A Modern-Day Joe McCarthy

Joe McCarthy: "I hold here in my hands ... "

I just finished reading an excellent article entitled “The Last Days of Joe McCarthy,” by Richard Rovere, and published by Esquire magazine in its August 1958 edition. At the time, Rovere was the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker. As such, he had a ringside seat at McCarthy’s 1954 Senate censure and the inglorious public denouement of the politician that followed. Rovere continued to cover McCarthy until his death in 1957 due to cirrhosis of the liver. The Wisconsin senator drank himself to death.

What stands out in Rovere’s on-the-scenes print portrayal of this dangerous demagogue, a malevolent frightener and bully from the paranoid, anti-communist, early 1950s (the “McCarthy Era”), is how closely he resembles another modern-day demagogue from the Midwest, Missourian Rush Limbaugh. One notable difference: McCarthy (“Tail Gunner Joe”) actually served in the military during his generation’s war (World War II) while Limbaugh remained safely on the sidelines during that of his generation (the Vietnam War), due to a cyst on his butt (so appropriate). Other than this discrepancy, however, the picture that Rovere paints of McCarthy could quite easily be that of Limbaugh.

Continue reading

Wicked Words

Words count. Some lift us up. Others tear us down. Rush Limbaugh and his radio brethren deal only in the latter variety.

Rush Limbaugh – as ugly as his words.

Here is what the hateful Rush Limbaugh had to say right before the Democratic Convention in Denver in 2008: “Now, I am not inspiring or inciting riots. I’m dreaming. (singing to the tune of White Christmas) I’m dreaming of riots in Denver. Remember 1968?”

Then he said, “Riots in Denver at the Democrat convention would see to it we don’t elect Democrats – and that’s the best damn thing could happen for this country as far as anything I can think.”

And then he said, “I mean, if people say what’s your exit strategery, the dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That’s the objective here.”*

Continue reading

The Adolf Hitler Store

I had no idea about the extras I would get in the mail when I ordered a CD of the shameful Father Coughlin’s speeches for historical review.

Recently, in conjunction with a new writing project, I began to research the life of Charles Coughlin, the infamous radio priest, hatemonger, and venomous anti-Semite of the 1930s. To this end, I ordered from Amazon a CD entitled Father Coughlin is on the Air! I actually bought the CD from one of Amazon’s many independent sellers. I did not pay attention to the name of the vendor, and clicked through as quickly as possible to complete the sale and get back to work.

When the CD arrived, it came with a catalog, copied poorly on plain white paper. I paid no attention to this cheap-looking product directory, putting it in my inbox for later review. That evening, I played the CD. Based on Coughlin’s evil reputation as the father of hate radio, I expected to hear a ranting and raving lunatic.  However, during the two radio broadcasts on the CD – programs for April 4 and 11, 1937 – Coughlin did not come across as unduly intemperate or unhinged. Quite the opposite. His delivery was powerful and passionate, and spoken in a strong and mellifluous voice, although for this listener fairly confusing, as the priest spoke disjointedly of unseemly debt and taxation levels, as well as the “manufacturing of money,” and what he quaintly termed “private property-ship.”

Continue reading