Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 12, 2010

LOOKING LONGINGLY TO JOE MCCARTHY.... For the American mainstream, former Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) was a dangerous demagogue. His name is synonymous with witch hunts, smears, guilt by association, and the practice of destroying the lives of one's political rivals.

But today's right-wing voices don't always see it that way.

In Texas, for example, far-right activists are trying to rewrite the state's school curriculum standards, part of which includes an effort to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy. In Congress, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) described McCarthy as "a great American hero" a few years back.

And then there's Fox News' Glenn Beck, who launched a bizarre tirade on the air yesterday, accusing FDR of hiring Communists to serve throughout the U.S. government, and lauding McCarthy for taking the threat seriously.

"It was Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy, who shined the spotlight on the Communist Party again," Beck said rhapsodically. "McCarthy later led a Senate committee investigation into inefficiencies in the government. Critics accused him of falsely identifying Communists, and smearing their names." Those pesky critics! Beck then brought up, for some reason, the Cold War "domino theory," that if one nation went Communist, so would its neighbors. "Kind of feels like that now, doesn't it?" he asked.

Bashing FDR is, like it or not, becoming second-nature to conservatives. But you don't often hear people willing to offer praise for McCarthy, who -- as even Beck had to admit -- was censured by the Senate in 1954 for his feverish pursuit of Reds, little of which he was able to substantiate.

Wait, McCarthy's hearings were about "inefficiencies in the government"? I don't recall McCarthy being especially interested in efficiency, but then again, I can't hear the voices in Beck's head.

Either way, the fact that some on the right look back at McCarthyism as a good is a reminder of just how far gone some of these clowns really are.

Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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"a bizarre tired "

Was this supposed to be a bizarre tirade?

Posted by: atlliberal on March 12, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

If I am not mistaken, when Beck spoke at CPAC he castigated Theodore Roosevelt and upheld Calvin Coolidge as a model president; now he looks to McCarthy as some sort of crusading hero. What's next, are we going to hear about Aaron Burr's misunderstood patriotism and John C. Calhoun's admirable and eloquent defense of "states' rights"? Geez...

Posted by: Jeff on March 12, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

...how far gone some of these clowns...

problem is, history shows -- like the devastated lives in the wake of master clown joe mccarthy -- that these clowns take a lot of decent people with them...

they seem funny, but isn't this, frankly, some sort of a revival of fascism in this country?

Posted by: neill on March 12, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

So church doctrine is bad, half the time Jesus didn't know what he was talking about, McCarthy is a great American hero, and Obama is more subversive than Hitler...... I'm starting to see a pattern forming here.

I think the "voices" in Glenn's head are actually one very distinct voice. Whats that funny Beckian word again, oligarhy. Yes, the "oligarhy" is speaking directly into poor man's head.

Posted by: oh my on March 12, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Everyone says he has an older audience. At some point will the tire of this. They must remember McCarthy, right?

Posted by: MsJoanne on March 12, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

People tend to forget the William F. Buckley -- a "respectable" conservative -- was a defender of Joe McCarthy.

Also of segregation.

Posted by: pa on March 12, 2010 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Everyone says he has an older audience. At some point will the tire of this. They must remember McCarthy, right?

I dunno. Plenty of older people are revolted by this stuff, but I don't think his particular audience will ever tire of having their rage, fear, loathing, shame and every other negative emotion validated, coddled and nurtured. He's drunk on his own power and walking further and further into teh crazy, and they just amble along unquestioningly behind him.

Posted by: shortstop on March 12, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

McCarthy has always had his supporters. A lot of them will tell you that he did great things in exposing communist infiltration of the government--in the late 40's and early 50's communists were the Islamic jihadists of the day- and that it was only the liberals and communist sympathizers which exploited his human weaknesses including that he was a raging alcoholic. Until a few years ago when they built a new courthouse in his hometown, a large statute of him stood in the courthouse. Of course, there were those who would sneek into the cemetary where he was buried so they could piss on his grave too.

Posted by: Terry on March 12, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

It's a well-known fact that alcohol destroys brain cells.

Beck, an admitted alcoholic, apparently didn't have all that many to begin with. . .

