In the 1968 campaign, when Hubert Humphrey said he would end the bombing of North Vietnam, Spiro Agnew said Hubert was "soft on communism." A media firestorm erupted over such "McCarthyism."
Yet, in 1948, Harry Truman had so savaged Tom Dewey that The New York Times ran this headline: "President Likens Dewey to Hitler as Fascist Tool." Was Harry called to account? No. His "Give-' em-Hell-Harry" campaign remains a glorious episode in the archives of liberalism.
Point: What the Left calls McCarthyism -- smearing an enemy on false or non-existent information -- has been its stock-in-trade since the Left invented the term to destroy its great antagonist, the ex-Marine and Wisconsin senator known as Tailgunner Joe.
This is a theme of Ann Coulter's brave book, Treason, which is a heroic defense of that most reviled of patriots. Joe had his flaws and made his mistakes, but on the century's great issue -- the mortal struggle between America and the evil empire of Lenin and Stalin for control of mankind's destiny -- Joe was right and his enemies worse than wrong.
Some were traitors, other tolerated treason, others were derelict in their duty to root it out of the republic. And, in part, because of treason and Establishment blindness to it, the fruits of America's victory in World War II were lost. Stalin was allowed to swallow up Eastern Europe, Mao -- the greatest mass murderer in history -- seized China by the throat, and Moscow got the atom bomb.
There are three great questions to ask about Joe McCarthy:
First, was Joe right, that FDR and the New Dealers were as soft on Stalin as Neville Chamberlain had been on Hitler?
Yes. At Teheran, FDR ceded Poland to Stalin, the nation for which Britain had gone to war, asking only that he not let the word out until after the 1944 election, as FDR needed Polish votes. At Yalta, FDR ceded 10 Christian countries to Moscow, including the Baltic republics Stalin had acquired in his devil's pact with Hitler.
Truman called Stalin "Good Old Joe." When Churchill sought to rouse America with his Iron Curtain speech, Truman, according to his biographer, David McCullough, sent "a letter offering to send the (USS) Missouri to bring (Stalin) to the United States and promising to accompany him to the University of Missouri so that he might speak his mind, as Churchill had." Talk about groveling appeasement.
Second, were the FDR-Truman administrations shot through with traitors? Yes, even more deeply than we knew. Alger Hiss and Lawrence Duggan of the State Department were not only communists but Soviet spies, as was White House aide Lauchlin Currie; Treasury's No. 2 Harry Dexter White, father of the IMF; Judith Coplin, who headed up a spy ring at Justice; and William Remington at Commerce. The atom bomb project was saturated with Stalin's spies, like the Rosenbergs.
Third, was America gripped by a McCarthy-induced "hysteria" in the 1950s? Total nonsense. In Gallup polls of the era, not 1 percent of Americans ever considered "anti-communist hysteria" or McCarthyism to be great concerns. Those afraid of Joe were those who had reason to be afraid, for what they had done or failed to do.
The great failing of conservatives, Whittaker Chambers wrote, is that they do not retrieve their wounded. Ann Coulter is not that kind of conservative. Her gutsy decision to argue the case for the most hated enemy of the American Establishment shows true grit and an instinctive sense that the Right cannot, must not, cede the writing of history to its adversaries.
On Joe, Coulter is right. McCarthy was more sinned against than sinning, a better patriot and man than those who brought him down, or deserted him in his hour of need, or those who turn their backs on him today, because the social price of saying a kind word over his grave would be too high.
No other American did more to rouse the nation to fury over the Left's failure to confront, and battle, the 20th century's greatest enemy of freedom. No man did more to horsewhip out of town the New Deal-Fair Deal Democrats who had frittered away the fruits of victory. In 1952, Republicans swept the House, Senate and White House, and it was Joe McCarthy who led the bayonet charge.
That is why Joe is hated. Not for what he did wrong, but for what he did right. America's young should ask themselves: If Joe McCarthy was such a monster, why did Joe Kennedy back him, the Kennedy girls date him, Robert Kennedy work for him and JFK defend him as a "great patriot" in his year of censure? And why was McCarthy asked to be the godfather to Bobby Kennedy's firstborn?
The postwar era in America was indeed Scoundrel Time, but the scoundrels were the ones Joe was after. And Ann Coulter is a public defender who believes that if the verdict of history is a lie, she will appeal it till hell freezes over. And conservatives should be filing amicus briefs, not hiding in the tall grass.