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Bill Moyers: The Ghost of Joe McCarthy in Today's Republican Party

Tea Party favorite Allen West was asked at a local gathering how many of his fellow members of Congress are “card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists.”

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McCarthy never recovered. His tactics had been opposed from the outset by a handful of courageous Republican senators. Now they pressed their case with renewed vigor. One of them, Senator Ralph Flanders of Vermont, introduced a motion to censure Joseph McCarthy. When it eventually passed 67 to 22, McCarthy was finished. He soon disappeared from the front pages. Three years later, he was dead.

All of this came rushing back as Congressman West summoned his foul spirits from the vast deep. The ghost stepped out of the past.

Like McCarthy, the more Allen West is challenged about his comments, the more he doubles down on them. Now he’s blaming the “ corrupt liberal media” for stirring the pot against him – a trick for which McCarthy taught the master class. And the congressman’s latest fusillades continue to distort the beliefs and policies of those he smears – no surprise there, either.

To help him continue his fight for “the heart and soul” of America he’s asking his supporters for a contribution of ten dollars or more.  There could even be a super PAC in this – with McCarthy’s ghost as its honorary chairman.

Plenty of kindred spirits are there to sign on.  Like the author of the book  The Grand Jihad, who  wrote that whether Obama is Christian or not, “The faith to which Obama actually clings is neocommunism.”  Or the blogger who claims Obama is running the country into the ground “by way of the same type of race-baiting and class warfare Communism cannot exist without,” and that his policies are “ unbecoming to an American president.”

From there it’s only a short hop to the kind of column that popped up on the right wing website Newsmax hinting of a possible coup “as a last resort to resolve the ‘Obama problem.’” Military intervention, the author wrote, “is what Obama's exponentially accelerating agenda for ‘fundamental change’ toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America.” The column was quickly withdrawn but not before the website  Talking Points Memo exposed it.

So beware, Congressman West, beware:  In the flammable pool of toxic paranoia that passes these days as patriotism in America, a single careless match can light an inferno. You would serve your country well to withdraw your remarks and apologize for them.  But if not, perhaps there are members of your own party, as possessed of conscience and as courageous as that handful of Republicans who took on Joseph McCarthy, who will now abandon fear and throw cold water on your incendiary remarks.

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Veteran journalist Bill Moyers is the host of “Moyers & Company,” airing weekly on public television. Check your local listings. More at www.billmoyers.com

Michael Winship is senior writer of Moyers & Company on public television, senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and president of the Writers Guild of America, East.

 
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