Monday, March 13, 2017

Who will be “our” Joseph Welch ?

The 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”.

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?


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

There are a lot of good microwave jokes on social media these days.

3:36 AM  
Blogger Marie Smith said...

Never in the world has there been such a bunch of liars as we are seeing today. One can only gaze in wonder at every utterance!

10:37 AM  
Blogger Marie Smith said...

Never in the world has there been such a bunch of liars. One can only gaze in disgust at every utterance.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Arkansas Patti said...

I spend a good bit of every day with my head in my hands.

11:20 AM  
Blogger joared said...

We surely could benefit from legislator Welches -- I hope even one comes forward.

1:19 AM  
Blogger NCmountainwoman said...

Hearing the name of Roy Cohn fills my veins with ice water. This despicable man who assisted McCarthy also represented Trump in many of his lawsuits. He taught him all he knew (and it was a lot) about how to instill fear and intimidation in his dealings with others and to disregard the truth. Trump was a quick learner and Cohn would be proud of him. Yes, I still hope we have leaders brave enough to stand up and ask, "have you no decency, sir?"

6:08 AM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

While I was too young to have seen these proceedings first-hand, Ginnie, perhaps there are some lessons that could well be applied today.

6:09 AM  
Blogger troutbirder said...

Shameful then and now at the seat of power even worse today. My disgust knows little bounds...:(

9:43 AM  
Blogger KGMom said...

YES YES YES--as a country we have been through these times before. The players may change, the names, and maybe even the particulars--but it is all of a fabric.
Deliver us from the evil of such machinations.

8:11 PM  
Blogger possum said...

Catching up!!!!!
My first thought was, as NCmountainwoman pointed out -Roy Cohn mentored trump... saw in him someone as crooked and vicious as he to carry on the Cohn torch. I can hear his influence every time tRump opens his ugly mouth.

6:56 AM  

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