Thursday, July 19, 2012

Un-American Activities, The More Things Change…

McCarthyism: demagogic, reckless, hysterical, deliberate, and typically unsubstantiated public accusations and/or personal attacks on the character, loyalty, patriotism, and beliefs of an individual opponent or group. Usually for political gain in the guise of patriotism and/or “national security.” Normally based on widespread racial, political, religious, ethnic, and/or sexual prejudices. Can often lead to persecution, disenfranchisement, mass hysteria, and violent mob behavior. Particularly common during periods of conflict, political unrest, migration, and economic uncertainty.

In 1950 a minor freshman Senator gave a speech in West Virginia.

A conservative from Wisconsin, he spoke before a chapter of the Republican Women’s Club.

Despite being widely disliked by his fellow congressmen for being volatile and easily enraged, and despite having recently been voted “the worst U.S. Senator currently in office” by the Senate Press Corps, the senator was regarded as charming and gregarious by those who met him in social settings. He was an accomplished and popular speaker and was invited to talk in front of many different organizations, such as the aforementioned Wheeling, WV, Republican Women’s Club – and since he was nobody important, he was usually available.

Up until that day, February 9th, 1950, with the exception of his temper, Senator Joseph McCarthy was mostly an unremarkable little blowhard.

But his speech before a small group of conservative women on that cold West Virginia day would change the very face of America and make a paranoid insecure cowardly weasel of a man famous and powerful and, above all, feared.

His speech followed predictable lines, right up until it reached this proclamation:

The State Department is infested with communists! I have here in my hand a list of two hundred and five. A list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.

Communism was the bogeyman of the mid 20th Century, you better believe those women sat up and took notice. And then, after the speech, they went home and told their husbands what an actual US Senator had said: Communists, in the State Department.

McCarthy’s exact words were not recorded, but the quote above is widely regarded by historians and those who were there as accurate. There is some dispute as to whether McCarthy really claimed his list contained two hundred names or whether he actually said there were fifty-seven.  Witnesses said two hundred and five. They were quite explicit about it. McCarty said when questioned for the record that it was fifty-seven but he used both figures in later speeches and official records. 

Two hundred communists in the State Department or fifty, it didn’t take McCarthy’s startling accusation long to attract attention.

And why shouldn’t it have?

Joe McCarthy was a hero. 

Sure he was. That’s how he got elected in the first place. That’s why people wanted him to come talk to their little clubs and parties and organizations. Joe was a real live genuine war hero.

When World War II broke out, McCarthy had given up a career as a district circuit court Judge and enlisted in the Marines as a buck private. He quickly distinguished himself and rose to the rank of Captain, serving as an intelligence officer and earned himself the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Letter of Commendation from Chester Nimitz himself, and the nickname “Tail Gunner Joe” while flying thirty-two combat missions in the Solomon Islands and over Bougainville. He’d been wounded in either an airplane crash or by anti-aircraft fire (he was too modest to say which) and so why the hell shouldn’t those nice ladies take a patriotic American war hero like Senator Joe McCarthy at his word?

If Tail Gunner Joe said there were commies in the State Department, well, Sir, there were commies in the State Department and probably the White House too.

And so McCarthy’s sensational claims went the 1950s version of viral and all of a sudden the obscure bombastic senator from Wisconsin was somebody

He gave the speech again, polishing and embellishing and amplifying and exaggerating the threat against the United States.

In Salt Lake City he once again cited fifty-seven as the number of communists working their subversive evil within the State Department and that time it was recorded. A week later McCarthy stood before a packed Senate Chamber and in a five hour speech presented a detailed analysis of eighty-one “loyalty risks” within the US Government. As a result of McCarthy’s warning, Congress convened the Tydings Committee, a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, to conduct further official investigations into allegations of communists in the State Department. When the committee found little substance to McCarthy’s accusations it didn’t take long for Ol’ Tail Gunner Joe to start accusing the Tydings Committee itself of communist sympathies. And just like that, McCarthy had moved from vague allegations to the naming of names, going so far as to publically accuse specific government employees, one after the other, of being actual Soviet spies, traitors, and enemies of the United States of America.

This being 1950, the Red Scare was just getting into full feverish swing but hadn’t quite achieved critical mass among the civilian population. McCarthy’s sensational accusations changed all of that and directly propelled the population into full blown panic. Sixty years on and it’s difficult for us to grasp just how close to outright insanity the United States was at that point, it is only by the slimmest of margins that we are not a police state today (I know, I know, but really, we’re not. I’ve visited police states, we’re not even close).

