Decency and the Democrats
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
“Have you no sense of decency?” That question was put to Senator Joseph McCarthy in the Army hearings of 1954. It deserves to be put today to the Democratic Party warhorses seeking to derail President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court by using a secret letter from an unnamed accuser alleging the nominee committed some kind of sexual offense when he was a minor.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer are ruining their own reputations. Mrs. Feinstein put the letter in motion at the 59th minute of the 11th hour. Mr. Schumer, the minority leader, vowed to defeat Judge Kavanaugh even before his confirmation hearings had begun. No doubt they both detest McCarthyism and think of themselves above it. Yet they will be remembered for this.
An argument could be made that they are behaving worse than Joe McCarthy. His cause, after all, was, in anti-communism, a noble one. Both our national political parties opposed communism. The hearings at which the “sense of decency” question was put involved the Army. McCarthy had been needling its lawyer, Joseph Welch, and went after a young associate, Fred Fisher, in Welch’s law firm in Boston.
Welch had considered bringing on Fred Fisher for his legal team for the Army. The young associate, though, had, albeit only briefly, once belonged to the the National Lawyers Guild, widely viewed at the time as a communist front. Welch explained that when the young associate had freely admitted his brief membership in the Guild, Welch had sent him back to Boston.
It was then that the hearing began to turn. Welch began to speak of McCarthy’s needless cruelty and asked, “Have you no decency, sir? Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
When McCarthy sought to ask another question, Welch cut him off, saying: “Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you. You have sat within six feet of me and could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.” By the end of the year, McCarthy was condemned by the Senate.
It is not our purpose here to suggest that the behavior of the Schumer-Feinstein Democrats is exactly parallel to McCarthy. Judge Kavanaugh is no tender associate at the start of his career. He’s a major judge up for an even bigger job. The demagoguery, though, the sly character assassination, the waving of anonymous accusations, they are pure McCarthyism. It’s past time for the Senate to call the question of the Democrats’ decency.