No Comment — March 8, 2010, 11:43 am

Incompetent McCarthyism and Shared Beliefs

Back in 2008, Michael Goldfarb and others on the right tried a typically McCarthyite tactic against candidate Barack Obama. Obama was assailed for a supposed relationship with Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, described in the National Review as “a former mouthpiece for master terrorist Yasser Arafat” and the “founder” of the Arab-American Action Network. Most of their essential claims about Khalidi were false. In fact, Khalidi is well known as a critic of human rights abuses within the Palestinian community; he had nothing to do with AAAN, an organization that provides English language lessons to immigrants and other social services to the indigent; and Khalidi was more closely tied to John McCain than to Obama. Under McCain’s guidance, the International Republican Institute supported Khalidi’s Palestinian Center, an operation geared to raising civil consciousness and engagement among West Bank Palestinians. In short, the effort blew up in their faces.

Cycle forward a year and a half, and we find Goldfarb with William Kristol providing the public relations “brains” for Liz Cheney’s Keep America Safe. Last week they launched a new attack line, going after the “Gitmo 9”—a group of lawyers, now working for the Obama Administration, who “voluntarily represented terrorists.” This is another in a series of attacks against Eric Holder and the Justice Department, which in fact remains the main target of Keep America Safe. The technique, again, is typically McCarthyite. There are unknown people deep inside the government whose loyalty is suspect, it insinuates. They have infiltrated the Justice Department (which the ad calls “Department of Jihad”). “Whose values do they share?” it asks.

But again, the incompetent McCarthyites haven’t done their homework. On a list of lawyers in recent government service who have served alleged terrorists, the first name might be Michael Chertoff’s. Chertoff served as counsel to Magdy El-Amir, a man identified as a leading Al Qaeda fundraiser in North America. Chertoff went on to head the criminal division at Justice and then to become secretary of Homeland Security. There is no hint that his ties to El-Amir in any way influenced Chertoff in his duties in the Bush Administration, nor would any reasonable person suspect that they would. The list would also include Michael Mukasey, Bush’s last attorney general, whose law firm had an active pro bono program writing appeals briefs in support of the Guantánamo inmates on constitutional issues, and Rudy Giuliani, whose firm was and is also engaged in representing Gitmo prisoners. It therefore came as no surprise when leading Republican lawyers quickly came out attacking the Cheney-Kristol-Goldfarb project as “shameful.”

But the question that Liz Cheney asks is an appropriate one. “Whose values do they share?” Perhaps it’s the values of John Adams. After the Boston Massacre, when revolutionary sentiment was flaring, Adams stood up to represent the British soldiers accused of slaughtering his fellow Bostonians in a criminal trial, and he helped them beat the rap. Most of his fellow citizens were dumbstruck by his decision, but at the end of a long life, looking back, Adams decided that this was “one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country.” It’s the values of Kenneth Royall, the JAG colonel who defended a group of accused German saboteurs during World War II, bringing their appeal to the Supreme Court against the wishes of his commander-in-chief. Royall’s brilliant defense got him a promotion to brigadier general, and it later helped drive President Truman’s decision to name him the last American secretary of war. Vigorous defense of even the meanest person accused is an essential part of our democracy and our notions of justice—but it’s not a value that is shared by Liz Cheney.

Whose values does Liz Cheney share? Look at the nations around the world in which criminal defense counsel are harassed and persecuted. Look at Putin’s Russia and the case of Sergei Magnitsky, or Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and the case of Beatrice Mtetwa. Perhaps it is in countries like Russia and Zimbabwe that Liz Cheney and her Weekly Standard friends might find governments that share their values.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2018

The Bodies in The Forest

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Minds of Others

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Modern Despots

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Before the Deluge

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Notes to Self

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Within Reach

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Pushing the Limit·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
The Minds of Others·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Progress is impossible without change,” George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1944, “and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” But progress through persuasion has never seemed harder to achieve. Political segregation has made many Americans inaccessible, even unimaginable, to those on the other side of the partisan divide. On the rare occasions when we do come face-to-face, it is not clear what we could say to change each other’s minds or reach a worthwhile compromise. Psychological research has shown that humans often fail to process facts that conflict with our preexisting worldviews. The stakes are simply too high: our self-worth and identity are entangled with our beliefs — and with those who share them. The weakness of logic as a tool of persuasion, combined with the urgency of the political moment, can be paralyzing.

Yet we know that people do change their minds. We are constantly molded by our environment and our culture, by the events of the world, by the gossip we hear and the books we read. In the essays that follow, seven writers explore the ways that persuasion operates in our lives, from the intimate to the far-reaching. Some consider the ethics and mechanics of persuasion itself — in religion, politics, and foreign policy — and others turn their attention to the channels through which it acts, such as music, protest, and technology. How, they ask, can we persuade others to join our cause or see things the way we do? And when it comes to our own openness to change, how do we decide when to compromise and when to resist?

Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
Article
Within Reach·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On a balmy day last spring, Connor Chase sat on a red couch in the waiting room of a medical clinic in Columbus, Ohio, and watched the traffic on the street. His bleached-blond hair fell into his eyes as he scrolled through his phone to distract himself. Waiting to see Mimi Rivard, a nurse practitioner, was making Chase nervous: it would be the first time he would tell a medical professional that he was transgender.

By the time he arrived at the Equitas Health clinic, Chase was eighteen, and had long since come to dread doctors and hospitals. As a child, he’d had asthma, migraines, two surgeries for a tumor that had caused deafness in one ear, and gangrene from an infected bug bite. Doctors had always assumed he was a girl. After puberty, Chase said, he avoided looking in the mirror because his chest and hips “didn’t feel like my body.” He liked it when strangers saw him as male, but his voice was high-pitched, so he rarely spoke in public. Then, when Chase was fourteen, he watched a video on YouTube in which a twentysomething trans man described taking testosterone to lower his voice and appear more masculine. Suddenly, Chase had an explanation for how he felt — and what he wanted.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Before the Deluge·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the summer of 2016, when Congress installed a financial control board to address Puerto Rico’s crippling debt, I traveled to San Juan, the capital. The island owed some $120 billion, and Wall Street was demanding action. On the news, President Obama announced his appointments to the Junta de Supervisión y Administración Financiera. “The task ahead for Puerto Rico is not an easy one,” he said. “But I am confident Puerto Rico is up to the challenge of stabilizing the fiscal situation, restoring growth, and building a better future for all Puerto Ricans.” Among locals, however, the control board was widely viewed as a transparent effort to satisfy mainland creditors — just the latest tool of colonialist plundering that went back generations.

Photograph from Puerto Rico by Christopher Gregory
Article
Monumental Error·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

Illustration by Steve Brodner

Cost of a baby-stroller cleaning, with wheel detailing, at Tot Squad in New York City:

$119.99

Australian biologists trained monitor lizards not to eat cane toads.

Trump tweeted that he had created “jobs, jobs, jobs” since becoming president, and it was reported that Trump plans to bolster job creation by loosening regulations on the global sale of US-made artillery, warships, fighter jets, and drones.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today