It didn’t take long for McCarthy and his supporters in both the Senate and the House to start seeing commies everywhere. In the Department of State and Defense. In the Army. In the White House. McCarthy actually accused President Truman and the entire Democratic Party of being in league with “The Communists.” Congress, both in the House and the Senate, disintegrated into wild accusations and sometimes fist fights. Conservatives accused liberals of being socialists and soviets and commies (boy, does this sound familiar or what?). Liberals accused McCarthy of being a closeted homosexual, the papers wouldn’t print that accusation and there’s no proof that is was anything except slander but the rumor persists to this day nonetheless. In retaliation, McCarthy publically and vocally and persistently accused Secretary of Defense, George C. Marshall (he of the Marshall Plan, one of America’s most highly respected military commanders and statesmen) of communism and high treason. In fact, McCarthy went so far as to say of Marshall that he deliberately lost China to the communists and was engaged in a “conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dwarf any previous venture in the history of man."

And it got worse.

Much worse.

Marshall had friends in high places. He was safe. Other citizens weren’t so lucky.

Americans, inspired by the increasingly paranoid insanity of their elected leaders and convinced by those same leaders that the end of the world could arrive via Soviet nuclear bomber at any moment (Any moment! Any Moment!), devolved into full on mass hysteria.  Soviet spies were everywhere, they could be your neighbor, your teacher, your parents, your children, your mayor, your garbage man or your city dog catcher.  The unions were full of them, so were the colleges, blue collar workers and students especially were not to be trusted. You could never be too careful. Patriotic citizens, when they weren’t busy building backyard fallout shelters, started reporting activity deemed un-American, any person out of the ordinary, any person too smart for their own good, or too educated, any non-Christian, anybody with a funny accent or dark skin, anybody different in any way. In panic and fear, laws were passed at the local, state, and federal level implementing loyalty oaths and background checks and massive new secret security organizations (Truman vetoed the McCarran Internal Security Act, declaring it a mockery of the Bill of Rights, but congress overrode him and the bill become law anyway – and McCarthy again accused Truman of communist sympathies and being un-American. Later, after the insanity had passed, almost all of the law was sheepishly struck down or quietly repealed).

Déjà vu, all over again, eh?

The fear became so pervasive and so entrenched that the Soviets were granted evil superpowers.

Americans were told that without unending vigilance the communists could literally take over their minds from the inside.

Popular movies of the time such as The Thing From Another World and (late to the party in 1957) Invasion of the Body Snatchers were thinly disguised lessons in the dangers of infiltration, subversion, invasion, mind control, and the fact that nobody, nobody, could be trusted – especially those who questioned the wisdom of pouring billions into nuclear bombs and secret weapons and the smoldering Cold War.  Even John Wayne got into the act, playing a heroic extra-constitutional investigator for the House Un-American Activities Committee rooting out commies in Hawaii as Big Jim McClain (He’s a Go-Get-‘Em Guy for the USA on a Treason Trail that leads Half-A-World Away!  No really. If you’ve never seen this propagandistic stinker, it’s a damned painful 90 minutes).  The Duke might have been True Blue, but much of Hollywood wasn’t patriotic or conservative enough to suit the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and many actors, directors, and producers were blacklisted as suspected communists. And like Jews on the streets of Germany twenty years before, half of Hollywood suddenly found themselves despised enemies in their own country – and a bitter irony that, given that many of them were Jews.

The FBI and the HUAC investigated everyone and anyone (including each other), nobody was above suspicion. The insanity became so deep and so wide that even the faintest, most tenuous, hint of communism was enough to see you detained, questioned, investigated, blacklisted, or made a pariah – for example a baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, the oldest major league team in the country, was forced to change their name to the Redlegs or go out of business just because their name, Reds (a name adopted in 1881, long before there even were any communists) led to accusations that they were secretly baseball playing commies.

It wasn’t conservatives versus liberals or Republicans arrayed against Democrats, at least not entirely – though the battlefront was drawn along fairly predictable and familiar lines. American Catholics for example, though mostly Democrats at the time, lined up behind McCarthy en mass – including America’s most famous Catholics, the Kennedy family. Tail Gunner Joe was a frequent guest at Hyannis Port and even dated Pat and Eunice Kennedy (supposedly not at the same time, though you never really know with the Kennedys). Moderate and sane Republicans tried to distance themselves from McCarthy – especially Dwight Eisenhower.  Eisenhower needed McCarthy to win Wisconsin during the 1952 presidential election, but once in office Ike kicked McCarthy to the curb. This enraged McCarthy and he began accusing the Eisenhower Administration of communism and treason.  McCarthy had referred to the previous two decades of Democrats in the White House as “Twenty-years of treason.” When Ike wouldn’t bow to McCarthy’s agenda, McCarthy updated his catchphrase to “Twenty-one years of treason.”

Again, this tune sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

McCarthy eventually ended up in charge of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, which was also responsible for a little known outfit called the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (SPSI). McCarthy turned this organ into something very similar to the Gestapo in all but name.  Led by McCarthy the SPSI went after public radio including the Voice of America, writers, actors, newspapers, and libraries – resulting in actual book burnings of volumes deemed subversive or questionable.  They investigated churches, calling protestant clergymen the “largest single group supporting the communist apparatus” (ironically, evangelicals being protestants and all, you’d think they would remember this kind of crap, but we’ll come back to that in a minute, or rather back to one specific evangelical in particular). The committee went after the Army with a vengeance, convinced that the ranks were chock-a-block with comrades and Soviet infiltrators – McCarthy even cut short his honeymoon to open the investigation. McCarthy verbal flogged generals and the Secretary of the Army himself. All of this and more occurred in public hearings, much of which was broadcast on the primitive electronic media of the time and via the printed press.

