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“Rethinking Their Attitudes On McCarthy”: Republican Support For McCarthyism Is Sometimes Literal

Exactly three years ago this week, a reporter from the Dallas Morning News told Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) he’s been compared at times to Joe McCarthy. Cruz said that criticism “may be a sign that perhaps we’re doing something right,” which seemed like a curious response given the context.

Asked specifically, “Is McCarthy someone you admire?” Cruz wouldn’t answer. “I’m not going to engage in the back and forth and the attacks,” he replied.

Three years later, this has come up again, but this time it’s not with the senator himself, but rather it’s one of his national security advisers. TPM noted yesterday:

Clare Lopez, a national security adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) presidential campaign, earlier this month said the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was “spot on” about communists infiltrating the United States government in the 1950s.

As Right Wing Watch discovered, the Cruz adviser compared Americans’ lack of preparedness for Muslims trying to infiltrate the government to communist spies during the Cold War.

“We can go all the way back, of course, to the time of the Cold War and back to the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s when communists, you know, the KGB, infiltrated our government at the very highest levels,” Lopez said. “And then, like now, we were unprepared and in large measure unaware of what was going on, at least until the House Un-American Activities got rolling in the 1950s with Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who absolutely was spot-on in just about everything he said about the levels of infiltration.”

Oh my.

There was a point in the not-too-distant past that both parties considered McCarthyism and the former senator’s legacy to be a scourge to be avoided forevermore.

But as Republican politics has shifted to the even-further-right, conservatives have begun to rethink their attitudes on McCarthy. Missouri’s Todd Akin, for example, compared himself to McCarthy two years ago, and he meant it in a good way.

In 2010 in Texas, conservative activists rewriting the state’s curriculum recommended telling students that McCarthy was a hero, “vindicated” by history. Around the same time, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) endorsed bringing back the House Un-American Activities Committee.

In conservative media, headlines such as “It’s Time to See Joe McCarthy For the Hero He Was” are not uncommon.

As we discussed a couple of years ago, when the political world considers how much the Republican Party has changed over the last generation, look no further than those who’ve decided McCarthyism wasn’t so bad after all.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 23, 2016

March 24, 2016 Posted by | McCarthyism, Steve King, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Obama’s Visit Will Hasten Freedom In Cuba”: The Culmination Of Common-Sense Revamping Of U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

The historic visit of a sitting U.S. president to Havana — which should have come a half-century sooner — will almost surely hasten the day when Cubans are free from the Castro government’s suffocating repression.

President Obama’s whirlwind trip is the culmination of his common-sense revamping of U.S. policy toward Cuba. One outdated, counterproductive relic of the Cold War remains — the economic embargo forbidding most business ties with the island nation — and the Republican-controlled Congress won’t even consider repealing it. But Obama, using his executive powers, has been able to reestablish full diplomatic relations, practically eliminate travel restrictions and substantially weaken the embargo’s grip.

All of which is long overdue. The United States first began to squeeze the Castro government, with the hope of forcing regime change, in 1960. It should be a rule of thumb that if a policy is an utter failure for more than 50 years, it’s time to try something else.

I say this as someone with no illusions about President Raúl Castro, the spectral but still-powerful Fidel Castro or the authoritarian system they created and wish to perpetuate.

Hours before Obama’s arrival Sunday, police and security agents roughly arrested and hauled away members of the Ladies in White dissident group as they conducted their weekly protest march; this time, U.S. network news crews happened to be on hand to witness the ritualized crackdown.

I wrote a book about Cuba, and each time I went to the island for research I gained more respect and admiration for the Cuban people — and more contempt for the regime that so cynically and capriciously smothers their dreams. Those 10 trips convinced me, however, that the U.S. policy of prohibiting economic and social contact between Americans and Cubans was, to the Castro brothers, the gift that kept on giving.

I saw how the “menace” of an aggressive, threatening neighbor to the north was used as a justification for repression. We’d love to have freedom of the press, freedom of association and freedom of assembly, the government would say, but how can we leave our beloved nation so open, and so vulnerable, when the greatest superpower on earth is trying to destroy our heroic revolution?

