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.