Richard Cohen’s Wild Moose Chase

Was it drink that caused him invoke Joe McCarthy against Sarah Palin?

By Daniel Oliver

The American Spectator

August 21st 2009

Liberals are getting worried now. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has played the McCarthy card against Sarah Palin.

Gov. Palin, expert moose hunter, is of course more than capable of looking after herself. But what does playing the McCarthy card say about the Liberals?

There are three points to remember about McCarthy. But first: no one should discuss McCarthy who hasn’t read Stan Evans’ seminal book, Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies. (See the Weekly Standard’s review by the late Robert Novak.)

The truth — almost universally unacknowledged by Liberals — is that McCarthy was right when he said there were communists in the U.S. government. Liberals were quick to deny McCarthy’s claim, but Evans shows why it should hardly have been surprising. The U.S. had just concluded a war in which the communists were our allies. Why was it so surprising, then, that the U.S. had not made an effort to ensure that there were no communists in the government?

Evans’ second point is that the danger was not just from communist spies, sending information to the Soviet Union, but from agents who were getting orders from the communists and attempting to influence U.S. policy makers.

Of course, there were spies too. One of them, Alger Hiss, was a Liberal darling about whose guilt there is now, finally, no doubt. But in January 1950, when Hiss was found guilty on two counts of perjury, the Liberals went into catatonic denial and marshaled every broom in the closet in preparation for the long witch hunt against anticommunists. Only a month later, Sen. McCarthy made his famous speech in Wheeling, West Virginia. The Liberals have never forgiven him, even as they never forgave Richard Nixon for his role in nailing Alger Hiss.

The establishment Liberals also went after McCarthy because he put his pants under the mattress to press them at night — remember the hard crease of the ’50s? McCarthy was so — gauche. Hiss was so cooool.

Richard Cohen seems to have found a ’50s broom in his closet. He describes McCarthy as “the Wisconsin liar, demagogue and drunk.” Now there is as little doubt that McCarthy came from Wisconsin as there is that JFK came from Massachusetts, so the barb must lie elsewhere. Politicians routinely lie, a failing Cohen may — must? — have run into at least, oh, three of four times during his long tenure in Washington. And if McCarthy was the only demagogue Cohen has come across in his professional career he has led a sheltered life indeed.

No, it must be the drink. McCarthy drank. That must be the crux of it.

Still, we should ask Cohen whether he has routinely objected to other politicians’ personal failings: JFK’s, for example (whoring), Lyndon Johnson’s (being a crook), or Senator Pat Moynihan’s (the flatteringly sanitized version of which is that he was a “hard drinking Irishman”).

Ah, but that is to analyze a smear, the whole point of which is precisely to vilify in a way objective facts do not support.

And surely that is true in the campaign against Gov. Palin for her “death panel” comment about President Obama’s health care plan. Gov. Palin objected that bureaucrats would be empowered to decide, for example, whether, based on her Down syndrome son’s level of productivity in society, he was worthy of health care.

“Say what you will about any [NB] of the health-care proposals,” Cohen wrote, “not one of them suggests [NB] a ‘death panel’ empowered to withhold medical services from the aged or those with disabilities. To suggest that one exists is reprehensible. To state it outright is either boldly demagogic or just plain loopy.”

What must Cohen think of the Senate Finance Committee which didn’t just suggest a death panel existed or even state it outright, but actually took action? Alas, poor Cohen. Even before he’d had a chance to fetch his broom, the offending provision on consultations for end-of-life care had been dropped by the Senate Finance Committee from its proposed health care bill.

Who’s loopy now?

Exit Cohen, broom in hand, pursued by a moose hunter.