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Teddy Kennedy, Following in the Footsteps of a Family Friend — Joseph McCarthy

Because I was busy writing papers last week I did not get to watch as much of the confirmation hearings of soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito as I would have liked. The few moments I saw of Senators Schumer and Kennedy convinced me that these two Democrats weren’t interested in learning Judge Alito’s views, but on misrepresenting his record in order to portary him as out of the mainstream.

Last Wednesday, they “did their best yesterday to imply that Judge Alito was racist and sexist by linking the nominee with the views of some members of Concerned Alumni of Princeton,” views expressed in an article in that group’s magazine, Prospect that the Judge didn’t write and that its editor confirms was a “satire.” Such tactics caused the folks at Powerline to wonder if Judiciary Committee Democrats enjoyed smearing people?

And while Democrats today are quick to smear Republicans by accsuing them of engaging in McCarthyism (e.g., here and here), it is tactics of Senate Democrats that more closely ressemble McCarthyism than anything their Republican colleagues have said or done in recent years. To be sure, in the early 1950s, it was Joseph McCarthy, a Republican U.S. Senator from Wisconsin who, by falsely accusing a number of citizens of being Communists, first defined McCarthyism. His demagogic behavior damaged the anti-Communist cause he championed.

I’m not the first blogger to note the similarity between the Massachusetts Democrat today and the Wisconsin Republican of the 1950s. My former U-VA Federalist Society colleague Todd Zywicki finds that Kennedy’s exchange with Judge Alito sounded a lot like one between McCarthy and Special Counsel for the Army Joseph N. Welch (via Hugh).

Perhaps Senator Kennedy learned such tactics from McCarthy himself. His older brother Bobby worked as a lawyer on the that Senator’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1953. Indeed, “McCarthy was reasonably close to the Kennedy family,” dating two of the Massachusetts Senator’s older sisters (65). According to Kennedy family biographer Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the Senator’s father, “Joseph Kennedy liked him [McCarthy] most of all and invited him from time to time to Hyannis Port” (i.e., the location of the Kennedy family compound) (100). Perhaps, that Wisconsin demagogue taught the youngest Kennedy son a few tricks on those visits.

To be sure, Bobby Kennedy later admitted he was “wrong” about McCarthy (64). Unlike his idealistic older brother, however, the current Massachusetts Senator seems more interested in smearing his opponents than in examining the truth of their record. It is unfortunate that Democrats and their media allies have so convinced themselves that only Republicans can engage in McCarthyism that they ignore Democratic attempts to smear Republicans just as that Kennedy family friend once smeared his adversaries, real and imagined.

-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com

NOTE: The numbers which follow certain sentences in this post refer to the pages containing the quotes in the books linked. As a fan of Bobby Kennedy (for his spirit and idealism — not his politics), I highly recommend both biographies cited. Schlesinger’s is more thorough and perhaps a little too forgiving of the family’s flaws. And Thomas’s, while shorter, is a great read.

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21 Comments

  1. The thing is that McCarthy was right in that there were Communists working in the U.S. So far, the liberals have been totally wrong. In other words, I don’t know that you can rightfully call what the liberals do McCarthyism.

    It’s just gutter trash smearing good people.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — January 16, 2006 @ 2:46 am - January 16, 2006

  2. It’s just gutter trash smearing good people.

    And that’s putting it nicely.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — January 16, 2006 @ 2:47 am - January 16, 2006

  3. Ted Kennedy is to the dems what Jessie Helms, Strom Thurman, et al. is the Republicans. If I had to count up nut jobs on either side, however, the current Repubs definitely have many more wingnuts than the Dems.

    Comment by Stephen — January 16, 2006 @ 6:36 am - January 16, 2006

  4. “the current Massachusetts Senator seems more interested in smearing his opponents than in examining the truth of their record.”

    And your association of McCarthy with the Kennedy family isn’t a smear tactic?

    Comment by PeaceOut — January 16, 2006 @ 9:27 am - January 16, 2006

  5. It was Teddy, in supporting the nomination of Thurgood Marshall ,who said prior to the confirmation hearings that the nominee should not be
    ask questions on how he vote on cases pending before the court. My how the sands of time have change the landscape.