Most of the Cubans I met were not fooled by such doublespeak. But they did have a nationalistic love for their country, and their nation was, indeed, under economic siege.

There are those who argue that Obama could have won more concessions from the Castro regime in exchange for improved relations. But this view ignores the fact that our posture of unmitigated hostility toward Cuba did more harm to U.S. interests than good. Relaxing travel restrictions for U.S. citizens can only help flood the island with American ideas and values. Permitting such an influx could be the biggest risk the Castro brothers have taken since they led a ragtag band of guerrillas into the Sierra Maestra Mountains to make a revolution.

Why would they now take this gamble? Because they have no choice. The Castro regime survived the collapse of the Soviet Union — and the end of huge annual subsidies from the Eastern Bloc — but the Cuban economy sank into depression. Copious quantities of Venezuelan oil, provided by strongman Hugo Chávez (who was Fidel Castro’s protege), provided a respite. But now Chávez is gone, Venezuela is an economic ruin and Cuba has no choice but to monetize the resource it has in greatest abundance, human capital. From the Castros’ point of view, better relations with the United States must now seem unavoidable.

It is possible that Raúl Castro, who has promised to resign in 2018, will seek to move the country toward the Chinese model: a free-market economic system overseen by an authoritarian one-party government. Would this fully satisfy those who want to see a free Cuba? No. Would it be a tremendous improvement over the poverty and oppression Cubans suffer today? Absolutely.

Fidel Castro will be 90 in August; Raúl is just five years younger. At some point in the not-too-distant future, we will see whether Castroism can survive without a living Castro. Anyone who wants U.S. policymakers to have influence when that question arises should applaud Obama’s initiatives.

And speaking of applause, did you see the rapturous welcome the president and his family received in Havana? Cubans seem to have a much more clear-eyed — and hopeful — view than Obama’s shortsighted critics.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 21, 2016

March 23, 2016 Posted by | Cuba, President Obama, Raul Castro | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Put Fear In Perspective”: Don’t Let The Republican Candidates Fool You; The U.S. Has Dealt With Much Worse Than ISIS

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Franklin Roosevelt’s historic statement was not exactly the mantra at this week’s Republican presidential debate.

As I listened to the apocalyptic predictions from the Republican candidates Tuesday night, I could not help but compare the concerns about the Islamic State group to what many of us faced during the Cold War – the very real threat of nuclear Armageddon and fear of the mushroom cloud.

The fallout shelters that people were building in their backyards (they make nice wine cellars now), the drills where we crouched under our desks at school, the sounds of air-raid sirens testing the early warning system, the fear we felt during the Cuban missile crisis, living with the mutual assured destruction policies of the U.S. and the Soviet Union – these all combined to create much more of a threat than a group like the Islamic State group – the nuclear arms race was viewed as truly potentially catastrophic.

The devastation of the world-wide 1930s depression that FDR was addressing was truly catastrophic.

The 1918 flu pandemic that infected 500 million people across the globe, killing 50 to 100 million and 500,00 to 675,000 in the U.S. – that was catastrophic.

I understand the fear of the Islamic State group, but in comparison, please, this we can deal with rationally and pragmatically.

Sadly, this past Republican debate leads us to the conclusion that when it comes to using fear to incite voters, this field of candidates will go to nearly any lengths.

Not to go over the top here, but this is what noted Nazi official Heinrich Himmler said about the use of fear: “The best political weapon is the weapon of terror. Cruelty commands respect. Men may hate us. But, we don’t ask for their love; only for their fear.”

This is what the Islamic State group is counting on – bringing America to its knees simply by using terror to create fear. By reacting with a “war on Muslims” as many Republican candidates seem to be advocating, the real terrorists gain control and are handed a golden recruiting tool.

This makes no sense. We can defeat this movement. We can organize the nations of the world to unite against their terrorism. We can surely be victorious without resorting to scare tactics and whipping the American voter up into a frenzy.

