Memo To: St. Joan of Arc
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Me and Phil
Last week, St. Joan, I wrote a memo about "McCarthy and McCarthyism," about a cover story in the NYTimes Sunday magazine. It was all about how there were really, really Communist spies running around inside our government in the 1940s and 50s, and the liberals of the day who decried the Red witch hunts of McCarthy and Richard Nixon now are squirming over the facts. Jacob Weisberg, who wrote the piece, seemed sympathetic to the view that we should let bygones be bygones, and I more or less agreed. Then comes Phil Brennan, who has his own website, "Wednesday on the Web," <www.pvbr.com>, taking issue with my compassionate conservatism. In the following exchange, St. Joan, you will realize how you come into this picture, with two aging Catholics from New York City who have never met in person discovering common ground.
Brennan: Hi Jude: I'm attaching my Perspectives column from tomorrow's issue of Wednesday on the Web which takes your name in vain re: the matter of Joe McCarthy and the NYT mag story. We have different takes on the subject, as you'll see. By the way, you're too young for this going-back-to-Brooklyn business. I'm eleven years your senior and I didn't start wandering down Bedford Avenue or Carroll Street until very recently, when I discovered the Brooklyn Prep alumni web page. Anyway, I'm impressed with the fact that you got into Bklyn Tech. I didn't even come close to passing the entrance exams which Sister made us all take and which few of us passed.
All the best Phil Brennan
Perspectives column, Dec. 1 issue, Wednesday on the Web
Forget Hell! Joe McCarthy was Right - and the Left was Viciously Wrong
By Phil Brennan
We both read the same piece in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. But Jude Wanniski, with whom I almost always agree, had a different slant than I had on the story: The Rehabilitation of Sen. Joe McCarthy.
That piece, a reasonably even-handed treatment of the latest revelations about the extent of Soviet espionage and penetration of U.S. institutions, makes clear that the remnants of the left wing anti-anti communist movement are very uncomfortable with the obvious conclusion that must be drawn from the revelation that many of those who liberals believed were victims of alleged McCarthyite smears were Soviet agents after all.
Jude thinks that the time may be here to begin to forgive and forget -- and he cites personal reasons for so believing that I find hard to dispute. His approach is fully in line with the Lord's admonition to avoid judging others -- to forgive our enemies a limitless number of times. I see it differently. I am aware that I am bound by the Catholic faith we both share to look for the plank in my own eye before looking for the specks in the eyes of others, and I know that I am also bound to offer forgiveness to those who offend me. BUT, as much as I am aware that I have huge planks blurring my own vision, I am also aware that forgiveness requires remorse from the putative forgivee -- and I find precious little of that from those who savaged McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, and scores of others who dared to expose a real menace in our midst.
The Times' story narrows it's focus to Soviet spying by such darlings of the left as Alger Hiss and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. It fails utterly to address the even more serious issue of Soviet penetration of American institutions -- and the influence that the Soviets were able to exert over those institutions. For example, the presence of Alger Hiss at Roosevelt's elbow at the Yalta conference where a dying FDR acceded to the surrender of Eastern Europe to Joseph Stalin. Hiss's influence at Yalta was far deadlier than the secrets he fed to his GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence) handlers. And that was just one instance of the influence; he and other secret Soviet agents were able to exert over U.S. policy.
Jude admits that Joe McCarthy, like all of us, was a flawed human being, and quotes Bill Buckley along the same lines. Bill cedes the fact that on many occasions Joe simply was out of line. But the thrust of his campaign against Soviet stooges among us was right on target most of the time.
I refuse to simply close the books on the so-called McCarthy era because the excesses of the far-left against anti-communists were forerunners of the excesses of the liberals of the present day. They smeared their foes, lied about them, and created a whole slew of myths that remain current to this day. And they continue to use the same tactic; take for example the disgraceful behavior of the liberal Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings or Senate Democrats who stymied the Thompson Committee investigation into Chinese espionage and their illegal campaign contributions to the Democrats and Clinton/Gore.
Let's start with the phrase McCarthyism -- a slander the left simply loves to hang around the necks of anybody who happens to disagree with them and tries to counter their deadly influence over American life. Do any of those who throw the word around have the faintest idea of where that word was coined? Are they aware that it was hatched in the bowels of number 3, Dzherzinsky Square -- headquarters of the KGB in Moscow? Or that it was first used in the columns of the communist newspaper, the Daily Worker before the left wing media and their liberal allies eagerly picked it up for use against anti-communists, thereby doing exactly what the Soviets expected them to do?
Then there's the matter of the source of many of Joe's accusations -- accusations being proved today by release of the so-called Venona Intercepts -- of Soviet cable traffic whose code was broken back in the mid-forties and remained top secret until recently. These intercepted cables proved that there were over 350 Americans spying for the Soviets, and enabled investigators to identify about half of them. Joe McCarthy had access to the information contained in the top secret Venona intercepts -- access given him by J. Edgar Hoover and others concerned with the extent of Soviet espionage and penetration -- but he could not defend himself against charges of recklessly accusing people of being Soviet agents by revealing the source of his information without alerting the Soviets that some of their most important secrets were known to U.S. intelligence.