    Comment by Roberto — January 16, 2006 @ 10:03 am - January 16, 2006

  6. Insert ¨would¨between the words he and vote

    Comment by Roberto — January 16, 2006 @ 10:05 am - January 16, 2006

  7. McCarthy was right because if you hit at enough people, you’re gonna find a communist. Kennedy is targetting one person, it’s like comparing a person who murders a single guy Hitler because Hitler killed too. The comparison is laughable and shows how little thought is put into conservative blog posts these days. Yeah, he may be on a smear campaign, but it’s no where near the extent of what McCarthy did.

    Comment by Joey — January 16, 2006 @ 11:20 am - January 16, 2006

  8. PeaceOut, #4, in associating the Kennedy family with Senator McCarthy, I am quoting from two biographies favorable to the family. It is a fact that Senator Kennedy’s father was friendly with Tailgunner Joe — and that his brother worked for him.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — January 16, 2006 @ 12:02 pm - January 16, 2006

  9. And while Democrats today are quick to smear Republicans by accusing them of engaging in McCarthyism (e.g., here and here), it is tactics of Senate Democrats that more closely reassemble McCarthyism than anything their Republican colleagues have said or done in recent years. To be sure, in the early 1950s, it was Joseph McCarthy, a Republican U.S. Senator from Wisconsin who, by falsely accusing a number of citizens of being Communists, first defined McCarthyism. His demagogic behavior damaged the anti-Communist cause he championed.

    I don’t find a great deal of difference between Kennedy’s behavior and the reception that say, Hillary Clinton got when she was testifying about Healthcare during her husband’s term of office. In fact, it was pretty clear from the outset that the Clintons were absolutely hated by the Washington DC elite even before anyone knew who they were.

    Comment by Patrick (Gryph) — January 16, 2006 @ 12:53 pm - January 16, 2006

  10. Patrick, you’re either having memory problems or are purposely trying to rewrite history. The embarrassing fawning of Senate (and House, too) Republicans over Hillary was noted then and still is a black mark for what should have been a hard-hitting cross-examination.

    Yes, luckily her ridiculous idea of federalizing the entire healthcare industry was roundly rejected by the American public (and in no small way led to the Republicans’ rout in 1994). But to suggest she was treated with anything other than kid gloves during her appearances before the committees is preposterous.

    Seriously, where were you then?

    Comment by ColoradoPatriot — January 16, 2006 @ 1:16 pm - January 16, 2006

  11. #9 GrandPa Gryph, I don’t doubt for a second you CAN’T see any difference between those two examples… but that has more to with the willingness to see, not the ability to see.

    Your observation that the “DC elite” absolutely hated the Clintons is generally refuted by all the “serve & tell” books that flooded the market post-BillyBob.

    BillyBob, as a wanna be candidate for Prez, was literally fed at the table and curried the favor of true Washington insiders like Churchill/Harriman, Katharine Graham, Ben Bradlee, Abbe Lowell, Vernon Jordan, and others dating back to the Kennedy Administration –BillyBob may have let those Washington elites “down” with his scandals, but prior to the 93′ Inaugural he was loved by those very DC elites who saw a chance for the “Light of Camelot” to be ignited once again in DC before the old guard of the Washington liberal elite passed to eternity.

    Sally Quinn makes the point very well in her writings, if you CAN’T and won’t see it for yourself. Kennedy’s gutter-level performance in the Alito hearings ARE different than the Clintons’ reception in DC.

    But nice try at spin; but it just don’t rotate, Gramps.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — January 16, 2006 @ 1:21 pm - January 16, 2006

  12. ditto on ColoPat’s comments –Hillary Rodham Clinton’s testimony was a cakewalk. Her sketchy “plan” for reform was a bad idea at the wrong time, an incorrect answer to a good question, and lacked intellectual honesty for even something inside the Beltway –and that’s not saying much.

