It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

 

On Feb. 9, 1950, at a speech before the Ohio County Women’s Republican Club in Wheeling, WV, Sen. Joe McCarthy brandished a piece of paper. “I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.” But McCarthy never released the names he supposedly had, and changed his story in the days and weeks that followed about exactly how many known communists there were in the State Department. McCarthy’s irresponsible grandstanding eventually got him censured by the Senate and contributed tremendously to discrediting the whole cause of anti-communism.

Though most textbooks gloss over this part in a rush to condemn the “witch hunt” era of McCarthyism, the truth is that there were communists in the US government, and they were a serious threat. McCarthy didn’t have the names, but thanks in part to the Venona Papers (the intercepted Soviet cables declassified after the collapse of the USSR), we do. There was Harry Dexter White, a top Treasury Department official, Lawrence Duggan, head of the South American desk at the State Department, Theodore Alvin Hall, who worked on the Manhattan Project, Julius Rosenberg, an Army Signal Corps civilian employee, and Alger Hiss, a high-ranking State Department official, among many others.

The parallel to our times is the Islamist threat. President Trump is right that we face a threat from Islamists. He is right that careful vetting of immigrants, including refugees, is necessary in light of that danger. The worry is that his ham-fisted approach to a delicate problem may wind up discrediting the effort to vet immigrants, alienate our friends in the Muslim world, and empower the self-righteous left.

Among the criticisms of the president’s action is the assertion that none of the recent terror attacks in the United States would have been prevented by this executive order. That’s too pat. The terrorists at Fort Hood, Ohio State, Chattanooga, Orlando, San Bernardino, and Boston, were all Muslims who had become radicalized. The Tsarnaev brothers were immigrants (albeit from Russia, not a nation on the list). The Chattanooga shooter was an immigrant from Kuwait (ditto). Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a Somali immigrant, drove his car into a crowd at Ohio State and then stabbed 11 people. No one died, but not for lack of effort on Artan’s part. Another Somali immigrant carried out a stabbing attack at a Minnesota mall. Nine were injured, but not killed. So the “no life would have been saved” by the executive order is really just lawyerly misdirection. Moreover, American assessments of threats from immigrants must surely include Europe’s experience.

Muslim immigrants and refugees present special challenges exactly because they, and they alone, are possibly open to Islamic radicalization. Or, as we saw in Orlando and Fort Hood, their children may be.

This reality must be faced, and Daniel Pipes, who has studied radical Islam for decades (and has always stressed the distinction between the Muslim faith and Islamist extremism) has excellent recommendations for the kinds of questions aspiring immigrants and refugees should have to answer before coming to this country.

Alas, instead of stressing that our goal is to separate extremist Muslims from the majority of peaceable Muslims, President Trump’s slapdash executive order showed complete indifference to the distinction. Even green card holders, who have already been vetted and granted the right to live in the United States, were to be stopped at the airport with no notice. Why the rush? Would 48 hours notice have been too much to ask? Translators and military leaders from Iraq and Afghanistan, who had worked with U.S. forces at risk to themselves (and who were badly treated by the Obama administration), were originally offered no dispensation from the blanket order. That’s dishonorable and unwise, as it alienates all Muslims who might be inclined to side with us in a future struggle.

Trump’s order was not received in a vacuum. The international outrage was sparked at least in part by the context, that is, the president’s history of wild accusations (e.g. that thousands of American Muslims celebrated in the streets after 9/11), gross insensitivity (his treatment of the gold star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan), and sordid suggestions regarding Middle East nations (such as that the United States should have “kept the oil” after the Iraq War).

The problem of Islamic extremism is serious. It requires clear-eyed assessment of the threat, wise diplomacy, and the ability to distinguish friend from foe. So far, President Trump has demonstrated only the first. In that, he resembles “Tailgunner Joe.” Let’s hope he acquires the latter skills as soon as possible.

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There are 23 comments.

  1. Inactive

    There are people getting illegally in the country every day. A motivated group of terrorists can still do it, ban or no ban.

    And once they build the Mexico wall, they could come from Canada. That’s a pretty long wall we’ll need there. Losing strategy.

    Small attacks are probably inevitable, even by white Americans. Instead, we should focus on WMDs and how to prevent and detect their entry. That’s the big risk, not the rogue lone operator, which frankly we produce many of our own.

