"Have You No Decency, Sir?"
History this week. June ninth nineteen fifty four. I'm sally home. Twenty million Americans are watching a Senate hearing on TV. It's a battle between the United States army. And a man named Joseph McCarthy. They're arguing about communists. Anybody got anything anybody working for McCarthy. You. At this point McCarthy is known as the nation's top communist hunter. And on one of the last days of these hearings, the people watching on TV see him do the things he's famous for. He accuses someone of having ties. To Communism. When he makes this accusation McCarthy looks calm. He's done this a million times. He's holding his glasses in one hand sort of toying with them. Meanwhile, the guy on the other side of these hearings is getting angrier and angrier. His name is Joseph Welsh. He's the lawyer for the army. A pillar of the establishment. He's wearing a bow tie. And as he listens to McCarthy Talk Welsh takes his glasses off. Put them back on puts his hand on his forehead. He's agitated. McCarthy keeps talking. Until finally Welsh cuts him off. Little, did I dream? You could be so reckless. And so cruel. As to do an injury that left McCarthy starts to respond and Welsh kind of loses it. His glasses are now entirely off. and. He utters these words only stamps. These are at long. Abby left no. Eason's. Have you know decency? Senator McCarthy has risen to power during a time of great fear in America his name has become synonymous with anti-communism and with baseless life ruining accusations. This hearing will be the end of him today. What made McCarthy so powerful in the first place? And how did that very same thing eventually bring him down? Hey if you enjoy listening to history this week and want even more great educational content checkout history at. An all new digital initiative from history. With virtual history lessons that roll out every week on Monday Wednesday and Friday. 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I sort of view myself as MS McCarthyism, you know when you Google McCarthyism, you usually get me on the first page in the Nineteen Fifties McCarthy Ism meant accusing a person or group of being a communist or a sympathizer. And therefore a supposed- threat to America. says the term is a bit of a misnomer. Because the whole thing started before Senator McCarthy came on the scene. It started in the nineteen forties. You could talk about it as the home front of the Cold War. After World War Two superpowers that come out on top the US and the Soviet Union become each other's number one enemy. There is a kind of Idi Communist. Consensus in the country driven by the Cold War and a belief that may be communist are in some way endangering American security. Communists stealing secrets. A lot of this was unfounded. But to be fair. There were spies. So, there's this rising fear in the country. In response in nineteen forty seven president. Harry Truman Enoch something known as the loyalty order. It, says that federal employees will be investigated to make sure they're loyal to the US. And they can be punished. They're not. In a series of dawn raids, FBI agents swooped down. Communists indicted on judges of advocating the violent overthrow of the government. This gets a little out of control, arguably stepping on people's constitutional rights, and then in nineteen, forty nine American fears of communism hit new heights. People assume we had in monopoly over nuclear power than in nineteen, forty nine. The Russians detonate an atomic bomb. How did the Russians get the atomic bomb spies so anti? Fervor is getting stronger. And it's been leading to overreach and hysteria. People accused of communism were blacklisted, which meant careers lives stopped in their tracks. There were accusations flying against all kinds of people after in. Hollywood musicians elementary school teachers and government officials. The Democrats control the White House and the Republican Party seize an opportunity to win it back, so they pick up an anticommunism crusade as a part of their campaign as early as nineteen forty eight. In the midst of all that in nineteen fifty, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy enters the fray. He's a junior senator from Wisconsin and he's not an obvious power player, he says. Shali Irishman very folks see a very hard. Working at least initially wants to be liked you once a lot of attention. He knows how to get it. In February of Nineteen Fifty McCarthy, stands up before the Ohio County Women's Republican Club in wheeling. West Virginia And claims that he knows the names of more than two hundred government officials who are part of the Communist Party. And that propelled him into the headlights right away. He's sort of validating explaining to people who are kind of upset about what's going on in the world, and he creates this conspiracy theory. It's Communist in the State Department. Selling out the United States simple. Zach. McCarthy's charges surpass any other accusations to date. and. He's pointing a finger at the Democratic Truman Administration. And the Republican Party which finds it a very politically powerful narrative support said. McCarthy becomes the face of anti-communism. Now Truman is able to fight back. He's well liked popular, but in June of nineteen fifty. With the outbreak of the Korean War McCarthy's charges. All of a sudden have much more power because the United States is enough fighting war shooting war with communists and McCarthy's crusade ignites. He gains notoriety because charges are so wild. He doesn't seem to care whether he's telling. The truth or not. And people become afraid of in. Even fellow senators. In the nineteen fifty, a senatorial elections, several senators who had stood up against him, lost their elections and McCarthy is seen as somehow uniquely powerful. He's still targeting officials in the Truman. Administration and the Republicans hope that they might be able to