For the past five years conservatives have openly expressed their greatest desire is to take the nation back to the 1950s they claim was a special period in American history because Black people knew their place, women were submissive, and Ozzie and Harriet most accurately represented the population. Most of what conservatives think was awesome about the 50s are precisely what they oppose today whether it was robust union representation for labor, adequate funding for education, and government investment in infrastructure. Even though it is impossible to go back in time, House Republicans are taking the nation back to a dark period in the nation’s history when a demagogic, reckless, and mean-spirited Republican inspired fear in politicians and entertainers alike with unsubstantiated accusations and very public attacks on the character and patriotism of political opponents under color of authority of the United States Congress.
A few years ago, Texas Republicans controlling school textbook contents portrayed disgraced dead Senator Joseph McCarthy as a heroic American figure to be revered and respected that House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa took to heart and emulated the second Republicans took control of the House in 2011. This week, Issa took a page straight out of McCarthy’s tactics and for the first time since the McCarthy era called for a vote to hold a witness in contempt for exercising her Constitutional 5th Amendment right. Republicans have shown a growing disdain for the United States Constitution, and a predilection for either blatantly flaunting it outright or pushing its limits, knowing the conservative Supreme Court will eliminate any part of it the GOP disagrees with.
On Wednesday at Issa’s urging, the Republican House followed Joseph McCarthy’s un-American example and voted to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for exercising her 5th Amendment right. Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) clearly understands Issa’s witch hunt into the phony scandal Issa conspired to create with Bush holdover Inspector General J. Russell George to create and the contempt charge is exactly a tactic employed by Joseph McCarthy. McGovern said, “We’ve been down this road before. We’ve seen this kind of witch hunt steamroll through this very Capitol. But not even Joseph McCarthy was able to strip away an American citizen’s constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment, as Chairman Issa is trying to do. This exercise that we are engaged in today is nearly identical to the actions of Senator McCarthy. It was wrong then, it is wrong now. This is sad, because it demeans this House of Representatives.” Darrell Issa, and in fact all Republicans, have demeaned the House of Representatives for the past three years, but this McCarthyism repeat is a new low; even for the criminal sleaze Issa.
Issa claims, errantly, that because Lerner gave an opening statement when she was summoned before his witch hunt committee she forfeited her Constitutional right to exercise her 5th Amendment protections, but Issa is a liar and making up the law like he makes up phony scandals. This author served on a Grand Jury for a year and it was not unusual for witnesses to answer questions for three hours and plead the 5th to just one inquiry from prosecutors without being held in contempt for not answering. The 5th Amendment could not be clearer when it says that no witness shall be compelled to be a witness against himself (or in the 21st Century herself) under any circumstances.
The problem for Issa and Republicans conducting the witch hunt into the phony Issa-created scandal is that no American has been successfully prosecuted for invoking their Fifth Amendment rights before Congress according to the Congressional Research Service. Republicans led by Issa cannot punish Lerner for exercising her Constitutional right no matter how they much they attempt to mangle the Bill of Rights. In one of McCarthy’s communist witch hunts in the 1950s, a woman who was fired from her job after McCarthy accused her of being a communist pleaded the Fifth after answer many more questions than Lerner’s opening statement. When Issa’s hero McCarthy attempted to “compel” the woman to testify using the courts like Issa is doing, a judge slapped McCarthy down and said, “I reach the conclusion that the defendant did not waive her privilege under the Fifth Amendment and therefore did not violate the statute in question in refusing to answer the questions propounded to her. Therefore, I find that she is entitled to a judgment of acquittal on all counts.”
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee cited several cases as evidence that Issa’s McCarthy efforts are a waste of time including a letter from 25 independent lawyers saying Issa was in error. Issa disagrees and found a House lawyer to defend Republicans attempts to play Joseph McCarthy who presented a memo arguing Issa still has a chance to punish Lerner for exercising her constitutional rights. Issa must be as bad a student of history as he was a criminal because he is putting himself in McCarthy’s shoes that earned the witch hunter a congressional censure for using the courts in an attempt to punish the woman for exercising her 5th Amendment right. Make no mistake, Issa and his Republican cohort are attempting to punish an American citizen for exercising her constitutional right and it is a sign of the fascist intent of Republicans following McCarthy’s lead of using intimidation and lies to attack their political opponent President Obama because he is Black.
The parallels between Issa and McCarthy cannot be overstated, including fabricating scandals to portray the man Americans elected twice to be the President as unfit. It is noteworthy that the day after Republicans won control of the House, and two months before Issa was sworn in as chairman of the Oversight Committee, he pledged to conduct “seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks,” and planned to “organize aggressive oversight beyond his committee” to the cause of investigating the executive branch; including enlisting an inspector general to create a phony IRS scandal Lerner is being targeted for. He also lied and said “oversight should be done with a balance for the American people,” but he has focused entirely on the Obama Administration including creating the phony IRS scandal he profited handsomely from.
If the McCarthy era is a blemish on America’s political history, then Darrell Issa and House Republicans are a cancer borne of racial animus against the people’s choice for President. It has not mattered one iota how many times Issa’s investigations into phony scandals are debunked as witch hunts, he continues unabated lying to the American people from the halls of Congress and around the country raising campaign donations off of egregious phony scandal lies. It is unquestionable that history will not look kindly on Republicans in Congress with an African American man as President, but Darrell Issa will hold a special place that before now was the purview of disgraced Republican Joseph McCarthy who like Issa attempted to punish an American citizen for exercising their Constitutional rights.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.