This column could get me thrown in jail.
And the fact that I’m even thinking that way is the entire point of Jim Jordan’s new Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee which Jordan chairs.
He and his fellow fascist seditionists want Americans to be afraid of them, particularly Americans who may be in a position to identify their crimes and hold them to account.
Frankly, I’d be pretty low on their list. Just like the notorious Republican Senator Joe McCarthy back in the 1950s, Jordan and his buddies appear focused on using their power to intimidate those who have actual legal power. Like the FBI, IRS, regulators, and elected officials.
But it would be foolhardy to think they won’t go after members of the press. Or whatever they’re calling people like me these days: “fake news,” “lamestream media,” or the Lügenpresse in the original German.
The Committee will have the power to pry-bar their way into ongoing investigations, terrorizing agencies and government employees looking into Republican participation in the attempted coup of January 6th and the weeks around it.
They’ve even acquired, in yesterday’s vote, the power to access and use top-secret information normally reserved to the highly-vetted members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Sources and methods. How the FBI knows which seditionist Members of Congress were involved in giving tours or conspiring with Proud Boys. Secrets Putin or the Saudi’s would pay billions for, as they apparently already have with Jared Kushner and Donald Trump.
As congressman Ruben Gallego said yesterday, it’s “as if we gave the mafia the right to investigate the Southern District of New York attorney’s office.”
Congressman Adam Schiff calls it The Coverup Committee. He’s right, but it’s worse than just that.
They’ve proclaimed their desire to intimidate the FBI, the Capitol Police, America’s spy agencies, and any politician who might show the temerity to suggest traitors should be held accountable for their treason.
We’ve seen this movie before, complete with the bombast, threats, lies, and bullying. And it tells us a lot about what we can expect over the next two years.
On February 9, 1950, an obscure first-term Senator who’d lied about his military service to get elected, Joe McCarthy, gave the first speech of a 5-city tour before a Republican women’s group in Wheeling, West Virginia. Apparently wanting to stir up some buzz, he pulled a random piece of paper from his pocket, waved it theatrically, and claimed it was a list of “205 known communists” who worked at the State Department.
Americans were worried about communists then, with some justification. The “communist miracle” was widely acknowledged under Stalin as just another form of brutal anti-democratic tyranny. Stalin had starved four million Ukrainians to death in what was known as the Holdomor, while he was imprisoning his own citizens in brutal gulags. The Soviet Union had exploded their first nuclear weapon just six months earlier, and that June North Korea, with help from the USSR, would invade South Korea.
By the end of McCarthy’s tour that month, reaching Salt Lake City, he’d reduced his claim to 57 communists in the State Department; in other cities he’d claimed the number was 81. It’s entirely possible he simply couldn’t keep track of his own lies.
In any case, no such list existed. Right up to the day he drank himself to death, May 9, 1957, McCarthy never was able to name a single communist in the State Department. But his demagogic claim got him on the front pages of newspapers across America.
McCarthy and his right-hand man Roy Cohn (later Donald Trump’s mentor) terrorized people working in the US government.
Being dragged before his Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations was a career-ender: over 2000 government employees lost their jobs because of his baseless accusations and innuendo.
In 1950, The Progressive magazine called McCarthy:
“[A]n ambitious faker living by his wits and guts, a ruthless egotist bent on personal power regardless of the consequence to his country, a shrewd and slippery operator with the gambler’s gift for knowing when and how to bluff.”
Even average Americans trembled before McCarthy, who was stepping into the anti-communist game late.
Three years earlier the “Hollywood Ten” (Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo)— none of them particularly rich or famous — had all been sent to prison for a year for refusing to acknowledge subpoenas and submit to public interrogation by McCarthy’s peers on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).
Their crime? Most were writers and one, Ring Lardner Jr., had written an op-ed very much like this one in which he noted:
“One of the first acts of the Republicans who took control of Congress in 1946 (for the first time in 20 years) was to convert a temporary committee [HUAC], which had been investigating fascist sympathizers during the war, into a permanent [committee] concentrating on the ... left…”
Off he went to prison.
And now, today, Jim Jordan and his colleagues have that same power of subpoena that was so bluntly wielded by McCarthy and his Republican collaborators when I was a kid.
We’ve been hearing about changes that the Republicans are making here and there in Congress since they’ve seized power, but now the full picture is coming into focus. I worried and warned about this two years ago in my book The Hidden History of American Oligarchy.
For example, back in April of 2009 the FBI/DHS issued a report titled: “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” It had been prepared during the presidency of George W. Bush, but Obama was now president when it was released and the reaction from the right was immediate.
John Boehner said the report was “offensive and unacceptable” and was particularly outraged that it used the word “terrorist” to, in Boehner’s words, “describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.”
That mild response caused Obama to essentially pull the report.
But imagine if such a report were issued today by the FBI. Jordan’s new committee could call before it — as McCarthy did in the 1950s — the actual government employees who’d done the research and written it.
Their careers would be destroyed, their homes and families under constant death threat, their lives turned upside down.
It would be a long time before any other federal employee would dare expose terrorism on the American right.
This is how fascists behave. It’s how they’ve behaved throughout history. It’s how they get what they want.
Unless you confront them with overwhelming resistance, you can’t negotiate with them; they keep taking more and more, right up to the point of using violence.
I hope I’m wrong, but everything I’m seeing tells me this is exactly the direction Republicans in the House are moving.
We’ve entered the new McCarthy era, and Kevin is doing everything he can to empower Jordan as the new Joe.
Only this time the goal isn’t just feeding the ego of an alcoholic narcissist: it’s to end democracy in the United States.