- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 2, 2003

“Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason.”

That’s a sentence from Ann Coulter’s best-seller, “Treason.” Now if I were to write that such a wild accusation against liberals, that they are “on the side of treason,” reminded me of the fevered prose of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” against the Jews, I could properly be accused of doing Miss Coulter a grave injustice, that I was guilty of propounding as wild-eyed a statement as any made by the late Sen. Joe McCarthy, Miss Coulter’s hero. And hero he is, as she writes:

“The myth of ‘McCarthyism’ is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times. Liberals are fanatical liars, then as now. The portrayal of Sen. Joe McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is sheer liberal hobgoblinism. Liberals weren’t hiding under the bed during the McCarthy era. They were systematically undermining the nation’s ability to defend itself, while waging a bellicose campaign of lies to blacken McCarthy’s name.”

I have tried to read Miss Coulter’s book and failed. Life is too short to read pages and pages of rant. Well, OK, it’s a free country, so rant away. However, a misreading of the record of the McCarthy years and of McCarthy himself is impermissible. So here goes:

I spotted McCarthy early in his political career when in 1946 he accepted the support of Harold Christoffel, then head of the communist-controlled Wisconsin local of the United Auto Workers. The CP wanted to beat the anti-communist Robert La Follette’s re-election bid to the U.S. Senate. McCarthy won the election with open communist support. Christoffel subsequently was ousted by the UAW, convicted of perjury for denying membership in the Communist Party and served 16 months of a four-year sentence.

How justified would I be in pointing an accusing finger at McCarthy for having taken communist backing in his senatorial campaign at a time when Josef Stalin’s Red Army was taking over Eastern Europe? Would McCarthy be guilty of treason?

I know of few conservatives who have bought into the Coulter thesis of treasonous liberalism. I know of many more conservatives who have been sickened by her book because Miss Coulter has brought back into the culture the politics of the smear.

Richard Gid Powers in his history “Not Without Honor: The History of American Anti-Communism” argued that what McCarthy accomplished was to give “the enemies of anti-communism what they had been looking for… a contemporary name and face for their old stereotype of the anti-communist fascist.”

Ronald Radosh has pointed out that had McCarthy not existed, the American far left would have invented him. McCarthy’s scattershot charges and obvious bullying allowed many of those who were actually either communists or those who were actual Soviet agents — like Alger Hiss — to claim they were falsely accused and were simply innocent victims of a witch hunt.

Mr. Radosh cites J. Edgar Hoover’s 1958 best-seller “Masters of Deceit,” which criticized those like Joe McCarthy, who slapped “the label of ‘Red’ or ‘communist’ on anybody who happened to be different from them [or] to have ideas with which they did not agree.” Was Hoover, perhaps, guilty of treason?

Paul Johnson in his monumental history, “Modern Times,” maintains “McCarthy would have been of little account had not the Korean War broken out. … [As] his period of ascendancy coincided exactly with that bitter and frustrating conflict, one might say that McCarthyism was Stalin’s last gift to the American people.”

One of the most important testimonies about McCarthyism comes from the late Richard L. Walker, President Reagan’s ambassador to South Korea during 1981-86, who died July 22 at the age of 81. It was a remarkably well-balanced autobiographical article in the National Interest in 1998 titled “China studies in McCarthy’s shadow.” Walker, one of our leading Sinologists, was the author of “Human Cost of Communism in China,” one of the most important studies made for the U.S. Senate about the horrors of Mao Tse-tung’s inhuman “Great Leap Forward.” Walker’s study, an epic piece of scholarship, was written and published at a time when almost all American Sinologists were applauding Mao’s genocidal revolution. The handful of obituaries I have read make no mention of Walker’s illuminating article on Joe McCarthy.

In a letter July 7, 1953, Walker wrote to a colleague at Yale University: “Let me state at the outset… my firm belief that Mr. McCarthy and his tactics do constitute a real threat to democracy on the American scene today…. I sincerely believe that the liberals could make a positive contribution to destroying the power of Mr. McCarthy if they would stop building him up through their hysteria.”

Walker, most recently ambassador-in-residence at the Walker Institute of International Studies at the University of South Carolina, excoriated “the excesses of McCarthyism” and Mr. McCarthy’s behavior — “his bullying, his lying, his demagoguery” — because his “cynical and outrageous antics made it as difficult to be a serious and principled anti-communist in the America of the 1950s as it was to be a fellow-traveler.” And there is much more, including the names of “innocent lives” Mr. McCarthy ruined.

Miss Coulter, who is about to sign a $3 million book contract, ought to read Mr. Walker’s article and see what enormous — but not lasting — damage Joe McCarthy did to the country. I’ll be glad to send it to her if she sends me her address.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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