Much is made of how, in 1974, Republicans in Congress forced President Richard Nixon to resign to end the Watergate scandal and remove “a cancer” on the presidency. Compared to Republicans of the Trump era, the GOP senators and representatives of Nixon’s time were giants of principle and conscience.
As a followup to my most recent column in The Sun, let’s go back another couple of decades to compare the behavior of the Republican Party then and now — how it handled the reckless Commie hunter of the 1950s, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, with how it just handled what Sen. Mitch McConnell called “a cancer for the Republican Party,” the embrace of conspiracy theories and political violence by the QAnon cultist and freshman congresswoman, Majorie Taylor Greene.
First, consider what happened to McCarthy after his famous nationally-televised takedown by Boston attorney Joseph Welch. It happened in the fourth year of McCarthy’s witch hunt, at a hearing on suspected communist infiltration of the Army. On June 9, 1954, McCarthy charged that Fred Fischer, a law firm associate of Welch’s, had had ties to a Communist organization years earlier, when he was a law student. McCarthy’s gratuitous swipe at Fischer surprised and even disgusted Roy Cohn, the young chief counsel to McCarthy (and later mentor to Trump).
Welch responded with words now immortal: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack on Fischer, Welch interrupted: “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
McCarthy’s immense national popularity almost immediately evaporated and you might say he became a “cancer for the Republican Party” overnight. Six months later, he was censured by a 67-22 vote of his Senate colleagues, ostracized by his party and ignored by the press. McCarthy, an alcoholic, died three years later, 48 years old and a broken man. Perhaps McCarthy’s Republican colleagues should have acted sooner, but at least they acted.
Now, let’s go to the more recent history: Called by Democrats to pull Greene from her committee assignments as a gesture of disapproval for her bigoted, threatening and incendiary statements, all but 11 House Republicans stood by her.
Urged to vote for “decency and truth” by Majority leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, a majority of the House approved the resolution to punish Greene. Still, with 199 fellow Republicans standing with her, this “cancer” for the party appears to be here to stay for the time being. Hardly chastened, Greene the next morning called those who voted against her “a bunch of morons” and pledged to keep the GOP the party of Trump.
So, she received support instead of ostracism and, unfortunately, she won’t be ignored by the press because she and her pro-Trump conspiracy believers remain a threat to the Republic, with the backing of the Republican Party.
And, of course, Republican senators now appear primed to acquit the twice-impeached Trump a second time.
This brief exercise in comparative American history provides all yea need to know about the descent of the Republican Party.
Bonus: Here’s a good clip from a PBS special on the McCarthy-Welch confrontation from 1954.