“Mr. President, you’ve done enough.” A call for resignation after Woodward’s Rage…
Each of us lives in our own time and the arc of history sometimes escapes us. There was a time when the nation faced another evil demagogue who traded in fear and intimidation. Our nation withstood the machinations of Joe McCarthy, but not until many Americans were irreparably harmed-much like what is happening today. The main difference is that McCarthy was a senator and not the president. One man decided to stand up to the bully. His words were credited with unraveling McCarthy’s hold on the country. His name was Joe,
In 1954, while defending the reputation of a young lawyer from unwarranted attacks from Senator Joseph McCarthy, Special Counsel to the Army-McCarthy Hearings, Joe Welch, famously rebuked McCarthy:
This was during the period known as “the red scare” when paranoia was in fashion and it was purposed in the service of evil. Republicans saw communists hiding behind every tree. The era was named for its chief perpetrator, but McCarthyism is as much about a strain of “republicanism” whose resurgence we are witnessing today. Trumpism is merely McCarthyism on steroids. Both fan the flames of division that pit Americans against ourselves. Plying our fear is a tactic straight out of the despots’ playbook — -a ploy meant to intimidate and control.
The answer to Welch’s rhetorical question was a renunciation of the fear and cowardice being peddled in the name of patriotism. The young lawyer Welch was defending, Jeff Fisher, belonged for a time while he was in law school and a short time thereafter, to the National Lawyers Guild. The Guild was formed in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association. The ABA was a more conservative organization that didn’t allow admission to minority lawyers. The more liberal NLG was aligned with minorities, Roosevelt’s New Deal. and labor. It was a progressive group that supported many leftist causes and whose own members struggled over some of their fellow members’ support of the Communist Party of America, At the time, the CPUSA was a legal entity and Russia was a future ally.
Today, the NLG was still promoting leftist causes as it became involved with the Occupy movement, filing restraining orders on behalf of activists who were being forced out of their encampments by local authorities.
A question of decency
As it turned out, neither McCarthy nor his lieutenants, Roy Cohn and Robert Kennedy at the time, were to prevail as the Army-McCarthy hearings ended with a thud. McCarthy, alcoholic and discredited, was censured by the Senate in 1954 and died three years later. Both Cohn and RFK lived to fight again, but never again for the same side Lest we think of the “McCarthy era” simply as a political affair, there is this: McCarthy and his allies ruined many lives and careers with poorly sourced and mostly unwarranted accusations. A case in point, and a sometimes forgotten victim, was a Senate colleague, Lester Hunt of Wyoming.
While the main target of McCarthyism was ferreting out communists in government and beyond, “Tail-gunner Joe,” as McCarthy was known, also was a virulent homophobe, which, conjoined with his red-baiting, provided him with a rich supply of victims within and outside of government. Senator Hunt committed suicide after being hounded by McCarthy, who threatened to reveal that Hunt’s son had been arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer. He was gay, as was McCarthy’s closeted associate Cohn and their stalwart defender and head of the FBI, J.Edgar Hoover. Hunt, who was an avid opponent of McCarthy in the Senate, first rejected McCarthy’s demand that he resign but then relented after a McCarthy supporter threatened exposure on the floor of the Senate:
On June 8, 1954, Lester Hunt surprised supporters by announcing that he would not seek a second Senate term. Behind his decision was one of the foulest attempts at blackmail in modern political history. His son, long recovered from his broken leg, had been convicted a year earlier for soliciting an undercover policeman in Lafayette Square. Two of Joe McCarthy’s Senate Republican confederates informed Hunt that if he did not leave the Senate when his term ended that year, the conviction would become a major campaign issue. Hunt feared a vicious contest that would add to his son’s torments and jeopardize Senate Democrats’ chances of picking up the two seats necessary to regain majority control in 1955. Days later, he entered the Russell Building on a quiet Saturday morning, with a .22 caliber Winchester rifle partially obscured under his coat. In a seemingly buoyant mood, he exchanged pleasantries with an unquestioning Capitol Police officer and went to his third-floor office. Minutes later, alone, Hunt pulled the trigger.
Here is how Drew Pearson reported the death in his daily column “The Washington Merry-Go-Round”. Pearson called the scandal political blackmail: ( click on the link below for the whole sordid affair)
Sen. LESTER — HUNT OF WYOMING, WHO ENDED HIS LIFE WITH A RIFLE BULLET LAST WEEKEND HAD BEEN LIVING UNDER THE THREAT OF POLITICAL BLACKMAIL IN CONNECTION WITH HIS SON. ON ONE OCCASION, REPUBLICAN SEN. HERMAN WELKER OF IDAHO HAD SENT WORD TO HUNT THAT IF HE WOULD NOT RUN FOR RE-ELECTION, HIS SON’S ARRESTED CN A MORALS CHARGE, WOULD NOT BE PROSECUTED, FOR MONTHS SENATOR HUNT LIVED UNDER THE SHADOW OF THIS THREAT SUFFERING FROM.THE SHAME OF S0METHING THAT WAS NOT HIS DOING….THE INCIDENT WAS ONE OF THE LOWEST TYPES OF POLITICAL PRESSURE THIS WRITER HAS SEFN IN MANY YEARS AND ILLUSTRATES THE LENGTHS TO WHICH CERTAIN RFPUBLICANS WILL GO TO CAPTURE ONE SEAT…
As I read Pearson’s account of the Hunt tragedy and how it was facilitated by men in power, I was reminded of the Peter Strzoks, Alexander Vindmans, and others who have suffered under the current administration.
Joseph McCarthy and his cabal share political DNA with Donald Trump and his enablers. His demise should be a lesson to us as we unseat another demagogue who has attached himself to a willingly complicit Republican Party. They have turned a presidential term of office into a regime. It is time for the intimidation to end. The shamelessness, the depth to which they would stoop to defeat a rival, their accretion of power on the basis of conspiracies and lies, all suggest a common DNA. Both men, driven by inner demons that hollow the soul, attract rabid supporters who feed on the hatreds they spew — -red meat for similarly predisposed “deplorables” ( take THAT Tom Freidman). The beginning of the end for McCarthy was hastened by Welch’s rebuke. McCarthy greased his own demise by attacking colleagues, like Hunt. This is the time for a modern-day Joe to stand up and put an end to the cancer in our midst. Donald Trump and his followers have earned it. Welch had it right, decency is the antidote — -and it is a quality another Joe, Joe Biden, has in spades.
And so the question no longer is “… Mr. President, haven’t you done enough? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” It is rather “if not now, when will you resign?” The question now as then remains rhetorical. The leverage is in the asking. Just as with a certain demagogic junior senator from Wisconsin many years ago, the Trump era will not end well. Those inner demons will exact their own revenge.
The revelations from Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, haveprovided us new urgency for a call to dump Trump. He deserves nothing better, we deserve no less. The sooner the better.
Originally published at https://www.dailykos.com on September 13, 2020.