Angela Lansbury practically stole the spotlight from Frank Sinatra. The movie was a Cold War thriller about a “brainwashed” American soldier turned assassin. Lansbury’s on-screen husband is played wonderfully by James Gregory as lame brained Senator John Iselin, who is instructed by his domineering wife to proclaim there are (pick a number) communists working in the Defense Department. Ultimately Senator Iselin confronts his wife over breakfast and demands to know just how many communists. This he does while pouring Heinz ketchup on his breakfast eggs. Lansbury eyes the ketchup bottle and comes up with the number. Later Iselin is addressing reporters to announce there are 57 communists working in the defense department.
Of course the movie is The Manchurian Candidate, and Iselin is standing in for the then recently deceased Senator Joe McCarthy. The scene is almost too comical to watch.
Less comical is that people then and some even now believe Joe McCarthy’s assertions, which in the early 1950s grew wilder by the week as he drifted off into a never world of his own belief. Tradition has it that at one time he waved a list and announced he had the names of (many) communists working for the government, only the list turned out to be his laundry list. There does not seem to be any historical basis for the story, but it seems as likely a source for communist infiltrators as a ketchup bottle. Ultimately McCarthy never did deliver on his promise to expose and expunge enemy agents from the government.
It doesn’t matter. I have always known that no good joke ever goes unrepeated. Today we have our own twenty-first century Joe McCarthy in the form of Representative Allen West of Florida. West goes one better than the fictitious Senator Iselin and maybe even better than the real-life McCarthy. West has a number, at least an upper bound.
The conservative tea party icon also got in shots at Democrats and President Obama, who spoke Tuesday at Florida Atlantic University. West said Obama was “scared” to have a discussion with him. He later said “he’s heard” up to 80 U.S. House Democrats are Communist Party members, but wouldn’t name names.
Imagine. Eighty, did I say, “card-carrying” communist. But no names. that would spoil the fun. People, I feel like Eisenhower is president again, and I am back in high school and living in my father’s house. Thank you, Congressman West.