It was all bullshit, of course.

Oh, there were communists alright, even spies, certainly.

And a small few of the thousands of accusations made by the HUAC and the SPSI might even have been legitimate. But overwhelmingly, McCarthy’s fear of suspected communists was about as valid as Salem’s fear of witches had been three hundred years before. The vast, vast majority of the accusations leveled by Senator McCarthy, the SPSI, and the HUAC turned out to be utterly baseless. The majority of accusations were the result of outright lies, deliberate hysteria, political agendas, and mean spirited revenge – just as they had been at Salem.

Eventually McCarthy was brought down in large part by the journalist Edward R. Murrow, one of the very few people left in the United States by that point with the guts, integrity, and determination to take on Tail Gunner Joe and expose the louse for what he was, a petty small minded hateful paranoid fraud who had gone mad with power. 

McCarthy was no hero, he was never a “Buck Private” or worked his way up through the ranks as he had repeatedly claimed. He’d been commissioned into the Marines as a 2nd Lieutenant based on his education as a lawyer. He did serve as a minor intelligence office, or more specifically as a briefing officer, for a USMC dive bomber squadron based in the South Pacific. He told his cronies that he had joined the Marines not out of patriotism but specifically because he believed that branch of the military would serve him best in his future political career – and he in fact, first ran for the Senate while still in uniform. He flew eight missions, not the thirty-two he claimed, and somewhere in there he started calling himself Tail Gunner Joe (reportedly his squadron mates referred to him as “Low Down Joe,” oddly he never mentioned that after the war). 

That Distinguished Flying Cross? He put himself in for that in 1952, that’s why he exaggerated his record to thirty two missions, eight wouldn’t have gotten him a cup of coffee let alone the DFC.

The Letter of Commendation from Chester Nimitz? McCarthy wrote that himself. 

The war wound? Like the letter, he just made that up. 

He got himself elected to Congress by claiming his opponent was a draft dodger and a war profiteer, when in fact the opponent in question, Robert La Follette, was nearly fifty when the war broke out and ineligible for service. As to profiteering, La Follette had invested in a radio station before the war which made him about $23,000 a year for about two years, hardly what you’d call “war profiteering” (McCarthy meanwhile had invested in the stock market and made $43,000 during the same period).

And it turns out that McCarthy was a chronic untreated alcoholic, though what few friends he had left continued to deny McCarthy’s addiction – right up until drinking killed him.

After hemming and hawing and fiddling around for more than two years, the Senate finally decided to condemn McCarthy for damned near destroying the country. Note that McCarthy wasn’t given a formal censure, but rather a weak and watered down “condemnation.”

He stuck around for another couple of years, but he was a ruined man. McCarthy was mostly ignored while the House and Senate and all his previous rabid supporters, including John Wayne, shamefacedly pretended like they hadn’t actually gone right along with McCarthyism – which Eisenhower started calling McCarthywasm.

And there there wasn’t much question that McCarthy was history, he died in Bethesda Naval Hospital on May 2, 1957 at the age of forty-eight from hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.

And good goddamned riddance to Joseph McCarthy.

Though many of the abuses of the House Un-American Activities Committee were already known, the full extent of the Senate’s appalling excesses and blatant disregard for the law and Constitution only came to light in 2004, which prompted Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Carl Levin (D-MI) to issue a joint statement:

Senator McCarthy’s zeal to uncover subversion and espionage led to disturbing excesses. His browbeating tactics destroyed careers of people who were not involved in the infiltration of our government. His freewheeling style caused both the Senate and the Subcommittee to revise the rules governing future investigations, and prompted the courts to act to protect the Constitutional rights of witnesses at Congressional hearings . These hearings are a part of our national past that we can neither afford to forget nor permit to reoccur.

These hearings are a part of our national past that we can neither afford to forget nor permit to reoccur.

Yes, that is exactly correct. 

We are still feeling the effects of McCarthyism sixty years and a new century later. Much of the partisan rancor we now face can be traced directly back to Tail Gunner Joe and McCarthyism – hell, even the words are the same, commie, fascist, Nazi, un-American, traitor.

We must never allow this type of un-American persecution to reoccur. Ever again.


There are many ways to be an American, McCarthyism isn’t one of them.


Any elected official engaged in such truly un-American activities must be called out and called to account, forcefully, immediately.

If the accusations are found to be baseless, or especially if they are found to be part of a political agenda or issued for the purpose of personal gain or for inciting public hysteria and/or deliberately diverting precious resources into a witch hunt, then Congress has a duty and obligation to the people of the United States, along with the Executive, to move for immediate formal censure, if not impeachment, of any member engaged in such baseless and paranoid ravings.

