Monday, June 22, 2009


I'm on a bit of an Ed Flanders kick today.....

"Citizen Cohn"

Ed Flanders

Joseph Nye Welch (October 22, 1890 – October 6, 1960) was the head attorney for the United States Army while it was under investigation by Joseph McCarthy's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for Communist activities. This investigation (known as the Army-McCarthy Hearings) was under way when television was first becoming a common household product in the United States. It was the first time many people got a first-hand view of McCarthy.

On June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the hearings, McCarthy accused Fred Fisher, one of the junior attorneys at Welch's firm, of association (while in law school) with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a group which J. Edgar Hoover sought to have the U.S. Attorney General designate as a Communist front organization (see Army-McCarthy hearings). Welch wrote off Fisher's association with the NLG as a youthful indiscretion and went after McCarthy for dragging the young man's name before a nationwide television audience with no prior warning or previous agreement to do so:

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us.... Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr*. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think that I am a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me."

When McCarthy tried to go on the attack once more, Welch stepped in again and famously rebuked:

"Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild.... Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

McCarthy tried to ask Welch another question about Fisher, and Welch cut him off:

"Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this with you further. You have sat within six feet of me and could have asked about Fred Fisher. You have brought it out. If there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further. I wll not ask Mr. Cohn any more questions. You, Mr. Chairman, may, if you will, call the next witness."

[from Wikipedia] I got to play Mr. Welch in high school, in a staged reading of "Point Of Order", and I've always thrilled to hear that line: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

(In that last picture, James Woods is also pictured as Roy Cohn....)


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