Monday, March 23, 2009

Goring the correct ox

True confession time. I have no idea what McCarthyism is.

Not the Man and the Era. That i understand. I've read the biographies and the histories. The "Ism", though, that is a problem. It is ill-defined: a buzzword for political attacks instead of a term with concrete meaning. Often it is just short hand for "stuff i don't like."

One reason for my confusion is the hypocritical ambivalence that anti-McCarthyites display toward McCarthy's tactics. When Joe does it, it is evidence of his wanton depravity. When others do it, however, the tactics often pass without condemnation. Almost never are they described as harbingers of a new dark age.

Take, for instance, the scandal of the AIG bonuses. Here we see Congress critters using their subpoena power to berate politically unpopular targets. Isn't that what McCarthy did?

Does no one hear echoes of the Tailgunner when Andrew Cuomo announces that he holds in his hands the list of those who received bonuses from AIG?

To raise these questions is not to be in favor of the bonuses. As in the McCarthy period, the key issue is one of ends and means. No matter how righteous the cause, there are limits to the means that can be used in its pursuit.

If McCarthyism truly represents a dark time in American History, then the behavior of Cuomo, Grassley, and Maxine Waters deserve condemnation as well.

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