Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Donald Trump is worse than Joe McCarthy

REUTERS/Scott Morgan
Donald Trump: "Look, we're led by a man that either is not tough, not smart or he's got something else in mind."

The Right Honorable Donald J. Trump is seeking a new low. And I believe he is finding it in a form of McCarthyism worse than the version Joe McCarthy practiced.

Mr. T is implying that President Obama is a secret Muslim who is either in cahoots with terrorists or perhaps just sympathizes with them.

If he has any evidence of this theory, he should certainly own it, put it out there, say what it is. But, of course, there is no evidence. And Trump lacks the guts or the honesty to plainly state what he so clearly implies when he says things like this, on “Fox & Friends” Monday morning, in the aftermath of the horrible massacre in Orlando:

“Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart or he’s got something else in mind.” 

Earlier in the interview, when he was asked about a recent Tweet in which he had said that Obama should either start using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” or “resign in disgrace,” Trump said: “He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands. It’s one or the other.”

Hmmm. What might Trump mean by “or he gets it better than anybody understands?”

Later Monday, Trump went on the righty radio show of his friend Howie Carr. Carr, to his credit, tried to get Trump to say what he was implying. Replied the Trumpster: “Well, you know, I’ll let people figure that out for themselves, Howie.”

Really? Why? If you think you know something, something incredibly important for every American to know, something like that their president is in sympathy with or perhaps actually in cahoots with ISIS or other terrorist organizations, why would you, a great, fearless tell-it-like-it-is America-loving patriot like you, hesitate to tell America what it is that you know or think you know about Obama’s true loyalties and goals?

Could it be because you have no evidence but also lack the common decency and lack respect for America’s ability to see through your smarmy implications?

No wait. I was wrong. Howie pressed Trump further and Trump did offer evidence. Here it is, lifted from this Talking Points Memo piece on Trump’s radio appearance:

“There was certainly not a lot of passion,” Trump told Carr of Obama [referring to Obama’s public statements in the aftermath of Orlando]. “There was certainly not a lot of anger. So, you know, I’ll let that, we’ll let people figure it out. But it’s very, very, it’s a very sad situation when we have the kind of a tragedy that we had and we have a president that gave a press conference and talks about gun control. Well this was a licensed person, who could have had a gun anyway.”

Trump went on to say that Obama wants to take the guns away from people so “the bad guys will have the guns, the good guys won’t.”

Sen. Joe McCarthy
Library of Congress
Sen. Joe McCarthy

So there’s the evidence.

This is worse than McCarthyism. Sen. Joe McCarthy sought to identify Communists and Communist sympathizers (“fellow travelers”) whom he believed had infiltrated the U.S. government. He was a jerk and bully. But there were Communists and he used the forum of a congressional committee to out some of them. The accused were asked questions and had lawyers. I won’t get into a long sympathetic aside about McCarthy, for whom I have no sympathy, except to say that he confronted the people he was accusing and put his evidence on the table. And he was clear about what he was alleging.

Trump does none of the above. He is implying — and implying very clearly — that President Obama is a traitor and an agent for a violent foreign America-hating belief system. He won’t even own it, let alone back it up.

Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/14/2016 - 04:31 pm.


    Mr. Trump is so blatantly unqualified for any public office, with any degree of responsibility for the well-being of other citizens, that watching his continued performance as the purported nominee of one of our two major political parties can only be done in horror. For the most part, what he has to say ought not to be given serious consideration.

    The line about George Bush was that he was born on 3rd base and awoke thinking he’d hit a triple. That line applies even more forcefully and accurately to Donald Trump. He is not a chief executive. He is not even a business executive in any positive sense of the term. Trump is a spiteful, dishonest, know-nothing demagogue with nothing useful to add to the American political system. Against all of the ideals we like to say we have in common in this country, he continues to have substantial numbers of supporters despite plainly stating his denigration of women, people of color, and those who were not born into the level of privilege that he enjoyed.

    That he may well represent the political party to which I used to belong in the upcoming presidential election is an embarrassment, should be a similar embarrassment to any thoughtful Republican, and to anyone else, regardless of political affiliation, who values the ideals of our founding documents. Donald Trump turned 70 years old today, and what we’re seeing in his public statements is a 70-year-old spoiled preschooler, with all the intellectual and emotional maturity that we might expect from a 3 or 4-year-old.

