When conservatives parrot liberal lies about Joe McCarthy
This remarkable upsurge has broken the chokehold on political discourse long exerted by the broadcast networks and their think-alikes at the New York Times and Washington Post.
That said, there are topics on which the new media go astray, perhaps because of their late arrival on the scene and/or immersion in a political culture that downplays historical knowledge in favor of who said what this morning. Foremost among such issues by a considerable margin has been the famous Sen. Joe McCarthy, bête-noir of the left, incessantly savaged in liberal textbooks and supposed chronicles of the Cold War.
As shown by now available FBI reports and other formerly confidential data, this liberal indictment of McCarthy is almost entirely fiction, though it takes a bit of digging to know this. Nothing unusual here of course, as liberal misrepresentations on all sorts of issues occur on a daily basis. Conservatives who pay attention know this is so and constantly deplore it.
How ironic, then, to have conservative spokesmen at talk radio shows, the blogosphere or Fox News robotically utter liberal falsehoods about McCarthy as though these were established fact, with no hint that the conservative spokesmen know anything about the subject.
Such clueless comment was intense recently, in response to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s weird assertion that he had received a telephone tip from a nameless caller, saying Mitt Romney hadn’t paid taxes for a decade and that based on this Romney must now disprove the allegation.
Parroting liberal untruths
Reid’s ridiculous statement properly ignited conservative wrath (plus some unusual criticism from “mainstream” sources.) At this point, however, conservative talkers, bloggers and TV pundits veered off en masse into a fogbank of confusion, bracketing Reid with Joe McCarthy and repeatedly parroting liberal untruths about McCarthy’s record.
Thus, on a recent Monday, no fewer than three conservative radio hosts on WMAL, Washington’s main political talk outlet, compared Reid to McCarthy as a supposed exemplar of political evil. In all these instances it was painfully clear that the talkers knew nothing of McCarthy, but were simply reciting in half-remembered phrases the standard liberal line about him.
Nor were the radio hosts alone in this performance. Joining in the Reid-McCarthy analogizing have been, among others, actor and former Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), writers at Breitbart.com, National Review’s Rich Lowry and columnists/TV commentators Charles Krauthammer and George Will. In these instances also it’s evident that the commentators know nothing at all about McCarthy except what the liberals deign to tell them.
Vivid examples of this problem were the remarks of two radio talkers and columnist Will that McCarthy, in making his initial charges of Communist infiltration, claimed to have a “list” of Reds and fellow travelers in the federal work force, but was bluffing when he said so. As Will flatly put it on ABC-TV, “He didn’t have a list.”
But in fact he did have a list, as anyone can find out who bothers to review the record. McCarthy had the list in his possession when he set forth some 70-plus security cases on the floor of the Senate in February 1950. Subsequently he provided their names in writing to the Senate committee that looked into the matter, plus a supplementary list of 2-dozen other suspects for a total of more than 100 names presented to the Senate.
Granted, these lists would mysteriously vanish from the committee archives (along with a lot of other relevant data on the suspects), but that wasn’t the doing of McCarthy. However, I happen to have copies of the lists in my possession, as fortunately they survived in other places. George Will and the others could have them also if they cared to, since the lists are photographically reproduced in their entirety in a book I brought out a few years ago examining McCarthy’s cases.
A subset of this dispute is the question of what McCarthy said about subversion in a stump speech at Wheeling, West Virginia, as part of a Lincoln Day political speaking tour shortly before his oration to the Senate. The Wheeling argument mainly concerned the number of cases he claimed to have, his opponents saying he claimed 205, McCarthy responding that he in fact claimed 57 (as noted, a number that would grow substantially by the time he addressed the Senate roughly ten days later).
Without getting too far into the weeds on this, the Democratic Senate sent staffers up to Wheeling to dig out the facts about the issue, as part of an investigation aimed at throwing McCarthy out of Congress. When the staffers came back, they filed a 40-page report that in essence said McCarthy was right about the numbers and his critics were mistaken.
Whereupon, their report would be buried and also vanish from the public record, while a perjury charge against McCarthy for lying about the numbers would be quietly dropped from the discussion.
As to whether McCarthy had a list of cases at all when he spoke at Wheeling, it’s self evident that he did, as he would go immediately before the Senate following his return from his political foray (the Monday after his arrival in Washington on Saturday) to make a formal proffer of his charges. The massive nature of this six-hour speech, and the extensive documentation it included, make it obvious that he and/or his researchers had been on the trail of his cases for some indefinite time before then.
From all of which the lessons to be learned are (at least) two. First, as to the past, McCarthy was repeatedly proved right, about the larger picture of subversion, and about a host of individual cases.
Second, as to the present: It’s usually not a good idea for conservatives to let the liberals do their thinking for them.