General Merrill McPeak went over the line this weekend when he accused former President Bill Clinton in engaging in McCarthyism for his comments regarding what a general election between Hillary Clinton and John McCain could be like.
“I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country,” Clinton said in Charlotte, N.C. “And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.”
According to General McPeak:
“It sounds more like McCarthy. I grew up, I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traitors, so I’ve had enough of it.”
In a subsequent comments, with Barack Obama by his side, General McPeak used different language (see video) but didn't back off. Although Obama didn't comment, his presence when McPeak modified his comments lends tacit support to them. Judge for yourself: see Weekend Video.
McPeak is off base. While clearly promoting his wife, Clinton here seems to be talking about a campaign based on issues, without the politics of personal destruction. For a brief common sense commentary on this see: The Carpetbagger Report. One caveat. Clinton's comments can appear more negative in the context of other campaign statements and activities, most notably the exploitation of post-9/11 fear with the red phone ad of Hillary Clinton's campaign. Still, "McCarthyism" is a very serious charge and it should be used with the kind of care and proof that General McPeak lacks in this instance. He should prove it or withdraw it and apologize.