"Those who do not remember history--those who forget or pretend to forget who exactly Joe McCarthy was and who he saw as his enemies--are indeed condemned to repeat it, but the real problem is that the rest of us are condemned to repeat it with them."Yesterday, at an event in the Psychotic Republic of Florida, Congressman Allen West, up for re-election in 2012 (after moving to a new district so that he has a better chance of actually being re-elected), had this to say:
Why Do So Many Right-Wingers Have Such a Soft Spot for Tail Gunner Joe [McCarthy]?
Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal, January 24, 2004
When a questioner asked West about Marxists in “the American legislature,” some in the crowd jeered, but West took a different approach.With his bizarre assertion, Mr. West demonstrated the GOP habit of conflating two "unconflatable" issues. In this case, by "communist" he explained he meant members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Of course. Same thing. Keep repeating it.
“No, it’s a good question,” he said, adding: “I believe there is about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.”
After a long pause, West adds that he is talking about the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of 76 of the more liberal Democrats in the U.S. House.
West's campaign spokesman, Tim Edson went all in:
“We can quibble about the terminology used to describe them, but it’s clear, whatever you call people that oppose capitalism and free markets and individual economic freedom — maybe it’s ‘socialist,’ maybe it’s ’Communist’ — but that’s the point the congressman was making, and he stands by the words.”Yes, a mere "quibble" that. Communist vs.progressive. Moreover, rather than submitting himself to psychiatric counseling, Mr. West "stands by his words." One step closer to equating communist with progressive. West has often stood by his words, words that in normal times would be universally labeled crazed humbug. But now, it's nothing new in Crazy Time USA.
Something Is Gaining On You, Congressman. It's Called 'History'
Satchel Paige once famously said, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." Mr. West, don't look back. By opening this front in your war on the Democratic party, you've reopened a battle long past our caring. Yet, among his always hyper vigilant, always paranoid Tea Party base his move has resonance.
Here's something that the anti-communist Senator Joseph McCarthy had to say in early 1950 in Wheeling, West Virginia:
"I have here in my hand a list of 205 people that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department."The story of Tail Gunner Joe McCarthy is well-known to my generation, the group suffering in grade school in the mid-1950s. It's not so well-known today, particularly with the discredited status of Soviet style communism that has been common knowledge for nearly 25 years. In the 1950s, though, fear and hatred of communism was palpable; kids in my generation sometimes awoke from nightmares of nuclear mushroom clouds. I certainly did.
[Note that the actual number he cited is disputed, 205 and 57 have been suggested. No recording of the speech is available.]
Republican Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin brought the fear home to roost, so to speak. He made it real by charging there were communists within our own government, particularly the State Department. In doing so he created a maelstrom of hatred and unsupported allegations that melded with the public's own suspicions to spawn years of mass hysteria. In the end, it all signified nothing. McCarthy never did uncover anything remotely resembling communist cabals within the government. Along the way, though, he hamstrung or destroyed careers through accusation, browbeating, and irresponsibility bordering on insanity.
In the end, Senator Joe was censured by the Senate, his downward path assured after an exchange with Joseph Nye Welch, the Army's chief counsel when McCarthy himself was investigated by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the so-called Army-McCarthy hearings. That exchange is now iconic. Mr. Welch had sprung to the defense of a young attorney at his firm whom McCarthy had accused of communist leanings because of his long ago membership in the National Lawyers Guild. The memorable words:
"Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"No, he had not. In fact, McCarthy never had.
McCarthy's career ended two and a half years after his censure, at the end of his second term. He died in 1957, and reporter Richard Rovere wrote this:
Now [McCarthyism] is evocative of an almost undifferentiated evil to a large number of Americans and of a positive good to a somewhat smaller number. To the one, whatever is illiberal, repressive, reactionary, obscurantist, anti-intellectual, totalitarian, or merely swinish will for some time to come be McCarthyism, while to the other it means nothing more or less than a militant patriotism."The immortal Satchel Paige has some more advice, Congressman:
"Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain't restful."And, of course, once again: "Don't look back. Something [or someone] might be gaining on you."