Via Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, I was reminded that today, June 9, is the anniversary of the day that red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy was given his comeuppance on national television by soft-spoken lawyer Joseph Welch.
In 1954, a series of meetings were convened by the United States Senate’s Subcommittee on Investigations to investigate counter-allegations between McCarthy and the U.S. Army. On June 9th, McCarthy had been pressured by Army lawyer Welch to provide evidence of Communists in the defense industry, and he responded by singling out a young lawyer in Welch’s firm as an alleged sympathizer. Obviously, McCarthy hoped to put Welch on the defensive, but Welch responded with a mellow but devastating criticism of McCarthy’s reckless cruelty. This confrontation is generally considered the beginning of the end for McCarthy, the moment when the nation got to see how ugly his politics really were.
The speech of Welch is amazing, and moving; I never get tired of hearing it. It is a timeless testament to the real human cost that the politics of fear can exact.