Who will be “our” Joseph Welch ?
On 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.”
It 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:
“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 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.”
When 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?