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"Good Night, and Good Luck" -- Joe McCarthy Rides Again

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Message Bernard Weiner
Whenever I have a dream, I ask myself: "Why this dream now? What is happening in my life at this moment that would engender these particular images?" The same question has to be asked about "Good Night, and Good Luck," George Clooney's powerful docudrama about the McCarthy era of the 1950s: "Why make this film now? Is there something happening in our society, our media, our politics that would make audiences resonate with a low-budget film, shot in black and white, about that era in America?"

It seems clear that director Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov see a direct contemporary parallel with the anti-communist political witch-hunting of the 1950s, the unwillingness of most of the media to take on the bullyboy of that era. In our own time, an arrogant bullying Administration is ruining the country, running roughshod over the Constitution, and questioning the patriotism of any who oppose them, much as Senator Joe McCarthy did with anyone who raised questions about his methods of hunting down suspected Communists. Except these days, of course, one substitutes "terrorists" for "communists."

Think I'm exaggerating? How about the White House orchestrating a smear of Ambassador Joseph Wilson because he publicly questioned Bush's twisted evidence for going to war in Iraq -- and then, as a special revenge-bonus, key Administration officials outed Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert CIA officer? (Indictments in this case, and the coverup that followed, are expected within the next week or two.)

How about then-Attorney General John Ashcroft telling Congress that those who ask pointed questions about the legalities of the Administration's "war on terrorism" give aid and comfort to "the enemy"? (Here's Ashcroft's exact quote: "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists -- for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies...")

How about then-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer warning reporters to "watch what you say" about the Administration's anti-terrorism policies, and the comments of Administration hatchetmen in the press, such as Ann Coulter, calling anti-Bush liberals "traitors" who deserve to be shot?

How about White House Press Secretary Scott McLellan questioning the patriotism of veteran correspondent Helen Thomas just a few days ago because she "expressed her concerns" about the Bush Administration's handling of the Iraq War? Here's the official transcript of the key exchange, including ABC's Terry Moran nailing McClellan. Thomas has asked several questions about Bush's policies in Iraq:

McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, the President recognizes that we are engaged in a global war on terrorism. And when you're engaged in a war, it's not always pleasant, and it's certainly a last resort. But when you engage in a war, you take the fight to the enemy, you go on the offense. And that's exactly what we are doing. We are fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here. September 11th taught us --

THOMAS: It has nothing to do with -- Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

McCLELLAN: Well, you have a very different view of the war on terrorism, and I'm sure you're opposed to the broader war on terrorism. The President recognizes this requires a comprehensive strategy, and that this is a broad war, that it is not a law enforcement matter. Terry.

TERRY MORAN: On what basis do you say Helen is opposed to the broader war on terrorism?

McCLELLAN: Well, she certainly expressed her concerns about Afghanistan and Iraq and going into those two countries. I think I can go back and pull up her comments over the course of the past couple of years.

MORAN: And speak for her, which is odd.

McCLELLAN: No, I said she may be, because certainly if you look at her comments over the course of the past couple of years, she's expressed her concerns --

THOMAS: I'm opposed to preemptive war, unprovoked preemptive war.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- she's expressed her concerns.


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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
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