‘McCarthyite’ vs. ‘Chilling’

‘MCCARTHYITE’ VS. ‘CHILLING’…. Bill Cronon, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, has been critical of Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) anti-union efforts, and over the last two weeks, has published an op-ed and a blog post explaining his concerns. For his trouble, the Wisconsin GOP has targeted the professor, demanding access to his personal/university email account.

Cronon talked to Greg Sargent today, and the historian talked about the efforts against him.

Cronon theorizes, based on the keyword requests, that Wisconsin Republicans are trying to catch him in violation of state university rules by using a state email account to engage in “lobbying and electioneering to try to unseat these Repubican legislators.” In other words, he says, Wisconsin Republicans want to damage him professionally in response to his criticism of them.

“That’s what they’re hoping to find,” Cronon says. “They’re trying to intimidate me. What they’re saying is that if an academic raises these kinds of questions, we’re going to make his life really uncomfortable. Intimidating people from asking legitimate questions is a McCarthyite tactic.”

Cronon says the Wisconsin GOP will not find evidence of what they’re looking for. “It’s not there,” he says.

For their part, state Republican leaders are outraged, not just that a university professor would dare to criticize a governor, but also that others might criticize them for their tactics against Cronon.

“[I]t is chilling to see that so many members of the media would take up the cause of a professor who seeks to quash a lawful open records request,” state GOP executive director Mark Jefferson said this morning.

What a curious response. Wisconsin Republicans are angry that their efforts to intimidate Walker critics might have a chilling effect on others who might also want to intimidate Walker critics?

Indeed, as Dave Weigel noted, the state GOP added that asking questions about the party’s efforts are a form of “intimidation,” which is kind of bizarre.

Anyone hoping Wisconsin Republicans would be a little less ridiculous in the wake of the labor dispute is bound to be disappointed.