Actions such as those described above are contrary to everything this country stands for. They are contrary to the Constitution and the ideals of our founders.

This type of baseless hysteria, this turning of brother against brother for nothing more than political gain, nearly destroyed us once. It must never be permitted to happen again.

It is not enough to condemn such actions on the floor of the Senate.

It is not enough to protest such witch hunts in the press.

It must be done as a formal action of the Legislature. And it must be done immediately and with alacrity.

Representative Michelle Bachmann, along with her cronies in Congress, Representatives Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Tom Rooney, and Lynn Westmoreland need to pony up detailed public proof of their insidious and paranoid allegations against their fellow Americans or face immediate and significant consequences.

In letters to the Inspectors General of the Department of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, Bachmann and her Lieutenants accused American citizens of un-American activities and demanded an investigation:

“It appears that there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has been found to be an unindicted co-conspirator on terrorism cases and yet it appears that there are individuals who are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have positions, very sensitive positions, in our Department of Justice, our Department of Homeland Security, potentially even in the National Intelligence Agency.”

That statement from Bachmann is nearly indistinguishable from the words of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

“We seek answers through these letters because we will not tolerate this group and its affiliates holding positions of power in our government or influencing our nation’s leaders."

And in the wretched miserable spirit of McCarthyism, Bachmann doubled down and personally accused Huma Abedin, top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, of no less than outright treason – and, of course, by implication that would make Clinton and President Obama guilty too.

Bachmann, in cowardly predictably fashion after being condemned by both her fellow Republicans and by Democrats and pilloried in the press, claims her words are being taken out of context.  She also claims she is privy to secret information that substantiates her accusation – information she’s not at liberty to share with the rest of us, just like the accusations of Joseph McCarthy and his cronies. She doesn’t bother to explain how Abedin managed to spoof her security background check (something I have personal and intimate and extensive experience with, it is quite unlikely in this post-911 world that any association with known terrorists would go unnoticed). Note that Abedin is a naturally born American who has never displayed anything other than the highest level of integrity, patriotism, and loyalty to the United States. Bachmann apparently believes that Abedin is so dedicated to her secret radical Muslim mission to infiltrate the US government that she would marry a Jew and have a child with him to further her agenda (Abedin is married to disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner).  What’s next? Body snatching?

Of course, this hysterical nonsense is being pitched by a Birther, so I suppose secret Muslims stealing our souls and precious bodily fluids isn’t that big of stretch for this batshit crazy loon.

Bottom line, any accusation of treason, especially from a sitting member of Congress, and especially directed at a person in Abedin’s position must be immediately met with a formal demand for public proof.

Abedin and the others who stand accused, as Americans, have a right to face their accuser directly, in public and demand satisfaction.

This isn’t Salem.

This isn’t Tail Gunner Joe’s personal Subcommittee for Investigations.

This isn’t the Soviet Union and we’re emphatically not the goddamned communists.

This is the United States of America and a petty small minded hateful power mad fraud like Michele Bachmann must be held to account for her baseless and hateful and un-American actions.

Letters to my own Senators and my Representative have already gone out.

If you value your freedoms, if you value the country you live in, if you value the ideals we veterans put our lives on the line for, if you remember all those lives ruined and destroyed by the likes of Senator Joseph McCarthy, if you believe that you have the power to hold back the darkness, then stop what you’re doing right now and contact your own representatives and demand that Michele Bachmann be held to account before the American people. She needs to show proof, not vague accusation and insinuation, but proof, solid and irrefutable – or she needs to be censured and relieved of her duties on any House Committee.  And there needs to be a public polling of the House and Senate, we as Americans have the right, no the duty, to know who stands with her and who does not.

Now. Not later. Not after the election. Now.

This isn’t about Left or Right.

This isn’t about Republican or Democrat.

This isn’t about Liberal or Conservative.

This is about a malignant cancer.

A festering pustulent rot.

A deadly disease that we stamped out once, but now it’s back and it needs to be dragged into the daylight before it spreads any further.

We’ve faced this shame once before, we should never have to do it again.

McCarthy, Bachmann, Franks, Gohmert, Rooney, Westmoreland, and their cowardly cronies are a far, far greater threat to your liberty and the freedom of all Americans than any Muslim Brotherhood could ever hope to be.


Do it now.


Note: Previous versions of this post listed Representative Michele Bachmann as a Senator.  I have some kind of mental block about this. I know she’s a Representative and yet I still almost always manage to type “Senator” in front of her name.  Sigh. It’s fixed. I think // Jim


  1. ::moving out smartly::

    Saw an article similar to the CBS one this morning - just - damn...

    Thanks, Jim - outta the park, again.

  2. "A deadly disease that we stamped out once, but now it’s back and it needs to be dragged into the daylight before it spreads any further."

    YES! Exactly! Hopefully it hasn't morphed yet into something so vile and strong we can't eradicate it. For real this time.

    Thanks again, Mr. Wright, excellent post.

