Donald Trump, John McCain, Joseph McCarthy, and Joseph Welch
Donald Trump’s attack on Senator McCain has been roundly denounced. McCain criticized Trump, and Trump did what he always does when criticized. He responded with vicious abandon. What many don’t realize is that Trump’s behavior brings to mind a momentous point in American history, which occurred over half a century ago.
The breathtaking moment came in the Army-McCarthy hearings that almost no one reading this post will remember. Senator Joseph McCarthy had long been fomenting unrest while riding the wave of anti-communist fervor sweeping the country. McCarthy was “reaching his peak” with his claims that he had lists of communists in the State Department. (After all, how else could we have lost China?) Finally, he took a fatal step too far when he attacked the U.S. Army.
The Army-McCarthy hearings were televised in their entirety. The true end of these hearings and McCarthy came when the attorney for the army, Joseph Welch, responded to Senator McCarthy’s malicious and irrelevant attack on a young attorney in Welch’s firm, who had been a member of The Lawyer’s Guild, something approaching a cardinal sin in those days of anti-communist hysteria.
Welch, an older man with immense dignity and gravitas listened, in pain, and then responded with the words that pounded the nails in the Senator’s political coffin,
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.”
“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
Joseph Welch finally understood just what he faced. It was a frightening moment of clarity for him and for the nation. He knew all along that he faced something of a buffoon and a blowhard.
What he had not realized was that he faced a very dangerous thing — a vile, cancerous growth on the face of American politics. It was a growth that’s metastases would eventually steal the future of far too many patriotic Americans.
What Trump’s statement about McCain shows is that he is simply a better dressed version of this same illness. I am not a fan of John McCain. However, he was captured and tortured. When he was given the opportunity for an early release because of his family connections, he refused. That is heroism in anyone’s book. And, he did all this while Trump nursed his “painful” foot. Which foot? He assures us it is noted in his medical records somewhere.
The comment shows how truly unworthy Donald Trump is to be anything other than the butt of hair jokes. He really has no sense of decency, and he is willing to be reckless and cruel at the drop of any comment he doesn’t like.
Unfortunately, those who cried out loudest concerning Trump’s McCain comments spoke in much softer voices when he slandered Mexican immigrants. Tonight, we see what Trump and the other asshats running for President in the Republican Party have to say to each other. Unfortunately, I doubt that there is a younger version of Joseph Welch hiding somewhere among this bunch.
For my own part, I can only repeat Welch’s word that echo clearly to us from over a half century past.
“If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.
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