The recent antics of newly-minted Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, offered in opposition to the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, have provoked comparisons to McCarthyism from some of Cruz’s Senate colleagues. Clay Waters, on Monday, whined that the New York Times, in a news story and op-ed column, had reported said comparisons. Waters declined to detail why Cruz is being subjected to them or to make any case for either the comparisons or the reporting of them being inappropriate. Waters’ article is unexceptional – basically Newsbusters’ usual nonsense–but it is a useful spotlight for the state of affairs in the Newsbusters’ corner of the far-right fever swamp.
It’s a standard Newsbusters technique to identify any view not emerging from that particular plot of ideological bottom-land as “liberal” and thus that of a blood enemy, even when it’s being voiced by other conservatives–the kind of conservatives not approved by Newsbusters. The present fantasy narrative of the far-right’s activist base–the element of American politics the press carelessly labels “the Tea Party”–is that of embattled reactionary rebels fighting not only an omni-powerful liberal Establishment but a hopelessly liberal, treacherous and entrenched Republican Establishment as well.
Reflecting this fantasy, Waters’ headline refers to “Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz” rather than “Republican Senator.” His opening identifies Cruz as a “Tea Party politician.” Though Waters offers excerpts from some articles that identify Cruz as a Republican, he at no point does this himself. A particularly interesting departure given the fact that it’s a standing gripe by Newsbusters that the press sometimes declines to provide a party identification for Democratic politicians caught in scandal. Today alone, in fact, Newsbusters ran three different articles about various press organs failing to identify former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. as a Democrat.
But Waters, of course, doesn’t think Cruz’s behavior is scandalous and, in fact, doesn’t even tell his readers why it’s being compared to that of Joe McCarthy. He just wants to write off the comparison as a smear, which necessitates leaving his readers in the dark about the messy details. Times reporter Jonathan Weisman, Waters breathlessly fumes, “even put a mike in front of not one but two liberal Democratic senators who likened Cruz to notorious Sen. Joe McCarthy.” A big deal, perhaps, in Newsbusters Land, where any coverage of any comment by any liberal Democrat is portrayed as a scandal, but hardly a basis for any real complaint. That Weisman also “put a mike in front of not one but two” conservative Republican Senators, who also criticized Cruz along exactly the same lines, doesn’t slow Waters’ roll at all.
Rather, he approvingly quotes crackpot National Review writer Michael Auslin’s reaction:
“Having largely dropped the charge of racism once leveled against tea partiers, the MSM has clearly looked for another slander, and now they’ve found it. Expect to hear McCarthyism dropped around a lot in coming months, whenever Republicans push back hard against Barack (I’m Not The Emperor) Obama’s hard-left choices in his second term. [The NY Times’ Jonathan] Weisman’s reporting is too vapid to actually explore the reasons Cruz and his conservative Senate compatriots have voted the way they have; rather, it is interested only in portraying them as slightly less deranged than General Jack Ripper in Dr. Strangelove.”
The present push-back, identified as a reaction against one of “Obama’s hard-left choices,” is, in fact, aimed at Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to head the Defense Department. Hagel is, in the real world, an extremely conservative Republican. A former Senator sporting an 83.7% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, Hagel would more readily serve as an example of Obama’s persistent habit, throughout his administration, of stabbing his liberal constituents in the back by choosing more conservative nominees for nearly every major post to which he’s made an appointment.
Sounds rather serious, until one learns that the charges were based on nothing at all. Cruz pulled them straight out of an orifice. We don’t know if Hagel did such a thing in the same we we don’t know if he’s secretly Santa Clause–both propositions are equally credible and have equal evidence in their favor.
When Chuck Hagel got the Defense chief appointment, Cruz apparently decided that nomination was so noxious that he could justify throwing away anything remotely resembling moral or ethical standards when it came to opposing it. For example:
“We do not know… if he [Hagel] received compensation for giving paid speeches at extreme or radical groups… It may be that he spoke at radical or extreme groups or anti-Israel groups and accepted financial compensation.”
Sounds rather serious, until one learns that the charges were based on nothing at all. Cruz pulled them straight out of an orifice. We don’t know if Hagel did such a thing in the same we we don’t know if he’s secretly Santa Clause–both propositions are equally credible, and have equal evidence in their favor.
Cruz was just getting started. Hagel had, for two years, worked for Corsair Capital, a private equity firm, work for which he was paid a total of $200,000. Like most employees, he didn’t know where his employer got the money with which it paid him, and Cruz saw this as an opportunity to inject even more poison:
“It is, at a minimum, relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea.”
Propositions for which there is, again, no support at all. Cruz wasn’t finished:
“We saw with this nomination something truly extraordinary, which is the government of Iran formally and publicly praising the nomination of a defense secretary. I would suggest to you that to my knowledge, that is unprecedented to see a foreign nation like Iran publicly celebrating a nomination.”
…which is a bald-faced lie–a smear with, again, no basis in reality.
And so on. This is the business Waters is hiding from his readers, the reason Cruz’s behavior is being labeled “McCarthyism,” a characterization that is not only applicable but inescapable but that Waters would have us think is just a smear aimed by mean press liberals at a “Tea Party” pol.
 The “Tea Party” was nothing more than a faux “movement” created by professional astroturfers and elements of the far-right press. It had no numbers, no power and couldn’t elect anyone. The goal of astroturf though, is to present the illusion of a popular movement and in adopting “Tea Party” as shorthand for a portion of the same far-right activist base that has always been with us, the press is doing the astroturfers’ jobs for them.
 In recent days, Karl Rove has become the poster child for this “Republican Establishment” and a hate-figure on the far right because of his just-stated goal of trying to support far-right Republicans who can actually win at the polls and of defeating the kind of openly batshit-crazy reactionaries who have no chance of winning a general election.
 When the press fails to provide the party identity of scandalized Republicans, Newsbusters is silent.