Cruz and the New McCarthyism

Newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — where else? — is already developing quite a reputation as one of the most reactionary men ever to serve in that body, garnering comparisons to Sen. Joe McCarthy. And for good reason, as Jane Mayer notes at the New Yorker. Cruz claims that there were a dozen communists who wanted to overthrow the government at Harvard Law School when he was there in the 90s.

Two and a half years ago, Cruz gave a stem-winder of a speech at a Fourth of July weekend political rally in Austin, Texas, in which he accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there. Cruz attended Harvard Law School from 1992 until 1995. His spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request to discuss the speech.

Cruz made the accusation while speaking to a rapt ballroom audience during a luncheon at a conference called “Defending the American Dream,” sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit political organization founded and funded in part by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch. Cruz greeted the audience jovially, but soon launched an impassioned attack on President Obama, whom he described as “the most radical” President “ever to occupy the Oval Office.” (I was covering the conference and kept the notes.)

He then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”

So name them. Be specific. After all, if they really advocate overthrowing the U.S. government, they are committing a crime and they need to be outed, right? Or is Cruz merely trying to score cheap political points with the Tea Party crowd, a fair number of which actually do advocate revolution against the government? Even the most famous and prominent conservative at Harvard Law School criticized Cruz:

Harvard Law School Professor Charles Fried, a Republican who served as Ronald Reagan’s Solicitor General from 1985 to 1989, and who subsequently taught Cruz at the law school, suggests that his former student has his facts wrong. “I can right offhand count four “out” Republicans (including myself) and I don’t know how many closeted Republicans when Ted, who was my student and the editor on the Harvard Law Review who helped me with my Supreme Court foreword, was a student here.”

Fried went on to say that unlike Cruz, or McCarthy, who infamously kept tallies of alleged subversives, he had never tried to count Communists. “I have not taken a poll, but I would be surprised if there were any members of the faculty who ‘believed in the Communists overthrowing the U.S. government,’” he said. Under the Smith Act, it is a crime to actively engage in any organization pursuing the overthrow of the U.S. government.

Fried acknowledged that “there were a certain number (twelve seems to me too high) who were quite radical, but I doubt if any had allegiance or sympathy with anything called ‘the Communists,’ who at that time (unlike the thirties and forties) were in quite bad odor among radical intellectuals.” He pointed out that by the nineteen-nineties, Communist states were widely regarded as tyrannical. From Fried’s perspective, the radicals on the faculty were “a pain in the neck.” But he says that Cruz’s assertion that they were Communists “misunderstands what they were about.”

Did we die and go to the 1950s?

26 comments on this post.
  1. unbound:

    When do the Hollywood blacklists come out?

  2. Modusoperandi:

    Harvard? Communists? Wealthy Northeastern Republicanism is Communism now?

  3. slc1:

    Hey, wasn’t that dangerous radical Elena Kagan dean of the law school before being joining the Obama Administration?

    Shorter Ted Cruz: I have in my hand the names of a dozen conscience Communist conspirators amongst the faculty at Harvard Law School.

  4. d.c.wilson:

    Cruz is just filling the vacuum left by the departure of Allen West.

  5. eric:

    Sounds like Mr. Cruz had an OOR experience while at Harvard. Out of Reality.

  6. slc1:

    Re d.c.wilson

    Not a good comparison. Allen West was a moron. Harvard law graduate Cruz is not. He’s an opportunist.

  7. kantalope:

    where else?

    Sure Texas is the easy answer, but on a question like that you can’t be far wrong with Oklahoma.
    South Carolina!
    Utah does not get as much press but a lot of stuff out of Utah starts with “We are not a bunch of kooks…”
    Indiana…

    And Communists, where would people in America get the idea that they can believe in any kind of politics they want…there must be limits to this “freedom talk” I tells ya!1

  8. Don Quijote:

    There are exactly 57 card carrying communist in the…..

  9. raven:

    There are exactly 57 card carrying communist in the..

    Were up to 500 commies by now.

    I can’t wait for the Senate hearings. “Have you ever been or are you now a member of the US communist party.”

    There are so few US communists that most people they ask are going to have a hard time even remembering what a commie is.

    Sure Texas is the easy answer,

    So for anyone, what is it like living in a state that elects slimy wackos like Ted Cruz? We have a few of those on the coast but they usually don’t win elections.

  10. slc1:

    Re raven @ #9

    Back in the day of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, they held a hearing in San Francisco and subpoenaed one William Mandel to testify. They asked him if were now or had ever been a member of the Communist Party. He responded no and I wouldn’t tell you if I was. They then asked him if was acquainted with any individuals who were or who had been members of the Communist Party. He responded that no and I wouldn’t tell you if I had was.

  11. matty1:

    There are so few US communists that most people they ask are going to have a hard time even remembering what a commie is.

    Just tell them it’s anyone who supports the Red political party ;-)

  12. Subtract Hominem:

    Raven @ 9

    I can’t wait for the Senate hearings.

    Me neither. I hope former Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is on the committee!

  13. jnorris:

    Before Mr Cruz can be the next “Tail-gunner Joe” McCarthy, he will have have a gay lawyer and wave a piece of paper over his head when declaring there are Communists anywhere in any number.

  14. d.c.wilson:

    slc1:

    Cruz is a nut job who thinks Agenda 21 means the UN is sending black helicopters to seize our golf courses. He was also one of the senators taken in by the “Friends of Hamas” hoax. Ivy League degrees do not impress me as a measure of intelligence. George W. Bush has two. There are smart people who went to Harvard and there are those who coasted through on family connections. I haven’t seen anything to support the former conclusion with respect to Cruz.

