Allen West and Joe McCarthy, where are you, now that we really need you?

In light of the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee website and the release of 20,000 emails by WikiLeaks on the eve of the convention, many progressives are thoroughly confused and might need help from the former Florida congressman and the ghost of the Wisconsin senator in sorting out and understanding some recent developments in Russia and Eastern Europe. As we sort out both geography and history, along with the role of the Russian government in being involved in an American presidential election, it’s only natural that the word Byzantine comes to mind to describe the intrigue and plot twists this development reveals.

A little historical background might be helpful.

The Democratic Party, which had been under attack for being “soft on communism” even before the emergence of the red-hunting Wisconsin GOP senator in the late 1940s, was also accused of being guilty of “twenty years of treason” by McCarthy, the sour apple from Appleton. Adding insult to injury, McCarthy in 1954 labeled the Democrats as the “party of communism, betrayal and treason.”

Worse yet, McCarthy accused the American patriot Gen. George Marshall, who served President Harry S. Truman as both Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, of being part of  “a conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dwarf any previous ventures in the history of man.”

In other words, the iconic Marshall, according to McCarthy, was an enabler of a communist plot. President Truman, vilified by “Tail Gunner Joe,” offered an appropriate reply, saying that McCarthy was “the best asset the Kremlin has.”

One wonders if Allen West, who famously said four years ago that maybe 78 or 81 Democrats in congress might be communists, could harbor some second thoughts about his party’s nominee for president and his Kremlin connections. More on that later.

The labeling of Democrats as the “party of communism, betrayal and treason” has stuck with some Republicans for more than a half-century, and contemporary torchbearers like talk radio types Rush Limbaugh continue to savage Democrats as being weak on communism, terrorism and any other ism that can be squeezed into an inflammatory generic descriptor.

With respect to either McCarthy’s or West’s definition of communist as that term might somehow be synonymous with members of the Democratic Party, it appears that neither the democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders  nor Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, have any connections to the Kremlin.

So who in July 2016 might be “the best asset the Kremlin has?” As Joseph McCarthy might have put it, do any members of the collectivist pinko one-worlder socialist soft-on-communism “Democrat Party” come to mind?

No, only Republicans Donald Trump and Paul Monafort, his campaign manager.

But aren’t you confused? The top echelon of the GOP – God’s Own Party – bulwark against the pinko Democratic Party, the agent of and apologist for state socialism and godless communism, serving as “the best asset the Kremlin has”?

As Al Smith, the 1928 Democratic standard bearer, liked to say, let’s look at the record.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s current campaign manager, has relationships with several Kremlin-connected oligarchs, including Oleg Deripaska and Dmytro Firtash, key supporters of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin’s man in Kiev who was deposed in 2014 by nationalist forces who wanted Ukraine to look west rather than east.  Incredibly, Manafort even managed the pro-Russian Yanukovych’s 2010 campaign, and his ouster two years ago triggered a series of events, including the takeover of Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine by Russian-backed forces.

Manafort’s Russian ties are troublesome. Adam Blickstein, who was an assistant to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, has said of Manafort that “Given his dubious foreign connections, it’s fair to assume that many in the intelligence and national security community would be extremely wary of him handling or receiving material at even the lowest level of classification.”

Like his close associate Manafort, Trump also seems soft on communism, er I mean the Kremlin. He recently created a furor when he suggested that we might not come to the aid of our NATO allies if they do not pay their share of the bill for the alliance against communist, er I mean Russian expansion into eastern Europe.

Trump’s remarks about NATO’s importance or lack thereof was put in glaring relief by his earlier musings about all things Kremlin and Putin, when he wondered if Vladimir Vladimirovich might attend his 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow.

The Republican standard bearer’s remarks and empathic bent toward Russia in the wake of the hacking of the DNC website was the subject of many tweets, including this one:


Hmm. Here’s yet another thing some folks might worry about. Trump’s first wife, Ivana, was born in communist Czechoslovakia and his third and current wife, Melania, was born in communist Yugoslavia.  Wouldn’t this predisposition to marry women born in formerly communist countries be a concern to GOP anti-socialist/anti-communist stalwarts like McCarthy and West, or Limbaugh and other right-wing radio hosts? Surely, someone seated in a radio studio must be asking that question by now. Snicker.

Trump’s remarks about NATO and his lack of enthusiasm for the treaty alliance sent alarm bells ringing in European capitals, while probably generating smiles of delight in the Kremlin. The irony in all of this is that Harry Truman, the patron of George Marshall and the man Joseph McCarthy vilified as representing the “party of communism, betrayal and treason,” presided in the post-World War II era over the creation of NATO, the Marshall Plan, and the CIA, institutions designed to stem the advance of Russia and its totalitarian system into western Europe. But Trump, with his disturbing views about the importance of collective security, has now stood conventional wisdom on its head, and has caused many people to wonder about his fondness for Putin. “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader,” Trump said several months ago. “You know, unlike what we have in this country.”

The admiration for the strongman Putin has raised eyebrows from some eminent observers Even the conservative columnist George Will has suggested that one of the reasons Trump will not release his tax returns is the concern that they will show the Republican candidate’s close ties to Russian oligarchs.  In the last few days, the clamor about Trump’s failure to release his tax returns has grown, and readers no doubt will learn more in the weeks ahead about Trump and his seeming Kremlin hero Putin.

If one thing is certain this election season, it is that the Republican Party can no longer be considered as the party of national security, an image the GOP fostered in the years since World War II, while it masterfully labeled the Democrats as being soft on communism and weak when dealing with the Kremlin.

Now all that has changed. With retired military officers starting to speak out about an American strongman wannabe who is unfit to be President of the United States, a megalomaniac who is ignorant of national security and diplomatic considerations and whose campaign manager worked for oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin, that gets your attention.

It was only three weeks ago when a group of House Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan, questioned whether Hillary Clinton should receive national security briefings in light of the imbroglio about e-mails on her personal server. In light of Trump’s views about Putin, NATO, and his top aide’s ties to some of the Kremlin’s elite, let alone disclosure of what Trump’s financials might reveal, Ryan and other members of the GOP congressional leadership, always ready to launch another investigation, should be asked by earnest reporters if it should be the Trump team to have its access to classified information withheld.

One final twist: Donald Trump’s mentor was the late Roy Cohn, who was Kremlin nemesis Joseph McCarthy’s top aide during the famous Army hearings. Go figure.

What would Joe McCarthy, let alone Allen West, think of all of this? Better yet, what do GOP investigators Jason Chaffetz, Chairman of the House Ovesight Committee, and Trey Gowdy, Chairman of the House Benghazi Committee, along with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, think of these Kremlin connections of their party’s standard bearer?

In light of Adam Blickstein’s words about Manafort and “his dubious foreign connections,” his patron Trump, in hiding a complex web of international financial transactions and not disclosing multiple years of his tax returns and financial statements, deserves much more scrutiny.

Come to think of it, all of this is so …. what’s that word – Byzantine?

Chairmen Chaffetz and Gowdy – when can we expect the Trump investigations to begin? Is this man and his retinue security risks? Please let us know the schedule for your hearings.

Denis Smith is a retired school administrator and a former consultant in the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school office. He writes about education issues as well as politics and constitutional reform.