A McCarthy Moment At the Alito Hearing
I’m sure many of you are too young, and the rest of you probably don’t remember the moment when Senator McCarthy’s putrid career came to an end. I remember it as if it were yesterday; I was a college student at Northeastern University, a cooperative college where you work at a course-related job for several weeks and then go to school for several weeks. I happened to be working at my co-op job at Dennison Manufacturing Company in Framingham, Massachusetts, where the company maintained a recreation area for their employees. We were at lunch watching the Army-McCarthy hearings on TV when Joseph Welch, that crusty Irish-American lawyer from Boston, while interrogating McCarthy, turned and said to him in a hushed voice, 'until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.' He asked Senator McCarthy if any 'sense of decency' remained in him.
The question, and Senator McCarthy’s reaction focused the country as nothing else could have on McCarthy’s mean-spirited destruction of any person who might disagree with him or get in the way of his march to power. It took condemnation by the Senate and his own alcoholism to formalize his demise, but he was finished as a power in this country as of the moment of that remark by Welch.
I was reminded of this while watching the Alito hearing yesterday, when a similar moment descended on us all – those of us who can recognize decency and also the lack of it in another person. The moment came when Mrs. Alito left the room in tears after hearing her gentlemanly husband peppered at length with cheap shots, lies and distortions by the likes of Senators Kennedy, Schumer, Biden and Leahy. It transfixed me as the Welch moment had, and I think and I hope it will have a similar effect – that of waking up those who still think that these cretinous senators have any idea of decency or even of the national interest.