  15. Don Quijote:

    Yes Mr. Federal Investigator sir, I know seven of the communists wanting to overthrow the US government.

    Huckepack
    Naseweis
    Packe
    Pick
    Puck
    Purzelbaum
    Rumpelbold.

  16. slc1:

    Re d.c.Wilson @ #14

    Well Cruz certainly didn’t coast through on family connections. He didn’t have any as his parents were refugees from Cuba.

  17. d.c.wilson:

    Immediate family connections or not, he hasn’t demonstrated any signs of intelligence so far.

  18. dingojack:

    So Cruze was ‘paling around’ with terrorists then?
    And if he was so terrified by the ‘communists’, why didn’t he simply quit and get his degree from somewhere without ‘communists’ – like Liberty U?
    Dingo

  19. timgueguen:

    I would have thoiught Washington or Jefferson were the most radical Presidents ever. After all they were major players in a revolution that expelled America’s colonial masters.

  20. wildbill:

    Perhaps the ultimate irony is that Texan elected a Canadian (gasp!) as their senator. Yes, Ted Cruz was born in Canada (aren’t they socialist?). The fun part now is to watch John Cornyn try to out-cruz Cruz (he’s up next year.

  21. Ben P:

    I would have thoiught Washington or Jefferson were the most radical Presidents ever. After all they were major players in a revolution that expelled America’s colonial masters.

    I see the point you’re making, but Washington and Jefferson were clearly establishment types.

    Thomas Paine on the other hand? If Paine were alive today I’m reasonably confident his politics would be somewhere between Ralph Nader and Zach De La Rocha. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries he wrote things that would still make him a bomb thrower today. I can only imagine how controversial they would have been in his own time.

    Mingling religion with politics may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America. – Common Sense 1776.

    “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” – Age of Reason Part i – 1793

    The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. – Age of Reason Part II – 1795

    Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid, or produces only atheists and fanatics. – Age of Reason Part II – 1795

    Men did not make the earth… It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property… Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds. – Agraian Justice 1795

    It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man. – The Age of Reason – A letter to a Friend (1797).

  22. Michael Heath:

    timgueguen writes:

    I would have thoiught Washington or Jefferson were the most radical Presidents ever. After all they were major players in a revolution that expelled America’s colonial masters.

    Ben P dissents:

    I see the point you’re making, but Washington and Jefferson were clearly establishment types.

    I think this generation’s most authoritative historian on the founding is Gordon Wood. He makes the case on why the framers were radicals in these two books: The Radicalism of the American Revolution and Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different . The former won a Pulitzer and while I didn’t read it, I’ve read several of Wood’s books; enough to trust he’s more than capable of making his case. Here’s my review of the latter: http://goo.gl/tFwid ; only three of five possible stars since people literate in the founding already knew what Prof. Wood reports here with the exception of his treatment of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and public opinion.

    I would argue that Messers Jefferson and Washington remain radicals, even today. Primarily because while we’re still structurally a secularist country, we’re far from one politically where those two predominately practiced secularism politically. And this was back when it was far harder to not succumb to religious ideas given the lack of scientific findings or even a mature process to understand reality, where today there’s no defensible reason to be a sucker for belief.

  23. Ben P:

    I’ve read several biographies of both, although not the works you identify. I’d concede the point that Jefferson was a radical, particularly in his later years. He actually did want a political system that was fundamentally different and more egalitarian than the prior one.

    But as to Washington, I think Washington was certainly forward thinking, and to support the revolution he definitely had an anti-authoritarian streak. But his vision was a federalist and a nationalist one. he supported the United States and wanted to make it better, but I don’t think the society he wanted to create was markedly different from the prior one. I’ve not seen much evidence of having ambitions of really transforming society. As far as being secular, I’ve gotten the distinct impression he was probably about like many modern politicians, making public shows of and public references to religion because it was a cultural norm, not because of any strongly held personal belief.

  24. holytape:

    As Senator Cruz’s official unofficial handler, I should address the criticism generated by people who think that Senator Cruz thinks that there are hidden communists everywhere. First of all, Cruz does not think nor has ever thought. Secondly, this is a simple case of misspeachafication. He did not ever mean to say communist. He meant to say witches. After all he was for a brief time turned into a newt.

  25. Pieter B, FCD:

    slc1 @#10

    Back in the day of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, they held a hearing in San Francisco and subpoenaed one William Mandel to testify

    And testify he did. One of the great polemics of my lifetime:

    Honorable beaters of children, sadists, uniformed and in plain clothes, distinguished Dixiecrat wearing the clothing of a gentleman, eminent Republican who opposes an accommodation with the one country with which we must live at peace in order for us and all our children to survive.

    My boy of fifteen left this room a few minutes ago in sound health and not jailed, solely because I asked him to be in here to learn something about the procedures of the United States government and one of its committees. Had he been outside where a son of a friend of mine had his head split by these goons operating under your orders, my boy today might have paid the penalty of permanent injury or a police record for desiring to come here and hear how this committee operates.

    If you think that I am going to cooperate with this collection of Judases, of men who sit there in violation of the United States Constitution, if you think I will cooperate with you in any way, you are insane! This body is improperly constituted. It is a kangaroo court. It does not have my respect, it has my utmost contempt.

    I remember seeing film of police dragging demonstrators, mostly peaceful, down the stairs of City Hall by the ankles, their heads bouncing off every marble step. Makes me shudder even now.

  26. Ichthyic:

    Makes me shudder even now.

    as well it should, since sadly little has changed since then.

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