    On HillaryCare, the problem has never been too little govt control… oh wait, except for Geo Bush’s failure to save the miners, the hurricane victims, the Iraqi innocents before the invasion, avoid 9-11 and rescue the Democrat’s collective political fortunes.

    We all know the answer was a greater govt presence in those cases.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — January 16, 2006 @ 1:28 pm - January 16, 2006

  13. It was pretty clear from the outset that the Clintons were absolutely hated by the Washington DC elite even before anyone knew who they were.

    Is this the same Gryph who is constantly accusing other people of playing the victim card?

    Comment by V the K — January 16, 2006 @ 1:37 pm - January 16, 2006

  14. Drinking the “McCarthy was evil” kool-aid, eh? Somehow, I didn’t expect to see that nonsense here.

    McCarthy was right. Those damned KGB documents, just awful for all those liberal myths.

    Comment by rightwingprof — January 16, 2006 @ 6:33 pm - January 16, 2006

  15. rightwingprof, hit a bunch of trees and you’re bound to hit a beehive. Yeah, McCarthy got some commies, but he hit a lot more people than that.

    Guess that fact makes you pissed off, still drinking from Ann Coulter’s tit still? Hahaha

    Comment by Joey — January 16, 2006 @ 7:49 pm - January 16, 2006

  16. Jessie Helms? Strom Thurman? Paradigms of Republican perfectionism? Ted Kennedy? Robert Byrd? Paradigms of Democratic perfectionism?

    The CHASM.

    Loonies are on both sides of the aisle.

    Comment by Stephen — January 16, 2006 @ 9:37 pm - January 16, 2006

  17. Ted Kennedy? Robert Byrd? Paradigms of Democratic perfectionism?

    To the point one is called a lion and the other is the conscience of the senate. It’s still interesting Lott got burned and Dodd walked.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — January 17, 2006 @ 1:29 am - January 17, 2006

  18. Name one.

    Comment by rightwingprof — January 17, 2006 @ 7:53 am - January 17, 2006

  19. Patrick, you’re either having memory problems or are purposely trying to rewrite history. The embarrassing fawning of Senate (and House, too) Republicans over Hillary was noted then and still is a black mark for what should have been a hard-hitting cross-examination.

    ………..

    #9 GrandPa Gryph, I don’t doubt for a second you CAN’T see any difference between those two examples… but that has more to with the willingness to see, not the ability to see.

    Your observation that the “DC elite” absolutely hated the Clintons is generally refuted by all the “serve & tell” books that flooded the market post-BillyBob.

    …..

    Is this the same Gryph who is constantly accusing other people of playing the victim card?

    …..

    Well, I seem to have generated some criticism. Funny thing is, what I said was :

    it was pretty clear from the outset that the Clintons were absolutely hated by the Washington DC elite even before anyone knew who they were.

    There is no mention of the GOP or the Dem’s in that statement. It does not refer to a particular Party. The “DC elite”, as is does today, is comprised members of both Party’s. Its made up of the unofficial Party of incumbency, really.

    But of course, those critics such as V the K, etc. would not pick up on that nuance.

    Thats because their rabid partisanship is so all-consuming. They are so bound and determined to suck the dick of the GOP as much and as hard as possible that they forget that while they are down there on their knees in supplication, there is very little they can see save for the bush right in front of them.

    Comment by Patrick (Gryph) — January 17, 2006 @ 2:11 pm - January 17, 2006

  20. McCarthy was right because if you hit at enough people, you’re gonna find a communist

    No, he was right because his sources were right. The government was infiltrated with communists in the pay of the soviets.

    Comment by rightwingprof — January 17, 2006 @ 7:10 pm - January 17, 2006

  21. #19 — Ah, Gryph has already forgotten the exchange where I demonstrated that I alone have critcized Bush more than all of the lefties and “moderates” on this forum combined have critcized the Democrats. Then, he resorts to his usual crude name-calling, as he typically does when the other side has eviscerated his point and he can’t think of anything intelligent to say.

    Comment by V the K — January 18, 2006 @ 9:46 am - January 18, 2006

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