Before a nationally televised audience, attorney Joseph Welch utters the seven words that stick a pin in McCarthy’s balloon: “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
McCarthy maxim: “One should start kicking at the other person as fast as possible below the belt until the other person is rendered helpless.”
Prosecution Jenkins: “If I became a candidate for the Senate in Tennessee and Senator McCarthy magnanimously tendered his services . . . I would say frankly as of this moment I would accept his offer.”
No one could have expected the McCarthy subcommittee to conduct hearings that could, or would, seriously attempt to resolve the questions of fact involved in the dispute between the Senator and the army. Apart from the inherent weaknesses of a Congressional committee attempting to perform a judicial function, the personnel of the subcommittee hardly compounded confidence in the probable outcome. The acting chairman, Senator Karl Mundt, and the other Republicans, Dirksen, Potter, and Dworshak, had rather clearly identified themselves as McCarthy disciples. McClellan, Symington, and Jackson, the Democrats on the subcommittee, constituted a moderately effective challenge to a complete whitewash, but they had no position of principled opposition to the, witch hunt. This meant that they were constantly on the defensive and could only protest their equal devotion to “anti-communism.”
As counsel the subcommittee selected an unbelievable Tennessee trial lawyer, a self-declared “Taft-Republican”. who lived up to what one would expect of a politically ambitious individual who had no public record of support or opposition to the Wisconsin Senator and whose personal qualities made him Senatorial material in the eyes of the discerning Everett Dirksen. Once rebuked by McCarthy for being too strenuous with C. David Schine, Jenkins subsequently toadied to Joe in the most obvious fashion. Throughout the hearings from the very first day, he served as straight man and sounding board for the peculiar McCarthy-Cohn interpretation of history.
Despite such inauspicious circumstances the hearings probably served to convince several million Americans that Secretary of the Army Robert T. Stevens and John G. Adams, army counsellor, reflecting Eisenhower policy, had gone to inordinate lengths to appease McCarthy and Cohn. Similarly there can be no doubt that McCarthy-Cohn used every conceivable pressure to win special consideration for their psychological-warfare expert, C. David Schine. Many, will feel that Senator Charles E. Potters suggestion for perjury prosecutions and the dismissal of employees on both sides of the dispute is too limited, but that it is at least a necessary beginning. Beyond this the hearings revealed, as Senator McClellan underscored in his summary, a weak, fumbling, ineffectual Executive which had tolerated or encouraged the most abject behavior on the part of the Secretary of the Army. Apparently advised that McCarthy could be useful in gaining votes for Republicans, President Eisenhower refused to display any leadership when it might have prevented this whole fiasco.