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Monday, December 31, 2012

Peter Beinart Presents McCarthyism For Dummies


Edgar Bergen with his ventriloquist's dummy
Charlie McCarthy

Peter Beinart has been known to throw around the term McCarthyism.

When he wrote about it in 2010, Beinart was using the term in decrying the scapegoating of Muslims in the US. He compares it to the Palmer raids under Democratic President Woodrow Wilson where thousands of communists, anarchists, immigrants, and labor radicals were rounded up and deported -- as well as with the red scare exploited by Republican Joe McCarthy.

Beinart writes that such isolationism avoids a basic fact:
The harsh truth is this: The United States will always have to pay a greater price overseas than most Americans want, and despite that, Americans will never enjoy the level of security they feel they deserve.
Beinart's balance in comparing Wilson and McCarthy disappeared by 2012. This past September, Beinart dredged up the name of Joe McCarthy once again:
In 1951, an undistinguished, frequently-drunk, first term senator named Joseph McCarthy insinuated that George Marshall, the general who had led the U.S. army during World War II, was part of a conspiracy to let China go communist. Dwight Eisenhower, the general whom Marshall had deputized to oversee the Allied invasion of Europe, considered publicly defending his former boss, but then decided not to. The reason? He feared bringing down McCarthy’s wrath upon himself.
This time, Beinart was applying the comparison to -- of all things -- the controversy surrounding the omission of the issue of Jerusalem from the platform of the Democratic convention:
In official Washington today, the more reckless and hysterical your views on Israel, the greater your power. It’s this dynamic that Benjamin Netanyahu has exploited again and again, most recently this week, to try to back the Obama administration into a corner on issues like the Palestinians and Iran. Beltway politicians, and the lobbyists paid to influence them, live in fear of being called “anti-Israel” by anyone more militant than themselves. And as the platform uproar shows, that fear isn’t confined to Democrats. It’s even shared by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an organization that is not merely a predator in the carnivorous world of politicized Israel devotion, but also, increasingly, prey.
One would be justified in wondering whether, if he was smiling at all, McCarthy might have been smiling at Beinart's over-the-top rhetoric attacking Israel.

Now, in Peter Beinart's Open Zion, Bernard Avishai writes about Hagel And The Neo-McCarthyites:
I think it is time to acknowledge, bluntly, that certain major Jewish organizations, indeed, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations—also, the ADL, AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, political groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition, along with their various columnists, pundits, and list-serves—are among the most consistent purveyors of McCarthyite-style outrages in America today.
Wow.

I suppose for our part we really should acknowledge that in his self-righteous indignation -- and rush to meet his deadline -- Avishai may have overlooked the fact that no, Jews and Republicans do not have a monopoly on ad hominem attacks.

In fact, for really good examples of such attacks, one need look no further than the Democratic Party's attack on Bush in 2004. Duke University's The Chronicle provided a list that September of the "McCarthyite-style" outrages the Democrats are capable of. I apologize in advance for the need to abridge the list in the interests of brevity:
  • 9/18/03: Ted Kennedy says the Iraq War “was made up in Texas” for political gain.

  • 12/1/03: Howard Dean discusses the “interesting theory” that President Bush was warned about 9/11.

  • 2/8/04: Former Vice President Al Gore screams that President Bush “Betrayed this country!”

  • 3/10/04: Kerry calls Republicans “crooked” and “lying.”

  • 3/17/04: Kerry accuses President Bush of placing a “target” on the backs of U.S. troops.

  • 5/19/04: Nancy Pelosi calls the President “an incompetent leader” with “no judgment” who “has on his shoulders the deaths of many more troops.”

  • 5/23/04: Senator Tim Johnson compares the Republican party to “the Taliban.”

  • 6/28/04: Introducing Kerry, Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley says the Bush administration worries him more than al Qaeda does.

  • 7/8/04: Kerry calls a group of celebrities the “heart and soul” of America after they call President Bush a “cheap thug who sacrifices our young” and his Presidency “a self serving-regime of deceit, hypocrisy and belligerence.”

  • 7/9/04: Kerry-Edwards Florida Chairman Rep. Kendrick Meek says Jeb Bush “was like bin Laden after the 2000 election.”

  • 7/27/04: Ted Kennedy calls Republicans “false patriots.”

  • 8/16/04: Quoted in Newsweek, Kerry National Security adviser Rand Beers says the President underfunds homeland security because the most targeted areas are in Democratic states.
The difference of course is a collective effort by a political party to indulge in vile personal attacks that truly are "McCarthy-like" and criticism of a politician who is up for a political appointment.

On Beinart's Open Zion, we are seeing the name of McCarthy being used as cover for using the same tactics that are supposedly being attacked.

It remains to be seen whether Peter Beinart intends to make this into a habit.

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