  3. Exceptional read, Jim. You get 50 Awesome points for slipping in that Dr. Strangelove reference.

    Everyone loves the precious bodily fluids.

  4. First off Jim, the warnings from the past are all too often ignored when we need it most. Good reprisal of a sad episode in mass hysteria. I must correct you though that Bachman is a Representative to Congress, rather than a Senator.

    This selection of reprehensible elected attention seekers are touting the "Muslims are EVERYWHERE!!" meme of Frank Gaphney and Co. Old Frank has been lurking in all the finest GOP admins as a foreign policy advisor. When we invaded Iraq Gaphney was asked by CNN whether we should just turn right and drive to Teheran. Frank said "Yeah", as if it is the easiest thing to do. Dick!

    Gaphney and his brothers Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, Pletka (a girl I think), etc are all of the family of unaccountable mouthpieces spewing Neo-con fear mongering. They play the idiot Congress-creeps for the morans they are, all the while hoovering up the pesos in right wing non-profits in DC. Fuckers.

    1. The Senator/Representative mistake is fixed. I have some kind of brain damage regarding Bachmann's status. Probably because she gives me the fucking willies. Thanks for pointing it out, I do appreciate it.

    2. Also, Susan Collins is from Maine not Massachusetts (ME vs. MA).

    3. I also knew that but typed the wrong abbreviation for Maine anyway - which is pretty sad considering that I used to live there.

    4. It's fixed.

      I think I'm setting a record for dumb typos with this post.

  5. Great post and I'm in total agreement, except for one thing. Michele Bachmann isn't a Senator.

    1. I know. But I do appreciate you guys pointing it out, it's a pretty embarrassing mistake.

      As noted above, it's fixed. There's a note at the end of the post about it.

    2. Did you do that on purpose to see if we were paying attention?

  6. So, I stopped what I was doing -- it's okay, I can jack off later -- & sent both my senators & my representative an email consisting of the word "I" followed by some text copied & pasted (with a tiny bit of grammatical modification) from the post above.

  7. Now if we can remove the title Representative from in front ofher name...

  8. I've been asking people via facebook what they think Bachmann's problem is. I've heard 'sick,' 'she hears voices,' 'attention whore,' a few others.

    How the hell does somebody like that keep winning elections?

    1. Because conservative women think she's the perfect little Republican Woman, and conservative men think that if they vote for her she'll let them fuck her. Same as Palin.

    2. Oooh...good call, Jim [re: why she keeps winning elections]

  9. "Communism was the bogeyman of the mid 21st Century" should be "Communism was the bogeyman of the mid 20th Century." We don't yet know what the bogeyman of the mid 21st Century will be.

    1. The sound you hear is me hitting my head on the desk. Thanks, it's fixed.

  10. I actually read this entire article on my phone screen, and I'm glad I did. I was born in 1953, and I can still remember some of the backlash, that hadn't died out by the time I was cognisant of the political stuff in the news.

  11. For what it's worth, Michele Bachmann was a state senator before she went to Congress. You may possibly have seen news items about her as Senator Michele Bachmann doing crazy shit like hiding in the bushes so Teh Scary Gays wouldn't see her. Google "Michele Bachmann hiding in the bushes". I am not kidding.

    1. Lately, every time I see that Michele Bachmann photo (you know the one I mean,) the chorus of an Eagles song keeps running through my head (with apologies)

      - "You can't hide your crazy eyes, and your smile is a thin disguise. I thought by now you'd realize, there ain't no way to hide your crazy eyes."

    2. Robert Heinlein's Liberal SonJuly 20, 2012 at 10:50 PM

      Well, it's actually "Lying Eyes", but it works either way.

    3. Yes, that's why I included the apology. I would like to parody the whole song for Shelly, but I'm just not that clever.

  12. Is it sad that the first time I heard about these letters, the first words out of my mouth had to do with McCarthyism? Shades of days past.

    I have already sent my letters and I will send three more with references to your post. This has got to stop. With our very own Dept of State Security (Homeland Security), with the fear fostered and pampered for political gain after 9-11, it is a very short step before some idiot tried this ploy. I can't say that I am surprised it was Bachmann but it could just have easily have been Palin or Santorum. They are all nuttier than my favorite granola. This madness has to stop and it has to stop publicaly and decisively.

  13. I know Bachmann has been highly successful at constantly getting attention with her personal brand of crazy, but let's not forget who her cohorts are. Quoted from The Washington Post:

    Among the co-signers of Ms. Bachmann’s letter are Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, notorious for describing abortion as having done more harm to blacks than slavery; Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, who described then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, as “uppity”; and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, known for evidence-free rants about plots involving U.S. passport-bearing “terror babies,” born here and trained overseas to carry out attacks on America.

    They're no less reprehensible, only less competent at fear-mongering.

    1. BTW, If it looks like I was accusing you of giving these others a free pass, that wasn't my intention. I just wanted to flesh out the picture that they're not mere dupes signing on with Bachmann. They have an active history of wishing they could get as much attention as she does.

