At Long Last, Still No Sense Of Decency

January 27th, 2008at 03:19pm Posted by Eli

Finally, the wait is over!

A few years ago, on assignment for this newspaper, I attended a memorial service for McCarthy at his grave site in Appleton, Wis. It’s an annual event, sponsored by a local group that hopes to turn the senator’s birthday into a national holiday and put his likeness on a postage stamp. Most of the celebrants were elderly, and several belonged to the far-right John Birch Society. “There aren’t a lot of us still around,” an 87-year-old McCarthy supporter told me. “When we die, who’ll be left to tell the truth about Joe?”

He needn’t have worried. A full-throated defense of the senator is now in the bookstores. Written by M. Stanton Evans, a conservative journalist whose roots stretch back to Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, it carries a title, “Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies” (Crown Forum, $29.95), that well explains its thesis. Though a handful of other pro-McCarthy books have appeared over the years — the most recent being Arthur Herman’s “Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America’s Most Hated Senator” — none created much interest among conservatives. But “Blacklisted by History” is drawing significant attention on the political right, where the reviews have ranged from gushing (The Weekly Standard) to scathing (National Review). If nothing else, Evans has forced his movement friends to look again at McCarthy. For conservatives, the crazy uncle has finally left the attic.

(…)

…Evans buys into the heart of the McCarthy conspiracy — the belief that leftist elements in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations created a foreign policy to advance the spread of world Communism.

How else could one explain the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe or the fall of Chiang Kai-shek to the army of Mao Zedong? “Who lost China?” propelled McCarthy to the national stage. Along the way, he described General George C. Marshall, the nation’s most respected military commander, as a Communist dupe; urged Secretary of State Dean Acheson to seek asylum in the Soviet Union; purposely confused the names of the convicted perjurer and likely Soviet spy Alger Hiss and the 1952 Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson (“Alger — I mean Adlai”); and called Harry Truman a “son of a bitch” who made his key decisions in the midnight darkness while drunk on bourbon. [That’s certainly not ironic at all…]

McCarthy blamed the fall of China on “a conspiracy so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.” Evans not only endorses this conspiracy but actually expands it to include “the Eastern, internationalist faction” of the Republican Party, “with ties to Wall Street, large corporations, big Eastern media outlets and Ivy League establishment.” To Evans, the conspiracy passed from president to president — from Roosevelt and Truman to Eisenhower and even Nixon, a former McCarthyite, who “would fall off the teeter-totter, landing with Henry Kissinger in Red China, thereafter pushing on into the mists of détente with Moscow.”

This remarkable fantasy, playing upon the deepest fears of right-wing Republicans, ignores the actual United States foreign policy that gave billions of dollars in aid to Chiang, fought a brutal war in Korea against two Communist nations, propped up an anti-Communist regime in Vietnam at the cost of 58,000 American lives and refused for three decades to recognize the government of Mao. Most historians today view the “loss” of China for what it was: a futile American attempt to aid a corrupt and unpopular regime. And most see Truman — the key bogeyman of the McCarthyites — as a tough anti-Communist who protected constitutional liberties at home and American interests abroad.

(…)

Fifty years have passed since the senator died of liver failure, at age 48. The fiercely negative judgments of those who lived through the McCarthy era are widely accepted today for good reason: they ring true. These judgments tell a cautionary tale, showing how a nation’s legitimate concern for security in uncertain times can be turned into something partisan, repressive and cruel. McCarthy will continue to resonate on the fringes of the body politic because the conspiracy he championed — the disloyalty of powerful elites — goes back to the founding of our country and beyond. Redeem him? I can best respond by quoting the man himself, on another issue, near the end of his career. “This,” muttered the flummoxed McCarthy as the Senate moved to condemn his behavior, “is the most unheard-of thing I ever heard of.”

The right wing’s continuing love affair with one several of the most odious, divisive and paranoid figures in American history tells you all you need to know about them. They love to demonize everyone they dislike, and blame their enemies for everything bad that happens instead of taking responsibility of their own mistakes. Which are legion. Grudging kudos to the National Review for rejecting McCarthy, and as for the Weekly Standard, well, is anyone really surprised?

Also, how could the same state produce both Joe McCarthy and Russ Feingold? Maybe it’s some kind of karma-balancing thing…

Entry Filed under: Books,Corruption/Cronyism,Republicans,Wankers


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