In a 15-minute telephone interview, the Republican Akin compared his downfall in the 2012 Missouri Senate race to that of former Sen. Joe McCarthy, R-Wis., who in the 1950s was discredited after making allegations that many thought overstated Communist influence in the U.S. government. "I use McCarthy as an example of someone who was assassinated by the media, so he had no credibility," Akin said, just as he believes he was politically assassinated by "intentional and dishonest" distortions of what he said about rape and pregnancy in 2012.
Republican Party officials would be delighted to see Todd Akin quietly go away. Apparently, though, the failed far-right Senate candidate doesn't care -- he just keeps talking. Take Akin's interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for example.
Right off the bat, let's note that Akin wasn't "assassinated by the media," so much as the media reported what Akin said publicly, which in turn doomed the former congressman's career. News organizations gave Akin a spotlight; it's not reporters' fault that Missouri voters didn't like what they saw.
But more important is this notion that Akin sees himself as a modern Joseph McCarthy. In most circles, that would be considered an ugly insult, but for the far-right Republican, McCarthy comparisons are apparently some kind of compliment.
What's especially interesting, though, is just how often this comes up. As we talked about in March, the American mainstream recognized for years the fact that McCarthyism was a dangerous mistake -- and the Senate was right to censure McCarthy in 1954.
But as Republican politics moved to the right, the former senator's witch hunt got a second look by many conservatives, and slowly but surely, McCarthy became a GOP hero again.
In Alabama, for example, Republican Scott Beason, a state senator and congressional candidate, condemned parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism because, in his words, McCarthy "turned out to be right."
Meanwhile. in Congress, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has endorsed bringing back the House Un-American Activities Committee, while Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told msnbc in 2008 that she supports investigations to determine which members of Congress are “pro-America or anti-America.”
A few years ago in Texas, conservative activists rewriting the state’s curriculum recommended telling students that McCarthy was a hero, “vindicated” by history.
And just last year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was asked whether McCarthy is someone he personally admired. The senator refused to answer
When thinking about the differences between the contemporary Republican Party and how much it’s changed over the last generation, look no further than those who’ve decided McCarthyism wasn’t so bad after all.