Skip to comments.Alan Dershowitz: Are investigations of Trump the new McCarthyism?
Posted on 05/23/2019 7:38:22 AM PDT by billorites
When I came of age during the 1950s, liberals and civil libertarians were deeply concerned about the abuses of congressional investigations to expose communists and fellow travelers. Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy was using congressional committees to do his dirty work.
The committee leaders would claim that they had legitimate legislative purposes in subpoenaing actors, professors, and government employees to interrogate them about their past political affiliations. The purported purposes were to legislate more effective controls over communist influence in our government and to conduct oversight of the executive branch. Most liberals and civil libertarians saw through this ruse. The obvious purpose was to expose, embarrass, and unemploy left wing individuals associated with the Communist Party during the 1930s.
My law professor, mentor, and friend at the time, Telford Taylor, the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War II, wrote a masterful critique of these bogus congressional hearings entitled The Grand Inquest. In it he provided an extensive history of the misuse of hearings for partisan and ideological purposes. He called for reform, including judicial oversight of congressional excesses. A young liberal lawyer named Abner Mikva, who later became a distinguished federal judge, wrote a glowing review of the book, though he criticized Taylor for not going far enough and not being enough of a true civil libertarian.
It is quite fair to say that back in the day, virtually all liberals and civil libertarians, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, wanted to impose restrictions on the power of Congress to investigate, subpoena, and question individuals for partisan or ideological purposes. Now the shoe is on the other foot. It is the Democrats who are abusing their congressional investigations for partisan and ideological purposes. It is the Democrats who are putting forward the phony arguments about legislative purposes, such as the need for new laws and congressional oversight. It is the Democrats in the House who are determined to misuse their legislative power to gain advantages in the upcoming elections.
Now it is the Republicans who are crying foul and who are claiming that the Democrats are abusing the power of the congressional committees they control. However, no one should be surprised by this shift in attitudes because most people, especially politicians, believe in due process for me but not for thee. Very few citizens advocate neutral rights for all.
The decision by Judge Amit Mehta to authorize broad congressional investigations of the Trump administration and President Trump himself, going back to well before he was a presidential candidate, could easily have been written by a right wing judge in the 1950s. It swallows, whole hog, the claimed legitimate legislative purposes put forward by those committees now led by the Democrats. It goes even further and suggests that a court has no power to probe the real motives behind legislative investigations, so long as the claimed motives are plausible. Under this decision that goes against civil liberties, Congress could investigate any person for any reason as long as it pretends to be doing so for a legitimate legislative purpose. The decision is an open invitation for abuse of power.
During the 1950s, the good old ACLU would be in court challenging abuses of congressional investigatory power, but the current ACLU has one dominant agenda, which is to oppose Trump regardless of the means used and to raise large sums of money based on this agenda. So the ACLU will not side with Trump in court. It will never side with Trump in court, regardless of how abusive congressional committees may become and regardless of how many rights are violated. The ACLU is now part of the problem, not part of the solution, for this rampant abuse of civil liberties.
Among the most important roles of the federal courts is to serve as a check and balance on the excesses of other branches of government, including the legislature. The courts should look beneath the claimed justifications for investigations of individuals and decide whether these justifications represent the real reasons behind the issuance of subpoenas and other exercises of congressional power. There should be a balancing test to weigh the legitimate interests of Congress against the rights of those targeted by its investigations. Congress should not be given carte blanche, as the decision by Judge Mehta gives it, to investigate anyone and anything for any purpose as long as the committee chairmen can recite the correct words as purported justifications for their actions.
All civil libertarians, whether Democrat, Republican, or independent, should indeed be concerned about abuses of power by congressional committees. Today, Donald Trump and his administration are the targets. Tomorrow, it may be Democrats. The next day, you could be the target.
No, it’s the initial steps in building a second fascist Chavez/Maduro Utopia.
I used to totally hate Derh’s guts.
These past 5 years or so?
He has totally transformed and is almost tolerable.
I even catch myself liking him.
Time to stomp it out right here and now.
The ‘Rats prefer that Congress be the Judicial Branch and the [Roberts’] Courts be the Legislative Branch.
Grrrrrr!!!! Despite his issues in his own life, McCarthy was right then and right now. Abuse of power in CONgress does need to be carefully monitored to prevent those abuses, but who can be trusted to do that monitoring? At this point, certainly not the DOH-J.
No is right.
At least McCarthy had the right motives in his efforts to expose Communism.
These rotten democrats are petty, vindictive, bitter, angry and hostile that their coup d’état failed.
So they are trying for Plan B.
Of all the democrats I hate - I hate him the least.
No. McCarthy was right.
I think his “pals” on the left turned on him a time or two when he voiced the tiniest disagreement with them, I can’t remember the exact circumstances.
He seemed to have soured on the idea that his mission in life was to help the left push their agenda. Perhaps because he’s not immersed in the left-wing hive (isn’t he semi-retired, on “emeritus” status at Harvard?) every day, he doesn’t feel the need to go along to get along.
I’ve always thought he was smart and a fairly independent thinker. At Harvard, like at all universities, if you want to have friends you have to push the liberal line.
Deviate even by a millimeter, and you get the Bret Weinstein treatment.
McCarthyism was a beneficial, Pro America, Pro Constitutional thing.
The hard part of balancing McCarthyism with our rights is our spelled out freedoms. The left used those freedoms to destroy those freedoms. So youre damned if you do, damned if you dont go after those who are trying to destroy our freedoms as those very freedoms protect those who would destroy them. Its a fine line.
We should use that.
He was physically PRISONER in his own office at Evergreen..!
The campus cops knew exactly what was going on.
They did NOTHING.
“McCarthy was right.”
He was. Ann Coulter has gone off the rails in so many ways but she deserves credit saying this first. When she said it the world gasped. But when you looked close she was absolutely right. Joe had those Hollywood Marxists number and has been vilified ever since.
Tail GunnerJoe always got a bad rap, IMO!
Considering BJ’s wife’s failure and Strzok’s insurance policy, this would be Plan C.
And he’s as much a lefty as any of them. He completely believed in the Evergreen culture, right up until they tried to ban white people from the campus, including professors. That was too much for him. He refused, and was hounded out of his job, after being physically threatened, along with his wife, also a professor at Evergreen.
It’s amazing how these intelligent people are able to go along with liberalism and not think it through to the end stages. Maybe because they’re not good at mathematics, which teaches you to be able to scale things up and down past the limits of comprehension.
Actually, harrying communists from all positions of trust was a worthwhile goal.
Had it been better pursued we’d not have nearly the vile, loathsome Left (for whom nothing remains of the old extreme Left that’s extreme to them anymore) that we do.
The trouble is the Communist infiltrated progressives and media succeeded in destroying McCarthy for telling the truth as proven when the KGB files were thrown open when the Soviets fell.
McCarthy only went after actual Soviet agents in the U.S. Government.
After the Soviet collapse the Venona project proved they were who Joe said they were.
You’re a douche, Alan.