Tail Gunner Joe McCarthy is back in the news. He is a former Wisconsin chicken farmer, an occupation he once shared in common with Nazi SS Leader Heinrich Himmler. Both were dreaded for their viciousness. McCarthy gave himself his nickname for his time in the Marine Corps in World War II, occasionally manning the twin machine guns in the back seat of a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber.
Both men rose to the highest levels of government by destroying their perceived opponents. Himmler murdered them in secret, McCarthy pummeled them into mush during hours of Commie-baiting Senate hearings shown on grainy black & white television. People liked news raw in those days.
President Donald Trump was nicknamed “Cadet Bone Spurs” by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran who lost both her legs when the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting was downed by a rocket-propelled grenade. Trump, a five-time draft dodger during the Vietnam War, was speciously promoted to captain recently by popular demand for his decision to create a space force, a farce of epic proportion.
Trump invoked McCarthy’s memory the other day while tweeting his daily birdbrain attack against Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, who just might be the guy to figuratively wring Donald’s neck like a slow-footed chicken on Sunday morning. It was one of Trump’s more moronic utterances of August. (As an aside, is anyone else annoyed that the leader of the free world keeps spelling counsel as “councel?”)
Trump has yet to mention Himmler by name, though he is mindful of the rancid butcher thanks to his youthful interest in Nazi political doctrine. For the moment, Trump has buddied up with adviser Stephen Miller, the grim-faced doppelgänger of Nazi SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich. In their careers, Heydrich was a pioneer in destroying entire ethnic populations. Miller, so far, is limited to laying waste to the unformed lives of enrollees on Mr. Trump’s enemy children’s list.
Trump and McCarthy also share many similarities, although McCarthy was short and swarthy, with dark hair and a high-pitched voice that grated across television microphones. There was no tweeting then, no nifty social media platform to provide nutbags with bully pulpits.
McCarthy gained attention by lying, bullying, humiliating, threatening and accusing anyone he didn’t like of things they didn’t do. Perhaps Trump took a page from McCarthy’s uncouth behavior. Neither has any problem throwing around unfounded accusations of treasonous disloyalty by important people engaged in conspiracies with mysterious Russians. They themselves are always immune.
Trump’s analogy to Tail Gunner Joe seems to fascinate the distinguished spies currently lining up to be publicly excoriated by Trump so they can in turn vilify ol’ Bone Spurs for something new. Meanwhile, a few of the more aged among them recalled personally observing Tail Gunner Joe’s infamous lawyer Roy Cohn, America’s first televised hatchet man. Cohn was also Trump’s hatchet man until he died in 1986. He also displayed skill as a subtle bag man for Trump, who was at the time the darling of a New York press corps looking for flamboyant copy.
Cohn had earned currency with McCarthy for being a U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor at the espionage trial of Russian atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed for treason. Much later, when Trump became involved in large construction projects, he hired Cohn to represent his interests.
In 1973, the Justice Department accused Trump of violating the Fair Housing Act in the operation of 39 tenement buildings. The government alleged Trump’s corporation kept African Americans and other minorities from renting apartments by jacking up rent quotes and telling prospective renters that there were no vacancies in buildings in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
Trump settled out of court in 1975 without admitting guilt. In 1978, the Trump Organization was again accused of discrimination. Cohn called the new charges “nothing more than a rehash of complaints by a couple of planted malcontents.” Nothing came of the new charges although Trump’s renters were 95 percent white.
Cohn also counted conservative publisher Rupert Murdoch among his clients. He introduced Trump and Murdoch in the mid-1970s, marking the beginning of an unholy union (Fox News) that exists to this day.
On June 23, 1986, near death with what Cohn said was liver cancer, one of the greatest evils that ever practiced law was disbarred in New York. In a unanimous decision, a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court said his conduct in four legal matters was “unethical,” “unprofessional” and, in one case, “particularly reprehensible.”
Cohn, looking like death, denied the allegations. He told the New York Times his disbarment was the work of a “smear campaign” engineered by his enemies, “a bunch of yo-yos . . . who hate my guts.” Cohn died less than two months later of cancer, heart disease and AIDS.
Trump has learned Cohn’s lessons well.