Separated at birth?

McCarthy's evil twin

On May 5th the US Senate made public — with considerable fanfare and lofty words about "a cautionary tale to future generations" (Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine) — transcripts from "secret" hearings by Senator Joseph McCarthy's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in the early 1950s.

I beg to differ: these transcripts should serve as a cautionary tale for this generation, for us, now.

Joe McCarthy, Republican Senator of Wisconsin early 1950s

Although I was but a young lad of about ten at the time, I remember very well McCarthy and his special brand of bullying, xenophobia, and hate. What the 4000+ pages of transcripts reveal is that in addition to the public spectacle, McCarthy carried on what amounted to dress rehearsals behind closed doors. He chose for public humiliation only those who were least resistant during these preliminary sessions. The sessions weren't really secret — McCarthy was fond of holding press conference afterwards to give his own damning interpretations.

Unfortunately, McCarthyism wasn't unique to the Senate and McCarthy himself. Its counterpart on the other side of Capitol Hill, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), carried on its own witchhunt. The Senate finally censured McCarthy in December 1954, and he was deposed as chairman the following month when Democrats regained control of the Senate. McCarthy died in office in 1957 at the age of 47.

McCarthy may be dead, but the excesses of his era are not. They live on in the persona of Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Thought there were Communists everywhere Thinks there are Terrorists everywhere
Thought his Communist suspects had no rights Thinks his Terrorist suspects have no rights
Thought Hollywood was a bad influence on America Thinks Hollywood is a bad influence on America
Republican Republican
Refused to provide a list of his suspects Refuses to provide a list of his detainees
Was convinced he was acting in the interests of national security Is convinced he is acting in the interests of national security
Secretive and zealous Secretive and zealous
Often posed for pictures with American flag in background Often poses for pictures with American flag in background
With apologies to Spy Magazine (unfortunately now defunct) that perfected the art of Separated At Birth pictures. Although the physical resemblance between McCarthy and Ashcroft isn't as great as most SAB pictures, when you consider psychological factors, the resemblance is all too clear.

Just for fun, try Who Said It?