Diana West

Dear Victor Davis Hanson,

You suggest in your syndicated column, "Harry Reid: A McCarthy for Our Time," that we "ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) the same question once posed to Sen. Joseph McCarthy by U.S. Army head-counsel Joseph N. Welch: 'Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?'"

First, I would like to ask you a question: Are you aware of the context of Welch's showboating remarks?

M. Stanton Evans did the spadework in "Blacklisted by History," his groundbreaking -- no, orbit-reversing -- book about the late Sen. McCarthy, who died in 1957. The book devastates the fact-devoid conventional wisdom (including the "no decency" fable) on McCarthy and reconstructs an evidence-based record. A very different person emerges from Evans' research: a political leader who -- alas for the purveyors of "court history" -- in no way resembles the execrable Harry Reid.

Yes, Welch theatrically denounced McCarthy at a June 1954 Senate hearing for outing Welch's assistant Frederick Fisher as a former member of a Communist front, the National Lawyers Guild. But weeks earlier, on April 16, 1954, Welch himself outed Fisher -- confirming that he'd relieved Fisher from duty over his previous front membership -- in the pages of The New York Times!

It sounds fantastic -- it is fantastic -- but somehow Welch's baseless "no decency" accusation lingers, its staying power derived from wells of pure ignorance, laziness or mendacity. It cries out for correction.

Next, you equate Reid's smear of the peaceful patriots supporting Cliven Bundy as "domestic terrorists" with what you describe as McCarthy's "smearing his opponents with lurid allegations, while questioning their patriotism." Peaceful patriots demonstrating about federal government overreach equals covert Communists infiltrating the federal government? Is that a logical pairing? Which peaceful patriots did McCarthy smear with "lurid allegations," anyway?

I note that despite your being a widely respected historian, the historical record is not a part of this essay. That is, your examples of Reid's allegedly McCarthy-like evil come down to the familiar buzz phrases -- "Have you no decency?" and "lurid allegations," the famous list of names, "un-American."


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).