    • #1
    • February 1, 2017, at 3:20 PM PDT
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  2. Member

    I think it is a great beginning, and in true CEO style, it is fine for Trump to set the overall policy, then delegate to his newly confirmed secretaries of state, of defense and of homeland security the task to iron out the details.

    • #2
    • February 1, 2017, at 3:31 PM PDT
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  3. Member

    This article is out of date old news.

    • #3
    • February 1, 2017, at 3:45 PM PDT
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  4. Inactive

    Swing and a miss. The fact that our country will now address this existential issue is phenomenal.

    • #4
    • February 1, 2017, at 3:57 PM PDT
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  5. Member

    I’ll concede that there’s considerable “content” in this piece that speaks of a serious effort to find fault with Trump’s actions. But the objections are almost entirely theoretical, with no real indication of actual harm. Surely, as a Washington insider, Ms. Charen understands that no sweeping presidential action is without its missteps, sometimes significant missteps. Can, with 20-20 hindsight, we pick apart Trump’s moves, especially if that’s our predisposition to begin with? Of course. But it would help if there were examples of real world costs in the last few days to be balanced against the needed end result. And the McCarthyism analogy is inapt and unnecessary.

    • #5
    • February 1, 2017, at 4:01 PM PDT
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  6. Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I’ll concede that there’s considerable “content” in this piece that speaks of a serious effort to find fault with Trump’s actions. But the objections are almost entirely theoretical, with no real indication of actual harm. Surely, as a Washington insider, Ms. Charen understands that no sweeping presidential action is without its missteps, sometimes significant missteps. Can, with 20-20 hindsight, we pick apart Trump’s moves, especially if that’s our predisposition to begin with? Of course. But it would help if there were examples of real world costs in the last few days to be balanced against the needed end result. And the McCarthyism analogy is inapt and unnecessary.

    Yes, and Trump loves it when those opposing him do that because he is working on something different.

    • #6
    • February 1, 2017, at 4:06 PM PDT
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  7. Inactive

    Here’s what Trump’s order accomplished for us, the people who elected him:

    Our country has, at long, long last, shown that we are actually aware that radical Islam poses a threat to American lives.

    We’ve shown that we are no longer going to be shamed into silent acquiescence in our own destruction by the mere mention of certain catchwords: “profiling”, ” religious test” ( which of course only has to do with office-holding) , “nation of immigrants” ( not really apt, but that’s for another post…) , “breaking up families”.

    It is, indeed, “the way you say it”–and it’s high time someone said it in the way Trump just did. We’re awake at last, and we’re on watch.

    • #7
    • February 1, 2017, at 4:24 PM PDT
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  8. Coolidge

    I don’t care. I’m enjoying the attacks on political correctness. I wasn’t a Trump fan, but I’m becoming one for exactly that reason.

    • #8
    • February 1, 2017, at 4:28 PM PDT
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  9. Member

    You McCarthy analogy is more apropos to Russian hacking about which the Democrats have been blustering. BTW Trump has not been in office two weeks.

    • #9
    • February 1, 2017, at 5:34 PM PDT
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  10. Member

    Alienating our friends in the Muslim world? The countries that are in question (for 4 months) are rife with Islamic terror. Their citizens are massacred on a regular basis. I think we saw where the light-handed approach got us for the last 8 years – not far. The left needs no excuse to feel self-righteous – they bathe in it. He’s setting a tone. These countries are no friend of peace loving Muslim countries like Jordan. We have to start somewhere and there will be hiccups. He is doing what he said he would do.

    • #10
    • February 1, 2017, at 5:45 PM PDT
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  11. Inactive

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    You McCarthy analogy is more apropos to Russian hacking about which the Democrats have been blustering. BTW Trump has not been in office two weeks.

    You are so right!! Too funny: the Left, so in ❤️ love ! with the Communists ever since 1917, and McCarthy was the arch-villain, he-who-must-always-be-named whenever they wanted to invent a new class of victim. That Trump-is-a-Russian-puppet thing was all we heard about a few weeks ago–if Sen. McCarthy were alive, the Dems woulda been drafting him for DNC chair!

    But McCarthy was right: there WERE Communists in the State Dept. And Trump is right: there are Islamists who want to kill us and/or insidiously take over, as Daniel Pipes, whom Ms. Charen quotes, has amply demonstrated.( Look up Linda Sarsour).

