Joe McCarthy was right!

What McCarthy said about Marshall, Acheson, and Truman was obviously wrong. But if he was predicting Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush he ought to be considered a prophet.

I’m not usually friendly to revisionist history, but in all honesty I have to confess that the right-wing attempts to rehabilitate Joseph McCarthy have a solid factual basis. Brad DeLong quotes from one of McCarthy’s most famous speeches:

How can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this Government are concerting to deliver us to disaster? This must be the product of a great conspiracy, a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that, when it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men.

Admittedly, if we think of this as a description of the situation in McCarthy’s own time, outlining a “conspiracy of infamy” led by George C. Marshall and Dean Acheson, with Harry Truman as their puppet and dupe, it’s not only absurdly wrong but disgustingly and maliciously wrong. After all, those three men, more than any others, devised and put in place the strategy that defeated Stalin’s drive for world empire and eventually produced the Soviet collapse for which the Reaganoids and neocons, like roosters boasting that they made the sun rise, loudly claim credit.

But if instead we think of McCarthy’s rant as a prediction of our current predicament, with Cheney as Marshall, Rumsfeld as Acheson, and Bush as Truman, it seems instead eerily prescient. Evaluated as a statesman, or as a human being, McCarthy comes up short. But he shines with a pure and steady light if we consider him as a prophet.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

9 thoughts on “Joe McCarthy was right!”

  1. Sorry, Mark, but that's just the downright weirdest post I've ever seen (though the stuff about Marshall and Acheson winning the Cold War is insightful).

  2. With McCarthy (and therefore his most current *Treason*-ous fanatic, Ann Coulter) being right, so is a stopped wind-up clock twice a day. An out-of-control car, swerving left and right, is also right on at least once in the series of arcs. McCarthy himself was also considered to be one of those who would deliver the country to peril. This does not make him self-deprecating, only self-depreciating.

  3. Fits well with the theory advanced by Powell's former chief of staff, that foreign policy has been hijacked by a Cabal led by Cheney

  4. The junior Senator from Wisconsin was 50 years ahead of his time? That's funny. But of course, the real game was then as it is now – to abuse the national security issue in order to bash Democrats. No – Karl Rove is today's Joe McCarthy.

  5. Of course this fits with Gore Vidal's claim that the entire cold war was unnecessary and was the product far more of Harry Truman and American paranoia than Josef Stalin. I expect, though, that Marshall would not consider an over-militarized world, vastly more fusion weapons than any war realistically needs, and a military-industrial-complex controlled United States to be a national disaster the way Gore Vidal does.

  6. And where is our Edward R. Murrow? What so-called journalist from any network TV news department will stand up on his/her hind legs and comfront these powers, this cabal? That's why Katie Couric is the new anchor, not Helen Thomas…

  7. Exactly what "disaster" is looming under Bush? Isn't it too early to call Iraq a disaster?

  8. Short answer on Iraq: no.
    Don't you think Stalin was the one who laid the groundwork to defeat the Soviet drive for "world empire," or does the phrase "Socialism in one country" no longer ring a bell with anyone?
    I'm not saying that theory is right, but I do think your/De Long's history of the Truman administration leaves out a number of plausible alternative analyses.

  9. Umm, am I the only person reading this post who understands that Mark is being humorous and slightly satirical, poking fun at both McCarthy and his right-wing apologists?

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