We have faced much worse, but just as the spread of Ebola became a daily concern and created close to a panic a year ago, the reality is our media and out politics whip the public into a frenzy when calmer heads should prevail.

During the Republican debate the words terror, terrorist and terrorism were used 81 times. The word attack was used 50 times, according to reporting from Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune.

As he pointed out, here are just a few quotes from this week’s debate:

“We need to understand that our nation is in grave danger.”

“We have people across this country who are scared to death.”

“ISIS and Iran have declared war on America, and we need a commander in chief who will do everything necessary to keep our children safe.”

“Our country doesn’t win anymore. … We can’t defeat ISIS.”

OK, I get the politics of all this. I get the perceived need of these performers to out-do one another, but isn’t it time we had some reasoned leadership that acted responsibly to understand the true nature of the threat and deal with it properly? Isn’t there one person on that stage who could put this in perspective and not demagogue the Islamic State terrorists?

The threat is real but does not deserve the draconian response of nearly every Republican candidate for President. If we ever needed cooler heads like FDR, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, certainly that time is now.

 

By: Peter Fenn, Democratic Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, December 18, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | Fearmongering, GOP Leadership, GOP Presidential Candidates, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Appealing To Fear In The Name Of Security”: Marco Rubio Wants To Scare Americans Into Voting For Him

The 2014 midterm was the election of fear, and offered a likely foreshadowing of the strategy the Republicans will use to try and win the White House in 2016. In the midterms, the GOP stacked up impressive victories by brilliantly stoking a nightmare vision of an America about to be overrun by Ebola patients, anchor babies, and ISIS assassins. In their quest to replace Barack Obama, Republican presidential hopefuls are making the starkest possible case that security is the primary issue, eclipsing all others.

Yesterday, Marco Rubio announced the new theme of his campaign: “The fundamental problem we have in America is that nothing matters if we aren’t safe.” According to Rubio, “The world has never been more dangerous than it is today,” which means “the economic stuff” has to take a backseat to national security. Rubio’s emphasis on safety echoed a remark made by his rival Chris Christie the same day: “You can’t enjoy your civil liberties if you’re in a coffin.”

These statements are startling in the all-or-nothing choices they offer. Without security, “nothing matters.” If we don’t have security, we’ll be in a coffin. This black-and-white language negates the possibility that security is one value among others, that it needs to be balanced against competing values such as liberty or peace. It’s hard to imagine cruder appeals to fear.

And by appealing to fear in the name of security, they only ensure they’ll get less of what they say they want.

While some political leaders have relied on fear-mongering since time immemorial, the specific national security based anxiety voiced by Rubio and Christie has a particular lineage. According to George Mason historian Peter N. Stearns in his 2006 book American Fear, “American culture launched a really distinctive approach to fear only in the twentieth century: There was no long legacy of public fearfulness. Indeed, current standards are particularly striking in their contrast with nineteenth-century norms, which quite explicitly called on Americans, at least American men, to face fear directly and stare it down.”

Stearns locates the origins of fear culture in modern American politics in the Cold War. His argument is in keeping with findings of many historians that the very idea of “national security” as a pre-eminent goal crystallized in the early days of America’s rivalry with the Soviet Union, when Secretary of State Dean Acheson said it was necessary to “scare the hell out of the country” in order to shore up support for an anti-communist foreign policy.

In his 1974 work The Logic of World Power, historian Franz Schurmann argued the Cold War consensus was based on “a new ideology” and “the key word and concept in that new ideology was security.” For Schurmann, part of the power of the concept of security was that it encompassed domestic economics as well as foreign policy. Social Security, after all, was the cornerstone of the New Deal. The promise of “national security” as a foreign policy goal was that it would bring the same type of peace of mind that Social Security gave to citizens.

