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Have you no sense of decency, sir?

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I never thought it possible that one day it would come to pass that each time I watched and listened to a presidential primary candidate that I would feel I needed to take a hot shower to get the stink off me.

I never thought the day would dawn when looking at Catholic bishops and other so-called Christian clergy literally made my skin crawl and my stomach flip.

I never thought it remotely possible that I could hold so many Congressmen, governors, and state legislators in complete contempt, or that, they could make me seriously consider flight to another country.

At this time in our history when Republican politicians, clergy, and right wing pundits feel they have license to say the most outrageous lies and distortions without being held to normal standards of truth, restraint, and certainly common decency, I cannot help but think about another time -- another black night in our history -- known as the McCarthy Era.

And I would suggest to everyone that America would do well to remember that terrible time in history but just as well to also remember one of the Era's few remarkable heroes, Joseph Welch.

Welch was a partner in the prestigious law firm of Hale and Dorr and served as head counsel for the United States Army while the Army was under investigation by Joseph McCarthy's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for Communist Activities. McCarthy's public investigation of the Army is now famously remembered as the Army-McCarthy Hearings. On June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army-McCarthy Hearings, McCarthy publicly accused Fred Fisher, a junior attorney in Welch's law firm, of associating with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) when he was in law school. This was an explosive accusation in the red-baiting heyday of McCarthyism; this single accusation, which seems almost benign today, had the power to totally and completely destroy the young attorney's future --and Joseph Welch knew it.

McCarthy, as drunk with power as he often was with alcohol, was a contemptible man of unbridled hubris and reckless disregard for the lives of others. It's easy to look at him today and wonder whether there aren't more than a few people modeling their public careers after him. Through cunning and brains, but no integrity, McCarthy became one of the most powerful men in America in the early 1950's and at the time of the Army-McCarthy Hearings he was completely out of control. It was a time, very much like now, when fear mongering and hateful speech were the norm and the nation appeared to be in a shark feeding frenzy attacking itself from within. Few dared to show their contempt for McCarthy as openly as Welch and what Welch was about to say to McCarthy now stands in history as a moment of great moral courage.

Several months earlier, on March 9th, Edward R. Murrow and his CBS news team produced a half-hour See It Now special entitled "A Report on Senator Joseph McCarthy." Murrow used excerpts from McCarthy's own speeches to criticize McCarthy and expose his lies and contradictions. CBS, in a move that foreshadowed the cowardice of commercial television, forced Murrow and his producer Fred Friendly to pay for their own newspaper advertisements for the program; they were also not allowed to use the CBS logo. CBS was quite obviously afraid to tackle McCarthy. Nevertheless, Murrow's broadcast aired and it certainly contributed to the beginning of a nationwide backlash against McCarthy. CBS received thousands of letters, telegrams, and phone calls that ran 15:1 in favor of Murrow's broadcast.

It was Joseph Welch, however, who threw the punch from which McCarthy never recovered. McCarthy's bold and reckless accusation about Fisher on that day in June stunned and infuriated Welch. Welch fully understood that McCarthy had callously thrown Fisher under the tanks of McCarthy's artfully contrived juggernaut. Welch dismissed Fisher's association with the NLG as a youthful indiscretion but didn't stop there; Welch turned on McCarthy for naming the young lawyer before a national television audience without prior warning or previous agreement to do so.

Here are Welch's scathing words:

" Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think that I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me."

When McCarthy tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him:

" Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

McCarthy tried to ask Welch another question about Fisher, and Welch cut him off:

" Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you. You have sat within six feet of me and could ask-- could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.... You, Mr. Chairman, may, if you will, call the next witness."

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http://www.maureengill.net

Maureen Gill is an educator, author, blogger, and public speaker known for her insightful historical analyses, biting political commentaries and riveting fiction. Maureen is an OpEd columnist at LGBTQNation.com and York County Journal Tribune in (more...)
 
