Looking longingly to Joe McCarthy

LOOKING LONGINGLY TO JOE MCCARTHY…. For the American mainstream, former Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) was a dangerous demagogue. His name is synonymous with witch hunts, smears, guilt by association, and the practice of destroying the lives of one’s political rivals.

But today’s right-wing voices don’t always see it that way.

In Texas, for example, far-right activists are trying to rewrite the state’s school curriculum standards, part of which includes an effort to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy. In Congress, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) described McCarthy as “a great American hero” a few years back.

And then there’s Fox News’ Glenn Beck, who launched a bizarre tirade on the air yesterday, accusing FDR of hiring Communists to serve throughout the U.S. government, and lauding McCarthy for taking the threat seriously.

“It was Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy, who shined the spotlight on the Communist Party again,” Beck said rhapsodically. “McCarthy later led a Senate committee investigation into inefficiencies in the government. Critics accused him of falsely identifying Communists, and smearing their names.” Those pesky critics! Beck then brought up, for some reason, the Cold War “domino theory,” that if one nation went Communist, so would its neighbors. “Kind of feels like that now, doesn’t it?” he asked.

Bashing FDR is, like it or not, becoming second-nature to conservatives. But you don’t often hear people willing to offer praise for McCarthy, who — as even Beck had to admit — was censured by the Senate in 1954 for his feverish pursuit of Reds, little of which he was able to substantiate.

Wait, McCarthy’s hearings were about “inefficiencies in the government”? I don’t recall McCarthy being especially interested in efficiency, but then again, I can’t hear the voices in Beck’s head.

Either way, the fact that some on the right look back at McCarthyism as a good is a reminder of just how far gone some of these clowns really are.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.