Agggghhh! Clever media buzzword alert! Within 24 hours of Albert Hunt’s column in the Wall Street Journal yesterday the conventional wisdom says we have ushered in a new age of “sexual McCarthyism” in the wake of the Henry Hyde Salon smear. It’s an appealing concept and sounds very good on TV. But what does it mean?
What Hunt and all of the talking heads have already decided to call sexual McCarthyism is in fact simply dirty pool. It’s closet rattling. It’s wrong, it’s vile, it should stop; but it ain’t McCarthyism.
Ultimately, “Sexual McCarthyism” is another debasement characterized by an inability to distinguish between shades of wrong. While I think Hyde has been gravely wronged, I fear that McCarthy might have been too. After all McCarthy was a drunk and a bully, but he was looking for Communists who, according to a colossal amount of new scholarship, really did exist and really were a threat.
McCarthyism was a phrase coined by enemies of McCarthy to delegitimize the hunt for Communists (if he had hunted Nazis working in the State Department would the Left have found a need for the word?). The essence of McCarthyism as a pejorative is that it relies upon the leveling of charges and accusations — based upon political or ideological animus — without benefit of proof.
This practice is wrong and it creates real victims. It did in the 1950s and it does today. And do you know where in the last year we can find the best example of McCarthyism 1990s style? Look no further than Hillary Rodham Clinton and her Roy Cohn, Sid Blumenthal. Their accusations of a vast right-wing conspiracy, their whisper campaigns and their assault on peoples’ motives have been right out of Tail Gunner Joe’s playbook. That is why James Carville is writing a smear book about Ken Starr, that is why the Clintonites compare him to various Nazis. If he’s bad, then his victim must be good. For this reason alone, Bill Clinton’s administration should live in infamy.
SEND BARRY BACK TO THE MINORS
Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee emerged from a closed-door meeting bemoaning the lack of bi-partisanship regarding the release of Clinton’s videotaped testimony. White House Deputy Press Secretary Barry Toiv immediately gave a press briefing. Intellectually he was like a fireman running out of the station without his pants on. Toiv was upset that bi-partisanship fell apart! But, he was asked, did the White House have a problem with the decision of the Judiciary Committee? No, of course not. The White House objected to the process, not the result.
Wasn’t it the White House that said that they wanted this process to be concluded as quickly as possible? Doesn’t the release of his testimony move the process along?
Maybe, said Toiv, but the process sends a bad message.
Well, so why aren’t the Democrats the problem for not making this a bi-partisan effort?
Alas, his script didn’t cover that point.
After a barrage of tough questions from an incredulous press, the bottom-line White House position is this: They would have much preferred if the Democrats had agreed with the Republicans in releasing the tape.
Put your pants on, Barry.