We hear much about the plight of the so-called victims of McCarthyism -- an alleged army of people unfairly targeted by the Wisconsin Senator. Gallons of tears are shed over Hollywood actors, writers and others working in films. The so-called blacklist that allegedly kept innocent people from working in Hollywood (despite the fact that their left-wing friends continued to use many of these identified members of the Soviet led American communist party -- lately revealed as totally an instrument of the Soviet Union -- while concealing their assistance).
There are a couple of things wrong with this story. First, these people were not what they are called today -- victims of McCarthyism. Joe had nothing to do with the Hollywood hearings which cited the communist membership of those accused -- they were solely the work of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. And the so-called victims were members of the Soviet-dominated U.S. Communist party.
Secondly, the real blacklist was composed of anti-communists -- famous and not so famous actors and directors who could not find work because of their anti-communist activities. People like Adolph Menjou, Ward Bond, Bruce Cabot -- all members of John Wayne's anti-communist Motion Picture Alliance. Wayne courageously stood up for these people -- and you can see most of them in reruns of countless Wayne films. He used them over and over, keeping them working when nobody else would hire them. They were the real victims of the real blacklist.
The viciousness directed at conservatives and anti-communists by the left during the '40s and '50s is displayed today against pro-lifers, religious conservatives and all others opposed to the socialist agenda that liberals seek to impose on America. And the socialism that they espouse is every bit as coercive as the Soviet communist system with which they could find no wrong in the days of Joe McCarthy. Communism, after all, was described simply as "socialism in a hurry."
The heirs of the people who could tolerate Stalin's murderous regime which slew people by the millions are the people who find it easy to tolerate the horror of partial birth abortion -- and the sale of the body parts of the tiny victims of this holocaust. And they employ the same smear tactics and lies against pro-lifers that their forerunners used against McCarthy, Hoover and their fellow anti-communists.
Moreover, the left today perpetuates their lies and myths. The smear tactics used by the Soviets to discredit J. Edgar Hoover by falsely charging that he was a cross-dressing sexual deviant are taken as fact by the media despite the fact that it has been revealed that the charges -- utterly unproven and absurd -- originated in the KGB's disinformation shop.
Does anybody really believe that the most famous cop in America -- a man almost paranoid about maintaining his privacy, as well as being a target for every red and crook in the nation, could show up at parties dressed as a woman and not have the fact explode in headlines within hours? C'mon, give me a break!
These are a few of the reasons why I simply refuse to forgive and forget -- these people and their heirs are still at it. When they repent, I'll forgive.
* * *
Following is an exchange of e-mails over several hours:
Wanniski: You're a hard man, Brennan.
Brennan: Not really. Deep down inside I'm a pussycat.
Wanniski: We have to find a way to get together one day soon and hoist a few, to decide stuff about owls and pussycats and such. I'll even order the Guinness. How far are you from Morristown, NJ?
Brennan: About 1,500 miles as the crow flies - in Boca Raton, FL. In addition to doing WOW, I'm full time sacristan at St. Joan of Arc Church and don't get much free time (I set up and serve all funerals and weddings and we average three to four funerals a week and usually two or three weddings every weekend -- had four over the Thanksgiving weekend). My last vacation was a year ago last September, and that was recuperating from double bypass surgery. What all this means is that I need time off and as a result may come up to DC and New York sometime after the first of the year (Y2K permitting). My late wife's family home is now LaSalle Military Academy in Oakdale, L.I. and that was recently purchased by St. Johns University. The library at LaSalle maintains a large family archive and I want to see if it is going to be kept there under the new owners - if not I want the files for my six living children. If I do get up there I'll let you know and we can hoist a few. All the best. Phil Brennan PS - Do you ever get down here?
Wanniski: For 15 years, Bob Novak and I had a four-day supply-side festival at the Boca Raton Hotel and Club, the last weekend in February. We had our last this year, as I decided not to risk Y2K, which continues to worry me no end. When I was a little boy, my communist grandfather lived in Jackson Heights, Queens, as the super of an apartment house. When I spent the weekend with him and grandmom, he never failed to walk me from 74th street to 82nd, so I could attend mass at St. Joan of Arc's. He knew if I missed mass one Sunday, my father would never trust me to his custody. But on Saturday, he would encourage me to read Izzy Stone in PM, then the "Compass." My father would play Verdi and Puccini for me.... and my grandfather would play Mussorgsky's Boris Gudonov and Chaliapin.
Brennan: It's a small world indeed. I was married at St. Joan of Arc in Jackson Heights in February 1949. And tomorrow is the 8th anniversary of my wife's death, She'll be remembered at Boca's St. Joan of Arc at a memorial Mass. If you remember, please say a prayer for her beautiful soul. Phil.