In The New York Times Magazine for November 28, Jacob Weisberg wrote about "The Rehabilitation of Joe McCarthy." The article partly drew on (and credited) Joshua Marshall's earlier American Prospect article "Exhuming McCarthy" [March/April 1999]. Weisberg depicted the endless rehashing of who was right about communism as a kind of family co-dependency among leftists and ex-leftists. The latter use their own belated discovery that communism really was an evil empire to impeach liberals. But as Weisberg (and Marshall) observed, the American intellectuals who got communism right all along were liberal anticommunists like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr, and George Kennan, who recognized that to be staunchly anticommunist, you needn't be a McCarthyite.



Speaking of co-dependency, The New Republic savaged Weisberg from the right, while The Nation fretted from the left. TNR fulminated, "For Weisberg, the anti-communists have nothing more to teach....But the struggle against communism was a struggle against modern tyranny. If Weisberg believes that modern tyranny is no more--that there is no significant difference between China and Belgium, or between North Korea and Costa Rica--he should say so." In The Nation, Christopher Hitchens denounced "an essay of extreme tendentiousness by Jacob Weisberg, thoughtlessly titled 'The Rehabilitation of Joe McCarthy.' Liberals of all stripes lined up to say perhaps the Senator from Wisconsin had been right after all...."



Did either writer read beyond the title? Weisberg was not saying McCarthy was right about liberals. The article's title suggested more an exposé than an endorsement of the new McCarthyism. Nor was Weisberg sanguine about communism, citing with approval the great liberal anticommunists. Why do we keep thinking there's room for a large, thoughtful magazine in the chasm between The Nation and The New Republic?



--R.K.

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