Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Michael Savage of the Fifties

Ann Coulter has just published a column praised Joe McCarthy. Coulter has now written two consecutive column heaping praise on McCarthy. She has said that McCarthy deserved monuments in every city, written that: "everything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie. Liberals denounced McCarthy because they were afraid of getting caught, so they fought back like animals to hide their own collaboration with a regime as evil as the Nazis." Some conservatives have followed her lead in this matter.

Would it kill conservatives not to adulate this idiot? (McCarthy, not Coulter, though it applies either way). McCarthy was a nut. Communist infiltration was a problem-- but Joe McCarthy was not the ideal man to fight it.

An analogy for our time would be Michael Savage. Savage has some good ideas-- he is absolutely right about illegal immigration. But like McCarthy, he a) overstates the problem, and b) offers up insane smears and conspiracy theories. There is a difference between saying "illegal immigration is a problem, and saying "THESE ACLU PERVERTS ARE UNDERMINING AMERICA BY LETTING IN ILLEGALS AND TURNING OUR YOUNG MEN INTO HOMOSEXUALS!!!", which is basically Savage's typical rant. (When not ranting, Savage offers his inane moral philosophies or offers boring anecdotes about his life). Savage is a poor spokesman for conservatism-- and so was McCarthy.

Disagree? Remember that Joe McCarthy once assaulted a journalist (seriously), which should cast serious doubts on his judgement. He accused George Marshall of treason. While many of the people he outed were actually Communists, or Communist sympathizers, it is equally indisputable that many were not.

The case of Irving Peress is an example of McCarthy's incompetence and stupidity. Peress, who may have been a Communist sympathizer, was a drafted dentist who rose to the rank of major through the Doctor Draft Law. Peress was to be discharged, but McCarthy subpeoned him anyway. General Ralph W. Zwicker immediately discharged Peress, so McCarthy subpoenaed him as well. McCarthy's vicious insults of a war hero didn't go over well.

The famous Army-McCarthy hearings finally sunk McCarthy. They were televised, and McCarthy's appeal apparently didn't apply to television. (Neither, incidentally, did Savage's). His public support plummeted, and he was censured by the Senate, protesting that it was all a Communist conspiracy all the way.

Ann Coulter and her ilk agree with this assessment. They believe that McCarthy's unpopularity all stemmed from leftist opposition of anti-Communists. That is one possibility. The other is that opposition to McCarthy was due to the fact that while he pursued worthy goals, he was an unpleasant loon.

If you believe that Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Marshall, Whittaker Chambers (who actually did bring down Communists), and Robert Taft were all amazingly and inexplicably misguided regarding McCarthy, then Coulter's premise makes sense. You have to ignore the fact that McCarthy was prone to making wild accusations, spent a ridiculous amount of time chasing a "pink dentist", and never actually caught an actual Communist infiltrator, I suppose that this hypothesis just barely works. I prefer reality.

Joe McCarthy had the right goals, but was hopelessly incompetent as to achieving them. Whittakers once observed that McCarthy was "a slugger and a rabble-rouser" who "simply knows that somebody threw a tomato and the general direction from which it came." This succinct passage perfectly sums up the McCarthy era.


At December 14, 2007 at 1:42 PM , Blogger Beth said...

You are a great conservative, Daniel! I have such an appreciation for people such as yourself who don't just blindly support Republicans just because they are Republicans. You call them as you see them.

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