When McCarthyism gets literal

WHEN MCCARTHYISM GETS LITERAL…. It’s not uncommon for charges of “McCarthyism” to be used rather casually, stretching the intended meaning a bit. Once in a while, though, prominent Republican officials embrace the concept rather literally.

Today, Right Side News posted an interview with Rep. Steve King (R-IA). The interview touches a number of political topics, including King’s belief that Congress shouldn’t focus on the economy, but rather “culture,” because “if you get the culture right, you’ll get the economy right. Everything will fall into place automatically.”

At one point, the interviewer referenced the October National Press Club press conference where Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid called for the revival of the House Internal Security Committee, the 60′s-era successor to the McCarthyite House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Right Side News asked the congressman if he would support the “re-creation of such committees.”

King answered, “I would. I think that is a good process and I would support it.”

This kind of embrace of literal McCarthyite tactics is unusual, but not unheard of in contemporary American politics. During this year’s U.S Senate race in Nevada, the Republican nominee agreed that “there are ‘domestic enemies’ and ‘homegrown enemies’ in the ‘walls of the Senate and the Congress.'” A couple of years prior, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told a national television audience there should be an investigation to determine which members of Congress are “pro-America or anti-America.”

And in Texas, right-wing activists rewriting the state’s curriculum are determined to tell students that McCarthy was a hero, “vindicated” by history.

Having said that, the recreation if an “Internal Security Committee,” and the reintroduction of ideological witch hunts on Capitol Hill, would still be pretty extraordinary, even by GOP standards.

To be sure, King endorsed the idea, but as far as I can tell, he hasn’t taken any steps to act on this. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if this is the sort of thing officials might actually pursue.

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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.