  2. Submitted by Jim Million on 06/14/2016 - 04:53 pm.

    Article of Note

    One note…again. Serious suggestion: Write a series on Adlai Stevenson.

    “If the Republicans will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.”
    Adlai E. Stevenson

    Read more at:

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/14/2016 - 06:40 pm.

      And from the same source

      “I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”
      Harry S Truman

      Hillary looks like she’s doing it.
      And Obama added a bit today.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/14/2016 - 08:04 pm.

    Why focus so much on Trump ?

    Simply because he is the nominee of one of the two political parties that our president is selected from. And, given the highly partisan, 50/50 nature of recent presidential elections, it is not impossible for him to be elected president. And many of his statements and actions cater to the lowest possible denominator.

    When Bush2 and Cheney have been transformed into positive light by comparison with Trump, just WOW !!

  4. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 06/15/2016 - 07:33 am.

    As obviously unqualified as Trump appears..

    millions of people support him and that is the really scary thing. One idiot the world can handle but tens of millions of idiots with no understanding of the American system of government or international relations, that is scary.

    I imply with no proof to back it up a la Trump that he has looked down his nose all his life at the kind of people who support him now. I’ve read many articles now about how he has ripped off middle class workmen who did work on his projects. I would love to see Trump get his 47% moment where he is taped making jokes about his followers and what rubes they are. I wish someone would put a bug in his limo.

  5. Submitted by Jim Million on 06/15/2016 - 07:43 am.

    “Expounding Upon the Obvious”

    That’s what we said back in high school, anyway. It’s mid-June and the Trump Tattoo is already wearing out drum heads. It’s just too easy, and beginning to be too boring…expounding on the boorishness of a boor.

    There must be at least one additional layer to consider…maybe even two. How about extolling the virtues of HRC for awhile? OK, I understand. Well, how about some serious thoughts on VP choices? The conventions are near, and the election is not. Besides, this may possibly be a contest decided by votes for VP…could be.

  6. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 06/15/2016 - 08:08 am.

    I am waiting for Trump’s other jackboot to fall…

    …so what next will Trump suggest…pogroms (almost there already, Donny boy?) for those of another faith?

    …as Republicans in some catatonic state of indulgent gullibility or sweat-it-out denial, continue with Trump on the ballot?

    Is Trump not man of sick ideas indeed playing to a gullible audience…there is one tragedy in the making….

  7. Submitted by Sandra Larson on 06/15/2016 - 08:26 am.

    The McCarthy Era worse than portrayed

    Mr. Black, in discussing the impact of the McCarthy era, most specifically the hearings McCarthy held you say, “But there were Communists and he used the forum of a congressional committee to out some of them. The accused were asked questions and had lawyers..” While this may be strictly true of those hauled before the committee, the fear among government officials was widespread and inflamed by Joe McCarthy’s crusade. Numerous accounts calculate that due to the hysteria he stirred up, over 10,000 people lost their jobs in government, including the military service. I cannot verify that figure, but my family was seriously impacted when my conservative, peace-loving Republican brother-in-law who joined the Navy and was recruited into Navy intelligence, a guy hoping to have a career in our Foreign Service and studying Russian as part of his job in the Navy, was accused of being a communist, never allowed to face his accuser,have an attorney or see any evidence against him, and was drummed out of the service, never then able to pursue his life-long dreams. I can only imagine the destruction that the thousands, if not 10,000, of other folks experience due to the ambitions of this evil man. I can imagine, but I predict, we will see such suffering anew if Donald Trump scares enough people to get elected. A further investigation and report on the impact of the McCarthy era might be a timely article, given that I think it is misrepresented by this article.

  8. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/15/2016 - 09:44 am.

    No Communists for McCarthy

    Actually, McCarthy (and his many allies in the Senate and Congress) never really “got” any Communists. They got people held in contempt of Congress for refusing to rat on their families and friends. Some, like Professor Owen Lattimore, faced groundless perjury charges which they only succeeded in getting dismissed years after defending them. McCarthy and his fellow antiCommunist politicians helped create blacklists and graylists and other forms of subtle persecution and discrimination that ruined many careers and sent a number of people to jail, but none for being a Communist or for any substantive crime. The only people who were convicted for being Communists were the Rosenbergs for selling atom bomb secrets to the Soviets, and the leadership of the Communist party who were prosecuted under the Smith Act for allegedly advocating the violent overthrow of the government. None of these people ever presented any threat to the US Government or the American people. They too were the victims of a senseless and vicious crusade that was really about advancing political careers.