    We have pretended for far too long that we are still safe, that everything is normal, that any kind of sensitivity to peril is just bigotry or ignorance. Not true! Our new president has the hammer and the bell, and he’s not too timid to strike and sound. Thank God! Let’s pray it’s not too late for, as he thrillingly called it last night, “our glorious nation”!!

    • #11
    • February 1, 2017, at 5:58 PM PDT
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  12. Inactive

    Tailgunner Trump! I love it. After you read Ann Coulter’s analysis of the anti-McCarthy jihad, this is a compliment.

    Nice try, Mona. Still not getting it. It’s going to be more difficult to keep up, given Trump’s pace of activity.

    • #12
    • February 1, 2017, at 6:05 PM PDT
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  13. Member

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    You McCarthy analogy is more apropos to Russian hacking about which the Democrats have been blustering. BTW Trump has not been in office two weeks.

    You are so right!! Too funny: the Left, so in ❤️ love ! with the Communists ever since 1917, and McCarthy was the arch-villain, he-who-must-always-be-named whenever they wanted to invent a new class of victim. That Trump-is-a-Russian-puppet thing was all we heard about a few weeks ago–if Sen. McCarthy were alive, the Dems woulda been drafting him for DNC chair!

    But McCarthy was right: there WERE Communists in the State Dept. And Trump is right: there are Islamists who want to kill us and/or insidiously take over, as Daniel Pipes, whom Ms. Charen quotes, has amply demonstrated.( Look up Linda Sarsour).

    We have pretended for far too long that we are still safe, that everything is normal, that any kind of sensitivity to peril is just bigotry or ignorance. Not true! Our new president has the hammer and the bell, and he’s not too timid to strike and sound. Thank God! Let’s pray it’s not too late for, as he thrillingly called it last night, “our glorious nation”!!

    Indeed!

    • #13
    • February 1, 2017, at 6:32 PM PDT
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  14. Coolidge

    Mona is right, she has a point about the many flaws of Donald Trump’s character. However to equate his actions to McCarthyism is a bridge too far. Lets take a moment to remember that Joe McCarthy was right. I know history books probably never mention that fact – but the State Department was indeed infiltrated with numerous communist agents. This is in no way to defend or excuse the Committee on UnAmerican Uncouth things. But sometimes its necessary to overlook style and examine the substance of an argument.

    Its right to worry that terrorists are attempting to infiltrate agents into the stream of refugees. They have said this is their goal and plan. I think it would be foolish to accept these folks into the country without a close examination.

    Its highly possible, that the many character flaws that Mona complains about manifested themselves with this order. Not that it was wrong – but that it was poorly executed, that in his haste he didnt allow the bureaucrats to prepare the policy to be properly implemented. Trump didnt want this policy to get bogged down in months of policy discussion, meetings, reviews and whatever process gum up the works, making anything impossible… SO he (In frustration or spite?) signed the rule and forced the bureaucrats to play catch up.

    • #14
    • February 1, 2017, at 6:49 PM PDT
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  15. Inactive

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):
    Mona is right, she has a point about the many flaws of Donald Trump’s character. However to equate his actions to McCarthyism is a bridge too far. Lets take a moment to remember that Joe McCarthy was right. I know history books probably never mention that fact – but the State Department was indeed infiltrated with numerous communist agents. This is in no way to defend or excuse the Committee on UnAmerican Uncouth things. But sometimes its necessary to overlook style and examine the substance of an argument.

    Its right to worry that terrorists are attempting to infiltrate agents into the stream of refugees. They have said this is their goal and plan. I think it would be foolish to accept these folks into the country without a close examination.

    Its highly possible, that the many character flaws that Mona complains about manifested themselves with this order. Not that it was wrong – but that it was poorly executed, that in his haste he didnt allow the bureaucrats to prepare the policy to be properly implemented. Trump didnt want this policy to get bogged down in months of policy discussion, meetings, reviews and whatever process gum up the works, making anything impossible… SO he (In frustration or spite?) signed the rule and forced the bureaucrats to play catch up.

    He didn’t want to cue the terrorists that if they wanted to get in, they better hurry. What possible point would there have been to doing this at all, if he had given even a month’s notice? He took action which was actually intended to accomplish a goal. Is that a character flaw?

    • #15
    • February 1, 2017, at 7:12 PM PDT
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  16. Coolidge

    Hypatia (View Comment):
    He didn’t want to cue the terrorists that if they wanted to get in, they better hurry. What possible point would there have been to doing this at all, if he had given even a month’s notice? He took action which was actually intended to accomplish a goal. Is that a character flaw?