beat the Democrats in the upcoming presidential election in nineteen fifty two Republican Party presents a united front generalizing Halloween over Senator Taft. Balancing eight hundred and forty five nominee white D Eisenhower a highly respected army veteran after forty years of distinguished army service is nomination is popular detested to buy the plane from the orange is in many ways helping Eisenhower's campaign by painting the Democrats as soft on communism but Eisenhower hates McCarthy. One of McCarthy's main targets is General George Marshall. Who Was Truman Secretary of State and was is. Mentor Eisenhower is an army man and McCarthy's attacks on General Marshall. Feel personal while campaigning in nineteen fifty two is our wants to come to Marshall's defense in speeches, but he is dissuaded from doing that. Powerful figures say no. Don't do that and he pulls FAC. McCarthy was too valuable. Political Miracle Century begins to take fall. Of Americans go to the polls to elect a president in the nineteen fifty two election Eisenhower beats the Democrat Adly Stevenson meaning that after twenty years the GOP is back in the White House. And despite their beef, Eisenhower appoints McCarthy. Chairman of the Senate Committee on government operations. He has his own committee to go looking for spies inside the government and he goes wild. But under this popular Republican, war hero President. The political narrative is different. It becomes harder in some ways for McCarthy to say. The Eisenhower administration is stocked with Communists. There is a growing feeling that may be the witch. Hunters have run out of witches. Are Beginning to realize that McCarthyism is going too far that they're attacking people who are unjustly attacked. There are people journalists opposing politicians who are trying to bring McCarthy down a peg, but it's not their moment. People were afraid of his power, but when he begins to attack the armor. That is the moment at which his career is going to flounder. If, you are enjoying history this week. You check out flashback a new podcast from the iheartradio podcast network and ozzy the creators of the chart topping webby nominated podcast the thread, the law of unintended consequences is a simple, but often misunderstood rule of the universe. Flashback explores the reasons. Some of our best laid plans have gone awry from policy making personal lives from the courtroom to the environment, and it reveals those surprising stories that the history books never told you about Ozzy's. Sean Boswell takes you on a journey through history that will change how you look at the road today. Listen to flashback on the iheartradio, APP Apple, podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. In nineteen, fifty, four, a young lawyer from New York starts to work with McCarthy's Senate, Committee Roy Cohn. He become a notorious communist hunter himself. He had tried Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to famous communist spies, but cone was keeping a secret of his own comb is very gay, and of course concealing being gay in nineteen, fifty four was not socially accepted. In fact, it was legal. And it had been painted as a threat to national security. Theory is a sort of lavender scare against gay people on security grounds. The idea was that if people were a, they could easily be blackmail. Cone himself is notorious for investigating state. Department officials being gay, and at the same time rumours were circulating about his own sexuality. And about his relationship with a young man named G David Shine. David shine was hired by McCarthy's Committee and he and Roy Cohn go overseas to Europe and they engage in things like pillow fights in lobbies of hotels and behave very sophomore. Shall we say? In nineteen fifty four shine gets drafted into the army. And cone gets involved. He didn't want shine to get shipped overseas. Cone has friends in high places, and he has the powerful feared Joseph McCarthy on his side. So he calls up the secretary of the army. The two of them have several charged phone calls with cone, essentially demanding shine, get special treatment to ensure that he can get a cushy job that requires him to spend most of his time in New York City at. He can take off whenever wants to that. He doesn't have to do kitchen work and it works. Shine gets a cushy job, but the army has also secretly recorded. These telephone calls. That will become a big problem. When McCarthy later turns his witch hunt to the army, all the low hanging fruit has been picked. He was really floundering looking for anything he could find. But junior senator from Wisconsin had. Permanent, senatorial, investigating subcommittee leveled and accusing finger at the United States army. He claimed cuddling of Communist within its midst, basing his case on the giving of an honorable discharge to captain who had refused to sign a loyalty recklessly. McCarthy ripped into the reputation of both Brendan Poor like in his attack on the army, and it's James. And this is the moment when Eisenhower says okay. What can we do with this guy and so icenhower turns against him? Eisenhower wants to undermine McCarthy Remember he's an Army Guy Himself, and in general the senators, baseless claims are becoming a political liability plus McCarthy is an increasingly belligerent alcoholic. And on March Eleventh Nineteen fifty four. The army releases their recordings. Accusing McCarthy and Cohn of pressuring them to give preferential treatment to g David. Shine and Eisenhower establishes this special investigation to investigate. What happened to David Shine in the army. was He using undue influence to get special treatment and uses these investigations? David Shine and Roy Cohn as a way to undermine McCarthy's power. McCarthy doesn't back down. He countercharges. He's like we didn't pressure you to give shine this cushy GIG. You did that to try and convince me not to expose people in the army