The New Red Scare

Congressional Republicans agree with Democrats that Russia’s hacking of Democratic emails merits investigation. But however troubling Moscow’s election-season mischief-making might have been, there’s no reason to assume the results of the presidential vote itself were in any way unfair. The real reason we’ve spent the last few weeks talking about Russian hacking is that Democrats are casting about for a reason—any reason—to explain Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump that doesn’t involve acknowledging their candidate’s and party’s monumental failings.

No less a figure in the Democratic party than Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta gave his blessing to the cockamamie idea of a briefing by the intelligence community on Russian interference for the benefit of the presidential electors, presumably so the Electoral College could upend the results of the election.

Fueling such speculation is mischief-making in its own right. And it’s the last thing you should do if your professed concern is the stability of American elections and fear that they are being undermined. There is, as it happens, one fairly recent precedent of politicians secretly working with the Russkies to undermine a presidential election—but the media have not shown much interest in Ted Kennedy’s secret plea to the Kremlin to help unseat Reagan in 1984. As former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson wrote in 2009, Kennedy proposed to Yuri Andropov “an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election.”

Needless to say, after a long history of Russian attempts to subvert U.S. institutions, it’s quite a turnabout to see Democrats accusing Republicans of being soft on the Red Scare du jour. And it’s worth noting how selective the left remains when it comes to denouncing Moscow’s perfidy. As recently as October 16, three weeks before the election and 63 years after she was executed, 60 Minutes did a fawning profile on the movement to procure a posthumous presidential pardon for Ethel Rosenberg, who was convicted of spying on America’s nuclear program for the Soviets. One of the few critical sources consulted by 60 Minutes was Weekly Standard contributor and historian Ron Radosh, an acknowledged expert on Soviet espionage. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, we’ve obtained lots of evidence from inside the Kremlin confirming the Rosenbergs’ guilt, and Radosh has been rebuffing attempts to assert the Rosenbergs’ innocence for years. Thanks in part to his efforts, among serious people, which is to say outside of the media, the Rosenbergs’ guilt is not in doubt.

Then there are the unserious, like former Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, who has been among those urging President Obama to pardon Ethel Rosenberg. We found this out in a tendentious Boston.com article, which got off on the wrong foot when it called her “an alleged Soviet Union spy” (the word they were looking for is “convicted”). The most precious part of the report is Dukakis proudly citing as a precedent his own proclamation as governor that the notorious left-wing anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, convicted of first-degree murder in 1921, had received unfair trials and that “any .  .  . disgrace should be forever removed from [their] names.”

(As they are with the Rosenbergs, Boston.com and Dukakis are proudly ignorant of historical developments in the Sacco and Vanzetti case. Upton Sinclair was arguably the most influential writer in lionizing Sacco and Vanzetti and denouncing their conviction. There’s one small problem—in the mid-1990s a letter was found in a California auction house in which Sinclair reveals he was told by Sacco and Vanzetti’s lawyer that the two men were guilty and that the lawyer had helped concoct an alibi for the two murderers.)

Ultimately it doesn’t matter what excuse Democrats settle on to explain their sweeping losses in November. One day it’s fake news, the next it’s Russian hacking. History will show otherwise, we suspect. As the durability of the myths surrounding the Rosenbergs, not to mention Sacco and Vanzetti, attest, the next order of business will simply be to rewrite history.

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard

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