Trump: A Modern Day Joe McCarthy

tags: election 2016, Trump

Max Boot is a leading military historian and foreign-policy analyst. The Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, he is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller "Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present."

... Most reporters abhor Trump and everything he stands for. Yet they remain the instrument by which he is able to elevate himself to the top of the Republican race and to the center of the national conversation.

This phenomenon is dismaying but hardly unprecedented. Joe McCarthy did exactly the same thing. Like Trump, who knows next to nothing of the Middle East, Islam, terrorism, military affairs, or any related field, McCarthy was an ignoramus who knew little of the threat he was purporting to address — in his case, communism. But just as Trump is a master of taking advantage of the war on terror to sow suspicion and hatred of Muslims, so McCarthy took advantage of the Cold War to sow suspicion and hatred of supposed Communist Fifth Columnists — which, in his telling, included such distinguished anti-communists as Secretary of State Dean Acheson and General George C. Marshall. And just as Trump plays the media like a Stradivarius, so, too, did McCarthy.

David Oshinsky’s excellent study of Joe McMcarthy, A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy, makes for revealing reading. It’s sometimes hard to know if the author, a historian at the University of Texas, is writing about McCarthy or Trump.

Think Trump is dominating the news today? “McCarthy, and no one else in Congress, ruled America’s front pages for almost five years,” writes Oshinsky.

The reporters who covered McCarthy knew that his charges were baseless — he didn’t actually uncover any Communist agents but he did spread a lot of scurrilous allegations. “My own impression was that Joe was a demagogue,” one newsman remarked. “But what could I do? I had to report — and quote — McCarthy. How do you say in the middle of your story, ‘This is a lie’? The press is supposedly neutral. You write what the man says.” ...

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