The ghost of Joseph McCarthy has reared it’s ugly head in Washington. The manner and timing of the firing of Andrew McCabe, who served as the Deputy Director of the FBI from February 2016 to January 2018 during arguably the most tumultuous period in Washington since Watergate, leaves little or no doubt that the nation is entering dangerous territory, possibly even a crisis that will shake the political system, based on the rule of law, to its constitutional foundations.
To clear away any of the fog surrounding the circumstances, Attorney General Jeff Session fired McCabe on March 16, 2018, just 26 hours before his scheduled retirement on grounds “that he had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions.”
When you think of a public official who “lacks candor” and makes outrageous disclosures that no president fit for the nation’s highest office would ever authorize, who comes to mind? (Hint: Tweets between the sheets.)
Until Donald Trump found it expedient to invent a nonexistent “deep state” lurking in the Justice Department, McCarthyism had all but disappeared from the common lexicon of American politics.
For readers too young to remember, McCarthyism is a term that for decades represented the worst in postwar American politics. McCarthyism arose in the context of a Cold War in its infancy, a time when Stalin ruled an atheistic (“Godless”) totalitarian state bent on world conquest. Senator Joseph McCarthy exploited public fears of a Communist conspiracy to overthrow the government. This specter was made all the more frightening due to the fact that the Soviet Union was rapidly developing nuclear weapons.
McCarthy was ultimately exposed as a fraud; his name became shorthand for political demagoguery in the first decade following World War II. McCarthy’s contempt for the truth, wild accusations, and despicable attempts to smear the reputations of good and decent public servants were eventually discredited as gross violations of the political norms, rules, and ethics on which representative democracy depends.
In a rare move against one of its own, the U.S. Senate censured McCarthy in 1954 by a vote of 67-22. He died discredited in 1957. Now try to imagine this Congress censoring Marco Rubio for putting the NRA’s agenda ahead of the safety of our school children. Or Mitch McConnell for betraying the public trust by moving to repeal the Affordable Care Act and deprive millions of Americans of basic health care, including low-income workers in jobs without benefits and, of course, children.
McCarthy’s man & Trump’s mentor
Back in April 2016, when Donald Trump was still a long shot at best to get the Republican nomination for president, Michelle Dean of The Guardian wrote:
Donald Trump is a man who likes to think he has few equals. But once upon a time, he had a mentor: Roy Cohn, a…lawyer who rose to prominence in the mid-1950s [as Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel]. His tactics would often land him in the papers, but Cohn was unafraid of being slimed by the press – he used it to his advantage. A devil-may-care-as-long-as-it-gets-a-headline attitude was Cohn’s trademark in life. Trump, in our time, has made it his.
It’s true. Trump on the stump and his actions as president – his worst tendencies and vilest behavior toward anyone who crosses him or gets in his way – can be explained by simply studying Roy Cohn’s methods. We’re talking about the dirtiest form of dirty politics. To call Cohn “Machiavellian” would be an insult to Machiavelli.
“Tell them to go to hell!”
When Trump and his father were sued in 1973 for allegedly discriminating against black people in housing they owned and managed in Brooklyn, they hired Cohn to defend them. One of his first acts as the Trump’s new lawyer was to file a $100m countersuit. Sound familiar?
The countersuit failed but it got publicity for the Trumps and it epitomized the aggressive style Cohn had advised McCarthy to employ and, later, imbued in Donald Trump. Always go on the offensive. Always counteract. And, in Cohn’s words, “tell them to go to hell”!
This “go to hell” style smacks of malicious intent. It’s not only about prevailing at all costs, it’s also about punishing your opponents. Retribution.
Indeed, the precise timing of the McCabe’s firing meant that he would not be eligible to collect his full retirement pension for seven years. Representative Charlie Dent, a Republican, said it “looked like retribution” and called it “vindictive”. He was not alone. Former CIA Director John Brennan addressed Trump on Twitter (reap what you sow, Mr. President!) in these words: “when the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.”
Brennan threw down the gauntlet: “America will triumph over you,” he predicted. That may turn out to be wishful thinking.
“He was no Boy Scout”
Donald Trump long promoted himself as a dealmaker, first in business, then as a reality T.V. star, and now in the decidedly different realm of politics. That there is a distinction appears to be lost on this president. He appears to think he can continue to behave and operate in the same sleazy ways in the public sector as he did in the private.
“I don’t kid myself about Roy,” Trump wrote in The Art of the Deal. “He was no Boy Scout. He once told me that he’d spent more than two-thirds of his adult life under indictment on one charge or another. That amazed me.” Nowhere does he see fit to utter a word of moral disapproval. “The unabashed pursuit of power, quick resort to threats, a love of being in the tabloid spotlight – all of these are things Trump took from his mentor,” Michelle Dean notes with equally unabashed horror.
Robert Mueller in the crosshairs?
It is highly likely that special counsel Robert Mueller is Trump’s next target. The pattern is to use Twitter attacks to telegraph the name of the official at the top of Trump’s hit list at any given moment. Hence, on the eve of McCabe’s sacking, he Tweeted:
The Fake News is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife’s campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M, who was also under investigation? How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!
Later the same day he followed with this one:
The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!
But there’s more – at 6:35 AM the very next morning Trump Tweeted:
Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!
No mention of the fact that both McCabe and Mueller are longtime Republicans. The same goes for former FBI Director James Comey – another Trump archnemesis – and the current second-in-command at the Justice Department, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But never mind: it’s 1984 all over again. Real is Fake. True is False. Duty is Dishonor.
Parties be damned: It’s time to unite
America will triumph over Trump. Beatitude or platitude? Maybe former CIA Director, John Brennan, is right. Or maybe he’s hoping to plant the seeds that will take root and grow into a nation-saving self-fulfilling prophecy?
In the meantime, let’s not deceive ourselves, okay? Much depends on what we do in the coming weeks and months. Not simply what we deplore, but what we do. If the nation’s future is decided in corrupt Washington, we are in big trouble. If it’s decided in the Real America—where 99% of us live and work and raise our families, there’s still a chance to…let’s see…what’s that phrase again?…oh yeah…drain the swamp.
Author’s Note: Followers of NationofChange can make a difference in 2018, but it won’t happen unless we all get on board. What the Trump enablers have is money. What the people have is votes. When the cheering stops at the end of every election cycle it’s the votes that count. The fat cats hate big turnouts. If we get the word out – and work to get the vote out – we can show Congress the real power in America rests with the people, not the plutocrats. Please join this campaign and help us build a grassroots movement to Make America Respectable Again. #MakeAmericaRespectableAgain!