WOULD any sane politician (there's an oxymoron for you...

Salmagundi

September 16, 1992

WOULD any sane politician (there's an oxymoron for you! ever express admiration for the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy? Not likely. And yet it appears President Bush, if not an admirer of McCarthy, is at least an emulator of the hate-mongering junior senator from Wisconsin.

Consider statements by officials of the Bush-Quayle campaign and other Republicans that Bill Clinton raised taxes anywhere from 43 to 128 times while governor of Arkansas. The president himself mentioned the 128 figure in his acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention in Houston. The New Republic's Michael Kinsley studied the "hilariously shoddy" list of alleged Clinton tax hikes and determined that the number is around 55 -- far below the number of federal tax increases enacted during the Bush presidency.

As Mr. Kinsley also suggests, the Republican citations of Clinton tax hikes are frighteningly reminiscent of Joe McCarthy's claims that a certain number of communists -- he, too, had trouble settling on a figure -- had infiltrated the State Department after World War II.

Think back also to the 1988 presidential race, in which then-Vice President Bush attacked Democrat Michael Dukakis as a "card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union." That phrase recalled McCarthy's famous castigation of accused "Reds" as "card-carrying members of the Communist Party."

The question is, are George Bush and his handlers unaware that these tactics of the last two campaigns echo one of the most shameful periods in American history? If the answer is yes, it's scary. If no, it's even scarier.

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