There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. … We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right, ‘The fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ Good night, and good luck.
That is a quote from Edward R. Murrow to close out a momentous broadcast going against Senator McCarthy and his “Red Scare” witch-hunt in March of 1954, four years after McCarthy started his campaign to ruin people’s lives with innuendos.
This all started in 1950 when the junior Senator from Wisconsin said he had a list of “hundreds” of Communists then working in the State Department. This led to the un-American committee that destroyed thousands of lives and tore at the basic fabric of democracy.
Murrow had finally had enough. He counterattacked McCarthy with a series of blistering reports about the un-American way the committee was being handled. In short, if you were called to appear in front of the committee, you were automatically assumed to be a communist. That led to black-balling of talented people from all walks of life from government employees to Hollywood types, even the military.
Right after Murrow’s attacks came Joseph Welch. Welch was an attorney for the U.S. Army. The Army was under investigation for harboring “communists” within its ranks right up to the rank of General. Welch blunted McCarthy’s attacks one after the other. McCarthy started raging and screaming at witnesses.
Then at one point McCarthy charged that Frederick G. Fisher, a young associate in Welch’s law firm, had been a long-time member of an organization that was a “legal arm of the Communist Party.” At first Welch was stunned. Then he regained his composure and simply said:
Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?
The audience of citizens, newspaper reporters and television crews burst into applause. One week later the hearings on the U.S. Army ended. McCarthy was eventually officially condemned by the U.S. Senate for contempt against his colleagues in December 1954. That was the end of Joseph McCarthy.
Why is this story so important? Because today, we have a major political party, the same one McCarthy was a member, with a Presidential Candidate using the same McCarthy attacks on everyone who doesn’t agree with him.
He has crossed over the line from using “dog whistle” comments to outright, racism. His attacks on the Judicial System for having “Mexican, Muslim and Women” judges who cannot be “trusted to preside over a case against him” is nothing short of astounding.
He has engaged in this type of talk ever since he announced his candidacy. He has called Mexicans “rapists and criminals”. He has called for a ban on Muslim immigration into the country. He has attacked women, disabled people, blacks, and nearly everyone else. His hatred has been shown to be exactly that of McCarthy, and like McCarthy all in the name of glory and power.
In the last week and a half, our media has finally started to hammer Trump and his surrogates about his racism. Even Mitch McConnell said “Trump has had a bad week”. Joe Scarborough has been on a campaign against Trump as well. Even going so far as to say “prove to me you are not a bigot!”
Hue Hewitt even started raging against Trump. So much so that Trump’s people wants the RNC to remove his credentials to cover the convention. Hewitt hasn’t held back either. He said the RNC needs to “dump Trump or face disaster in November.”
It has gotten so bad that Trump had to trot over to Fox News and get “Hannitized”. If you haven’t heard that phrase before, it is when a Republican candidate is in trouble he heads to Sean Hannity to conduct a “soft ball” interview to “tell his side of the story” without worrying about being interrupted or questioned on anything he says. Only this time, Hannity was defending Trump against other Republicans not the nasty “liberals” like usual.
So, maybe, just maybe, the media is finally waking up and Trump is going to have his Murrow moment. At the time Murrow launched his attack against McCarthy, his people warned him that he could the next target of McCarthyism. Everyone was that scared of McCarthy and his committee. Murrow went ahead with his attack. He figured it was time for the media to do its part and fight back against this bigot.
The real question we face going forward in the general election is whether or not there are media types with the courage and integrity of Murrow. There has been very little evidence so far. But, maybe Trump has finally gone too far.
The news media is supposed to be our “fourth estate”. The estate that asks the tough questions of candidates and investigates what candidates say to discover if it is true or false. That hasn’t happened for a long time now. Trump knows this and throws out shit all of the time and gets away with it.
To steal and change the words of a Paul Simon song: “where have you gone Ed Murrow? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.” I dare someone out there in the media to be the next Edward R. Murrow.