The Corner

McCarthyite Distortion

Richard Cohen has a pretty good column today on Hillary Clinton’s spinelessness regarding Petraeus. But he makes one casual assertion — seemingly for “balance” — that bugs me. He writes:

 The swipe at Petraeus was contained in a full-page ad the antiwar group MoveOn.org placed in the New York Times last week. It charged that Petraeus was “cooking the books” about conditions in Iraq and cited statements of his that have turned out to be either (1) not true, (2) no longer true, (3) possibly not true or (4) like everything else in Iraq, impossible to tell. Whatever the case, using “betray” — a word associated with treason — recalls the ugly McCarthy era, when for too many Republicans dissent corresponded with disloyalty. MoveOn.org and the late senator from Wisconsin share a certain fondness for the low blow.

Me: How are we to read this? Cohen believes too many Republicans equated  dissent  with disloyalty. Okay, fine. Was the number of Democrats who equated dissent with disloyalty exactly right? Cohen makes it sound like McCarthyism was exclusively a Republican affair, which is absurd. Whatever McCarthyism was or wasn’t — a debate none of us have time for today — it was hardly an exclusively partisan enterprise. One could just consult the records of Bobby Kennedy — or several of his kin — Pat McCarran, Francis Walter and other mostly forgotten Democrats. One might also recall the record of President Eisenhower whose distaste for McCarthy is hardly a secret. 

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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