DANA MILBANK: No time to invoke spirit of Joe McCarthy

Washington Post Writers Group Published:

WASHINGTON -- I have here in my hand a list of six people who think Darrell Issa is a fellow traveler of Joseph McCarthy.

I compiled these names while watching Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, lead his panel's proceedings Thursday to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress. Among the half-dozen Democrats who made the comparison:

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., accused Issa of "stripping away the constitutional rights of an American" in a way that "has not been taken by Congress since the days of Senator McCarthy."

The ranking Democrat on the panel, Elijah Cummings of Maryland said Issa was attempting "something that even Joe McCarthy could not do in the 1950s."

And Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., read aloud an opinion that "Issa's investigations closely resemble Sen. Joseph McCarthy's 1950s red-baiting."

"I have more, Mr. Chairman," Tierney added.

Issa tapped his gavel and offered a sardonic reply. "And if you had more time, I'm sure you would use it."

Sorry to interrupt this Red Scare rerun, but the Democrats are wrong. Darrell Issa is no Joe McCarthy.

It's not for lack of trying. As I've noted, the California Republican, during his lamentable tenure running the committee, has been reckless, dishonest, vain and prone to making unsubstantiated accusations.

But Issa's McCarthyism is a faint echo of the real thing, for one very important reason. McCarthy was feared; Issa isn't taken seriously. This is a rare bit of good news about modern politics: It's a bad time to be a demagogue.

There have been demagogues in all eras, but they only gain traction in times of fear, when would-be opponents are afraid to dissent. In McCarthy's time, government and private-sector workers alike feared workplace loyalty tests, and lawmakers feared losing their jobs.

There may be some who fear Issa, Ted Cruz or other practitioners of neo-McCarthyism. But there are at least as many unafraid to call these men dangerous, or buffoons. This is largely because there is no enemy that poses the sort of threat the Soviet Union did. But there is also a felicitous side effect of the polarization of the two parties: Because there is no longer ideological overlap, as there was in the 1950s, Democrats are unafraid to challenge the likes of Issa.

Committee Democrats, who unanimously opposed Issa's contempt proceedings, issued a press release noting that a "case from 1954 shows striking similarities between Darrell Issa and Joe McCarthy." That's superficially true -- both cases involve contempt proceedings against a witness who took the Fifth -- but while McCarthy had been branding innocent people as communists, Issa was trying to get information from an IRS worker Democrats agree had been guilty of mismanagement.

Issa at one point asked that his actions be seen "a little differently" from those of the late senator's. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), pleaded for mercy on Issa, in faltering Latin.

Too bad, congressman. The way to fight McCarthyism is to denounce its purveyors -- ad hominem and ad infinitum.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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  •  Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/soviet-propaganda-posters-jay-carney-2014-4#ixzz2yoIlFtkb

    Washingtonian MOM magazine’s spring issue has a profile of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s wife, by ABC News contributor Claire Shipman, that features a picture taken inside their home. In the background of the photo, you can see two framed Soviet-era propaganda posters.

    One of Carney’s posters is a version of this iconic design by artist Dmitry Moor with a soldier pointing his finger alongside text that says “Have YOU Enlisted?” in Russian.

    The other poster features a female factory worker. According to this eBay seller, who is offering one for $1,660, the poster was printed on June 26, 1941, days after Russia began fighting the Axis powers in World War II. It encourages women take jobs vacated by men who have gone to fight. The woman in the poster is switching out a tag with a man’s name to one with hers and the text says: “Women! Learn production, replace workers who went to the front! The stronger the hinterland – the stronger the front!”

    It’s interesting that a propagandist for the most radical, collectivist, left-wing President in history has radical, collectivist, left-wing propaganda from another period proudly displayed in his living room for all to see and “admire.”

    Can you imagine a prominent member of the Bush administration being caught with Goebbels approved Nazi recruitment posters on his living room wall and the howling firestorm of outrage and media circus that would have erupted immediately? Yet where is the outrage here? The double standard is glaring and at minimum such questionable home decorating tastes should raise a few eyebrows. And it’s not like these were displayed in an office or den somewhere surrounded by all types of historical memorabilia. That I could understand. But this, I’m not so sure about. Kind of creepy if you ask me.

    Considering the fact that the Soviet Empire murdered millions upon millions of people, was routinely brutal and "Oppressive Towards Free Expression", brought the world to the brink of nuclear war and serves as a black mark on the history of human civilization, it seems inappropriate to adorn one’s home with vestiges of totalitarian brutality.

    -  Greg Campbell

  • For those interested, look up the VENONA Project, an espionage program of the USA that was supported and verified by the 1995 release of Soviet records. This exposure of anti-American activity began in the early 1940's.

  • Dana Milbank is extremely biased, plus, least we forget: McCarthy was right. Those found guilty of aiding the Communists, were actually aiding the Communists in an attempt to overthrow our government. It wasn't that long ago that the Russians confirmed this by releasing their appropriate records. But radical liberals like Dana Milbank ignore those truths.