that the whole edifice came crashing down and his name become associated with one of the most shameful times in American history.

The idea of looking into communist activities in the United States actually started with the Dies committee, which eventually morphed in the House Un-American Activities Committee, or HUAC. Originally, HUAC looked into the activities of American Nazi’s during the run up to World War II. After the war, this committee quickly switched to trying to find communists under every bush.

Sen. McCarthy had his own committee in the Senate and was instrumental in ratcheting up the level of fear and victimization by accusation. At one time, he claimed that he knew of 130 communists working in Defense plants. He was willing to call anyone a Communist and or Communist sympathizer if it was to his political advantage. Eventually it grew so obvious that Sen. McCarthy was engaging in not only bullying but slander for political purposes and finally he was censured by the Senate.

Unfortunately, this virus that he unleashed did not die with his political career. The John Birch Society took up the banner. They were willing to see Communists anywhere, even in the White House. When they accused Republican President Eisenhower of being a communist it was finally enough for the Republicans of the day and William F. Buckley (not exactly noted for being a liberal) finally managed to get the John Birch Society disowned by the Republican Party.

That was 1962, now hit the fast forward button for 45 years and what do we find? As I started with, everything old is new again. The Republican Party is back to the days of making accusations of disloyalty against anyone that disagrees with them. Most of the Left was gob-smacked at the Bush Administrations willingness to paint those who opposed its wars in Afghanistan and especially the war of choice in Iraq as “traitors”, or appeasers.

It made exactly no difference that the DFH’s were right that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, that he had no links to Al Qaeda, that he was contained and no real threat to anyone but his next door neighbor Iran. If you were not balls the wall gung ho about Iraq, then you were with the “Islamofascists” and probably and enemy of the United States in the so-called “Global War On Terror”.

As the majority of the American people became sickened by the actions of the Bush Administration and prepared to elect a Democratic president. This morphed in the Birther movement. The president of the United States couldn’t possibly be legitimate, it must be a plot by nefarious agents.

We also see the John Birch Society welcomed back into the Republicans arms. Have they moderated their tone? Hell no, they still believe that the Occupational Health and Safety Agency is unconstitutional and that fluoridation of drinking water is communist plot.

More worrying is the Republicans widespread use of the accusation of disloyalty to move their political agenda forward. We all know they have their collective panties in a bunch over the idea of using the Article III courts (the Federal Court system created by Article III of the Constitution) to try some of the Guantanamo Bay Prisoners. They have even taken to questioning the loyalty of some of the DOJ lawyers who have defended the prisoners. From Adam Sawyers very good article over at Tapped:

The "Gitmo Nine" aren’t terrorists. They weren’t captured fighting for the Taliban. They’ve made no attempts to kill Americans. They haven’t declared war on the United States, nor have they joined any group that has. The "Gitmo Nine" are lawyers working in the Department of Justice who fought the Bush administration’s treatment of suspected terrorists as unconstitutional. Now, conservatives are portraying them as agents of the enemy.

snip
On Tuesday, all attempts at subtlety were abandoned. Keep America Safe, the conservative advocacy group which was founded by Liz Cheney to defend torture and oppose civilian trials for suspected terrorists and which has close ties to McCarthy, turned the "Gitmo Nine" into the "al-Qaeda Seven." The group put out a Web video demanding that Holder name the other Justice Department lawyers who had previously represented terrorist detainees or worked on similar issues for groups that opposed the Bush administration’s near-limitless assumption of executive power. "Whose values do they share?" a voice asks ominously. "Americans have a right to know the identity of the al-Qaeda Seven." The ad echoed McCarthy’s references to the "al-Qaeda bar" from months earlier.

"This is exactly what Joe McCarthy did," said Gude. "Not kind of like McCarthyism; this is exactly McCarthyism."

Be sure to read the whole thing here. The fact that our system of justice requires a zealous advocate for anyone accused of a crime seems to make no difference to Republicans., If you are at Guantanamo Bay, are a bad person who should be shunned by everyone Q.E.D. It does not matter if you were tortured or if you were turned over to the U.S. forces for a bounty, you are bad person and should have no rights.

That is not even the end of the story with accusation of disloyalty. Today Politico is reporting the Sen. Jim DeMint (Butt-Head –S.C.) is questioning the loyalty of the Senate Parliamentarian Alan Furmin.

“I think clearly the majority leader has his ear, and I’ve got concerns,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). “I think if he does not look at that very careful — reconciliation is supposed to be very narrowly defined, large legislative things don’t seem to fit in those parameters — I would think that reconciliation would make or break the perception of his objectivity.”

To back up their claims against Frumin, Republicans point to a decision he made last year when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced an amendment that would have created a single-payer health care system. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) tried to force clerks to read the entire 767-page amendment on the floor, but Frumin allowed Sanders to withdraw the amendment without the extended reading.

snip

“I think most people don’t trust him,” said a senior GOP official who regularly works with the parliamentarian.

Why is Mr. Frumin in deep water with the Republicans? Because is likely to rule that the changes to the HCR bill that the House will pass can be made by reconciliation.

Finally there are the efforts of the Texas School Board member Don McLeroy has been trying to get the infamous Sen. Joe rehabilitated by changing the way he is portrayed in history text books.

So we have come full circle, the Republicans in the early 1960’s understood what this kind of smear and accusation of disloyalty meant. They were not liberals by any stripe but they could see that if anyone could be accused of disloyalty and destroyed that no one was safe. It took the John Birch Society and Sen. McCarthy’s overreach to make that lesson abundantly clear to the nation, but it only took 45 years to erase it from the minds of today’s Republicans.

Here is hoping we don’t have to go all the way through black lists and Senate hearings before someone in the Republican Party stands up and asks “Finally have you no decency?”.

The floor is yours.

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org

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