In 2008, then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) made a memorable appearance on MSNBC's "Hardball," telling Chris Matthews that she wanted an investigation into members of Congress to "find out if they are pro-America or anti-America." It was hard not to notice the parallels between the right-wing lawmaker and McCarthyism.
Two years later, one of Bachmann's closest allies, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), voiced support for the revival of the House Internal Security Committee, the 1960's-era successor to the McCarthyite House Un-American Activities Committee. "I think that is a good process and I would support it," King said in 2010.
What's striking is the degree to which the GOP's McCarthyite instincts just won't go away. TPM reported this morning:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed the creation of a new version of the controversial House Un-American Activities Committee to root out American citizens who plan to commit terrorist attacks in the U.S.
"We originally created the House Un-American Activities Committee to go after Nazis. We passed several laws in 1938 and 1939 to go after Nazis and we made it illegal to help the Nazis. We're going to presently have to go take the similar steps here," Gingrich said in a Monday appearance on "Fox and Friends." [...] In 1959, former President Harry Truman infamously called the committee "the most un-American thing in the country today."
Occasionally, we'll hear Democrats accuse Republicans of embracing shades of McCarthyism, and in rare occasions, prominent GOP officials are quite candid while proving Democrats right.
The broader question, meanwhile, is whether Republicans mind. Gingrich is no doubt aware of the House Un-American Activities Committee's scandalous legacy, so his explicit endorsement of this as a contemporary model is a reminder that, for much of the right, Joseph McCarthy wasn't necessarily wrong.