who are communist traders. On April twenty, second nineteen, fifty four. Senator Step Down from his committee championship, so he might defended case against the army in a public hearing before the committee in these hearings, Roy Cohn and McCarthy will represent themselves and a lawyer named Joseph Welsh will represent the army. Joseph Welch was just the quintessential establishment. Out of what we would call a white shoe law firm in Boston well, just been preparing carefully for these hearings. McCarthy's tactics. He has to be ready for the senator to cry Communism. So before the hearings begin welcomes goes out to dinner with two young lawyers on the case. And he asks. Is there anything in your past or in your presence that you should tell me that would disqualify you and this young turning named Fred Fisher Sis, yes, when I was at Harvard law school I, belong to an sation, called the national lawyers guild, which has been attacked as a communist front organization and Welsh says. Thank you very much. Why don't you stay in boss? Fisher is off the case Welt knows. This would be too big a liability in the hearings. And McCarthy does go after him. That could ruin Fisher's career. Invoked before the hearings, Welsh makes a back room deal with Conan McCarthy. They agree not to bring up. This young lawyer Fred Fisher if Welsh won't bring up the fact that Roy Cohn who had been accepted to west point. Failed his physical. In nineteen fifty four America, that would have been a huge embarrassment. And so. On April twenty second. The army McCarthy hearings come to order press and television faithfully recorded the day-by-day clash to adversaries in what soon turned into a monumental mudslinging contest. Twenty million Americans are watching on TV. These hearings in a sense may television as much as television named the hearings, the hearings last week's and go on. The public is seeing McCarthy's. Tactics up close and they don't like what they see. You The bay. He attacked the army's council. Often attorney. Joseph Welch the ISM of McCarthyism was beginning to fade. And then on June ninth nineteen fifty four. McCarthy's image shatters I. Remember seeing this moment. That was just jaw dropping. Here's the backstory. McCarthy had a Martini lunch and after lunch when the hearing start up again. He's a little out of it. Welsh and cone start going at it. Lawyer to lawyer Kona saying he knows the names of one hundred and thirty communist spies in American defense plants and Welsh is taunting him kind of mock, pleading with cone to find those communists before sundown. The You be that must be right. It had to be. What I might like to do and what should be done at thank. God do anything you wish to Europe by found down. and. McCarthy with maybe a few too many Martinis in him. Takes this whole exchange a little personally. When he has the chance to speak. McCarthy says I have something to tell you. Do you know you have young men in your law firm who belongs to a Communist organization? which is incredibly damaging that automatically would blacklists and and. McCarthy is making this charge at a nationally televised hearing that everybody's been watching for weeks. And it's just extraordinary Welsh is incredulous. Comb looks horrified, even tries to lean over and get McCarthy to stop. Talking Nail was prepared. He didn't trust. McCarthy Welsh tries to reason with him. Propane we not rob you know along. I met a call. At. The I did do I know. How could you do this? How could you ruin this young man's life? McCarthy doesn't get it. He just plain doesn't get it. He continues. which is when Welsh delivers the final blow? No sense of decency, Sir at long laugh. Avenue, left no ends of Jesus. and. Everybody gets all of us. Who are watching get? Everybody heard about McCarthy making unfounded accusations against people in ruining their lives, and they're seeing it live. All of a sudden, the emperor has us. The only person who doesn't get it is McCarthy himself. All of a sudden is. McCarthy left alone in this hearing room. Everybody else is sort of leaving and. He doesn't realize what he's done. Strecker told us. Public opinion was ready to turn on McCarthy that had been building for a while, but this moment is powerful political theater. That moment of have you? No decency sort of encapsulates the fact that McCarthy who symbolizes McCarthy is is now no longer legitimate. From that point on he comes under attack, not just from Democrats and liberals, but other members of the Republican Party. In the fall, McCarthy is insured the Senate mainly for his attacks on the army. Once he censured. He pretty much falls apart. He's lost his power. Three years later, McCarthy dies from complications of alcoholism. He was only forty eight. Now, McCarthyism was always bigger than McCarthy. And even after he's discredited by. Have you no decency even after he dies. McCarthyism sputters on into the early sixties. But. There's a reason people were so captivated by McCarthy himself sometimes aber characters gain political power. What made him so powerful? was that kind of lack of self consciousness pressing the envelope twenty had no evidence whatsoever. That kind of thing was something that he was willing to do. He was taking risks. At first this helped him and his political allies. But ultimately it was the very thing that brought him down. That character appearance was useful until he went too far. Thanks for listening to history this week for more moments throughout history that are also worth watching. Check your local TV listings to find out what's on history today. This podcast is produced by mckanie. Lynn limit. Gruber Ben Dickstein and meet Sally home. Our editor and sound designer is Chris. Yellow and our researcher is Emma Fredericks are executive producers are Jesse cats and Ted Butler don't forget to subscribe rate and review history this week wherever you get your podcasts. and. We will see you next week.