Joseph Nye Welch was the head counsel for the United States Army under investigation during Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s, Army-McCarthy hearings. McCarthy had just grilled a young Harvard lawyer when Welch commented to McCarthy: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness…. 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?”
This poignant moment June 9, 1954, helped end Sen. McCarthy’s subcommittee. Sadly, many careers were ruined in the wake of the senator’s unbalanced anti-communist vitriol. Two months later he would receive a rare Senate censure, and three years later McCarthy would be dead from suggested alcohol-induced hepatitis.
McCarthy represents well “better dead than red” right wing politics – irrational, dishonest, abusive, wrongheaded and downright dangerous. Currently, there are 47 Senate Republican signatures proving that no rules apply in efforts to humiliate the president. Republican leadership stated after Barack Obama’s first election that if the president wants it, we don’t. Crossing international lines to communicate with the enemy may be a bridge too far but it is not without precedent.
In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson encouraged peace talks with North Vietnam. The Nixon team, in its effort to win a Nixon presidency, began back-channel discussions to successfully sabotage the effort. LBJ directly confronted Nixon with evidence of his interference. The future president denied his role in undermining the talks. There were discussions recommending Nixon be charged with treason. Johnson discouraged any action. He felt such allegations would not be good for the country. The war continued another seven years. Ironically, Nixon pulled the plug on the war when president.
In 1939 Rep. Hamilton Fish, R-N.Y., met with German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop to urge warmer U.S.-German relationships. Ten Democratic House members in 1984 signed a letter to Nicaragua’s Marxist strongman, Daniel Ortega, spelling out their disagreement with the Reagan administration’s policy toward Central America. Add Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, who in 1919, during the crafting of the Treaty of Versailles, issued a letter signed by 37 Senators successfully opposing the creation of the League of Nations. The U.S. never joined, frustrating then-President Woodrow Wilson. Finally, in 1927 Sen. William Borah defied President Calvin Coolidge by writing directly to the president of Mexico to renegotiate agreed-upon oil leases.
As for the 47 signature letter to Iran, 300,000 petition signatures have been sent to demand prosecution of the senators who would willfully undermine President Obama. They cite the Logan Act, which specifically forbids non-designated representatives from negotiating with foreign powers on behalf of the United States. Law experts suggest such prosecution would be unlikely.
Democrats have been quick to express outrage at the Forty-Seven. It appears Congress would “rather fight than switch.” Perhaps politicians would be more comfortable meeting in a barroom rather than the halls of Congress. Iran’s potential nuclear capability drives the impasse.
The letter is one of many affronts to our president. I am reminded of Welch’s comments at the Army-McCarthy hearings. “Senator(s) have you no sense of decency? You’ve done enough….At long last have you left no sense of decency?” Another youthful lawyer is the target. He happens to be the U.S. president.
Marc Yacht is a semi-retired physician living in Hudson Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.