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Santorum is a lunatic, Romney and Gingrich and P... by Maureen Gill on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 12:34:19 PM
To me the answer is simple: All Americans should v... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 6:27:14 PM
Absolutely true! But it's so ironic to me; I used ... by Maureen Gill on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 7:33:16 PM
But, of course, he is an angel compared to where t... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 5:17:10 AM
That Reagan quote is priceless!I always thought Re... by Maxwell on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 3:15:42 PM
I never cared for Reagan and I have always thought... by Maureen Gill on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 7:22:25 PM
An advertisement, a Hollywood pipe dream, a fantas... by BFalcon on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 5:29:15 AM
For many years Americans got away with ignorance.... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 2:14:29 PM
I think what we're witnessing now is a combination... by Maureen Gill on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 7:25:57 PM
I cannot exclude Pelosi from the feckless and cowa... by Maxwell on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 3:07:14 PM
Maxwell, I don't agree with your characterization ... by Maureen Gill on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 7:53:07 PM
Your article is spot-on. This is exactly what's go... by Paul Sedkowski on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 2:32:01 PM
Thanks for the reply Paul; glad you agree "almost"... by Maureen Gill on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 3:25:30 PM
Because I am convinced that this big Govt is not i... by Michael Dewey on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 3:53:27 PM
Is that from a neocon pamphlet?... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 6:24:26 PM
Anyone who could seriously consider Rick Santorum ... by Gary Williams on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 11:25:10 PM
Who got into Politics because of his economic conc... by Michael Dewey on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 1:27:33 AM
Gary, you're absolutely correct; couldn't agree wi... by Maureen Gill on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 8:01:32 AM
That is what you will get.  Oh sure, DC was b... by Michael Dewey on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 8:58:29 AM
Is right on avoiding wars abroad and bringing troo... by BFalcon on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 5:41:03 AM
The old timers were saying that the 6-7 bucks of t... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 7:55:05 AM
Seems to have settled in the sense that we need th... by BFalcon on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 9:09:48 AM
Has been working, mainly outside of the Fed, for o... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 9:20:23 AM
Making banking right? Why North Dakota, why not C... by BFalcon on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 9:41:51 AM
Which has been doing ok for over 90 years.  C... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 12:23:01 PM
Your criticism of Ron Paul is valid, although I ch... by Richard Pietrasz on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 11:39:41 AM
Well, I partly answered this above so you can read... by Maureen Gill on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 11:34:21 PM
Obama did not vote against invasion of Iraq, not i... by Richard Pietrasz on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 2:32:57 AM
Obama was an early opponent of the bombing & s... by Maureen Gill on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 10:06:10 AM
I'm shocked how many people here repeat this obvio... by Paul Sedkowski on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 3:39:18 PM
I've been watching Ron Paul for 30 yrs. I read his... by Maureen Gill on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 11:18:01 PM
I'll keep waiting for the MSM to pick up on the 20... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 2:51:00 AM
So you "watched" him for 30 years, eh? Amazing how... by Paul Sedkowski on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 9:56:46 AM
And his followers therefore abide to this new reli... by BFalcon on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 6:39:38 PM
Another thing: Ron Paul's so-called stance on free... by Maureen Gill on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 1:32:06 PM
Is closer to being fulfilled than ever before, wit... by Michael Dewey on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 2:32:25 PM
"and you all fell for it - not because you couldn'... by Gary Williams on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 2:15:24 AM
a free market crank which is the most disastrous i... by Lester Shepherd on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 7:24:17 AM
The most disastrous ideology, you say...?You mean,... by Paul Sedkowski on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 10:03:53 AM
a free market crank which is the worst ideology th... by Lester Shepherd on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 7:27:02 AM
Which these worker owned Cooperatives springing up... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 8:23:33 AM
This is a good article, but the revisionist histor... by John Cerullo on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 10:11:30 PM
Terrific piece - I totally agree that there is a n... by Elayne Clift on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 11:34:49 PM
There are very few people who are independent now ... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 10:30:16 AM
No sense of decency does not merely describe a few... by Richard Pietrasz on Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012 at 12:03:00 PM
I cannot believe the pro-Obama nonsense I see here... by Lori Hall on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 1:29:48 AM
Since he picked a good friend of the AIPAC...as fu... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 2:25:52 AM
I think Obama is a better president that any of th... by Maureen Gill on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 8:01:38 AM
While my mind's eyes was very much in a fog, some ... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 8:20:37 AM
Obama was awarded a Nobel Peace prize, then circum... by Lori Hall on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 1:03:06 PM
What you don't know about Libya would fill volumes... by Maureen Gill on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 3:30:02 PM
For what is looking like Corporate Profit, who are... by Michael Dewey on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 at 12:02:37 AM
The above  argument about the ideologies reve... by Mark Sashine on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 1:52:18 PM
Here is the definition of Ideology: a system ... by Lester Shepherd on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 3:29:01 PM
and I am not young- I am 55 years old and lived tw... by Mark Sashine on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 5:53:08 PM
U are way over my head.You are a young man -- I ha... by Lester Shepherd on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 8:51:20 PM
Congratulations on being a state run main stream m... by Lori Hall on Thursday, Feb 23, 2012 at 5:26:20 PM