Assassination of character

Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency? Sound familiar? It's the Agincourt speech that Joseph Welch delivered with such histrionic magnificence to Joe McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearings. It came after several mocking demands to name Communists were made by Welch to McCarthy's assistant Roy Cohn. McCarthy, tired of Welch's juvenile behavior, interrupted and told him that Welch had no further to look than his own office, where Communist Fred Fisher was working at the time. Cue Welch's tears and noble oration. Funny thing was, everyone in that hearing knew that Fisher was a Communist. At least, everyone who read the New York Times did. For Welch himself had given an interview to that paper a few days earlier, describing how Fred Fisher was indeed a member of the subversive (to use the Attornery General's term) communist National Lawyers Guild. There are a lot of funny things about what actually happened during the McCarthy era. Like the fact that McCarthy was not involved with the blacklisting of Hollywood screen writers and actors. (Not that this blacklisting crimped their style much; but it does make for a good sob story on paper.) Or the fact that McCarthy never mixed his numbers up, never said he had 205 names, only ever 57. Or the fact that he did his level best to not name names, and only did so when the Democratically controlled Congress demanded it. Or the fact that if you look at the rhetoric of the times, McCarthy was among the milder spoken men in Congress. He was not involved as much in outing espionage, he merely was making the very good point that there were a number of security risks working in important government positions, and that given the state of the Soviet Union and its predilection for coups, this really wasn't the best idea. But the truth about McCarthy sounds insane. It sounds uneducated and uniformed, not to mention terribly unsophisticated to say that McCarthy was a great American patriot and hero who made the USSR's sinister work much, much harder for them. He can be credited with the salvation of America. While others were aware in a vague way of the threat from within, only McCarthy was willing to drag the ugly, festering problem in the bright light of day. It makes me sick with fury to realize that not only did liberal demogogues, journalists, and politicians literally hound McCarthy to his death, they have been able to dance wild tarentellas on his grave with complete impunity for half a century afterward. They so completely assassinated his character that no amount of books, lectures, or TV specials will ever be to salvage it. His reputation was mauled, savaged, and irrevocably ruined. Nearly fifty years after his death, the Venona Project confirmed from decrypted Soviet cablegrams that more than 300 payed Soviet agents were working in the American governemnt from the thirties to the fifties. And yet this little fact has remained buried in obscurity because the evil empire is gone and Soviets are no longer interesting. And Tailgunner Joe is still an object of shame and derision despite the truth: he did not unjustly accuse or ruin anyone's life. The only real victim of the dictionary definition of "McCarthyism" was McCarthy himself.


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