year is 1954. I was in my senior year at Boston University and TV
was in it's infancy. I remember so clearly being glued to the little
black and white screen as Senator Joseph McCarthy and his hatchet man
Roy Cohn proceeded to “rid our country of Communism”.
the 30th day of the Army–McCarthy hearings, Joseph Welch, Chief
Counsel for the Army, challenged Roy Cohn to provide U.S. Attorney
General Herbert Brownell Jr. with McCarthy's list of 130 Communists
or subversives in defense plants.
McCarthy counters the request by accusing a young lawyer in Welch's
own Boston law office as belonging to the National Lawyers Guild
which he claimed was “the legal mouthpiece of the Communist Party.”
was a turning point in the proceedings and I
still get chills as I remember Mr. Welch holding his head in dismay
and then (thanks to Wikipedia) quietly
voicing these words:
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 he is still with Hale and Dorr. 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 I am a gentleman, but your
forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.”
McCarthy tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him and
uttered these words
“Senator, may we not drop this? ... 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?”
It is this trial that gave rise to the term “McCarthyism”… defined as “the practice of publicizing accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence”. I find it interesting that in a March 4th tweet our current president, with no facts to back up his accusation, wrote: ""Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"
I can't help but wonder if there will be anyone out there courageous enough to be our modern day Joseph Welch?