Steve Forbes is leaving the presidential race Thursday, and campaign
manager Bill Dal Col has told staffers that Forbes will not run for New
Jersey's open Senate seat this fall.
Forbes's detractors will no doubt say that his campaign was a waste of
millions of dollars. But Forbes has achieved quite a bit in the political
arena, especially considering that he's not a professional politician.
When the second Greenspan Commission gets around to privatizing Social
Security in 2005, reporters will have to look back to Pete du Pont and
Forbes as pioneers (in their 1988 and 1996 campaigns, respectively).
Forbes's post-1996 campaign has also had salutary effects. By trying to
unite social and economic conservatives, Forbes has helped conservatism
resist the strong centrifugal forces of the last few years. Social
conservatives could have followed Patrick Buchanan, turning their populist
energies against free markets; instead, many of them supported Forbes's
There will be those who argue that Forbes's withdrawal proves that the
basic idea of a coalition of social and economic conservatives, oriented
toward liberty, is dead. But that's not the lesson Ronald Reagan drew from
Barry Goldwater's defeat, and it's not the lesson that should be drawn by
anyone who wishes to be Reagan's heir.
Today is the golden anniversary of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's famous speech in
Wheeling, West Virginia. On February 9, 1950, McCarthy announced: "I have
here in my hand a list of 205 a list of names that were made known to the
Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who
nevertheless are still working for and shaping policy in the State
Well, he said something like that. The speech was broadcast, but no
recording of it is known to exist. The quote above is a reconstruction
offered by Arthur Herman in his excellent new biography Joseph McCarthy:
Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator. The
Wheeling speech was the birth of what came to be known, fairly or
unfairly, as "McCarthyism."
Herman reports: "McCarthy was making a good point badly. The Truman
administration, he was saying, knew there were employees who were security
risks working in its own State Department, and it had done little about
it. People needed to ask how they got in there in the first place, and why
it took so long to get them out and how many more there might be. But
behind those questions was McCarthy's explosive charge. A critical but
sympathetic observer might argue that the State Department's problems had
been an avoidable accident and the result of bureaucratic inertia.
McCarthy was saying they were deliberate and the result of treason."
McCarthy's enemies, writes Herman, "would charge that he had manufactured
his evidence, was ignorant of his own charges, and was willing to launch
these feckless and fantastic charges simply to get headlines. However,
there was one charge that not even his harshest liberal critics were
willing to make: that he was exaggerating the secret Communist threat."