Monday, December 16, 2019

A Voice From the Grave

     Since it's a forgone conclusion that Trump's going to be impeached next week, it's important to remember what happened in the US Senate 65 years ago nearly to the day. That was when Joe McCarthy was censured by the Senate over his conduct in the Army hearings. And it was officially the beginning of the end of his political career. Unofficially, however, pundits and historians consider Edward R. Murrow's two minute editorial at the end of a March 1954 broadcast to be the unofficial end of it. What Murrow said about McCarthy is, justly, considered to be one of the finest moments in the history of television journalism. Murrow warned us about what McCarthy was doing and the precedent he was threatening to establish through our silence and complicity.
     Indeed, on one TV show, McCarthy answered questions from a panel of reporters, something virtually unthinkable today considering Republican hostility toward the media, and called the upcoming censure "a lynching." If that doesn't sound hauntingly familiar, then shame on you. It was just late last October when Trump called the impeachment inquiries "a lynching." On several occasions, McCarthy used the phrase "Democrat party" much the same way right wing nut jobs do today, thereby suggesting Democrats arenj't worthy of or interested in representative democracy. McCarthy also blamed liberals, another threadbare trope, unbelievably, still used by right wingers today when called out for their bad conduct and misdeeds.
     In short, McCarthy had acquitted himself very poorly on TV. That was partly due to the fact that McCarthy was, like Nixon, very sinister-looking, the exact opposite of telegenic and that he had no gift for television. That came through time and again during his televised Communist witch hunts. But the fact that Senate hearings are supposed to be conducted by boring, uncharismatic men helped mask the fact that McCarthy had no gift whatsoever for the new medium.  
     Most of Murrow's editorial has been reproduced below, I'd substituted McCarthy's name for Trump's and "senator" for "president". Read it again and tell yourself these words from the late Murrow aren't more relative now than they were 65 years ago.
"No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the (president) has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind as between the internal and the external threats of communism.
      We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.
      This is no time for men who oppose (Trump’s) methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities.
      As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. 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 (president) 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, America. You'll need it.

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