Is it McCarthyism?
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.