The campaign against Brett Kavanaugh has been likened to a witch hunt. While it’s true that the unverified claims against Judge Kavanaugh are reminiscent of the days when people denounced their neighbors for supposedly practicing witchcraft, it also resembles a much more recent period of American history: The McCarthy era.
Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisc.) became infamous for his hunt for communist infiltrators in the US government from 1950 to 1954. McCarthy’s witch hunt began with a speech on February 9, 1950 in which he claimed to have a list of 205 members of the State Department who were “members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring.” McCarthy made accusations – without evidence – against a number of people both inside and outside of government.
McCarthy had a large following but eventually overplayed his hand when his Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held hearings to investigate the army. When the army’s legal representative, Joseph Welch, asked McCarthy to provide his list of communists to the committee, McCarthy accused a member of Welch’s law firm of being a communist, Welch fired back, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” About the same time, Edward R. Murrow, a prominent journalist of the day, attacked McCarthy on his show. The two incidents caused McCarthy’s support to ebb.
The attacks on Kavanaugh are similar to McCarthy’s tactics. People accuse him of sexual assault and rape without any corroborating evidence. Like McCarthy’s accusations of communist conspiracies, the sum total of the accusations against Kavanaugh is the accusations themselves.
I don’t know whether Kavanaugh’s accusers are telling the truth or not, whether they are mistaken or not or whether their stories are exaggerated. What I do know is that none of the women who have come forward have presented evidence or witnesses to support their claims.
If the only evidence that Americans now need to destroy a person’s life is an accusation without supporting evidence, then no American is safe. Unfounded allegations can be levied against anyone, male or female. Whether they are to be believed depends more on which party they belong to than the evidence at hand.
Sexual assault is a serious matter, just as communist infiltration was in the 1950s, but spurious charges only serve to distract from the real problem. If Kavanaugh’s appointment is scuttled by charges without supporting evidence, then the tactic will be used over and over again until Americans reject it as they rejected Joseph McCarthy. Real victims of sexual abuse will be lost in the background noise.
More than an unsupported accusation should be required before we, as a country, decide to ruin a man’s life and career. Brett Kavanaugh’s record as a lawyer and judge has been spotless for almost 30 years. To stop his confirmation, the Democrats had to go back more than three decades to impeach his character with allegations not supported by witnesses or evidence.
Edward R. Murrow’s words from 1954 are just as applicable today as the modern McCarthys seek to destroy an honorable man.
“This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve,” Murrow said. “He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’”
Originally published on The Resurgent