Tags: jeff flake | mccarthy | welch

Sen. Flake Got Welch-McCarthy Exchange Wrong

Image: Sen. Flake Got Welch-McCarthy Exchange Wrong
Joseph Welch (AP)

Saturday, 28 Oct 2017 04:16 PM Current | Bio | Archive

A day after Sen. Jeff Flake, R.-Arizona, stunned colleagues and constituents by announcing his retirement from in 2018, the one-term senator followed up with an op-ed in The Washington Post on October 24 likening President Trump to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisconsin.

Sixty years after his death, McCarthy remains a controversial and much-debated figure for his 1953-54 investigations into Communist infiltration of the U.S. government.

Declaring that "as I contemplate the Trump presidency, I cannot help but think of Joseph Welch," Flake cited the Boston lawyer who was counsel to the U.S. Army and what is easily the most celebrated moment of the Senate hearings into possible Communist penetration of the Army on June 9, 1954.

"[Welch] famously asked the committee if he might speak on a point of personal privilege," wrote Flake, adding that he said: "'Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness.' … And then, in words that today echo from his time to ours, Welch delivered the coup de grace: 'You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?'"

Flake then wrote that "the moral power of Welch's words ended McCarthy's rampage against American values." In so doing, the Arizonan concluded, "Welch reawakened the conscience of the country. … We had temporarily forgotten who we were supposed to be [and] we face just such a time now."

Strong medicine, all right. And it's all moonshine.

In highlighting the famous Welch-McCarthy exchange, Flake conveniently forgot to mention what it was all about in the first place: namely, McCarthy, frustrated that Welch had been continually hectoring and belittling his own counsel Roy Cohn for his efforts to expose Communists in the Army, said that 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 on 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 in 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 Flake’s op-ed — 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 before 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 to 22 on December 2, 1954. But, contrary to Flake's op-ed, neither of the two counts on which he was censured had anything to with Welch or the Army-McCarthy hearings. Rather, the Wisconsin senator was censured by his colleagues for failing to co-operate with a subcommittee investigation of the financing of McCarthy's 1950 re-election campaign and for the use of strong language to describe several colleagues.

Among those speaking out on McCarthy’s behalf and voting against censure was Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Arizona.

As for Flake’s version the events from 1954 in his op-ed, one is tempted to ask: "Senator, 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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A day after Sen. Jeff Flake, R.-Arizona, stunned colleagues and constituents by announcing his retirement from in 2018, the one-term senator followed up with an op-ed in The Washington Post on October 24 likening President Trump to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisconsin.Sixty...
jeff flake, mccarthy, welch
Saturday, 28 Oct 2017 04:16 PM
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