The Red Scare, Then And Now

REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTX3AIAR

Abraham H. Miller Emeritus Professor, University of Cincinnati
Font Size:

I haven’t been this concerned about my Russian heritage since my elementary school teacher, “Mrs. M,” after meeting my mother at PTA night, asked me, “Is your mother from Russia?” It was as if Sen. Joseph McCarthy just asked me if I had ever been a card-carrying member of the Communist Party.

Mrs. M had become obsessed with patriotism. If you said or wrote “USA” she yelled at you and said, “It’s not USA; it’s the United States of America.”

Mrs. M was a devotee of Sen. McCarthy, and she was on her own hunt for communists. And that day, the new kid with the Russian mother was on her radar. “Hmmm,” she responded, when I said that my mother was born outside of Minsk. And then she added, “I have my eye on you.”

One day, she asked everyone to raise their hand if they knew who Sen. Joseph McCarthy was. The smart kids knew what was coming and kept their hands down. She then interrogated each kid to make sure they understood what a great patriot he was and how evil and threatening communism was.

I feared that she would discover that as a six-year-old, I had collected clothing for the Russian Relief, which was located in the same building where we lived. Oh, what McCarthy would have done with that! Worse, my mother, despite her shtetl upbringing, spoke flawless Russian, and we had copies of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in our home, written in Russian, the language of demons and communists.

Until recently, I hadn’t thought about America’s obsession with Russia since those days. I lived through a childhood where everything Russian was suspect. I wonder if my father hid his Tchaikovsky recordings, if the Russian books were sealed and put in closets, hidden from the prying eyes of guests who might report us to the FBI.

Today, we’re subjected to the same endless, mindless obsession with Russia. The New York Times, whose correspondent, Walter Duranty,covered up the Stalin-created Ukrainian famine and was an apologist for the Soviets, daily publishes lengthy stories about non-events involving Russia and the Trump administration.

Did the Russians meddle in the election? If the head of the SVR RF (Russia’s external intelligence agency) is not meddling in our elections, he should be fired.

Meddling is like high school sex. Everyone is doing it, just some girls get to wear the scarlet letter and others get to point the finger.  We meddle. They meddle. Everyone meddles.

Nations are not moral entities. They have interests, and if those interests are perceived as threatened or compromised, they will act to preserve those interests.

Of course, our meddling isn’t always successful.

President Barack Obama’s intrusion into the Israeli elections to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu backfired, but the administration still used taxpayer money and expedited visas in a failed attempt to defeat Netanyahu and teach Arab parties how to organize against him.

The only legitimate issue in the current Red Scare is whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and despite the lengthy pieces in the New York Times and the hyperventilating bobbing heads on CNN, there is no evidence of such.

Donald Trump, Jr. was officially an unpaid adviser to the campaign. He met not with an official of the Russian government but a private citizen who once held a position in the administration of Boris Yeltsin, some 18 years ago.

Do election campaign laws prohibit even campaign personnel from talking to foreigners or their governments? Hardly. If you wanted to know if the Clinton Global Initiative was surreptitiously using its Canadian base to launder money for the Clinton campaign, would you be prohibited from asking Canadians or even their government? If such a prohibition exists, it would violate the First Amendment.

So once again, the mainstream media’s obsession with Trump and their refusal to accept the legitimacy of his election is driving this story. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Donald Trump, Jr. broke no laws. If he did, he would have been indicted.

Donald Trump is the president. The Russians didn’t elect him. The American people did.

Abraham H. Miller is a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati. He served on the faculty of UC Davis and the University of Illinois, Urbana.