  14. I disagree with much of Senator McCain's politics, but remarks about this were those of a reasonable man:
    To say that the accusations made in both documents are not substantiated by the evidence they offer is to be overly polite and diplomatic about it. It is far better, and more accurate, to talk straight: These allegations about Huma, and the report from which they are drawn, are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable citizen, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant.


  15. First off, being a proud Wisconsin Cheesehead, this article filled me with pride (Yes that was sarcasm).
    Second, I fear that things might be a little to far gone to ever really get back. This morning after reading about the shooting in Denver on Yahoo, the third commenter suggested that the shooter was probably a Muslim.
    Third, I also respect John McCain for coming out against this. I remember when he was running for office in 2008 and some little old lady went off at a town hall about President Obama being a Muslim. he put the verbal smackdown on her also.

  16. Jim, please forgive the sports cliche, but you have hit another one out of the park. Just saw on the morning news that a 24 year old gunmen killed 12 and wounded 50 more at a Colorado movie theatre and my immediate reaction is that the haters (read: Republicans) have fomented the craziness in this country to such a degree that I don't know if it can be tamped down.

    I would love to see President Obama say "to hell with it" and come out swinging against the likes of Bachmann, her idiot compatriots, Rush LImbaugh, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin and a host of others for creating and/or enhancing this toxic atmosphere in the United States. Let's not forget Karl Rove, of the "let's keep them scared and stupid and create a permanent Republican majority fame." The blame for this hatred lies squarely on their doorsteps. Feel free to add others to the list.

    I have lived in Florida for more than 30 years (yes, I know, it sucks) but am lucky enough to spend some time in the NW corner of CT during summers. Here, people are polite, friendly, helpful, open doors for each other, stop at pedestrian crossings, read books, listen to good music, vote Democratic and engage is polite discourse. It's only a few weeks a year but it is a tonic to my soul....

  17. Goggle Ann Coulter McCarthy, it is more than a bit frightening. A quote from a law review: " Ann Coulter refers to McCarthyism as a "paranoid
    liberal fantas[y],"' and in a more serious work, Arthur Herman argues that
    Joseph McCarthy was "more right than wrong in terms of the larger picture."
    2 His mistake, Herman says, was to make "a good point badly." "


    1. And Hitler was just an Excitable Boy, they all said.

  18. This post is so important. McCarthyism was not the distant past, it really was yesterday. How can so many have forgotten?

  19. Jim, as an atheist I cannot make myself to click on the "you are my God" rubrik, and I am not really into Hero Worship, but if you were to change the former to the latter, I would call you my HERO.

    Yeah, I just did, and I thank for you sharing your knowledge.

    The letters will go out to my representative.


  20. John McCain squandered most of the sincere respect I had for him over the last 4 years, but earned a little back on the Senate floor yesterday. My letters to my Congressman and Senators will include this quote from his eloquent speech:

    "When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it."

    Truer words were never spoken.

    ~ mak ~

  21. Thank you, Jim, for once again saying what needs to be heard.

    I was a teen-ager in Western New York in the 1950s. My father, a small-businessman, had a long history of fighting for better social safety nets for the poor, for the rights of those who were being taken advantage of by corporate greed or government heavy-handedness. He wrote letters to elected officials, to the editor and handed out pamphlets stating his views. He was visited more than once in the McCarthy era by strangers who pumped him about his political leanings. He and my Mom did wonder whether he was on a 'subversives' list. They held McCarthy and his cronies in great contempt. I remember being frightened by the whole thing.

  22. One brief historical note that's probably trivial (but may not be for a reason I'll get around to): you mention the Cincinnati Reds adopted the name in 1881, "long before there even were any communists"; while that may be true re: Soviet communists or "Reds" in the sense Americans have used the term since the 1950s, European socialists have flown the red flag as a symbol since at least 1848.

    Which may sound like nitpicking, except: one of the pernicious hangover symptoms of McCarthyism and the entire Red Scare was the way it made socialism/communism synonymous with anti-Americanism, and (by extension) reinforced the early 20th-Century robber barons' claim that capitalism is synonymous with American patriotism, setting the stage for the modern passion for unregulated markets and minimalist government.

    The fact is that a lot of the people McCarthy, Nixon and their ilk targeted in the 1950s were communists and socialists. And most of them were also passionately loyal Americans. (And it must be said that even of the relatively small number who did commit treason in this era, most seem to have been motivated by some kind of sense that global communism would be good for America--unlike subsequent traitors like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, who, like good capitalists, sold out their country as mercenaries working for the cash, not for ideology.) They believed--and one might disagree or agree--that socialism or communism offered a plan to level the American playing field, eliminate economic injustices, wash away the country's racist sins, and point the way to a better America. They would have no sooner sold the country to the USSR than drowned their own children in the bathtub; a growing disillusioned few even became critical of Stalinism over the decade (though apologists for the world's most "successful" "socialist" state remained an embarrassing albatross 'round the collective neck of American and European leftists through the 1970s, if not longer).


