Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Sen. Joseph McCarthy's relentless campaign against alleged communists in the U.S. government -- having lost much of its credibility during the televised Army-McCarthy hearings -- was dealt a fatal blow at their conclusion. An excerpt from The Post of June 10, 1954:
By Murrey Marder
Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.) was severely excoriated by Special Army Attorney Joseph N. Welch yesterday for "reckless cruelty" and abandonment of "decency."
The emotional climax to 30 days of Army-McCarthy hearings came when McCarthy attacked a young attorney in Welch's Boston law firm, Frederick G. Fisher, Jr., as a member of "the legal arm of the Communist Party."
"Until this moment, Senator," said the outraged Army attorney, "I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. ..."
When McCarthy pressed his attacks on Fisher -- who was a member of the National Lawyers' Guild while a student at Harvard Law School -- Welch entreated McCarthy, "Have you left no sense of decency?"
Deeply moved, the courtly 63-year-old attorney said to McCarthy in measured tones: "If there is a God in Heaven, it will do neither you nor your cause any further good."
This remark brought the greatest burst of applause from the audience since the hearing began; McCarthy turned to the audience and grinned.
Welch said he was thereupon dropping his cross-examination of McCarthy's chief aide, Roy M. Cohn. Turning to Acting Chairman Karl E. Mundt (R-S.D.), Welch said, "You, Mr. Chairman, may if you will, call the next witness." Mundt immediately called a brief recess. Later McCarthy took the stand.
Cohn had sat through the McCarthy-Welch exchange in obvious embarrassment. He later went up and spoke to James D. St. Clair, Welch's assistant, while Welch was out of the room.
A member of the Senate Investigations Subcommittee who went into the corridor during the recess told a reporter, "Welch went around the corner and bawled like a baby."
When he reentered the hearing room, the Army counsel sat numbly at the committee table, his hand on his head, looking like a man in a state of shock.
There were immediate indications that the McCarthy-Welch exchange, carried to millions of viewers by television, would have a major effect on the public reaction to the Army-McCarthy investigation, even though it had no direct bearing on the charges and counter-charges at issue.
McCarthy, outwardly, indicated that he attached no importance to the incident, but instead, regarded the discomfiture of Welch as a natural hazard of the hearings. The Senator has frequently contended that "diversionary" tactics which he has repeatedly been accused of using are simply a proper part of the proceedings to protect his interests.
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com