What happened to White House fact checkers? In today's Washington Post,President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, sought to portray the administration's current crop of conservative critics as the latest in a long line of reactionaries who have assailed Democratic presidents in the past. "Father Coughlin called Roosevelt a socialist, the John Birch Society was created in reaction to Kennedy, Clinton had [Richard Mellon] Scaife and others who went after him," Rahmbo is quoted as saying in Anne B. Kornblut's front page article in today'sWashington Post.
True enough on Coughlin and Scaife, but Emanuel misfired on the John Birch Society. The notorious anticommunist organization of yesteryear was founded in 1958, more than two years before John Kennedy became president, according to the group's Web site. (And how fascinating to see the Birchers are still up and running and operating out of their current headquarters in Appleton, Wis., hometown of their patron saint, the late senator Joe McCarthy.) Actually, this shouldn't have come as much of a surprise to students of modern American political paranoia. The John Birch Society first made a name for itself in those pre-Kennedy presidency days when its founder, retired candy manufacturer Robert Welch, suggested that President Dwight Eisenhower was a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist conspiracy." (Welch went a bit further, saying Ike was actually controlled within the Communist apparatus by his brother Milton, adding for good measure that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA Director Allen Dulles were conspiratorial Commie partners.)