Posted by: DAY on March 12, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

It's interesting that Beck remains on the air and Air America is no more.

A good ole fashion media boycott is in order, but like all junk food, American won't give up its bad habits to save its own life.

I have no TV or internet at home and my alarm clock is set to ESPN. It wasn't hard to do, surprisingly.

Posted by: Not America Anymore on March 12, 2010 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

The message that Beck is sending out doesn't really depend on the details. He's saying "They're out to get you," "Be Fearful," "Social justice is a commie plot," "Plant a survival garden," etc. That said, his love for Tailgunner Joe is no surprise.

Posted by: MattF on March 12, 2010 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

pa, you can add apartheid to that list, as well.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 12, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Oh sure, libs, knock the "Freedom Fighter" - Had it not been for that ultra leftist pinko sellout to his roots, Prescott Bush, Joe's plane might never have been shot down. And to think, he brainwashed Barry Goldwater, as well into signing on that censure. Com Symphs All.

Those Bushies - Never could trust them to protect this country.

So, I see Beck is going to take Ann Coulter to the prom, eh?

Posted by: berttheclock on March 12, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I watch the show the past couple of days and found it fascinating.

He is a real huckster. He talked up his documentaries that explain history as it really happened not as your lefty teachers taught it. And they are available with your subscription to "Insider Extreme" the premium version of his website.

He said he has found another high-level communist in the White House. Just turn in to the next episode of Glenn Beck and he will tell you all about the person.

He spent a good part of the project going after "social justice" as a front for Communism/fascism.

Posted by: Objective Dem on March 12, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Thank God I now know, on a daily basis, what the 0.5% of Americans who watch the Glenn Beck show are getting in terms of information.

On a related note, didn't Kevin Smith once thank Bill Donohoe for giving him a bunch of free publicity for Dogma?

Posted by: norbizness on March 12, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Steve on March 12, 2010 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

The only problem with Beck is that anyone listens to him, as otherwise, his version of history is absolutely HILARIOUS.

It's a sort of Bill & Ted's take on things, as if someone fell asleep in history class and incorporated basic names and ideas into a complete fantasy they dreamed up from smoking too much pot before class. He says enough so you know what time period he's talking about, but it doesn't even approximate reality. I honestly think that even his diehard listeners have trouble connecting his rants to reality. Sure, they'll go along with what he says, but they're not actually revising their memories to match his.

And honestly, can someone tell me that Beck WASN'T the type to get high before history class and fall asleep? That, combined with whatever fumes he's huffing now would make a lot of sense.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on March 12, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

And why not? We let them declare Ronald Raygun a saint, without any pushback about Iran/Contra or Star Wars. Ollie North and Gordon Liddy are well paid media personalities. Even Nixon is warm and fuzzy these days.

This is why Cheney behaves like such a dick, and Bush and Rove were always talking about being vindicated by history.

It's only a matter of time before Beck and Limbaugh declare, without irony or consequences of any sort, that Hitler really had the right idea but botched the execution.

The only way to prevent such revisionns in the coming decades is to prosecute and incarcerate these people as the criminals they are.

Posted by: Winkandanod on March 12, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

As I recall Joe McCarthy died from pneumonia that he contracted while lying in an alley drunk on his butt. He had always been an alcoholic and I am absolutely sure that with all the brain cells destroyed during his bouts, he was not actually completely responsible for the crimes he committed in furtherance of his power trip, sort of like W. A similar fate awaits Beck.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on March 12, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that no one on the right is taking on Beck over this latest bit of moron stupidity is a demonstration that for the Right, McCarthy has always been right.

All we are seeing now is statements made in public of positions that have always been held by the Right. The business about FDR has been there since 1934.

These people don't change and the only way they "go away" is when they die.

There are no "sane people" in the American Right, and looking for them is an exercise in futility.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 12, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Talking up Joe McCarthy as a genuine American hero is not a new phenomenon. Ann Coulter has been singing that song for years.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on March 12, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I live in America, and know my history! Glenn Beck proves night after night he lives in fantasyland, and knows nothing but shit-stirring grudgery!

