Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Over the weekend I stumbled in to the bizarro universe of the World Net Daily. Specifically, I made it over there because of a link to an article entitled “Soy is making kids ‘gay.’” I then ran across Ann Coulter’s take on the Don Imus affair. I really didn’t care about it until I hit this sentence: “…Bob Hope cruelly implied that Democrats didn't support the troops when he joked to the troops in Vietnam: ‘The country is behind you 50 percent.’” Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I wasn’t around during the Vietnam War. But, apparently, neither was Ann Coulter. Unlike me, she didn’t have the advantage of taking Dr. Hopkins’ Vietnam War class in college. Or, apparently, any class that discussed Vietnam in a remotely reasonable way. If I remember correctly, it was a Democrat (JFK) who built up the troop levels in Vietnam after the French finally gave up the fight for good. Also, it was a Democrat (LBJ) who basically played up an “unprovoked” attack on American warships in “International Waters” in the Gulf of Tonkin as an excuse to pass a resolution through Congress that gave him a blank check to wage war without any questions. Then, in 1968, a Republican candidate won the Presidency by declaring repeatedly that he had a secret plan to get us out of the quagmire. His name? Richard Nixon. (Okay, his opponent, Hubert H. Humphrey, was the one who said it was a “secret plan.” Still, Nixon said he had a plan and he never said what it was, primarily because it didn’t exist.) Now, given that Nixon won in 1968 with a plurality of 43.4% of the vote on a platform that had basically one plank, we could probably say there’s a good chance that something in the neighborhood of half of the American population was against the Vietnam War. It also stands to reason that a good chunk of that 43.4% of the population was Republican. (Some of the 42.7% who voted for HHH probably did so out of dislike for Nixon, while the 13 or so percent who voted for Wallace did so on mostly racial terms and probably weren't thinking about the war all that much when they cast their votes.) Of course my random historical speculation ignores the fact that Coulter made hay off of a joke told by Bob Hope at a USO show. I’ve heard Bob Hope described as many things over the years, but “cruel” is not one of them. Besides, Bob Hope was well versed in the old comedians’ adage that, “You don’t let the facts get in the way of a good joke,” so I’d hardly consider him a definitive source of anything. Then again, Coulter never seems to let the facts get in the way of a good political rant, so perhaps she’s simply trying to point out the quotation of a kindred spirit. But that’s probably giving her too much credit. Meanwhile, I found a different article that related to Coulter. This one is entitled “Why I Admire Sen. Joseph McCarthy.” I don’t feel the need to go in to detail here. Instead I feel that it’s best to highlight a single paragraph: “Back to McCarthy. As I revisit this tragic Promethean figure of the early 1950s, let us first answer two basic questions lucidly without emotion: 1) Did McCarthy find Communists, Communist sympathizers and Soviet spies in the State Department, in Hollywood, in the academy, in the literary world, in the military, in the media during his Senate committee hearings? 2) Does an unbiased account of history show that McCarthy abused his power? Yes on the first question, No, on the second.” Ah, well, now that I’ve been asked to regard this “tragic, Promethean figure” without emotion, I know that I’m just going to have to deal with simple facts. Because as we all know, “tragic” isn’t at all loaded with emotion. “Promethean” doesn’t at all describe a figure who has been cruelly and eternally punished for his grand vision and foresight. It’s just going to be the facts. What facts they are, too. Did McCarthy find Communists? Yes, yes he did. Did he overstep his power? No, um, apparently (I’m not as up on McCarthyism as I probably should be, but I don’t really recall thinking, “Gee, this sounds Constitutional,” during the times it came up). There are (at least) two problems with this line of reasoning. First, facts do not inherently carry with them moral statements. They must be taken in context. Say, for instance, that there is a newspaper headline that states, “Five Found Dead.” That means nothing. If the story gives details about a bus accident, it’s tragic but probably not evil. If the story gives details about a murder-suicide, something very wrong has happened. The fact is that 6 million Jews died in World War II. That’s tragic, but it might not necessarily be a great moral issue. The context is that they died as the result of a systematic attempt at genocide. That is unconscionably evil. Second, follow-through is a weak argument unless context is given. Hitler very nearly accomplished his goal of eradicating the Jewish people. By the logic of this article, we should be applauding him, not reserving a special piece of Hell for his eternal rest. That’s the problem with this unabashedly history-less history of Joseph McCarthy. We have to include the emotional debate in to his legacy. We can’t just say that he did what he set out to do and assume that meant he was right. And we certainly can’t argue, as the author did, that McCarthy didn’t overstep his boundaries because the House Un-American Activities Committee simply because the Democrats set it up. Ignore for a moment the fact that this same commentator would probably be screaming if HUAC were still around today and Nancy Pelosi decided to use it to root out all Fundamentalist Christians with thoughts of overthrowing the country to create a theocratic Christian utopia. Was the HUAC Constitutional? No. That’s why it’s not around any more. Were the activities of the HUAC under McCarthy Constitutional? No. That’s why we don’t build statues of him. Therefore, did McCarthy overstep the boundaries of his power? Yes. It may have been allowed, but it was unconstitutional. It was also morally wrong. Why do I put these two thoughts together? It’s because of this line: “From way in the back of the room, Ann Coulter stood tall like a man and didn't ask for it, but took McCarthy's mantle.” That doesn’t seem like a good combination.