    McCarthyism (or as historian Ellen Schrecker has called it “Hooverism”, after FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover) was a manifestation of the hysterical fear of the post-War period. McCarthy and Hoover, as well as many other politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, fomented and manipulated fear of Communism for political advantage. (The Republicans happened to be better at it, having slightly less scrupulous regard for civil liberties than the Democrats). The Republican Party has used that playbook to once again foment hysteria and fear and capitalize upon it for political advantage. How else explain “leaders” like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and the rest, all trying to outdo one another in what they would do to “protect” America and Americans from an all but completely imaginary sinister threat?

    Still, I agree with Eric that McCarthy and the other anti-Communists never beat about the bush when they accused people of being Communists or having Communist sympathies. Does Trump intend to suggest that being in favor of gun control is like being “pro-terrorist”? Or that banning automatic weapons would be tantamount to selling nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union? I’d like to think that there aren’t that many of my fellow Americans who are so unhinged as to believe such nonsense. What’s really frightening to me is not that there are “radical Muslin terrorists” lurking in this country but that without any evidence so many people believe there are that stern, if not violent, measures need to be taken against them.

  9. Submitted by Eric Black on 06/15/2016 - 12:32 pm.

    Maybe I should have left out the McCarthyism statements

    I would hate to have anyone think I want to minimize the damage McCarthy did to individuals or to the intellectual and political climate of the times. If you haven’t seen the excellent film “Trumbo,” please do.

    Still, it would be nice to see Mr. Trump have to defend his statements in a more structured environment, like a committee hearing.

  10. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 06/15/2016 - 12:37 pm.

    It’s apropos that Eric keep hammering on the wild, frightening aspects of Donald Trump as presidential candidate. We are creating a written record that he is not supported, that Americans disagree with his hateful comments and recommendations, that our country is better than his presence and words would have the world believe.

    We want the world to know that Americans are NOT Donald Trump and that he does NOT represent us.

    A word to Eric: I know it’s meant ironically, but could you stop referring to Trump with the honorific “the Right Honorable”? He has never held any position of authority before the public. He has never been elected to anything, not even dogcatcher or the pledge mentor for his fraternity. He has never been an attorney or a judge. He has never done anything that would merit even the term “honorable” (check with the people he’s done business with; the NYTimes last week had a wonderful, long article about Trump’s business failures in Atlantic City and the wrecked small businesses he blithely left behind him in his multiple bankruptcies).

  11. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 06/15/2016 - 01:11 pm.

    Just “Keeping the winter count/”…

    I’ll try again here…try to be more to the point but…can’t help reflect on the inroads McCarthy made and was too often received by his ‘followers’ integrating fear and hate and propaganda into the human psyche?

    Could say the weakness of the the citizenry as then or now too maybe?

    Dangerous then to speak out…becoming more dangerous again with Trump and his calling card still defended by too many, is it?

    Artists, writers were under the destructive watch of HUAC…and their works banned for many years.

    Tom McGrath, the late, great plains poet was called before the committee – April,1953- and spoke up against that madness then?

    So will it happen again?

    “But all time is redeemed by the single man_
    who remembers and resurrects?
    I remember
    I keep the winter count.” Tom Mcgrath

  12. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/16/2016 - 10:07 am.

    He gone…

    Three more weeks on the current slope and he will be gone (hard to imagine; but, possible). If reality and his determined poll watching catches up with his ego he will weigh whether to endure a campaign that could end up in the most lopsided, humiliating loss ever (good news, Walter Mondale) or find a way to declare victory and exit before the convention: ” I have changed the tone, attitude and demographic of the Republican party and it’s time to return to what I do best: continue to build my hugely successful organization”. And of course the Republican establishment will give him a standing ovation for his courage and huge contributions to transforming the party and get on to picking their nominee with a HUGE sigh of relief:

    1. John Kasich???
    2. Mitt Romney???
    3. Paul Ryan???

    The D’s better lighten up on him or the gift that keeps on giving will be gone….

  13. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 06/21/2016 - 07:40 am.

    We Have No Choice

    Overheard this past Sunday at the Medina flea market.

    “I know what you’re saying, but we -have- to vote for Trump. Otherwise she’ll win!”

Leave a Reply