Joseph McCarthy is a political figure that most who have taken a 9th-grade civics class probably know something about.
To promote his own career in the U.S. Senate in the mid-20th century, McCarthy suggested that the government had been infiltrated with communist-sympathizers who were trying to undermine America’s best interests.
Never mind that McCarthy generally had a “list” of names that nobody had actually seen — he “knew” that such forces were existent in the top levels of government. And those who criticized his methods, who questioned whether his claims were legitimate or just fear-mongering, were branded sympathizers as well.
McCarthy was eventually found to be a total fraud, and his name has come to be synonymous with making accusations toward another person or group of people, charging them with disloyalty, without any substantial proof.
The Red Scare may be over, but McCarthyism survives in the present day. The current administration is doing a fine enough job of branding others as enemies of the state, replacing “communism” with “terrorism” in their branding campaign.
Case-in-point: White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham. On Monday, after President Donald Trump sent out a flurry of tweets attacking Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for having the gall to enforce the War Powers Act and Congress’ Article I powers of war declaration, Grisham defended the president by suggesting that Pelosi and Democrats were terrorist sympathizers.
I wish that were hyperbole of some kind — but it’s not. Here are Grisham’s own words, defending Trump for making a number of tweets and retweets against Pelosi’s character:
“I think the president is making clear that the Democrats have been parroting Iranian talking points and almost taking the side of terrorists and those who were out to kill the Americans,” she said in a Fox News interview, per reporting from IJR. “I think the president was making the point that the Democrats seem to hate him so much that they’re willing to be on the side of countries and leadership of countries who want to kill Americans.”
Describing Democrats as “almost taking the side of terrorists” is an appalling notion promoted by the top spokeswoman of the Trump administration. It’s wrong, and sends the message to Trump’s fiercest supporters that Democrats are enemies of the state.
WH Press Sec Stephanie Grisham: "The president is making clear the Democrats are parroting Iranian talking points and almost taking the side of terrorists and those out to kill Americans."
Harris Faulkner, a so-called 'news anchor', doesn't push back on this smear at all pic.twitter.com/Um8nMfnQN4
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) January 13, 2020
Such rhetoric is dangerous in this current political climate. We’ve seen a number of Trump’s fans take action against Democrats, sometimes violently, citing the president’s own rhetoric while doing so.
Undoubtedly, the base of Trump supporters have already “received the message” that Grisham disseminated this week. They will likely ignore the message that Pelosi put out — that Trump’s actions are wrong, but so too are the actions of the Iranian regime.
It is not impossible to hold both viewpoints.
In calling for a congressional vote on Trump’s war powers with regard to Iran, Pelosi herself stated, on the floor of the House, that leaders of that nation weren’t to be trusted, and her statement in no way was meant to be an endorsement of their own methods.
“We know what bad actors they are in the world. We know that [Gen. Qasem] Soleimani, was somebody that we do not mourn the loss of – he did very evil things in the world,” Pelosi said last week.
But at the same time, the process on the U.S. side of things matters — and Trump’s orders to assassinate Soleimani “endangered our servicemen and women, our diplomats and others by taking a serious risk of escalation with tensions with Iran,” Pelosi said.
One can be against Iran AND recognize that the president’s actions weren’t in the best interests of the United States. It does not make one a terrorist sympathizer for holding such an opinion.
Trump’s boorish behavior and his inability to think beyond the immediate moment, to consider the repercussions of his actions, is worth criticizing. It does not make one “almost” like a terrorist if they point out the president’s shortcomings.