    No not at all.

    He wants to act – not hold endless rounds of meetings on the possibility of some day – acting. I think he wants an Adhocracy instead of a bureaucracy.

    • #16
    • February 1, 2017, at 7:21 PM PDT
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  17. Member

    That’s dishonorable and unwise, as it alienates all Muslims who might be inclined to side with us in a future struggle.

    If Muslim visitors and immigrants are so easily alienated from us and our wonderful spectacular country, let them self identify and self deport. We don’t need them and it’s not our job to get them on our side.

    This idea that they must be treated so kindly,or else, is pathetic self-hatred. Muslims and Muslim countries are alienating me and many Americans on a daily basis and they don’t seem to care. I’m not caring either.

    It’s almost to the point where I’d question Ms Charens basic understanding and love for our USA. Please stop apologizing and worrying what these people think! It’s disrespectful to your own country and other Americans.

    • #17
    • February 1, 2017, at 8:01 PM PDT
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  18. Member

    The point of the ban is to figure out how to do what you say, “careful vetting of immigrants, including refugees, is necessary in light of that danger” The problem is that he couldn’t do the usual interagency coordination because his people are not in place yet, it takes too long and gets us into the bureaucratic sludge, and given that he has promised extreme vetting, he had to close that door immediately as there was an opportunity for inserting hostiles between his election and the new policy. The hostiles are not just among the visa applicants and refugees but among the officials who do the processing. It was clumsy, he wasn’t well served by those who failed to tell him to exclude green card holders and people in transit. The outrage on the left here around the world however was predictable and would not have been different if he’d taken weeks and carefully crafted the order.

    • #18
    • February 2, 2017, at 5:22 AM PDT
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  19. Member

    Mona Charen: McCarthy’s irresponsible grandstanding eventually got him censured by the Senate

    That is patently false. He was brought up on 46 charges, and 44 of them were dismissed. (Talk about “grandstanding”…)

    The SOLE charge for which he was censured was because he refused to cooperate with the Senate’s witch hunt of his and his family’s finances and personal doings from before he was even in the Senate.

    When people on the Left perpetuate lies, it’s expected. When people on the Right do it, it’s unforgivable.

    I bet you also subscribe to the popular fiction surrounding the “Have you no shame” (sic) episode.

    Someone needs to read Chapters 32 and 42 of M. Stanton Evans’ “Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy”. And probably the other 43 chapters as well.

    • #19
    • February 2, 2017, at 7:46 AM PDT
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  20. Member

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):
    This is in no way to defend or excuse the Committee on UnAmerican Uncouth things

    Which was a House committee, not a Senate committee.

    • #20
    • February 2, 2017, at 7:49 AM PDT
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  21. Member

    Mona Charen: McCarthy didn’t have the names

    Yes, he did. He had a lot of names.

    But he refused to reveal them because Senator Tydings (D-MD) refused to have his subcommittee go into executive session, where McCarthy would’ve revealed them to the committee privately. The Democrats running the show demanded that McCarthy reveal them in a Congressional hearing open to the public, and McCarthy refused to risk smearing the people on the list, some of whom he knew may have been innocent. Which is precisely why the Democrats tried to force McCarthy’s hand and get him to smear them publicly. Ultimately, they failed. He refused to reveal the names in public.

    And thanks to you, Mona, the Left’s lie is perpetuated that “McCarthy never released the names he supposedly had” because he “didn’t have the names.”

    You really need to read Evans’ book before you ever comment again about McCarthy.

    • #21
    • February 2, 2017, at 7:59 AM PDT
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  22. Coolidge

    dittoheadadt (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):
    This is in no way to defend or excuse the Committee on UnAmerican Uncouth things

    Which was a House committee, not a Senate committee.

    Sorry, I was being flippant about the Committee.

    • #22
    • February 2, 2017, at 8:25 AM PDT
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  23. Inactive

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    You McCarthy analogy is more apropos to Russian hacking about which the Democrats have been blustering. BTW Trump has not been in office two weeks.

    TWO WEEKS!

    The insane reaction of the left and the punditry class has come after 13 days in office. His cabinet hasn’t even been confirmed. To put it in terms Ms. Charen may more easily understand, it is if you are judging Carmen based on the first few bars of the overture.

    • #23
    • February 2, 2017, at 10:28 AM PDT
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