    1. (cont.)

      As I think you and your regulars know, Jim, the Constitution is silent as to what kind of economic system we ought to have. One might even say this is one of the document's best features as time marches on: it allows for future generations to decide what kind of economic structures or regulation works best, whether that's a relatively unfettered capitalism in one generation or a managed economy in another, or something floating somewhere in between. (Or something else entirely, such as small, regional, mostly agrarian, barter-based microeconomies.) It's also quite possible the Constitution's silence on the subject was a typical Founders' punt--there was quite a lot of violent argument over whether the country ought to have a national bank or was that too much centralism. But, in any case, the Constitution offers room to evolve.

      The point being: McCarthy poisoned the tree so thoroughly, "red" remains pejorative and we can't have a civil (or even intelligent) conversation about whether or not socializing at least some parts of the economy is a good idea. The moment the subject is broached, somebody gets called a socialist, and instead of being able to reply, "Yes, I am, but is this something we could or should do or isn't it?" the whole thing is over as if the accused socialist were caught in flagrante delicto cross-dressed and masturbating onto a sack of dead, bludgeoned kittens. It would be nice if those on the Actual Real Not-Just-Center-Right American So-Called Left could reclaim the word, the history for better-or-worse and the whole country could move on to deciding in a reasonable manner whether any specific real left-wing reform was a necessary evolutionary step or half-baked bullshit.

      And, bringing things back to your original point, Jim: the other thing I'd add is that just as some of McCarthy's accused reds were actual, oh-my-gosh, reds and what was wrong with that, the fact is that many of Bachmann's accused Muslims are, no doubt, Muslims. That doesn't mean they're traitors, even if they've had communications or associations with fellow-travelers who might be (just as some of McCarthy's reds no doubt attended meetings with people they disagreed with and would have turned in themselves if they were made aware of treasonous acts).

      Anyway, my two cents.

    2. So given the historical usage of "Red" to denote socialism, how come the Republicans chose red as their parties designated colour?

    3. According to Wikipedia, the GOP using red as a designated color goes all the way back to...

      ...an episode of the Today show during the 2000 election.

      It's kind of funny how the level of saturation we get with mass-media these days can make something seem like it's been around forever when it's only been around little more than a decade. I would have guessed "red state" went back much further in time if I hadn't looked it up.

      American campaign colors tend to be chosen by the campaign and there isn't really a "designated" color. John McCain and Sarah Palin used blue campaign stickers in 2008 and Mitt Romney has been using blue-and-white stickers and/or white stickers with a red-white-and-blue theme so far.

  23. Done, done and done.

    Thanks Jim. Appreciate your call to action on this.

    ...HOW is this woman on an Intelligence Subcommittee again??? We used to have standards...

    1. Wait, is she on the Intelligence SubCcmmittee, or the Subintelligence Committee?

  24. OK on Bachmann, but for as lengthy as the McCarthy intro, you should have found room for a couple of sentences on the attempt to recall McCarthy, and the courageous country newspaper editor, Leroy Gore, who led the charge. Read all about it in Gore's book, Joe Must Go. If you start reading it, leave plenty of time because you won't put it down until the last page.
    BTW, in case you're wondering why the NY Times gave McCarthy pretty much a pass, you need to read The Trust by Tifft and Jones. It's the history of the New York Times. In essence, McCarthy blackmailed the Times.

  25. Thanks Jim,

    I wrote to my two Senators & Representative in addition to CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

    I borrowed some of your words, added some of my own & made it clear that I expected them to act on this. Hope they'll jump on it, they are all Democrats & have been very responsive to me in the past. Here's hoping.

  26. The reason the hearings were on TV, is ABC, then running 4th out of 3 networks, had no afternoon programming to speak of and the hearings were free.

  27. Jim, while we could probably play Legislature Whack-A-Mole all day, did you mean to give Allen West as pass. After all, he said he also had evidence of the communists in Congress.

  28. sadly my congress critter is Doug Lamborn(R)...he's a toadie for the Koch Bros. and various coal oligarchs and absolutely useless unless you need to have someone rubber stamp your rape of the land somewhere.

  29. I started a petition on WhiteHouse.gov. Some of the words are mine, some are Jim's. His are better.
    Go sign petition at http://wh.gov/alou.

  30. I become more firmly convinced that there is no such thing as a coincidence. I have been bemoaning that a friend is falling off into the dark side of the right fringe lunatics. She's been "liking" articles by Santorum (can we still google him and get that oozy result?) and on this hunt by Bachmann. Then you write this post. No such thing as a coincidence. How can I post this article to Facebook?

  31. I not only wrote my Senators and Rep, but I wrote Senator McCain to commend him for standing up against this insanity. Excellent post, as always.

  32. An excellent summary of McCarthyism and demonstration that witch-hunting still remains a popular sport among some elected officials today.