Posted by: kevo on March 12, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

I grew up in the 50's. I remember hiding under my desk with my arms folded over my head as I crouched down to better absorb the initial concusion of the atomic blast that would have sent my atoms sliding along with those of the poor bastard infront on me. Ah...those were the days. I also vaguely remember the McCarthy hoopla. I think it was all followed by a return to common sense and then to a missle crisis, a southeast asia war followed by a sizure of our republic by coporate interests (Thanks for the warning Dwight)
and the need for never-ending -war profits followed by a return to McCartyism followed by...anyone else seeing a pattern here?

It's like penny loafer shoes. wait long enough and you'll see a reemergence of them back in style. Except this time around the lofers will be made in China and the pennies will be made from zinc that's been copper plated. Nauseating...

Posted by: stevio on March 12, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

I may be a wee bit OT, but as I write this particular comment---just after 11 in the morning eastern time---I note with a sense of exacting irony that the middle of the WM page contains this very article, while just to the left of it is a big color picture of the Wicked Witch of the Reich (Ann Coulter), and the infamous squatting elephant award is located just to its right.

America-hating Fascists of a feather do, it seems, flock together....

Posted by: S. Waybright on March 12, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Everyone says he has an older audience. At some point will the tire of this. They must remember McCarthy, right?

Sure, but it's not that big a stretch to revise history-- older people tend to be conservative because long-term cultural shifts make them uncomfortable, after all, and plenty would give themselves double points for open-mindedness if they decided that ol' Joe may have been more right than anyone thought at the time.

Posted by: latts on March 12, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

The only way to prevent such revisionns in the coming decades is to prosecute and incarcerate these people as the criminals they are.

Prosecute Beck for spouting ignorance?? Oh, wait. You're talking about Bush and Cheney. But you're mistaken about this, as even felons like G. Gordon Liddy are considered heroes by these people. And Ollie North became a hero because we tried to nail him.

No, if we prosecuted Bush and Cheney, they'd be considered martyrs and it would ensure their place on the pantheon of conservative heroes. But as it is, they'll slowly sink away from history, and when they're remembered, it will be for their blunders and ineffectiveness.

And who cares? The only people who believe in this revisionism are the dopes who are desperate to find anything that confirms what they already believe to be true. The rest of America ignores it. We really need to stop caring what wingnuts think, and if they want to lionize felons and crooks as heroes, that's their business.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on March 12, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

The only time I see Beck is when I'm sitting in a bar. Why the owners bother to put Beck on TV for free when they'll soon enough get an equally deranged barstool blowhard who actually pays for his beer is beyond me.

Posted by: CJColucci on March 12, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Give these bozos in Texas enough time and in a few years even Timothy McVeigh will be lauded as an upstanding young man who exemplified America's rugged individualism in his fight against the tyrannical federal government and the socialists who lead it.

Posted by: josef on March 12, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

McCarthy's name has attached to a period and a style, but he wasn't the worst of the Red-baiters, just the loudest and most publicity-shrewd. J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, Roy Cohn and Sen. Pat McCarren of Nevada were probably more dangerous to "Communist infiltrators", school teachers and such --- like my father --- small fry who had once perhaps flirted with the CPUSA in the depths of the Great Depression, not to real Soviet spies like Rudolf Abel and Klaus Fuchs.

That McCarthyh made up a lot of his "revelations" and that he was in the bag most of the time (and may have been in the closet too) is not the point. J. McCarthy was convenient as a club for a lot of frustrated Republicans, who after 16 years of Democratic Presidents (13 of FDR and 3 of HST) expected to get the WH back in '48 (The Dems were split by the Progressives on the left and the Dixiecrats on the right, and Thurmond did carry 5 states)and were foiled. It is not unlike today when no lie or absurdity is beyond the pale for those who think that political power is theirs by some sort of divine Right (pun intended).

It's mildly interesting that one of Joe McCarthy's earliest backers was Greta van Susteren's father, also that the Tailgunner's downfall came not through Edward R Murrow but really from Ike, who lost patience when Joe began attacking Sec.-of-State, formerly General, George Marshall and the Army, which were respectively Ike's father figure and family.