In practice, the excessive weight given to security produced not greater calm but more fear. The search for absolute security could brook no opposition, so the enemy became not just Stalin’s USSR but the idea of communism, leading to a global crusade abroad and an ideological purge at home. As the conservative foreign policy analyst Robert W. Tucker noted in his 1971 book The Radical Left and American Foreign Policy, “By interpreting security as a function not only of a balance between states but of the internal order maintained by states, the Truman Doctrine equated America’s security with interests that evidently went well beyond conventional security requirements.”

The hair-trigger overreactions of the early Cold War were revived after 9/11, when policymakers once again launched a global war on the grounds that it was needed to ensure security on the home front. The best articulation of the post-9/11 culture of fear—and the concomitant willingness to do almost anything to secure an impregnable level of safety or security—can be seen in the 1 percent doctrine as articulate by Vice President Dick Cheney: “If there’s a 1 percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” In effect, Cheney was calling for the United States to become one giant safe space, even if it meant massively overreacting to threats abroad.

Because of the language of security originated in the New Deal, the earliest critics of this discourse came from the political right. Throughout the early Cold War, Ohio Senator Robert Taft, the stalwart of the Republican right, warned that America was becoming “a garrison state.” In his libertarian classic The Road to Serfdom (1944), F.A. Hayek argued that, “nothing is more fatal than the present fashion among intellectual leaders of extolling security at the expense of freedom. It is essential that we should relearn frankly to face the fact that freedom can be had only at a price and that as individuals we must be prepared to make severe material sacrifices to preserve our liberty.”

Hayek was of course writing about the economic realm, but his insistence that security needed to be balanced against liberty applies just as well to foreign policy. If Rubio and Christie had any interest in moving beyond the politics of fear, they could do well to read that earlier right-wing thinkers warned that the idolatry of security brings not safety but unending jitters and a loss of liberty.

 

By: Jeet Heer, Senior Editor, The New Republic, May 19, 2015

May 20, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, Fearmongering, Marco Rubio, National Security | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“McCain And Graham As Obama’s “Lapdogs”: Rand Paul’s Media-Bait Of The Highest Order

If Lindsey Graham is indeed entering the 2016 presidential race to make sure the military-industrial complex’s concerns about Rand Paul are fully and loudly and at every moment placed within sight and sound of media and voters alike, he’s getting a rise out of Paul, all right. Dig this rhetoric from the Kentuckian (per Nick Gass at Politico):

Lindsey Graham and John McCain are “lapdogs” for President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, Rand Paul said Tuesday, at once firing back at recent remarks from the hawkish Republicans and seeking to distinguish his defense credentials.

“This comes from a group of people wrong about every policy issue over the last two decades,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview with Fox News, touting his credentials as the “one standing up to President Obama….”

“They supported Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya; they supported President Obama’s bombing of Assad; they also support President Obama’s foreign aid to countries that hate us. So if there is anyone who is most opposed to President Obama’s foreign policy, it’s me. People who call loudest to criticize me are great proponents of President Obama’s foreign policy — they just want to do it ten times over,” he said.

Putting aside any analysis of the truth or error of what Paul is saying here about Obama, Graham/McCain, or himself, what’s interesting here is that he’s showing every sign of wanting a big debate within the GOP on foreign policy and national security; the “lapdog” line is media-bait of the highest order. I had figured up until now that his strategy would be to get close enough to the rest of the field on international issues so as to take them off the table as “differentiators”–or in other words neutralize them–and then change the subject to topics where his views are more congenial to Republican primary voters. But maybe that’s not it at all.

Whether or not you think it’s fair to call the views Paul articulated above as “isolationist,” they are definitely within the universe of views most Republicans have called “isolationist” since the Eisenhower administration. And Paul is talking this way at a time when the GOP rank-and-file’s support for lashing out at Muslims via military interventions–partly out of genuine if irrational fear of IS and of Iran as well–appears to be back to mid-2000s levels or even higher.

We’ll see if Paul keeps this up. Maybe he’d do better to conjure up a little of the old Cold War spirit by calling his opponents Obama’s “running dogs.”

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 21, 2015

April 22, 2015 Posted by | John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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