Tony Norman: McCarthyism is afoot in the land, indeed
March 7, 2017 12:00 AM
Evan Vucci/Associated Press
By Tony Norman / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
At 6:35 a.m. Saturday, Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, did something that would have prompted a duel two centuries earlier. “Terrible! I just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” he tweeted. “Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
In a series of tweets that followed spanning nearly a half-hour, Mr. Trump maligned his predecessor, President Barack Obama, by accusing him of “tapping my phone in October, just prior to Election!”
In a tweet sent out at 7:02, Mr. Trump asked: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
If Mr. Trump’s accusation is true and not simply paranoid ravings dredged up from the fetid swamp of conservative talk radio and Breitbart News, Mr. Obama would be guilty of a felony.
Meeting before dawn in Weehawken, N.J., in 1804 after a contentious election season, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton fought a duel over far less than what Mr. Trump has alleged about Mr. Obama in four deranged tweets.
Further evidence that Mr. Trump is deficient in self-awareness is his glib evocation of McCarthyism in his tweets before moving on to more pressing matters of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “pathetic ratings” on “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
As someone who was literally mentored in the sleazy art of the political smear in the 1980s by Roy Cohn, Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s elfin consigliere, Mr. Trump should know of what he speaks when it comes to McCarthyism — but evidently doesn’t.
The fact that Mr. Trump’s head didn’t explode from the weight of all that irony, after accusing his predecessor of crimes that Roy Cohn and Joe McCarthy originated in the 1950s, is evidence that our president isn’t prone to too many introspective moments.
Mr. Trump has not offered any proof of his charge, but he has asked the various congressional committees looking into his ties with Russia to include a probe of Mr. Obama’s alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower.
FBI Director James Comey, who many believed did as much as Vladimir Putin did last year to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, denied that his agency conducted, knew of or authorized any wiretap of Trump Tower. He even asked the Department of Justice, now under the auspices of the recently disgraced Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to publicly reject the president’s claims. Fat chance of that happening.
While White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Sunday that the Trump administration would have no further comment about the wiretapping until it has been formally investigated, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway and deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the rounds Monday trying to defend the indefensible.
“I think [Mr. Trump] firmly believes that this is a storyline that has been reported pretty widely by quite a few outlets. The wiretapping has been discussed in The New York Times, BBC, Fox News and we believe that it should be looked at by the House Intelligence Committee,” Ms. Sanders said before “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos repeatedly pointed out that none of the publications she referred to backed up Mr. Trump’s claim.
Ms. Conway re-emerged from the rabbit hole of fake news to suggest to the gullible trio at “Fox & Friends” that Mr. Trump is privy to information about the wiretapping that the public (or intelligence agencies, apparently) doesn’t have access to that proves his allegation that Mr. Obama wiretapped him.
If this sounds like a tactic out of the Joe McCarthy playbook, it is. On Feb. 9, 1950, Roy Cohn’s buddy — the junior senator from Wisconsin — gave a speech in Wheeling, W.Va., that launched him into national prominence.
“I have here in my hand a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the secretary of state as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department,” Joe McCarthy said without sharing the list or presenting a scintilla of evidence that even one communist worked in the State Department.
What fooled millions of Americans in the 1950s won’t fool anyone now, of course. There is not only widespread skepticism about Mr. Trump’s claim across the political spectrum, there’s also growing concern about his fitness for office.
Still, fairness compels us to agree with Mr. Trump on one point: McCarthyism is afoot in the land, but the biggest exemplar of its odious politics is Roy Cohn’s mentee — Donald J. Trump. There’s no point in asking if he has any shame. The answer is obvious.