Friday, 3 September 2010

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: "Palinism" may become the new McCarthyism - BONUS: How Joe McCarthy was taken down by investigative journalists

Union-leader Richard Trumka recently became the target of Palinbots and by Sarah Palin herself after he likened Sarah Palin to Joe McCarthy - "Politics Daily" reported:

Trumka, in an advance text released by the labor federation, calls Palin a hypocrite who quit the governorship to avoid being held accountable for her record and is now playing a damaging role in the national debate.

"America works because lots of people contribute lots of ideas -- that's good -- even when some of them are just plain wrong. But people need to come to the table in good faith. That's not Sarah Palin. She'll go down in history like [Joe] McCarthy. Palinism will become an ugly word," Trumka said in remarks prepared for the Alaska AFL-CIO biennial meeting in Anchorage. "Who is this woman, anyway? What happened to her?"

Trumka said that when Palin was governor, "she seemed like a decent person, an outdoorswoman. Her husband's a steelworker. She seemed to take some OK stands for working families. And then things got weird."
After 2008 presidential nominee John McCain picked her as his running mate, Trumka said that "she blew off Alaska. I bet most of you, on a clear day, can see her hypocrisy from your house." He added, "I think Sarah Palin quit so she wouldn't have to be accountable, so she wouldn't have a record that could be scrutinized."

Now, the labor leader said, Palin is "hanging out on cable TV, almost a parody of herself." More seriously, he said, "she's getting close to calling for violence" with her exhortations of "don't retreat, reload." Trumka also said Palin used the phrase "union thugs" in Tyler, Texas.

"That's poisonous," he said. "There's history behind that rhetoric. That's how bosses and politicians in decades past justified the terrorizing of workers, the murdering of organizers. To me, it just doesn't seem OK to go where she's going. It sits wrong with me."

Now, in a press conference on September 2, 2010, after he was asked about Sarah Palin, Trumka repeated his views on Sarah Palin. He said that "Palinism" may become the new McCarthyism if Sarah Palin continues to use her position of power to incite anger and frustration in her followers. "She can't use loose language that foments... that anger to hatred, or that action to violence," said Trumka.

Watch the clip:


These remarks give me a very good opportunity to look deeper into the history of Joe McCarthy - and the fascinating story of how investigative reporters played a major role in Joe McCarthy's downfall. This is something which I had planned already for a while as in many respects, Sarah Palin seems to be "Joe McCarthy in a skirt" in my opinion.

As we now have seen another example of hard-hitting investigative journalism directed at Sarah Palin with the article by Michael J. Gross in Vanity Fair, it's a good opportunity to revisit the story of how Joe McCarthy was targeted by investigative journalists, which eventually heavily contributed to his downfall. There are many lessons to be learned, for example: The story of Joe McCarthy's exposure shows that every investigative reporter will be faced with a long, hard struggle, there can be setbacks, but persistence will pay off in the end and the truth will emerge, for everyone to see.

A very detailed account of the story how Joe McCarthy was investigated by journalists can be found in Jack Anderson's book "Confessions of a Muckraker", which was published in 1979 and which provides a fascinating inside account of "Life in Washington During the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson Years."

I own this excellent book together with Jack Anderson's equally fascinating book "Peace, War, and Politics: An Eyewitness Account." Jack Anderson was a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative journalist and is considered to be one of the fathers of investigative journalism. He was not afraid to target and take down politicians who had dark secrets, and he would be badly needed today. Unfortunately he passed away in 2005.

The story of how the truth about Joe McCarthy was revealed can be found in chapter ten of Jack Anderson's book "Confessions of a Muckraker."

These historic events are relevant for us, as the parallels to Sarah Palin are obvious. Just like Sarah Palin, Joe McCarthy was a politician with an "extreme" personality who presented a false and highly distorted image about himself and his personal record. On the other hand, he had a lot of political support - until the very end, even after the full ugly truth had been revealed.

Here are some short excerpts from this chapter in Jack Anderson's book. In the 1950's, Anderson wrote the famous "Washington Merry-Go-Round" column together with the prominent journalist Drew Pearson:

Cut 1

Joe McCarty loved accusing others, but was bad at defending himself:

Cut 2

One of the main target's was Joe McCarthy's wartime record, and the task for the investigative journalists wasn't easy:

Cut 3

Painstaking research followed:

Cut 4
Cut 5

The official story was that of a true war hero:

Cut 6

Joe McCarthy himself painted himself as a hero, and the official record seemed to support his account:

Cut 7

However, the investigations revealed a very different picture:

Cut 8

Cut 9

The first round went to Joe McCarthy:

Cut 10

But finally, the truth emerged:

Cut 11
Cut 12

Joe McCarthy's shady financial dealings were another part of the investigations:

Cut 13

Joe McCarty had stronger political support than the journalists first anticipated:

Cut 14
Cut 15

More examples of Joe McCarty "making things up", which very much reminds us of a certain politician from Wasilla:

Cut 16

At times it seemed that nothing could touch Joe McCarthy - again, "teflon-Sarah" comes to mind:

Cut 18

But eventually, the tide turned:

Cut 19

In the end, after a long struggle, the American public was ready to absorb the truth:

Cut 20

At the end, the political downfall:

Cut 21


The story of Joe McCarthy contains many elements which strongly remind us of Sarah Palin. It's good for us to revisit the story and to remember that the exposure of lying politicians can require a huge effort, can take a long time and at some points can even seem hopeless. However, persistence will be rewarded, and the truth cannot be hidden forever. It's this spirit which we try to follow here at Palingates.


Joe McCarthy received a boost of his popularity through his account as a war hero ("Tail Gunner Joe").

Sarah Palin received a boost of her popularity through her account as the mom of a down-syndrome baby ("Mama Grizzly").

Both accounts were told by the protagonists in a false and distorted way.

Both are topics which the general public can easily relate to.

There are significant parallels between Sarah Palin and Joe McCarthy.

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