After an extended period of radio silence on twitter (or a forced stint in twitter jail?) back in March, Trump seemed to have blown his top, lashing out in a word salad of all his most angst-laden talking points. In his hyper-vigilant rage, he had a little Freudian slip and did something unprecedented: he admitted the truth about himself. He is a McCarthyist, at least, he is driven by McCarthyism.
Trump has a Freudian slip
According to Merriam-Webster, a Freudian slip is “a slip of the tongue that is motivated by and reveals some unconscious aspect of the mind.” For example, you mean to say “I’m glad you’re here,” but instead you say, “I’m mad you’re here.”
During his twitter tantrum, Trump lobbed a completely unsubstantiated claim against former President Obama that he had ordered Trump’s phones be tapped:
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
Now had Trump called this “Nixonian,” he would have been making the correct reference. Former President Richard Nixon was eventually forced to resign the presidency over the Watergate scandal, in which Nixon was implicated in spying on the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee (located in the Watergate Building in Washington, D.C.) as well as recording phone calls and private conversations.
But Trump seems to have had an overactive subconscious, because he made a classic Freudian slip, and called this McCarthyism.
Who was Joseph McCarthy?
Joseph McCarthy was the junior Senator from Wisconsin, who in the early 1950’s famously waved around stacks of papers, claiming that they contained the proof that an ever-changing number of members of the government were Communists. His continuous accusations that innocent people were Soviet spies, Communists, homosexuals, etc. ruined the lives of countless individuals.
The eponymous term “McCarthyism” is (according to dictionary.com) “the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, especially of pro-Communist activity, in many instances unsupported by proof or based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.” It is also “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.”
Now Trump was trying to say that Mr. Obama was acting like Joseph McCarthy. However you choose to parse the grammar of the tweet, the fact is that this accusation is classic McCarthyism. Trump is the one doing it. And it isn’t his first time.
Trump and the Birther movement.
Do you remember this gem from the lead-up to the 2012 election?
An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2012
Using the DidTrumpTweetIt searchable archive of all of his tweets, we found that he tweeted over 20 times to promote this slanderous claim, starting on April 24, 2012. He didn’t admit that Obama was actually American until September 16, 2016, when he then tried to blame Hillary Clinton for it. If all of those don’t count as McCarthyism, what does?
But wait! There’s more! Remember Hillary Clinton?
Think about how he acted over the last 2 years toward Hillary Clinton. Trump’s claims that millions voted illegally to make her win the popular vote? That she lost $6 billion at the State Department? That she started the talks to give $400 million to Iran? That she allowed China to steal billions of dollars of American intellectual property? That she deserved to rot in jail because of her “willful and deliberate criminal conduct” over her private emails.
This list just goes on and on.
The fact is that Mr. Trump has built up his popularity by stoking the public’s fear and feeding off of the media time it buys. He is the new Joesph McCarthy, par excellence. And today, he wrote it in social media, for all to see.
Was it a Freudian slip? Does he not know the difference between McCarthy and Nixon? At the end of the day, who cares.
Trump admitted it. And it’s about time.