Congressman Allen West:
Have You No Shame at Long Last?
By Richard Rapaport
Congressman Allen West, "have you no shame at long last?" In case those words don't quite ring the right, right-wing bells, here's a hint. Think carefully about the rise and fall of Wisconsin's Senator Joseph McCarthy and make certain you really want to follow in those clumsy, doomed, benighted footsteps.
That quote, by the way, was the spring, 1954 de'nouement of what have since become known as the "Army/McCarthy hearings although officially they were titled the "Special Senate Investigations on Charges and Countercharges Involving Senator Joe McCarthy "" Although few realized it at the time, the cheers from the audience in Room 357 of the Senate Office Building that followed those words signaled the political demise of the Senator from Wisconsin. It would be his name that would forever be associated with the meteoric, self-destructive flash across the political heavens that signaled the end of the terrifying season of investigations and accusations that came to be called "McCarthyism."
The words were spoken by Joseph Welsh, the ancient, hammy Boston trial lawyer during those superheated, summertime Washington hearings when McCarthy resorted, one time too many, to his bag of anti-Communist, witch-hunting tricks. Taking the offensive, he attacked Welsh for harboring an assistant whom McCarthy accused of being, if not quite a Communist, then a fellow traveler, or at least a card-carrying member of the National Lawyer's Guild.
It was a tactic that had worked unswervingly since McCarthy's celebrated 1950 Wheeling, West Virginia speech, which had made McCarthy the most feared American of his time. This time, however, the witch-hunting mojo seemed to evaporate. "You've done enough," Welch retorted to McCarthy, a man smart enough to rouse the rabble, but not bright enough to understand that the world had just shifted under his feet. " Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator" Welsh nearly howled at McCarthy, "you've done enough. Have you no sense of decency , sir? At long last, have you no sense of decency ?" The applause when it came, took McCarthy and the gallery by surprise, his puzzlement and hurt obvious in the film clip.
If Congressman West is similarly puzzled as to why the collective follicles of so many Americans stood up on end, perhaps he had better excuse himself away for the weekend and take the time to read Richard Rovere's Senator Joe McCarthy.
Rovere, writer for the Reporter and the New Yorker, was the greatest political journalist of post-war America and had McCarthy dead to rights. Consider, for example, the following: "The late Joseph R. McCarthy " was in many ways the most gifted demagogue ever born on these shores. No bolder seditionist ever moved among us -- nor any politician with a surer, swifter access to that dark place of the American mind."