    But your essay omits one of the most important reasons McCarthyism ended: the Army-McCarthy hearings. The live television broadcast of those hearings and the work done by the Army's lawyer, Joseph Welch ("Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?") played a major role in McCarthy's decline.


  33. I'll stay away from the meat of the article, since I think my sentiments have been expressed quite thoroughly through the words of other commenters. I would like to say that I am quite pleased to see that there really are other people out there that think with their gray matter and not their fecal matter.

    Referring back to some comments about the shooting this morning, it amazes me that so many people immediately latch on to the religious issue or gun control and fail to acknowledge that maybe, just MAYBE, there is something broken in our society. Or the guy was just a nut job. I did appreciate the point that one poster made in defense of the whole gun control assault when he mentioned that the guy rigged his building with bombs, and they are *already* illegal.

    I'll finish off with a story of hypocrisy and real irony, just because the opportunities to tell such things to people who will actually be able to process such things comes so infrequently these days:
    During the 2008 elections, I had to sit in the middle of quite a few people who I think had a talk radio tuner built into the back of their brain (you know the type). One of the things they latched onto was the whole "spread the wealth" comment. Socialism this, welfare that. Blah blah blah. Fast forward about a year and we are all in a big "all hands" meeting at the large company I worked for. We got to sit through one meeting informing us of record profits and all that fun stuff. This was followed by a speech on how they would be reducing the benefits and giving little or no raises to "remain competitive". In quite the ironic twist, I sat and listened to these same individuals go off on angry rants about how it is completely unfair that the high level corporate officers and stockholders are getting huge bonuses and dividends while they are simultaneously reducing our overall compensation. They insisted that this was not fair and something should be done about it (perhaps they meant they should "spread the wealth"?).

    While this certainly diverges from the topic a bit, I think it illustrates the point that there are many people that don't have any real substance behind their arguments, beliefs, or paranoia.

    BTW, I don't think most of the points made in the article will make shit's worth of difference, as much as I wish it would. It's not that good points were not made, it's just that people as a group are not as smart as we think we are. The simple fact is we *don't* learn from our mistakes, let alone the mistakes of others. Think about this for a moment: of all the people you know that have been busted for DUI before, how many have stopped drinking and driving? (I know more than one that have wrecked and gone to jail and STILL do so.)

    1. They are repeating history, but they don't know it, and wouldn't care if they did, because they are sure they are correct.

  34. Remember: To maintain the purity of your precious bodily fluids only con sume bourbon and branch water - Col. Ripper commander Burpelson AFB.

  35. Anyone who was paying attention in Minnesota knew about Bachmann before she first ran for Congress. I have never forgotten the report on MN public radio of a GLBT rally at the state capitol. The reporter noticed someone lurking in the bushes and recognized Michelle Bachmann. She never gave a coherent reason for her actions. No one needed to sneak around the rally was on the front steps.

    I am absolutely not surprised and I will be sharing some of my income with the campaign of her opponent!

  36. I can only imagine the responses I will get from our three stooges.
    Senator Coburn
    Senator Inhofe
    Rep. Boren

    Apologies to Moe,Larry and Curly.

  37. Superb, superb, even more superb than your usual, which is superb.

    I've linked this over at the Straight Dope ("EddyTeddyFreddy" in case you're wondering) and so far garnered responses: "Thanks for linking that; it was excellent." "Thanks ETF, that is an excellent post."

  38. Great article, Jim.

    The one thing that should have been added to it, however, was the part that Edward R. Murrow played in bringing down Senator McCarthy.

    Murrow's television programme made the senator look very bad. In a subsequent live interview, Senator McCarthy tried to diss Edward R. Murrow, which caused public outrage against the senator and his tactics to reach fever pitch.

    This was seen by many people to be the last straw. At this point, the US congress had had enough, and sought to have Joe McCarthy censured (albeit it ended as just a public shaming). This irreparably damaged his reputation and political career.

  39. Rep Bachmann has very loyal supporters who accept her every pronouncement regardless of its truth.

    It surprises me that her loyal followers/supporters saw nothing wrong with more-American than anyone else Michelle Bachmann applying for and accepting dual citizenship with Switzerland. She has been so busy promoting the idea that somehow President Obama must have dual citizenship and that the mere idea that he could qualify for such was ground to brand him as un-American.

  40. http://www.salon.com/2012/07/25/tea_party_still_loves_michele_bachmann/

    my favorite question to those people who, like bachmann, bark and snarl unsubstantiated and unsubstantiatable claims of all strips and kinds is "prove it". often being compelled to add the caveat of "without using the bible".

    thanks, jim. you do good work.

  41. She has no shame, sir. She has no shame.

  42. Well done sir! But as a native Minnesotan I have to say that I found your description of Ms. Bachmann as a "batshit crazy loon" to be an insult to our official state bird -- the loon. (Assuming a loon can be insulted.) Just sayin...

  43. Archive binging 2 years later. Turns out we didn't know how good we had it with Bachman. Ted Cruz might very well be some kind of clone of McCarthy.

    Graeme Sutton
    Victoria, British Columbia


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