Is it McCarthy­ism?

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - John Brum­mett John Brum­mett, whose col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette, was in­ducted into the Arkansas Writ­ers’ Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrum­mett@arkansason­line.com. Read his @john wbrum­mett Twit­ter feed.

On Sun­day, a man who be­came pres­i­dent de­spite get­ting nearly 3 mil­lion fewer votes than his op­po­nent—I re­fer to Don­ald J. Trump — tweeted that the news me­dia is “distorting democ­racy” by re­port­ing on him with the same skep­ti­cism it has ap­plied pro­fes­sion­ally to all mod­ern pres­i­dents.

Speak­ing of irony and breath­tak­ing ab­sences of self-aware­ness: Also on Sun­day, a man who once lost a con­gres­sional race af­ter sug­gest­ing his op­po­nent’s lib­er­al­ism could lead to com­mu­nism — I re­fer to Lit­tle Rock’s own Trump cham­pion, for­mer U.S. At­tor­ney Bud Cum­mins — went on Fox and of­fered quite a lit­tle gem. He said that those who al­lege wrong­do­ing in Don­ald Trump Jr.’s meet­ing with Rus­sians who cited ties to the Rus­sian govern­ment and promised dirt on Hil­lary Clin­ton are them­selves prac­tic­ing McCarthy­ism, at least as he reads its def­i­ni­tion on Wikipedia.

Su­per­fi­cial In­ter­net re­search aside, real McCarthy­ism in the early 1950s was about peo­ple in­side the govern­ment us­ing the power of that govern­ment to puff them­selves up and ex­pose, in­tim­i­date, mis­rep­re­sent, black­list and gen­er­ally ruin pri­vate per­sons who might or might not have as­so­ci­ated with lib­er­als in Hol­ly­wood and else­where where com­mu­nism was talked of fa­vor­ably.

Don­ald Jr. is not a pri­vate per­son. He was rep­re­sent­ing a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. He was not a vic­tim of oth­ers’ ru­mors. He was a vic­tim of the un­con­tro­verted facts of his own emails that he posted on Twit­ter him­self.

—————— Cum­mins ac­tu­ally was talk­ing on Fox about al­le­ga­tions against ousted FBI di­rec­tor James Comey. He was mak­ing the fair and ad­mirable point that every­one should rely on ev­i­dence be­fore pounc­ing with pro­nounce­ments.

But then he went this far: “This whole story [on Ju­nior and the Rus­sians] is about al­le­ga­tions of sub­ver­sion and trea­son without re­gard for ev­i­dence, and that is, if you look at Wikipedia, the def­i­ni­tion of McCarthy­ism.”

That’s not the story, and that’s not McCarthy­ism.

The is­sues with Trump Jr. are not sub­ver­sion or trea­son, ex­cept among those chron­i­cally over­heated on the left. They are about some­thing called “col­lu­sion,” which isn’t even a de­fined crime. They’re about whether the meet­ing and its con­text vi­o­lated a fed­eral law that says a fed­eral cam­paign may not ac­cept or seek money or an­other thing of value from a for­eign govern­ment.

Here’s some­thing that would be more sim­i­lar to McCarthy­ism, though, to be clear, it’s still light years re­moved: Say­ing in the late stages of your 2nd Con­gres­sional District race in Arkansas in 1996, as Cum­mins did, that the lib­er­al­ism of your op­po­nent, Vic Sny­der, “kind of leads to so­cial­ist, kind of leads to com­mu­nist.”

But I would never ac­cuse Cum­mins of McCarthy­ism. I ac­cuse him only of a bone­headed state­ment. Twice now.

As I’ve writ­ten, I like and ad­mire Bud, if maybe a bit less this week than last.

As a rule, and a good one, peo­ple are con­sid­ered to have lost ar­gu­ments the mo­ment they ac­cuse those with whom they dis­agree of prac­tic­ing McCarthy­ism … or be­ing Nazis.

As it hap­pens, I’ve had con­ver­sa­tions of late with Cum­mins in which we ven­tured into that con­tro­versy of 1996 when he talked of lib­er­al­ism lead­ing to com­mu­nism. What Bud said at the time was that he was ab­jectly sorry. But that was pre-Trump.

One thing he likes about Trump, he tells me now, is that Trump doesn’t play by rules that the me­dia never had the author­ity to make or en­force.

Trump never takes any­thing back, even as he should take nearly ev­ery­thing back.

So, in honor of his rev­o­lu­tion­ary hero in the mod­ern anti-ac­cu­racy and anti-fair­ness move­ment in Amer­ica, Cum­mins prob­a­bly won’t take back the McCarthy­ism non­sense ei­ther.

Idon’t take back my view that Trump Jr.’s meet­ing con­ceiv­ably vi­o­lated that pre­vi­ously ref­er­enced fed­eral law, be­cause, if you want to be a stick­ler about the let­ter of the law, it might’ve. Robert Mueller will de­cide.

I’m not anx­ious to see the young Trump in­dicted over ar­ro­gance and ig­no­rance. See­ing the Se­nate health­care bill de­feated — now that is some­thing I’m anx­ious about.

But I’m no Joe McCarthy if I read Trump Jr.’s emails, and then read the rel­e­vant statute, and say “hm­mmm.”

Mean­time, re­gard­ing Trump’s tweet­ing that re­port­ing on him in the me­dia that he doesn’t like is “distorting democ­racy,” I’d point out that news re­port­ing on a pres­i­dent that the pres­i­dent doesn’t like is a time-hon­ored Amer­i­can tra­di­tion. Bill Clin­ton could tell you a lot about it.

To the con­trary, such re­port­ing cel­e­brates … not democ­racy as much as free­dom.

The elec­toral col­lege is what dis­torts democ­racy, which is what our founders, who didn’t trust the peo­ple to rule, wanted. But they never met Trump.

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