During Eugene McCarthy's challenge to LBJ in 1968, I handled the phones in the NY State HQ for a while. I'll never forget the inquirer who thought that Gene was Joe (who died in 1957, mainly of cirrhosis I believe). The lack of basic knowledge of the American electorate explains a lot of why Beck, Coulter, and their slimy cohorts are so successful, and why we are well on the way to a 3rd world condition. Mencken had it right...sorry, Thomas Jefferson.

Posted by: jrosen on March 12, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Glenn Beck is imprisoned in such a spiral of craziness that it's only a matter of time until he brings an alligator on his show, dressed in a T-shirt that says "Liberalism" (or perhaps "Oligarhy") on the front, and wrestles it. He reminds me of Jerry Springer, the way he used to bring luminaries of the Triple-K and black civil rights activists on his show at the same time, because the hate and fury would make his show "edgy".

The trouble is, Glenn Beck is making a shitload of money off of his craziness. The crazier he gets, the richer he gets, so there's absolutely no incentive for him to simmer down.

Posted by: Mark on March 12, 2010 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

It's only a matter of time before Beck and Limbaugh declare, without irony or consequences of any sort, that Hitler really had the right idea but botched the execution.

We should fight fascism with fascism?

Posted by: m1 on March 12, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans let McCarthy have his head partly because, when everyone, after four consecutive FDR administrations, expected Tom Dewey to defeat Truman in 1948 and lost, they decided the country was in danger of becoming a one party system. Chasing commies was a way for them to win elections. Nixon said so.

Posted by: Robert Abbott on March 12, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Who can forget McCarthy's famously claiming "I have here in my hand a list of 57 government inefficiencies in the State Dept!" Yes, he was big into good government, ol' Joe. It's only his 'critics' who say he was a rabid, hallucinatory witch hunter. Right.

Could someone escort Mr. Beck to a nice padded room, and see that he gets the medications he so obviously needs? And see if we can file charges against Roger Ailes for exploiting the mentally ill?

Posted by: biggerbox on March 12, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

The other aspect of the McCarthy era was equating homosexuals with communists. As a result they were routinely ban and purged from government service. A legacy that lasted into the 60s

The irony of course was the McCarthy could have been a closeted homosexual. (He didn't marry until his late 40's when people were questioning his sexuality, etc. etc.) McCarthy's main aide was a closeted homosexual, Roy Cohn. McCarthy's downfall came after Cohn picked a fight with the Army because they were not giving special treatment to his sidekick and perhaps homosexual lover, David Schine.

Posted by: Objective Dem on March 12, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

"but then again, I can't hear the voices in Beck's head."

Be grateful.

Posted by: zak822 on March 12, 2010 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

McCarthy also accused the US Army of torturing the members of the Waffen-SS who were responsible for the Malmedy Massacre, and wanted their death sentences commuted.

Great guy, that Tailgunner Joe.

Posted by: 2Manchu on March 12, 2010 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

If you think of Glenn Beck as a showman, it makes a little more sense. His persona as the archest conservative of them all is his brand and he has to keep topping himself (and everyone else). Inevitably, this requires increasingly dramatic conspiracy theories, equating 'social justice' with Marxism, and defending McCarthy -- sure, why not? He'll be promoting eugenics before his audience decides he's jumped the shark.

Posted by: Algernon on March 12, 2010 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Pa," somewhere earlier in these comments, reminds us that the late William "I smoke pot legally" Buckley was a big fan of the youngest senator who had ever been elected. In fact, he even wrote two books about him: "McCarthy and His Enemies," a defense co-written with brother-in-law L. Brent Bozell (q.v.), and "The Red Hunter - A Novel Based on the Life of Senator Joe McCarthy."

Remember, too, that, it was because of his own beneficial McCarthy connection that Richard Nixon rose to national prominence. Pumpkins.... Typewriters....

In any event, it will be scant solace to the undereducated victims of this revisionism that Minitrue graduates behind this scheme only passed it by a 10-5 party line vote-- by which is meant that four of The Austin Ten, including ringleader Winston Smith, have just been defeated for re-election.

Don't know whether the incoming replacements will be better, but they don't take office until after this atrocity is done, though perhaps there will be enough lawsuits to at least delay any plan to teach "facts" the rest of the United States disputes.

Posted by: Tomm on March 12, 2010 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK
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