Exactly three years ago this week, a reporter from the Dallas Morning News told Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) he's been compared at times to Joe McCarthy. Cruz said that criticism "may be a sign that perhaps we're doing something right," which seemed like a curious response given the context.
Asked specifically, "Is McCarthy someone you admire?" Cruz wouldn't answer. "I'm not going to engage in the back and forth and the attacks," he replied.
Three years later, this has come up again, but this time it's not with the senator himself, but rather it's one of his national security advisers. TPM noted yesterday:
Clare Lopez, a national security adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) presidential campaign, earlier this month said the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was "spot on" about communists infiltrating the United States government in the 1950s.
As Right Wing Watch discovered, the Cruz adviser compared Americans' lack of preparedness for Muslims trying to infiltrate the government to communist spies during the Cold War.
"We can go all the way back, of course, to the time of the Cold War and back to the 1920s, '30s, '40s when communists, you know, the KGB, infiltrated our government at the very highest levels," Lopez said. "And then, like now, we were unprepared and in large measure unaware of what was going on, at least until the House Un-American Activities got rolling in the 1950s with Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who absolutely was spot-on in just about everything he said about the levels of infiltration."
There was a point in the not-too-distant past that both parties considered McCarthyism and the former senator's legacy to be a scourge to be avoided forevermore.
But as Republican politics has shifted to the even-further-right, conservatives have begun to rethink their attitudes on McCarthy. Missouri's Todd Akin, for example, compared himself to McCarthy two years ago, and he meant it in a good way.
In 2010 in Texas, conservative activists rewriting the state's curriculum recommended telling students that McCarthy was a hero, "vindicated" by history. Around the same time, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) endorsed bringing back the House Un-American Activities Committee.
In conservative media, headlines such as "It's Time to See Joe McCarthy For the Hero He Was" are not uncommon.
As we discussed a couple of years ago, when the political world considers how much the Republican Party has changed over the last generation, look no further than those who've decided McCarthyism wasn't so bad after all.