Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) trafficked in the culture of allegations of the ”un-American.” He was censured by the United Senate and died disgraced.
Now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is engaging in misconduct comparably shameful: “redbaiting” those with red state values. He deserves censure for such misconduct. If the Democrats will not provide it, if the Republicans regain the majority in the U.S. Senate the censuring of Harry Reid deserves to be the first order of business next year.
Leader Reid has cast himself as the point man in a campaign by the left to vilify Charles and David Koch. As recently inventoried by The Washington Free Beacon, and as noted by The Washington Post, Reid has vilified the Koch name, at last count, 134 times.
This is not a random act by Reid.
This vilification appears orchestrated with a campaign of calumny against the Kochs now being prosecuted across the left. It is being pushed by such sinister figures as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, by the increasingly petty and reactionary MoveOn.org, in The Nation, the Progressive, Nation of Change, and by other self-styled progressives showing themselves not averse to dabbling in totalitarian measures.
This campaign very much appears to be the left’s appropriating the 13th (and possibly most famous) Rule of Saul Alinsky (himself a noble foe both of injustice and totalitarianism). Alinsky:
The thirteenth rule: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. (Rules for Radicals, p. 130)
[I]t must be a personification, not something general and abstract such as a community’s segregated practices or a major corporation or City Hall. It is not possible to develop the necessary hostility against, say, City Hall, which after all is a concrete, physical, inanimate structure, or against a corporation, which has no soul or identity, or a public school administration, which again is an inanimate system.
John L. Lewis, the leader of the radical C.I.O. labor organization in the 1930s, was fully aware of this, and as a consequence the C.I.O. never attacked General Motors, they always attacked its president, Alfred “Icewater-In-His-Veins” Sloan; they never attacked the Republic Steel Corporation but always its president, “Bloodied Hands” Tom Girdler, and so with us when we attacked the then-superintendent of the Chicago public school system, Benjamin Willis. Let nothing get you off your target. (Rules for Radicals, p. 133)
The chosen “personification” of free enterprise happens to be two wealthy industrialists deeply engaged in political and policy advocacy. The Kochs’ general views on economics happens to accord, in great measure, with those of this columnist. But this column does not engage in special pleading for allies. This columnist, for example, publicly expressed admiration of George Soros notwithstanding profound differences. Justice simply must be served.
There is nothing wrong with spirited, even heated, public debate. That is quintessentially American. There is something very wrong with bullying.
Reid’s hypocrisy is exquisite. Reid is extremely cozy with left wing billionaires engaging in politics, as smartly observed by, among others, US News & World Report columnist Peter Roff and, in Politico, National Review’s editor Rich Lowry, in Politico.
Yet political hypocrisy is at worst a venial sin. Reid is committing a mortal political sin. In slandering two private citizens as “about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine” — on top of a campaign of relentless vilification — Reid clearly has crossed a line. The Senate’s dignity demands that Reid be held to account. Nothing less than censure will do.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….” Giving speeches from the United States Senate does not rise to making law. And yet, using the Senate to slander citizens with accusations of “un-American” is a clear abuse of the Constitutional provision that “for any Speech or Debate in either House, they [our legislators] shall not be questioned in any other Place.”
"Un-American?" Harry Reid thereby has earned censure. Joe McCarthy hired the staff director of the House Un-American Activities Committee as the research director of his own Permanent Subcommittee on Internal Investigations. “[T]he American public grew increasingly wary of the ‘redbaiting’ techniques employed by HUAC and others,” observes one scholar. The House Un-American Activities Committee committee eventually was renamed and then abolished as unseemly, even shameful. Rightly so.
Reid is engaging in a new form of “redbaiting.” This time, “red” alludes to the conservatism of the so-called “red” states rather than communism. “Redbaiting” was shameful then. It, in this new sense, is even more shameful now. Reid’s “reds” reflect the sentiments of a dominant plurality of the American people.
The United States Senate, under Republican leadership, censured Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Senate.gov, referencing Anne M. Butler and Wendy Wolff. United States Senate Election, Expulsion, and Censure Cases, 1793-1990. S. Doc. 103-33. Washington, GPO, 1995, states:
On November 8, 1954, as the Senate convened in a rare post-election (“lame duck”) session to deal with the McCarthy case, a lengthy and tangled debate developed. … To keep the discussion as bipartisan as possible, Minority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson (Democrat-TX) urged Democratic liberals to remain quiet and allow moderate and conservative Republicans to carry the fight against McCarthy.
Those who defended Joseph McCarthy and sought to defeat the recommendation argued that censure would impose an unwise code of conduct for the future—that McCarthy should not be censured for his behavior in a previous Congress, and that a censure vote would interfere with the guarantees of free speech. As he warmed to the fight, McCarthy labeled the select committee the “unwitting handmaiden of the Communist Party,” attacked Arthur Watkins as “cowardly,” and referred to the entire proceeding as a “lynch party.” Chairman Watkins responded with an emotional speech about the dignity of the Senate that brought cheers from the galleries.
Senate.gov also records the incandescent moment of McCarthy being called out by Joseph Welch:
The army hired Boston lawyer Joseph Welch to make its case. At a session on June 9, 1954, McCarthy charged that one of Welch’s attorneys had ties to a Communist organization. As an amazed television audience looked on, Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career:
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?
Overnight, McCarthy’s immense national popularity evaporated. Censured by his Senate colleagues, ostracized by his party, and ignored by the press, McCarthy died three years later, 48 years old and a broken man.
Senator Reid? Until the moment you called un-American two innocent citizens exercising constitutionally guaranteed rights America never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate the Kochs further, Senator. Have you no sense of decency?
Reid’s conduct is an abuse of the Senate. It also is an abuse of Saul Alinsky.
No less than the young Hillary Rodham, who, then as now, played hardball, not dirtball, in her 1969 honor’s thesis THERE IS ONLY THE FIGHT… An Analysis of the Alinsky Model, unequivocally, and with decency, indicted comparable abuses of Alinsky’s Rules occurring in her day. Hillary Rodham:
[S]ome New Left strategists …, although, disenchanted with Alinsky-like faith in individuals, apply many of his tactics in confrontation politics.
The problems inherent in such an approach, including elitist arrogance and repressive intolerance, have become evident during recent university crises.
Contrary to Alinsky's ethos, Reid demonstrates elitist arrogance and repressive intolerance. His conduct is “contrary to senatorial traditions” — for which McCarthy specifically was censured.
In conducting a campaign of vilification and of leveling an accusation of "un-American" Harry Reid is disgracing the United States Senate in ways comparable to the misconduct of Joe McCarthy. Only by censuring Harry Reid can the United States Senate regain dignity. Harry Reid deserves censure for Neo-McCarthyism.