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National Cathedral Condemns Trump, Misfires on McCarthy

Joseph McCarthy holds a newspaper as he is interviewed during a news conference
The late Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1954 (AP)

By Wednesday, 31 July 2019 06:09 AM Current | Bio | Archive

In condemning President Donald Trump's controversial criticism of the city of Baltimore and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., (who represents part of the city), the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. likened Trump to the still-controversial Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, R-Wis.

Taking a page from an opinion piece by former Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., after he announced his retirement from office in October 2017, Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and the other two prelates at the National Cathedral issued a statement entitled, "Have We No Decency?"

The statement cites a quote from Joseph Welch, a Boston lawyer who was counsel to the U.S. Army during the nationally televised hearings into possible communist penetration of the Army.

His words, directed at McCarthy on June 9, 1954, were easily the most celebrated moment of the hearings.

"Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness … Have you no sense of decency?"

Condemning what is labeled as McCarthy stoking "the fears of an anxious nation with lies" that "destroyed the careers of countless Americans," the clergymen hailed Welch for "effectively ending McCarthy's notorious hold on the nation."

Strong medicine, all right. And, like Flake's missive of 2017, it is all moonshine.

In highlighting the famous Welch-McCarthy exchange, the Episcopal bishop and her colleagues conveniently forgot to mention what it was all about in the first place: namely, McCarthy, frustrated Welch had been continually hectoring and belittling his own counsel Roy Cohn for his efforts to expose communists in the Army, said Welch's initial choice for co-counsel had been a member of a communist-front legal group — a fact which Welch himself had told The New York Times three months earlier.

In his much-praised biography of McCarthy, "Blacklisted by History," the late M. Stanton Evans pointed out that during the hearing June 9, 1954, Army counsel Welch was "arguing that Cohn was at fault for not having personally rushed to inform [Secretary of the Army Robert] Stevens the instant that data on security problems at [Fort] Monmouth surfaced."

"After sitting through these Welch sermonettes about exposing every subversive or communist suspect Cohn had ever heard of," wrote Evans, "McCarthy at last broke in by raising the issue of Fred Fisher."

Reminding the committee that Welch had requested information be given "once we know of anyone who might be performing work for the Communist Party," McCarthy then reminded Welch "that he has in his law firm a young man named Fisher, whom he recommended incidentally to do work on this committee [who] has been for a number of years a member of an organization which was named, oh, years ago, as the legal bulwark of the Communist Party."

What followed was the storied scene included in most historical accounts of the hearings, in the innumerable television documentaries on McCarthy, and in the National Cathedral's statement — albeit without mentioning any of the background leading up to Welch's riposte.

"Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator," said Welch, as he started to weep. "You have been within six feet of me and could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have brought it out. If there is a God in Heaven, it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it with you any further."

But McCarthy did not "bring it out" — Fisher had already been outed as a member of the National Lawyers Guild three months prior by Welch himself! And he did so in the pages of The New York Times.

In an article that featured a picture of Fisher, the Times reported on April 16, 1954, that "Mr. Welch today confirmed news reports that he had relieved from duty his original second assistant, Frederick G. Fisher, Jr., of his own Boston law office because of admitted previous membership in the National Lawyers Guild, which has been listed by Herbert Brownell, Jr., the attorney general, as a communist-front organization."

Joseph Welch went on to a sideline career that those who knew him agreed was a perfect fit: acting. In 1959, a year before he died, Welch played the judge in the hit movie "Anatomy of a Murder."

McCarthy's career was, in effect, over when he was censured by a vote of 67-22 on December 2, 1954. But contrary to what the National Cathedral statement implies, neither of the two counts on which he was censured had anything to do with Welch or the Army-McCarthy hearings.

Rather, the Wisconsin senator was censured by his colleagues for failing to cooperate with a subcommittee investigation of the financing of McCarthy's 1950 reelection campaign and for the use of strong language to describe several colleagues.

As for the National Cathedral's version of the events from 1954 in its statement, one is tempted to ask: "Bishop, have you no sense of history?"

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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The National Cathedral likened President Donald Trump to the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy, but got it wrong, according to Newsmax's John Gizzi.
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Wednesday, 31 July 2019 06:09 AM
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