Glenn Beck has revived one of the most shameful chapters in American political history. Sen. Joseph McCarthy spent years ruining the lives of patriotic Americans serving in the United States government and beyond. He did it through fearmongering and baseless, unproven accusations. He combed the past statements and associations of loyal U.S. citizens and then shamefully accused them of being traitors bent on the destruction of the American way of life.
At a time when conservatives are unable to find new leadership or present new ideas to address the challenges facing our nation, it is perhaps fitting that their media leaders and spokespeople -- individuals like Glenn Beck -- have fallen back on a 60-year-old slander: communist. Beck's forum consists of his radio program, his nightly show on Fox News, and his books. The witnesses he calls at his hearings form the endless parade of political demagogues he hosts as guests. And one by one, he is targeting the president's advisers -- not based on their current actions or statements, not because of any actual policy initiatives they have proposed since President Obama took office, but rather through the use of guilt-by-association reasoning or because of cherry-picked comments from their past, often provided in a highly misleading context. It's just the kind of vitriolic irresponsibility that McCarthy specialized in, too.
Beck's fixation on a sinister communist threat undermining America's capitalist democracy would be entirely laughable were it not revealing of something more fundamental. Beck and the Right have consistently portrayed Obama as a Manchurian candidate bearing Trojan Horse policies. Thus, the president isn't a uniter but a secret divider. He doesn't love the America we have, hoping to improve it. Rather, he seeks to destroy it. He doesn't represent a triumph on America's path toward genuine racial equality. Rather, he seeks little more than obtaining reparations and the radical redistribution of wealth and power on a racial basis. Such a philosophy plays to the most distrustful -- and often, dangerous -- elements of our society.
Beck will not stop with Van Jones. Yesterday he dedicated much of his show to Cass Sunstein, Obama's regulatory czar, whom he portrayed as a crazed animal rights activist who believes that rats matter more than people. As was the case with McCarthy, his distortions will continue unabated until the public recognizes his campaign for what it is: a witch hunt. As journalist Edward R. Murrow said of McCarthy in 1954, "We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men."
Such words could, and should, be spoken, too, of Beck.