Victor Davis Hanson

We should ask Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) the same question once posed to Sen. Joseph McCarthy by U.S. Army head counsel Robert N. Welch: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Reid is back in the news for denigrating the peaceful supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a popular critic of the Bureau of Land Management policy, as "domestic terrorists."

McCarthy in the 1950s became infamous for smearing his opponents with lurid allegations that he could not prove, while questioning their patriotism. Reid has brought back to the Senate that exact same McCarthy style of six decades ago -- and trumped it.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Reid libeled candidate Mitt Romney with the unsubstantiated and later-refuted charge that Romney was a tax cheat. "The word's out that he [Romney] hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years," Reid said.

Later, when asked for proof, Reid offered a pathetic rejoinder: "I have had a number of people tell me that." One wonders how many names were on Reid's McCarthyite "tell" list -- were there, as McCarthy used to bluster, 205 names, or perhaps just 57?

When asked again to document the slur, Reid echoed McCarthy perfectly: "The burden should be on him. He's the one I've alleged has not paid any taxes."

When the Koch brothers donated money that was used for political ads -- just as liberal political donors George Soros and the Steyer brothers have done -- Reid rushed to the Senate floor to question their patriotism: "These two brothers ... are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine." The charge of being "un-American" is also vintage McCarthyite slander.

Reid also has a bad habit of racial bigotry. He once praised fellow Sen. Barack Obama because he was, in Reid's words, a "light-skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

When Reid was worried that he would not get enough Hispanic voters to the polls, he condescendingly lectured the Latino community: "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK. Do I need to say more?"

Reid once singled out for damnation just one Supreme Court justice -- Clarence Thomas: "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court."

Reid has also brought back McCarthy's custom of vicious and sometimes profane insults.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Reid announced: "I can't stand John McCain." Of then-President George W. Bush, Reid said: "President Bush is a liar." Reid claimed that fellow Mormon Mitt Romney had "sullied" his religion.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.