In a recent post, I spoke about the term witch hunt and how it applies to the current House and Senate committee hearings into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. One example used was the McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s into communist activity in the US. I began to wonder how closely these two paralleled and what impact the current hearings will have on America.
First a little history. Joseph McCarthy was a little know circuit court judge from Wisconsin when he was elected in 1946, to the Senate in an upset victory over a more established Republican. While at first remaining quite he was propelled to prominence in a 1950 speech in which he claimed 205 communists had infiltrated the State Department. When asked to testify in front of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations he was unable to name a single person. Undaunted and after winning reelection in 1952 he was given the chairmanship of the Committee on Government Operations of the Senate and the permanent sub-committee on investigations. From this point McCarthy carried on a 2-year witch-hunt that destroyed lives and altered life in the US for years after. The atmosphere of fear and intimidation that resulted in the continuous hearings and interrogations had an impact on society
“Quantification aside, it may be helpful to look at the specific sectors of American society that McCarthyism touched. Such an appraisal, tentative though it must be, may offer some insight into the extent of the damage and into the ways in which the anti-Communist crusade influenced American society, politics, and culture. We should keep in mind, however, that McCarthyism’s main impact may well have been in what did not happen rather than in what did the social reforms that were never adopted, the diplomatic initiatives that were not pursued, the workers who were not organized into unions, the books that were not written, and the movies that were never filmed.” Schrecker, Ellen. The Age of McCarthyism. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Marvin’s Press, 1994.
Could the current round of investigations, congressional hearings and unquestioned interrogations lead to a similar intimation of American government and society? It is not widely known today but McCarthy spread a wide net to include President Eisenhower and both Democratic and Republican leaders. Today the greatest claim to fame for this period is to give us something to call that time.
“McCarthyism, name given to the period of time in American history that saw Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy produce a series of investigations and hearings during the 1950s in an effort to expose supposed communist infiltration of various areas of the U.S. government. The term has since become a byname for defamation of character or reputation by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations, especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/McCarthyism
Jumping forward 60+ years the question is, are we looking for an actually crime committed by the now sitting President and his campaign or are we entering the period of time that will be known as Clintonism?
When McCarthy started down the road to capture communist and save the USA, there was some truth to what set him off. The cold war was just starting and there was fear of communist aggression because of the Korean war. Communist in the US under the direction of Moscow were indeed trying to infiltrate the government as evidenced by Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss. It was never as widespread or successful as many have made it out to be. Just like today we can look at actually activities that point to a Russian attempt to do something. But as McCarthy blow out of all proportion the Red Threat in the ‘50s so has Hillary Clinton and the democratic party with the impact of Russian activities.
The facts that we know today are that the Democratic National Committees emails were hacked. The most likely perpetrator was the Russian government, which evidence by the way would not likely stand up in court. We also know that members of the Trump campaign and transition team met with Russians, in what is likely legitimate and legal activities. We also have illegal actions in this time period, most notable is the unmasking of us citizens based on electronic intercepts. Electronic intercepts would most likely be called wiretaps by the general public. Unmasking of US citizens, except under extraordinary conditions, caught up in this surveillance is illegal. The driving force to much of this is the initial discovery of classified information on a private unsecured server in Sec. Clintons home. This became critical when then FBI Director James Comey had to admit that Clinton’s actions did in fact violate the law but used a legal excuse, Mens Rea, that said she did not intend to break the law so she is excused.
The Clinton campaign then beat the drum of Russian hacking vice her violation of law as the most damaging activity. While there are some suggestions that Russia was using released emails and propaganda like fake news releases to swing the election toward Trump, the intelligence reports and exit polls show the Russian activity had little to no impact on the election results.
Like the McCarthy hearings of the ‘50s there was some basis in fact to raise concern. Like the McCarthy era the hearings of today are out of proportion to the actions and the net is being spread far and wide beyond the scope of the problem. Normal activity is being cast as suspicious, reputations are being ruined and the level of hysteria and paranoia is outsized to the facts.
The driving issues for the election were economic, static wages and a very slow economy. Clinton represented the failed policies of the government and Trump was an unknown who appeared to understand how to get the economy moving. Clinton was expected to win and Russia was likely more interested in disrupting her administration then actually winning the election for Trump. The current hearings to date have discovered nothing that shows collusion between the Trump campaign, according to the Democrats on the committees, but they continue to work hard. There hard work is beginning to look like the McCarthy hearing however. No evidence is being given just rumor, innuendo and supposition.
What effect this will have on the governing of the country or impact this will have on future elections, is hard to tell. It is time for everyone to PLEASE THINK of what they are doing and remember what happened in the past.