Email #90, Subject: “McCarthyism!”?

I want to thank you for not agreeing to President Trump’s call for a congressional investigation into his unsupported claim that President Obama wiretapped his offices before the election.

You have also recently refused to conduct an investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible contact with Russia, insisting that the House Judiciary Committee “can and will investigate any credible allegation of misconduct by the administration.” Since the Russian allegations—which already have forced the resignation of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and forced Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself—do not rise to your definition of “credible,” the complete absence of evidence regarding Obama’s alleged wiretap must fall even further below that bar.

It would be helpful, however, if you would clarify for the White House and the American people in general your criteria for holding investigations. Press Secretary Spicer seems confused on the matter.

According to Mr. Spicer: “Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling.” Are you aware of any such reports? Mr. Spicer also reiterated the President’s demand that “the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused.” Rather than providing any evidence, he announced instead that “neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted.”

At minimum then, it appears that the White House is strangely unfamiliar with your concept of “credible allegation of misconduct.” It is also ironic that the President evoked “McCarthyism!” when first tweeting his unsupported allegation, since that term refers to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s practice of making unsupported “Red Scare” allegations in the 1950s. McCarthy was formally condemned by the Senate, and Edward Murrow famously said of him:

“No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind.”

The President has stepped over the same line and has similarly confused the American mind. As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, isn’t it your responsibility to condemn the President’s use of unsupported allegations too?

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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