'Have You No Sense Of Decency?' When Joseph Welch Owned Joe McCarthy in 1954

By | June 7, 2020

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Joseph N. Welch, during the Army-McCarthy hearings. (Photo by Hank Walker/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

In 1954, Joseph Welch took on Senator Joseph McCarthy -- and won. With just a few clear words, Welch gave voice to growing anti-McCarthy sentiment. McCarthy, who'd risen to prominence with an anti-communist "witch hunt" that became known as McCarthyism, had trained his eye on the U.S. Army. In hearings known as the Army-McCarthy hearings, the Senator continued his usual scare-mongering, career-wrecking accusations, and Welch, the Army's chief legal representative, was fed up. "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" Welch asked. "At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" 

Conditions Were Ideal For A Demagogue Like Joseph McCarthy

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Joseph R. McCarthy, purveyor of McCarthyism. (youtube)

Whether it was ancient Rome in 400 B.C or today, politics remains an ugly business. The intrigue of power, wealth, and fame attracts all manner of people and, unfortunately, they rarely rank as our best, brightest, or even morally principled. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s legacy remains an embarrassing reminder of how high a morally bankrupt and self-serving person can rise before karma steps in. At least we can look to Joseph Welch and his declaration of “Have you no sense of decency?” and hope that there will always be a course correction when politics fly off the rails.